Muri: ECISD not going back to normal

first_img Pinterest Muri: ECISD not going back to normal As Ector County ISD moves through the COVID-19 pandemic and all its attendant uncertainty, Superintendent Scott Muri knows one thing for sure: things will not go back to business as usual when it’s over. Even before the pandemic, ECISD was working on its strategic plan, but it found that items in the plan had to be acted on immediately due to circumstances. Recently Muri published an article in EdSurge titled “The Pandemic Closed Our Doors But Opened Our Minds: Why My School District Will Not Return to ‘Normal.’” A year ago, ECISD looked at its data and realized it was not where it wanted to be and that the way the district was designed was not working for every student. “… In fact it wasn’t working for most of our kids. That’s not a place we want to go back to. We want to go a new place, a better place. We’ve learned a lot through the pandemic,” Muri said. “There are things that we don’t want to continue like I am wearing a mask right now. I would hope that is not a part of my permanent future, so that’s something that we would clearly like to change but other things that we’ve learned are pretty remarkable.” For example, Muri visited Wilson & Young Medal of Honor Middle School Thursday. “… They’re in the process of finishing up an assessment called the Measure of Academic Progress. … One of the things that they noticed in their academic areas is their virtual students performed better in the area of reading and English than their face-to-face students. Their face-to-face students performed better in the area of math than their virtual students. At this point in time most of the children that are virtual are experiencing success at virtual, whereas at the beginning of the year we had almost 85 percent of our kids virtual. Some kids were really struggling. Many of the kids that are still in a virtual environment are experiencing success,” Muri said. He added that he found that data point from Wilson & Young fascinating. Muri said officials at Wilson & Young are trying to figure out why the virtual students are doing better in English than the in-person ones. “… Is that a better way for kids to learn, or are there specific strategies that those teachers are using with those kids in a virtual environment that are better than the strategies that are being used face-to-face. The data was surprising to them. They didn’t anticipate that, so they’re going to dig into that to better understand that. That data should create positive change for those kids, potentially. If there are strategies that they are using virtually, how could we replicate those same strategies in a face-to-face environment?” “How can we leverage the tools of technology effectively much more so than we’re doing today?” Muri said he has had “numerous” parents ask him if ECISD will continue offering virtual learning for their students because some have blossomed as students in that environment. Because of the pandemic, Muri added, teachers have learned improved their use of technology. “… Our kids are leveraging technology to a much higher level. In some cases, that’s good for them, learning new tools, learning new ways of communicating, learning new strategies and techniques that are proving to be effective. Those are the things that we need to continue,” Muri said. He noted that one of the comments he has received from teachers is they have realized once again how important the relationship between the teacher, student and parent is. “The pandemic has required much more communication between the school and family. Our teachers have learned a lot about the family lives of some of our kids. They’ve engaged in many more conversations with moms and dads about how to support kids at home. So that is something that we want to continue. The relationships that have been developed between teacher and student and family are critical. They are essential to kids moving forward,” Muri said. Research shows that when children have healthy relationships with adults on campus whether it’s a teacher, cafeteria worker or custodian, their achievement increases, he said. Tied into that, Panorama Education conducted a School Connectedness Survey this fall. School Connectedness is defined as the belief adults and peers care about their learning and about them as individuals. “… This fall, 59 percent of students, in grades 3-12, said they feel connected (61 percent is the national average in a pre-COVID atmosphere). Our goal is to be at the national average next spring and at 63% by 2024,” Jan. 19th’s school board recap said. The survey covered sense of belonging, school climate, rigorous expectations, school engagement, and supportive relationships. Overall, the highest rated area was supportive relationships with 72 percent positive responses; the lowest area was school engagement at 45 percent positive responses. Another survey will be conducted in the spring. Muri said students also were surveyed on engagement. Students said they were sitting too much and that they need to be more active. “… Teachers are not as comfortable putting kids together in groups. Kids are not using manipulatives and it’s all because of the virus. It’s not wanting to spread the virus on campus, so the pandemic has created a situation where they are a bit more sedentary in the school environment; not as engaged with as many manipulatives or other strategies that teachers were using. That’s something that we want to end. …,” Muri said. “I’m anxious for us to get on the other side of that. I want kids to have manipulatives in math classes so they can learn math better. I want kids to be able to work in small groups and work with each other. I want kids to be able to collaborate closely with each other. Some of those best practices are missing from our classrooms …,” Muri said. He did note that some students have developed better relationships with their teachers virtually than they had in person. The pandemic has also exposed the haves and have-nots in ECISD. One example is internet access at home. He noted that there are some families who don’t want internet in their homes. “We had talked about that as a district. A part of our strategic plan was to ensure that over the next four years every family has broadband in their home, but we’ve had to significantly accelerate that work. … There are kids even still today, it’s January of 2021, and we have some of our students that are at home without internet access because it is simply not available to them and they’re learning through pencil-paper packets still today.” “I know that the learning of those children has been significantly impacted because of this that’s just not right. We as a community, as a state, as a nation have the ability to provide high-speed broadband to every family. Broadband should be a utility, just like electricity and water the other basic utilities that families fundamentally have in their homes,” Muri said. The district is working with SpaceX on a pilot project to provide broadband to families in the Pleasant Farms area, but that is not ready to go yet. Food is another matter. Part of the district’s strategic plan was to ensure that all students over the next couple of years, regardless of income status, would have access to a free breakfast and lunch. “But we accelerated that, and so today, all of our students have access to free breakfast and lunch,” Muri said. Meals are provided at school, for pickup and delivery. “We actually have hundreds of meals delivered every day,” Muri said. There is a team of volunteers supplemented by the delivery firm Texas to Go. “… We know how important good nutrition is and we know that some of our kids are completely dependent upon public schools to provide meals, but the pandemic was another stark reminder of the disparities that exist in our own community and how we have kids that will not eat unless we feed them. And that’s wrong. We have to do better as a community to make sure all our kids have access to food on a daily basis … The pandemic has, I won’t say taught us, but it has reminded us with some really powerful examples about the disparities that exist, the inequities that exist in our own community” and how important it is that they work hard to close those gaps. Meetings, travel and conferences are other aspects of life that have changed during COVID-19. Even meetings within the administration building are held over Zoom with each official in their own office. Muri said he can’t wait to return to in-person meetings for his team. However, large principal meetings, for example, may continue to be held online. With principals scattered across a wide area, the meetings can take half the day. “With Zoom, it’s two hours and yes you have taken one minute to log in but then you’re on your campus and you’re there for the rest of the day,” Muri said. As far as travel, Muri said it would probably be a mixed bag. ECISD is part of the Texas School Alliance which normally involves taking a day and flying to Austin and back. Now it’s a three-hour Zoom meeting. Testifying before the legislature, though, will not happen as usual this session. Fortunately, Muri said, the local representatives are very accessible. He added that it is “critically important” to testify in front of committees. “… I’m not sure we’ll have as many of those this session as in the past and will have hopefully in the future,” Muri said. Starting the week of Jan. 25 is the midwinter Texas Association of School Administrators Conference which Muri has attended since he has worked in Texas. “For the first time, it’s going to be virtual. I’ll be curious to see how engaging that is. …,” Muri said. Facebook Pinterest Previous articleMexico native making a differenceNieto spreading the word for Odessans in SpanishNext articlePARKER: Freedom of speech slipping away Digital AIM Web Support Twitter TAGS  center_img By Digital AIM Web Support – January 24, 2021 EducationECISDLocal News Facebook Twitter WhatsApp WhatsApplast_img read more