The first of three community meetings about what people are looking for in a new Ector County Independent School District superintendent attracted three parents and plenty of media attention Tuesday.
Another public meeting was scheduled for Tuesday night at Permian High School and another at 7 p.m. tonight in the Odessa High School cafeteria, 1301 N. Dotsy Ave. Three parents attended the gathering, but only two spoke.
Led by Nola Wellman, a senior associate with Hazard, Young, Attea Associates, participants were asked to list the strengths of the district, the attributes, expertise and style they wanted to see in the next school chief and what the attractions are in Odessa that would bring someone to town.
Wellman listed the items on oversized pads of paper at the front of the administration building board room.
HYA was the firm the ECISD Board of Trustees hired in November 2018 to search for a superintendent. Jim Nelson is the interim superintendent. He replaced Tom Crowe whose resignation was effective in September 2018. Along with Wellman, senior associate Peter Flynn was also in the building interviewing other employees.
Wellman said 26 meetings were scheduled Tuesday and today with teachers, support staff, individual board members, the interim superintendent and others. An online survey will be available through Thursday on the ECISD website.
Wellman said she is a retired superintendent who has been a teacher, principal and executive director. HYA is conducting a nationwide search for ECISD.
They performed the search for Midland ISD’s superintendent, Orlando Riddick.
Wellman said the leadership profile report will be compiled next week and presented to the school board Jan. 22. It will be on the district website Jan. 23.
“From that, we will distill kind of an executive description. We’ll have a long report with all the details but an executive description of the next superintendent, their qualities, their characteristics, their style and that’s when we’ll get busy hunting for those people we can bring to the board,” Wellman said.
Strengths listed were that there are some good teachers in ECISD and parents care about their children’s education.
Shrina Green, a parent, filled in much of the list of challenges. Among other things, Green listed issues with special education, to lack of transparency, lack of communication, not listening or hearing parents and the need for staff development for teachers and principals or work with students from different backgrounds.
Qualities she would look for in a new superintendent would be honesty, someone who sets boundaries, builds relationships, is able to put themselves in the mind of a teenagers, knows the district, the schools, principals and teachers and notices things that should change.
Green said she would like someone who has experience working with diverse populations, is collaborative and views the schools as “ours” rather than “mine”; someone who cares about parents, is respectful and has respect for all students.
Wellman noted that students on the top and bottom end get most of the attention, but students in the middle are often forgotten.
Armida Tarin, another parent, said she would like to see the superintendent take responsibility for things that go wrong and not just protect how the district looks.
Tarin also wanted to see the grievance process made easier.
Wellman said the goal would be to avoid the grievance process all together.
Tarin said having the administration ignore parents is not the answer. She added that one of her main concerns is the physical and emotional safety the students.
Attractions of Odessa include good jobs, a low unemployment rate, nice restaurants, a fine arts center, churches, athletic programs and rec leagues. Housing prices are a drawback, the two parents attending said.
“I think having parent input is very important …,” Tarin said. “I think more parents should be involved. I think it’s very important that they hear what we have to say because this is going to be the next five years …”
Green said if their children get in trouble, they should be allowed to go to the school and find out who’s right — the teacher or their child.
She added that she thought the meeting Tuesday was useful.
“… I wish more parents would have been here. I saw so many cars outside, I was excited. I came here to find out what was going on,” Green said.
“I’m glad I came here this morning because I thought it was important for me to express what I’ve been through as a parent. The stress level has been off the charts to where you don’t even want to go into the schools no more because it’s just so stressed. You don’t even want to check your kids’ grades because you don’t know who’s ready to kick you out, or who’s ready to say something. But I hope today they listen and I hope they take what’s on those boards and really evaluate the person that comes in and think about the children, what they’re going to do for the kids and the community,” Green added.