Connecting community entities to continue the momentum toward kindergarten readiness was discussed by those attending the Education Partnership of the Permian Basin meeting Tuesday at the Complex Community Federal Credit Unit Training Center.
Starting Jan. 1 with the first babies of the New Year, Medical Center Hospital and Odessa Regional Medical Center distributed POWER Bags to parents. POWER stands for Power of Words and Early Reading. The purpose of the bags is to encourage the community to read, speak and interact with children as frequently as possible starting at birth.
Among other items, the bags contain a Centers for Disease Control milestone moments book, CDC age-level baby book, a Scholastic book, baby toy keys, a baby bib, articles, a magnet and website information for additional resources.
Since the initiative began, there have been 114 babies born at MCH and 98 at ORMC. Dr. Sara Amiri said that was a slow month for the hospital, which averages 200 deliveries a month, including babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Christin Timmons, a chief nursing officer at MCH, said between the hospitals there are 450 to 500 births a month.
Amiri said nurses give reminders to parents about the bags as they go through their stay.
Timmons said parents were asking about the POWER bags after arriving for their baby’s birth.
Adrian Vega, executive director of the Education Partnership, said in May Randy Ham, executive director of Odessa Arts, is organizing Books in the Basin at the Marriott. XTO Energy and Marriott underwrote the funding for 20,000 books.
“O is for Oil: The ABC’s of Odessa,” written by Vega, will be available then. Each letter will stand for something iconic or well-known in the community.
Vega said he is seeing if he can coordinate a panel on the POWER Bags at the festival. Proceeds from the books will go to the POWER Bag initiative.
Vega said the bigger piece is how this will benefit kindergarten readiness and they also are talking to Midland Memorial Hospital.
He said the challenge is to connect literacy and children age 0 to 4 with the other places they go in their formative years, such as pediatricians, clinics, daycare, churches, social services, school districts, and others.
During a previous meeting and at an Ector County ISD board of trustees meeting, Superintendent Scott Muri said 65 percent of students were not ready for kindergarten in 2019.
In fall 2020, Ector County ISD will begin offering full-day prekindergarten, possibly opening up 1,000 seats.
Muri said state funding is available for pre-k for 3-year-olds, but the district needs more capacity to access more funding.
Renee Earls, president and CEO of the Odessa Chamber of Commerce and a member of the partnership, said she thinks they need to approach directors of the Mother’s Day Out programs around the community and daycare centers.
Representatives from the Permian Basin Workforce Development Board also presented an opportunity for a teacher externship program. The program will take place during the summer and be open to any secondary school that has connections to the workforce, a previous Odessa American article said.
Teachers would be able to earn a maximum of $700. The externship pays $500, but they can earn $100 if they complete a debriefing at the Region 18 Education Service Center and another $100 if their roundtrip commute is more than 50 miles, the article said. The deadline to register is Feb. 3.
Vega announced the Champions of Education event will be from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 26 at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center. The keynote speaker will be Freedom Writers founder Erin Gruwell.
The event is to honor all educators in the area from teachers and bus drivers to office managers, Vega said.
The Texas Association for Literacy Education Conference is scheduled for Feb. 28 and Feb. 29 at the Odessa Marriott Hotel & Conference Center.