PAC Pulls Support for Bond

Bailee Fuller, Staff writer

4 kid’s future is no longer supporting the Ector County Independent School District Board bond.

Due to a miscommunication of how revenue from a tax ratification election would be used, 4 Kids’ Future, the political action committee (PAC) supporting the $291,172,291 proposed bond issue and tax election pulled its support.

The decision was announced during a news conference at the West Texas Food Bank. Superintendent Tom Crowe stood alongside 4 Kids’ Future founding member Collin Sewell. The bond and tax ratification election was called Aug. 17 by the ECISD Board of Trustees.

Sewell, who is president of The Sewell Family of Companies and a former Ector County Independent School District Bond Advisory Committee member, said the one thing that gave the organization pause pertained to teacher raises.

“The tax rate election, as I understand it today, provides a 2.5 percent compensation increase for non-teaching staff. And it provided a 1.5 percent increase for teaching staff because they were already given a 1 percent increase in this cycle, which brought them to total of 2.5 percent. But there’s a big difference between a cumulative increase of 2.5 percent (and) a 2.5 percent increase. And because no one explained that nuance, we were misrepresenting that to the community and I refuse to do that,” Sewell said.

Crowe said the raises for the teachers were a misunderstanding on his part.

He said another point of misinformation was that the PAC was told that the revenues generated from the passing of the tax ratification election would pay for the operational costs of the new schools and the staff pay increases.

“This, too, is not fully accurate. If passed, the money generated from the TRE would assist the district with its current operating budget until the new school’s construction is complete,” Sewell said. “Thereby a portion of our tax dollars would fund existing operations, not future operations as we were told.”

Sewell apologized on behalf of the PAC to its friends in the community and the ECISD family.

He added that while this is critical and the group is a passionate advocate for these students, they have to have transparent information.

Sewell said the group also has a chance to open the door to support the district and its students on the existing campuses. He noted that there are three campuses in their fifth year of improvement required status under the state accountability system.

Sewell said Ector Middle School and Zavala and Noel elementary schools are in “immediate danger” of being closed because of their improvement required status.

“I encourage all of us as part of the 4 Kids’ Future political action committee, and more importantly all the citizens of Odessa, to support Ector Middle School, Zavala and Noel elementary. We’re going to provide specific information on our website and on our Facebook page, so all of the people can find out how can get more involved,” he said.

Sewell encouraged the school board to begin immediately evaluating and engaging the community and the PAC on how they can redraft a proposal for a new bond issue that addresses all the district’s long-term needs.

“Number four, I would say that Odessa is in a crisis. It’s a crisis in education and many other areas. But more desperately, Odessa has a leadership crisis. We’re committed to finding a solution. We have great potential, and in fact, I would say that we’re the Silicon Valley of the petroleum industry. But it’s high time that we start acting like it, thinking it like it, learning like it and caring like it,” Sewell said.

“I apologize for the misunderstanding on it. We’re committed to the kids. We’re committed to helping this community move forward because that’s what everyone deserves …,” Crowe said.
Crowe said he and Sewell met Thursday morning and Sewell suggested forming a community coalition to make regular visits to the three campuses that are in their fifth year of improvement required.

He said he’s told the campuses to tell him what they need, but they think they have to go through certain processes to do that. 

Board member Nelson Minyard said he didn’t think the bond had to be blown up because of the misunderstanding about the tax ratification election. He said it takes three years to build the buildings and the district could look at passing a TRE the following year.

“We need that bond passed,” Minyard said.

Sewell said the first thing he would say to voters is that he is very sorry. He added that if he had known from the beginning what the scenario was he could have easily presented it to the community and explained it clearly.

“The second thing is that anytime that you and I are faced with tough tragedies like this today, we have two options. We can sit down or we can stand up. My hope is that this community will stand up. My hope is this community will consider this a moment in time when maybe they finally said we’re going to get engaged and we’re going to be involved and we’re going to take our city back in such a way that we transform education here forever,” he said.