The following commentary was submitted for publication and the views and opinions contained therein belong to the author alone and are not intended or implied to represent the opinion of Odessa Headlines.
I would like to start this off by saying all of my information is shorthand and not the gospel. It’s going to be written with my own opinion added.
This is my understanding and what I took away from the questions asked (during the West Odessa ECISD Townhall)
It may be a little long-winded, but I feel it’s worth taking the time to put it out there, and hopefully, you will feel it is worth the read.
First, the district still has almost $200 million in debt left over from 2012. I asked the superintendent how long we will own this debt and why we can’t pay this off before another bond.
Apparently, it is in the bond requirements/rules/laws/ set forth by the state that we cannot pay this down without losing some type of state funding and this debt won’t be paid off for another 10-15 years at least.
So, we will be stacked with this along with any new bonds. Something to consider with all these bonds if we have to carry all debt for a certain amount of time.
Your kids will be paying for this decade from now.
My second takeaway concerns the placement of the new high school and CTE campus.
The land where they want the new high school was purchased years ago, I don’t know all of the specifics of the land deal, but it was purchased with the intention to build there.
This was not done during the time our present superintendent, Scott Muri, was working for ECISD.
While we need to hold these people accountable for their actions, it’s hard to hold them accountable for past actions. Including board members.
The bond committee had (I believe) around 120-140 members originally, and I can’t remember exactly, but a lot from the west side felt their voices were not being heard at all and felt it was pre-determined, so they walked out on the committee.
Now, this location for the new high school is what we have to work with.
We as citizens need to make it our mission to serve on these committees, call the boards, and make sure we have a voice.
This site was also chosen due to studies done by a demography company hired by the district, that indicated the most growth would be on the east side of town.
It was mentioned that a lot of people on the west side of town are not registered to vote and do not participate in the census.
This needs to change, because correct statistical information from voter registration, census data, and voting will be critical to ensure sufficient resources are planned for and allocated to that area.
It was also strongly suggested at the town hall that the CTE center if approved by voters, be placed on the west side, and hopefully, the board members and school superintendent listened to that suggestion.
Thirdly, I do not believe anyone disagrees with the fact we need new schools.
It was made clear that we all understand the kids are important and educational training is what will make this town successful in the long run.
However, the west side, in my opinion, and many others, believe the west side presently has the greatest need for not just a new high school, but new middle schools and elementary schools.
The comments I have seen claiming that if we do not vote for this bond then we do not care about kids are absolutely ridiculous.
Our concern is about spending money the right way and taking care of the citizens that have been in need for much longer.
My fourth takeaway is regarding Midland kids who attend ECISD not paying into the district. This issue is probably more complicated than I‘m going to be able to describe, so I would encourage you to contact your board member to find out more details about it. But simply put, if kids from Midland come to school in Odessa, the state portion of their education funding follows them. However, the school portion of their property taxes continues to be paid to Midland. If Midland pays into the Robin hood program, some of it will go to Austin and eventually make its way to Odessa, but that is subjective.
I do not agree with this state-designed school financing mechanism, but if we want to change it then we need to make it happen on a higher scale and call our State Representative and State Senator and voice your opinion.
My overall opinion from this town hall is that both our superintendent and our school board members do at heart, have the kids’ best interest placed ahead of everything, but I strongly believe they missed the mark on what the community wants and needs.
If we build a new school on the east side and pay nearly $200 million for it, how hard is it going to be to come back to the west side and pass theirs for another $200 million, and make our district be well underway towards having a billion dollars of debt.
While I was unable to ask every question, I had in mind at the town hall, I will continue to look into issues I still have questions about ranging from food quality to teacher pay.
After saying all of this, I think we do need a new CTE building, and the two CTE teachers who spoke at the town hall demonstrated they have nothing but passion for what they do, and they would benefit a ton from a new school.
We have a massive workforce demand that needs to be met here, and these schools provide a lot of that training.
Lastly, I would encourage everyone to call their elected officials and ask questions. If they don’t hold up their end, then vote them out.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my thoughts.