Ector County Independent School District board member Nelson Minyard wants another four-year term.
Election Day is May 6 and Minyard will square off against University of Texas of the Permian Basin Associate Professor of Social Work and Psychology Kay Ketzenberger for Position 7 on the board.
The 66-year-old, elected four years ago, says he thinks the board has some unfinished business, including trying for a bond issue to relieve overcrowding at Permian and Odessa high schools. “We’re really desperate to build at least one more high school, maybe two. This is a very important deal,” Minyard said.
A $129.75 million bond was passed in 2012. Proceeds from it built three new elementary schools, additions to OHS and PHS and a new performing arts center at Odessa High School.
“The last board’s the one that put the expansion on for the two high schools without trying to build one,” Minyard said. “It’s going to be tough to get it through, I think. But we really want to work hard at that.”
Additionally, with the bond came the move of sixth graders to middle school and ninth graders to high school. Junior highs were also renamed middle schools.
He said Advanced Placement scholars and International Baccalaureate graduates have increased and the district was rezoned for the first time in 25 years. Minyard said this decreased transportation costs because ECISD moved back more toward neighborhood schools.
Plans are also to change the focus of the magnet schools at Gale Pond Alamo and Hays elementary schools. Crowe has said Gale Pond Alamo, a year-round leadership magnet elementary, and Hays Magnet Academy plan to blend in STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math. Crowe said both magnet schools requested the change for next year.
Population & Survey Analysts, the district’s demographer, will present information during a board work study session at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Odessa High School Performing Arts Center, 1301 N. Dotsy Ave.
“That will tell us a lot,” Minyard said. “I think a lot of people should try to attend that because it will open their eyes to the growth of Odessa. If their low projections are correct, Permian will be at 6,000 students within a number of years.”
Minyard said most of the growth is toward the north.
“We’re all the way out to 100th Street. Then we have that new Parks Bell addition out there, so it’s growing north and east and West Odessa itself is getting way on out there,” he added.
On a separate item, Minyard said when he came on the board there were 21 campuses in improvement required status under state accountability standards. “Now we only have 12 and by the end of this year we feel like we’ll have quite a few less,” he said.
Minyard said he thinks ECISD is heading in the right direction toward lifting its campuses out of improvement required status with the state.
He added that efforts are underway to shore up reading in the district because that is the foundation of everything.
“If a kid can’t read, they can’t do math. I’m really pushing that, plus the AVID. I think the AVID program is excellent. I’m a big proponent of that. We’re going to try and get an IB (International Baccalaureate) program started at middle school. That brings a lot of prestige to the district,” Minyard said.
AVID, which stands for Advancement via Individual Determination, is aimed at helping to prepare middle-of-the-road students for college.
The International Baccalaureate idea will be studied for the next year and won’t be implemented until the 2018-2019 school year, Crowe has said. He said officials are looking at putting the high-intensity, rigorous program at two middle schools and one or possibly two elementary schools.
Minyard also counts hiring Superintendent Tom Crowe among his accomplishments while on the board.
“I want to see it through with him as long as he’ll stay with us,” Minyard said.
ECISD also is pursuing a District of Innovation designation.
The concept of a District of Innovation was passed by the 84th Texas Legislature in 2015 (HB 1842). The law allows traditional independent school districts to access most of the flexibilities available to Texas’ open enrollment charter schools. To be eligible, a school district must have an accountability rating of “met standard,” which ECISD has.
The district is asking for exemptions in three areas, although there are others available. Director of Professional Development Brandy Ferrer noted that the exemptions won’t start until the 2017-18 school year.
- Changing the school start date from Aug. 28 to Aug. 21. Under state law, districts must start no earlier than the fourth Monday in August. Ferrer said the change would not affect teacher contracts. Teachers will still have 187 days, Ferrer said.
- Certification requirements for career and technology teachers.
- And student performance as a factor in teacher and administrator appraisals.
Minyard said the administration wanted the class size waivers as part of the designation as a convenience. But he said the district tries to keep class sizes for kindergarten through fourth grade at a student to teacher ratio of 22 or 23 to 1.
“A lot of that problem is teachers. We still haven’t solved that problem to where we retain the good teachers that we have and bring in some other great teachers,” Minyard said.
Minyard, who is in oilfield manufacturing, is on the Education Foundation board, Ector County Appraisal District Board, United Way Board and delivers Meals on Wheels three days a week. “I really put a lot into the community,” he said.
Minyard’s main specialty is the budget.
“When I first got on the board, they didn’t really have a line-by-line budget. They had a general fund. They did budget amendments every month, so I forced them into bringing a line-by-line budget. Now (Chief Financial Officer) David Harwell’s doing a really good job on that,” Minyard said.
His first year on the board, Minyard said the superintendent could write a check for up to $250,000. Now the board has to approve any purchases over $50,000.
A native Odessan who has had several businesses, Minyard said coming on to the school board, he didn’t know how big a task it would be and how important the school board is.
“Now I’ve had three years under my belt, I’ve had over 200 hours of continuing education I feel like I know what I’m doing,” Minyard said.
“I’ve been on a lot of boards, but this is a big board. It’s got a big budget. I always do pretty good on budgets and profit loss statements. The education part of it, I was really weak in. I feel like I’ve closed the gap and could actually speak intelligently,” Minyard added.
Minyard was a history major at Texas Tech University. He and his wife, Denise, have four children and four grandchildren.