Educate Midland: Community Involvement Needed to Strengthen City's Public Education System

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MIDLAND, TX Out of 20 educational regions in the state our region, Region 18, is the lowest performing.

In an effort to change that, the recently formed group Educate Midland is holding a series of meetings open to the public.

Their end goal is to strengthen Midland's public education system.

The first meeting was held Monday night at Stonegate Fellowship and surprisingly enough well over 100 people showed up and at least half were teachers.

One quote from Pastor Patrick Payton stood out the most before the meeting began, that was if the community were to put in as much time and effort into academics as they do athletics, half of the battle with low performance would be won.

A total of 24,000 students make up the Midland Independent School District.

Of the 33 public schools across town 18 are performing below average, 13 at average and two above.

These are numbers that those with Educate Midland say should be reversed.

"I think our community is finally starting to realize hey this is our issue, it's a parent issue, it's a business issue [and] it’s a grandparent issue,” Payton said. “There’s a little bit of a rumble and people realizing, OK, let’s see what we can do together rather than waiting to see what someone else can do about it."

Payton is just one of several local leaders behind Educate Midland.

The eight-month old program is collaborating with Midland ISD and Educate Texas, a self-described innovative public-private partnership whose mission is to improve the state's public education systems.

During the meeting Educate Midland introduced its new initiative: a model called "Collective Impact."

"The philosophy behind Collective Impact is that if you really want to make a dramatic societal change, the best way to do that is to involve the entire community, working in the same direction with common set goals," said Rick Davis, the President of the Midland ISD School Board.

While no exact plan was presented during the meeting, leaders did explain issues the school district faces.

“They’re not going to get a plan, they’re not going to hear people say this is how we fix it, we’re really describing a playing field, describing the situation and saying this is what we face as a community and we think we can move forward and fix it together,” Payton said.

Long-time teacher Mary Helen Livingston was one of dozens of teachers who attended the meeting and says she is all too familiar with the issues the district faces.

"It's a long time coming, our academic scores have declined, why [is that?],” said Livingston. “Teachers are still working hard, principals are still working hard, so why is academic performance declining, we need to get to the root of that and I believe this is a baseline committee to see why that is happening."

Educate Midland wants anyone and everyone, especially teachers, to contact them and share their ideas and concerns.

Members say with the upcoming formation of different task forces their goal is to tackle those problems one at a time.

It's a plan that members say won't happen overnight, but will be reached if everyone in the community works at it together.

To submit your ideas and learn more about Educate midland visit their website at: http://educatemidland.org/.

The group is in the process of hiring a full-time team to run the program and is being funded by the Henry Foundation, Scharbauer Foundation and Abell-Hanger Foundation.

Below is a list of the next three meetings:

Thursday: 6p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church (800 W. Texas Ave.)

Tuesday April 12: 6p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Hispanic Cultural Center of Midland (1311 E. Wadley Ave.) Inside Hogan Park. This service will be in Spanish only.

Thursday April 14: 6p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Greater Ideal Family Life Center (301 S. Tyler St.)