One of Ector County ISD’s longest standing elementary campuses is rebranding itself as Travis Career & Leadership Academy.
Principal Amy Russell said the campus, which has about 400 students in grades three through five, still has its math and science labs. In recent years it has gotten away from its emphasis on communication, but that strand will fit in with its new slant.
Russell wants more students to take advantage of Travis so the school choice window will reopen on March 15 on the ECISD website. She added that students that live in and outside of the attendance zone can enroll there as a school of choice.
The Travis Ambassadors, picked so they could develop their leadership skills, has really taken off, Russell said.
“… The families want to know what can their kids do to stay and be an ambassador. So it led me to remember my time in middle school (at Ector Middle School) when we really focused on leadership there. I was able to go back through all my notes … and we used The Leader in Me book to help us; it wasn’t the only thing that we did, so I went dabbling into that this year and the interest for that is just amazing,” she said.
“… Kids still have the potential for leadership and why do we need to wait until kids are in high school and college (for them) to learn those leadership skills that took us probably decades to learn?” Russell said. “We can teach them they have that potential now within them …”
The Leader in Me is a philosophy by Franklin Covey that every student possesses leadership qualities and it’s up to the adults around them to bring it out.
Thinking about leadership led Russell to careers and the realization that there are examples nearby that students can see every day.
“I just see so many opportunities that are above the scores, that are above we’ve got to have this at the state level, especially through COVID. COVID was so harsh. It was harsh on our scores, it was harsh on attendance, but the good point out of that is our relationships with parents are better — much better; much more positive. Discipline? There are no discipline issues. I’ll have 76 percent of my kids back face to face. I still have zero discipline issues.”
“I attribute that to the strong relationships that the teachers fostered. I’ve done relationship building with the parents, as well. The week of the freeze, we weren’t at home; we were driving through the streets trying to get blankets and food to some of our families, but that relationship wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for COVID and Snowvid,” Russell said.
When Superintendent Scott Muri came on board with ECISD, that was Russell’s first year as a principal. Muri had educators think about why magnet schools are magnet schools, which Travis is, and whether the community wanted its particular focus.
“… I was asking those same questions,” Russell said. “I needed to get to know the community around Travis. I needed to get to know what their culture was; what was valuable to them and all the parents. All the families that have gone through here said strong math, strong science and the students becoming a part of the community, realizing they have a part to play … They’re not just shut down here on the south side. There are opportunities that they have because many of the south side people are community leaders. They’re homegrown, so they are very invested in Travis. There are so many people in leadership that they went through Travis. (District Attorney) Dusty Gallivan’s mother was teacher here, so there are so many connections.”
Gallivan said he thinks making leadership a focus of Travis is a fantastic idea.
“Leadership is an essential skill we all need, both as a follower and a leader. Travis is an excellent school with an excellent staff. Ms. Russell is an example of an outstanding leader,” Gallivan said in an email.
CJ Ricks, an advisor to the National Society of Leadership and Success at Odessa College, was an OC student when the ambassador program started in 2019. The select program provided leadership trains for fifth graders.
Initially, Ricks said the 22 fifth graders wanted to be active in their community and school.
Some students wanted to tackle bullying and others were worried about peers who weren’t getting enough to eat.
Although it was a small sample of students, Ricks said he thought it was good that the students were thinking about each other and not just themselves.
“… If they expand that way of thinking to the entire school, I feel like it just (will) show so much positivity and make the kids’ time more enjoyable and start affecting that home life and neighborhood life …,” Ricks said.
Ruth Campbell covers education for the Odessa American. Reach her at 432-333-7765 or email@example.com