Special Report: Oil boom and education - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: newswest9.com |

Special Report: Oil boom and education

(Source: KWES) (Source: KWES)

Usually when there is an oil bust, many people pack their bags and leave town.

This latest bust was different, and you can see that in our schools.

At Midland I.S.D there are still plenty of students still filling the classrooms.

"People didn't leave when the oil took a downturn. They stayed around and waited it out. Hiring is back up and kids are still here," said Teresa Moore, Executive Director of Student Services at Midland I.S.D.

In fact, more students are treading through the hallways than ever before.

"They stayed and we have continued to add students every year," said Woodrow Bailey, Director of Professional Certification at Midland I.S.D.

In the oil boom year of 2012-2013, Midland schools had 21,614 students enrolled.

Fast forward to this year and there are 24,698 students enrolled in the district.

"We are under the impression that some oil companies are bringing in more families. With those new families come new students,  so we're seeing an increase in enrollment because of that as well," said Moore.

The school district uses a number formulas to predict the number of students coming through their doors.

"It's almost like the stock market. You do the best that you can to make projections on what you see right now. You hear about oil companies coming in, but you can't count on how many are actually coming in with kids that are school age," said Bailey.

School officials say formulas don't tell the whole story.

They have to do a lot of homework on what they're seeing in town.

"Our staff members consult with builders, realtors, and city planners very regularly to look at where construction might occur. We usually know ahead of time when an apartment complex is going to be built or a new housing sub-division is going to go up. We estimate how many students will be in those households," said Moore.

In kindergarten through fourth grade there is a state ratio of 22 students to 1 teacher.

That number is a little higher at some Midland schools this year, but others have less in anticipation of new students.

"If you take an average you'll end up pretty close to that 22 to 1. At school A we may have at a little bit more than 22 to 1, but over here at school B we may have a little bit less than 22 to 1," said Moore.

If things get too crowded in the classroom, the school district can ask the state for a waiver,  if the school is passing state standards.

"We just explain to the state that it's in the best interest of the children not to split that class up or we're not able to get a teacher that meets the needs of that campus so we need to leave that classroom intact if it has one or two more students," said Moore.

There is no limit on the number of students to teachers from the fifth grade and up.

However, the school district has a standard on how many students can walk into a classroom.

"If all of the classrooms at a particular grade hit a certain number, we will add a teacher. That may mean bringing in a portable building or moving some classroom space around. We are not going to let those classrooms get 30, 35, or 40 students in them. Once those classrooms hit a maximum, we'll look for another teacher and open up a new classroom," said Moore.

As for finding teachers, the Midland I.S.D. is in a lot better shape.

"The tide has changed. We're shifting in the right direction. Right now we stand with almost a full staff at all of our campuses," said Bailey.

At last check, the Midland school district only had 14 teacher openings compared to more than 50 a few years ago.

They work with U.T.P.B., Region 18, principals and others to recruit locally and get teachers certified.

Recruiters also do a lot of footwork searching other places. 

"This is our recruitment season for Human Resources so we'll be visiting 35 university campuses over the next couple of months to try to recruit some teachers to come to Midland, " said Bailey.

School officials say their biggest challenge is recruiting young college graduates to Midland.

"Salary is important, friends are important, and so is entertainment. We have to try really hard to recruit people to come this way. They really want to stay in that Metroplex and that Interstate 35 corridor through Austin and Dallas where all of their friends are. Our salary is competitive, but sometimes they just go for that experience, so we have to be very creative in how we recruit them," said Bailey.

Work in the oil industry is a bright spot in the search for teachers.

More jobs are becoming available, which attracts college graduates and families with spouses or partners looking for a job in education.

School officials say another lure is the experience and support teachers get in a small school district in a close-knit community.

"Sometimes we look out for those students or graduates that come to our table and they're looking for something different. They may not want those big large schools like Houston has and they want something smaller," said Bailey.

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