ECISD Announces Second Round of Budget Reductions

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA--Next on the chopping block, the district's Family Education Center and Teen Parent Center.  As NewsWest 9 found out, the Teen Parent Center offers some very valuable assistance to students who need it, but it won't be doing it for much longer.

"It just completely changed my ability to access the kids feelings and information," Ren Pettijohn, Student Assistance Services Counselor for ECISD, said.

It's called Sandtray Therapy and this school year alone, it's been helping over 100 teen mothers, taking courses at the Teen Parent Center, by not only helping them keep up with their school work but also, work through anything else that's bothering them.

"It actually allows them to be able to step back and look at their situation from a distance. So it gives them perspective on what's happening in their life," Pettijohn explained.

Since ECISD has decided to redesign the program, girls like 19-year-old Alexandria and 18-year-old Cynthia will have little or no options left.

"My main option would just be regular high school. For me, my opinion is, I've always found it harder," Alexandria said.

"You see everybody else that graduated from here, it gives you hope. They're moms too and you see them graduate and you know you can do it too," Cynthia added.

Sandtray Therapy helps the girls get their thoughts and feelings out in the open.

Alexandria's tray shows the down side of not getting an education. Something that could have happened to her without TPC.

"They understand what you're going through. Having other girls here, that understand you, helps a lot too," she said.

Cynthia, on the other hand, chooses to stay focused on the positive side of things, even though she's scared about having to go from an all-girl environment to a co-ed campus.

According to Cynthia, "There would be a lot more problems, a lot more fighting, a lot more stress. We're moms now and it would be harder for us because there's going to be more problems at a co-ed school."

With the changes, the girls will have to go school at their home campuses and send their children to daycare at Zavala Elementary.

"You're going to be on a complete opposite side of town than what your children are on. It's not like it is here, where you can check on them," Alexandria said.

"It won't be the same at a regular campus, because you just can't get up and go when your baby needs you," Cynthia agreed.

Pettijohn's future as an SAS Counselor is all but clear, "I'm going to have to re-think how I provide services. It will mean traveling and it will mean, actually, working in a smaller space."

With this second round of changes, ECISD says they will be saving about $3.1 million, or the equivalent of 62 teaching positions. NewsWest 9 has been told, the Teen Parent Center will close for good, at the end of the current school year.