Breakfast includes hellos and goodbyes
The Odessa Chamber of Commerce’s new teacher welcome breakfast included hellos, but also a farewell from Superintendent Tom Crowe and an announcement that Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Roy Garcia is retiring.
Now in its fifth year, the breakfast was held in Barn G of the Ector County Coliseum and attracted 500 to 600 people and 65 booths, Chamber Director of Operations Lynn Van Amburgh said.
Tiffany Benson, a third grade teacher at Milam, is going into her 11th year of instructing. She was sitting across from Tiffany Galindo, a prekindergarten aide.
Benson, who previously taught in Kermit and at a charter school in Midland, lives in Midland and will be commuting.
“I just looking for a new and different environment, and when I interviewed with Milam I just felt very comfortable and it felt more like a family to me. …” Benson said.
Galindo said she wanted to get into education because she enjoys being around youngsters.
“I have four kids of my own. My oldest actually attended Milam and she just graduated from Permian. She also graduated from OC (Odessa College) with her level 1 associate (degree) in criminal justice. My other three attend Milam,” Galindo said.
She added that she has volunteered at Milam for many years.
“I know how the teachers work. It’s a great school; the environment; just all the energy that they have.”
Kara Kupecki, associate choir director at Permian High School, is in her second year of teaching. She moved to Odessa from Waco.
“I saw a post online and I was like, ‘OK. I might as well check it out. One of the guys I student taught with came from here. He told me it was a great program. I think it’s a really positive environment and everybody seems to be really supportive of each other and it’s great,” Kupecki said.
Kenneth Davis, choir director at Crockett Middle School, moved to Odessa from Detroit. He had a couple of long-term substitute jobs in music, but said this is his “first real teaching job.”
“Where I went to school was a smaller town like this with a lot of blue collar workers. It wasn’t … as spread out as Odessa is, but I’m seeing the importance of community, the importance of faith and the importance of just togetherness in this community. It’s really uplifting to see it, especially in a place where it might be transient for some people,” Davis said.
What drew him to Texas was the state’s appreciation for fine arts.
“They fund their programs. They pay their teachers. The programs are super-high achieving. They’re amazing and it’s the best place to be for music education in the country, so that’s why I came down,” Davis said.
Mayor David Turner welcomed the new teachers, but added his appreciation for Crowe and Garcia, who are retiring.
“They touch the future,” Turner said before the program began. “We do a lot as the city council the county commissioners and things, but they’re touching the future. We just have to tell them how much we appreciate them, welcome them to the city if they’re new and just tell them we’re here for them.”
Crowe also welcomed the new teachers and urged them to get to know the community and realize how much the community appreciates them.
This was Crowe’s last welcome breakfast. He is retiring effective Sept. 1. Originally it was Dec. 22.
“Of course, I knew everything this year was going to be the last, but didn’t think about it being this soon, so it’s very bittersweet because I’ve loved everything I’ve done here and feel like we’ve made a real difference. That is we; not me. We’ve all worked together to make a real difference. It’s time for the next chapter, both for me and for the district. … I just hope that they will continue along the path, not just change directions. (I) just wish them nothing but the best,” Crowe said.
Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, told teachers there was some bad news on the state accountability front this week with the Texas Education Agency giving Ector County ISD a D on an A through F scale and placing eight campuses on the improvement required list.
Landgraf said the system is flawed. Crowe said Landgraf is writing a letter of protest.
“I just want everybody in this room to know that the work you’ve been putting in to set up your students for success and what you new teachers will be doing to set up your students for success beginning next week, it is all that matters,” Landgraf said.
“It doesn’t matter what any bureaucrat, any legislator, any statewide office in Austin says because you, more than anybody else, are going to know what your students need to be successful. You are going to have a better relationship with them than anybody, outside of their parents. Don’t let anybody in a position that I’m in, or anybody else in state government, tell you any differently because you are the ones making a difference. It doesn’t matter what arbitrary ratings anybody comes up with, especially when bureaucrats in Austin decide to change the rules after the game has already been played,” Landgraf said.
Van Amburgh said churches, nonprofits, insurance providers, banks, movie theaters, museums and many more turned out “anything a new teacher would need to get started.”
“It’s a win-win,” Van Amburgh said. Chamber members get new clients and new teachers find out more about services.
“It’s a fun event,” she said. “Everybody wants to help teachers.”
Van Amburgh added that people realize how much money teachers spend on their classrooms out of their own pockets, so there were baskets filled with supplies for them.
Ruth Campbell covers education for the Odessa American. Reach her at 432-333-7765 or 432-333-7765 or firstname.lastname@example.org