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Muri: Bond sale compliment to board and community

In World
May 16, 2024

May 15—Ector County ISD’s bonds went on sale May 14 and they had $338 million in requests for a $179 million offering.

The three proposition bond was $436,109,000, but only one proposition for $424 million passed.

With interest rates being lower than projected at 3.77 percent instead of 3.84 percent, Superintendent Scott Muri said in his media call Wednesday that it will save $2.9 million in interest over the life of the bond.

Community National Bank bought $3 million worth of bonds Tuesday morning, Muri said at the May 14 ECISD board workshop.

Muri said the bonds sold are a compliment to the board of trustees and the decisions they have made as good financial stewards and community members who approved the bond.

“All of those decisions set the course for a very healthy opportunity for ECISD in the bond market,” Muri said. “It was an exciting day for the community. We’ll be doing that again in the month of June.”

Last Friday, 353 ECISD teachers earned the Teacher Incentive Allotment.

“These teachers together earned right at $3.1 million. We had an exciting day delivering really large checks to those individual teachers. That $3.1 million represents the hard work of those teachers. That money is not a gift. It is earned by those individual teachers because of the work they do with students,” demonstrated through student growth on a variety of assessments “as well as their own evaluation instrument.”

“Those two coupled together allow our teachers to take advantage of this incredible opportunity,” Muri said.

He added that they continue to expand that program so that each year more teachers have access.

This Friday is the first graduation of six. Muri cautioned residents that there will be a lot of traffic around a variety of venues.

Asked about whether he thinks legislators should come back for a special session on education, he said he would encourage it, not only for ECISD, but districts across the state.

“Districts across the state of Texas are making dire cuts because they have not been appropriately funded, not just this year but for the past five years. Texas lags behind. We’re in the bottom 10 of the 50 states in these United States. When we look at funding of public education within our state, the most effective investment that we can make is an investment in our children. That investment that we make in children pays dividends not only for society but for those individual students themselves,” Muri said.

“I would strongly urge our legislature to come back into session, then have a singular focus and that focus should be the 5.5 million public school children and the financial needs that our public schools have today in order to serve those kids.”

ECISD faces a $24 million deficit due to the lack of funding.

“Services will be negatively affected next year because of that lack of funding. We need funding for school safety. Our law enforcement officers are not appropriately funded; funding for additional teachers, funding for supplies and materials … our special education students, a variety of areas that have been touched by the $24 million in cuts that we’ve been forced to make,” he added.

“At this time, we’ll be moving forward with those cuts, but certainly if our legislators came back in session and paid attention to the needs of our students, then we would hopefully have a different outcome.”

He noted that the district was unable to provide raises for employees this year because of that lack of funding so for a variety of reasons, he said, it’s important for the legislature to come back.

The board has discussed using about $6 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief or ESSER funds that were awarded during COVID for a one-time 3 percent retention supplement.

The district has 4,200 employees and about 3,500 are expected to return. The average would be about $1,950 and for hourly employees, the average would be about $930.

The board has not yet approved the stipend.

Chief Financial Officer Deborah Ottmers said in April when the board adopts the budget, some language will have to be put in so the stipends can be paid.

Muri said he wants to see as many cuts as far away from children as they can.

“The board of trustees is considering using $12 million of fund balance rather than cut $24 million from the budget. Reduce by $12 million from that deficit and then leverage the other $12 million,” he added.

Muri said the cuts are across the system so there are “little pieces felt by everyone and not a large amount felt by any one particular group of students.”

“But anytime a school district is going to make financial cuts, kids are ultimately going to be affected because our primary service, the reason we exist in public education is to serve children,” Muri added.

Last week in ECISD there was a horrific accident May 10 that injured three students and two adults.

Four people were transported to Medical Center Hospital.

The Odessa Police Department and Odessa Fire Rescue responded at 11:44 a.m. that day.

The crash involved a gray 2018 Toyota Highlander that drove through Alfredo’s Paleteria at 42nd St. and Bonham Avenue.

Rhonda Thomas, 66, of Odessa was facing west in the 1900 block of E. 42nd Street, attempting to make a left-hand turn in her Highlander. As she was making her turn through stopped traffic, she failed to yield the right of way to a red Ford Expedition that was traveling eastbound in the 1900 block of East 42nd Street causing her front end to strike the left rear quarter panel of the Expedition, according to information from the City of Odessa.

Thomas then accelerated instead of braking her vehicle as she entered the parking lot. Thomas struck a juvenile before crashing through the Alfredo’s Paletaria near Permian High School. There were seven people injured inside the business.

One of those injured, 16-year-old Augusto De Souza, a Permian High School student and soccer player who plays for Savage FC West Texas, has been in a Lubbock hospital since Friday, CBS 7 reported.

A GoFundMe page has been started to help De Souza with his recovery after the accident.

Because Permian and Odessa high schools are so large, they need students to leave campus for lunch, Muri said.

“We simply don’t have the capacity at those two high schools to feed lunch to the 4,000 students that they serve, and so off-campus lunch not only is something that we need, but actually it’s a privilege for our students to experience. I know many of our juniors and seniors enjoy that and so we like to provide that to them and we will continue to do that,” he added.

Muri said things like that can occur any time of day.

“We encourage our kids to be safe as they leave campus. Some of them walk and some of them drive. We’ll certainly exercise as many safety protocols as we can, but off-campus lunch will continue in ECISD,” he said.

Everyone but De Souza was treated and released from MCH.

On the career and technical education center to be financed by the bond, a career and technical education committee was formed in January.

It is charged with designing the programming of the facility and the facility itself working with the architects and engineers.

“They’ve come to a point now in which they’ve made some specific recommendations as to the type of programming they feel should be in there,” Muri said.

“As you might imagine, (there’s) heavy emphasis on engineering and the energy world in which we live in the Permian Basin, so a lot of career and technical education pathways that focus on energy production, engineering sectors, welding, a lot of very specific courses and programs that would benefit the energy industry of the Permian Basin will be found in the CTE facility,” he added.

There will be other programming opportunities such as auto mechanics, auto tech, culinary arts and more.

He commended the members of the CTE committee, which include educators and leaders, but also business men and women in Ector County and elsewhere.

The goal is to design a facility that will take ECISD into the future.

“Within the next several months, we’ll be releasing all the programming that will be in there and it should be exciting. It’s going to be a state-of-the-art facility, really world-class in nature and we’re excited about the opportunity,” Muri said.

“Our new CTE center is being built in cooperation with Odessa College. They will provide some dual credit courses for students, and in the evenings and on weekends, that facility will be open for Odessa College to provide courses for upskilling and reskilling for the adults that live within the greater Permian Basin. So thank you to Odessa College for partnering with us as together we build some exciting programming in this new facility,” Muri said.

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