This past week, our publication issued one of our first “opinion” pieces on behalf of the organization regarding our thoughts on certain financial data regarding the ECISD school bond proposals currently before voters.
To clarify what this means, the piece reflected the viewpoint of all of us at Headlines based on what we have ascertained regarding the proposals to date, as opposed to it being any single author’s viewpoint.
Our Headline’s Opinion received thousands of views, and an overwhelming outpouring of positive feedback from our readers who appreciated the research, and our point of view based on it. As the editor, it does my heart proud to know we have provided a helpful product to you, our readers.
In response to the critics, I will admit, Odessa Headlines is the new kid on the block. Sure, we do not have a lot of staff (yet) but judging from the increasing demand for our product we will continue to grow and have the attendant growing pains to navigate. I suppose figuring out how to scale up to meet demand is a better problem to have than having to cut back most of your publication due to declining readership. But I digress.
I would like to take a moment and elaborate on the standards we aim for in our content.
Our approach at Odessa Headlines is to produce quality well-researched news that respects the reader by providing you with the facts necessary to draw your own conclusion. Quality news shouldn’t be in the business of trying to tell the reader what to think.
To that end, we do not endorse political candidates and ballot propositions and we actively try to hear and report on all sides of the issues.
We do value a good opinion piece. However, we distinguish the content we offer on behalf of Headlines in that we keep our opinions focused on a quality consideration of the facts.
We are not in the business of telling you how to vote or using passive-aggressive tones to shame readers into electoral decisions.
Shifting the focus to the bond election, I have a collection of thoughts on the subject, so perhaps it is best if I start at the “top” and work my way down.
Article Seven Section One of the Texas Constitution lays out the foundational framework and mandate for public education in our state, which says:
“A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”
Much has been written about this clause, but my take on it is that our rights and liberties depend upon having a learned society that is capable of perpetuating the constitutional republic.
Obviously to achieve that, the Legislature is mandated with providing a system of public free schools, and I believe there is a curriculum mandate intrinsic to that clause, that would logically require the teaching of reading, writing, mathematics, government, and history.
Other school programs like football and the arts are fine and all, but I think we need to avoid losing sight of our constitutional mandate and ensure we are doing a good job of teaching the basics before we spend significant funding elsewhere.
My point is that our state desperately needs to have a conversation about the role and structure of our public education system.
Closer to home, our school district is plagued with a myriad of issues that are only made worse with the way they have been handled.
The first issue I will highlight is the $49,980 elephant in the room, which is what the district ironically paid to hire a polling company to produce a survey of 1000 voters which revealed that voters felt the district’s management of funding was “wastefully and ineffective.”
Fast forward, our recent Odessa Headlines poll revealed that local readers still feel this way, and there is a sentiment that the district swept that expensive poll’s inconvenient results under the rug as opposed to listening to these concerns and taking meaningful actions to address them.
Next is the location of the high school.
West Odessans have a genuine concern that their needs were blatantly disregarded by choosing to give priority to the new development in East Odessa near the Midland County line.
This concern was loudly stated at an ECISD townhall hosted by Ector County Commissioner for Precinct One Mike Gardner
In response, it was pointed out that West Odessa resident Jesse Christenson, who was appointed to serve on the bond committee, stopped attending the meetings and was accused of being responsible for leaving the West without a voice.
Christenson angrily responded saying “I left because nobody would listen.”
Numerous other past bond committee members have expressed frustration to me that the outcome of the committee’s work was pre-determined and that the committee’s leadership actively worked to shut down dissenting voices.
Since people have asked, I will offer my final thoughts on the bond proposals.
I do think we need a new high school, as do most people I have talked to, including most of the people who have told me they are a “no” on this bond; however we need to think carefully about both the cost and location of this new facility.
I like the idea of career and technical trade schools, it cannot be overstated the value of graduates having good job-ready skills upon graduation; however we need to carefully evaluate what partnerships we can form with both other educational institutions and private industry to make these programs cost effective.
I also think the district has a crisis of confidence they need to address, and until it is resolved in a meaningful way, which means getting outside their echo chambers, it will be difficult to move the district forward for the benefit of our future generations.