A board director opens a new chapter

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Starting out as a math teacher, Nancy Vanley has since found herself advising on many other facets of the field for the Ector County ISD.

Now in her ninth year as Executive Director of guidance and advice and his 29th with ECIDD, Vanley is retiring, effective June 30.

She always thought she was too hyperactive to retire, but her sisters told her she would know when to quit.

“I was actually widowed almost seven years ago and remarried in December, so we have travel plans…” Vanley said.

Her husband’s name is Burt Compton. She is also a licensed professional counselor, so she will continue this work.

“I have a friend, she and I are going to be opening a bereavement center similar to Rays of Hope in Midland. … It’s going to take a while to get this up and running because we might need some community members to help this part. Anyway, it’s one of our passions that we always wanted to do. And I’m going to learn to fly. I’m learning to fly small planes and gliders. My husband is a pilot, so I I had a lot of life changes that were unexpected, and it just took me in a new direction,” Vanley said.

Her husband has a small business as a pilot and glider instructor in Marfa, so she and her husband will be flying back and forth between the two towns.

“I will always be here in this community because my family is always here. My mother, my children; everyone is still there,” she said.

She has two sons and four grandchildren.

Vanley said she would always be available by phone, but she said her team had done a good job over the past few years and were ready to pick it up from here.

She added that there were a lot of good systems in place, and that her former boss, Roy Garcia, told her to leave on a high note.

“…I feel like I’m leaving at the right time as we’ve implemented some really good things, but we’re also leaving this in the hands of really capable and caring people,” Vanley said.

She oversees nursing care at the Community Outreach Center, which has social workers and nurses.

“… The job has changed a lot and the needs have changed. When I got this job, I really never expected it. My life has gone in this direction. I was one of those kids who didn’t like school. I hated school, I hated it. I can’t even overstate how much I hated school. I was graduated. (I) didn’t do very well in college because I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t go back to college until my early thirties. So I didn’t start teaching until I was 36. I started late for an educator and never imagined it would go this way.

She went to Odessa College and transferred to the University of Texas Permian Basin where she earned a bachelor’s degree in math and computer science. She majored in mathematics with a minor in computer science.

Vanley earned a master’s degree in counseling and became a school counselor, then also earned her professional counseling license from UTPB.

Originally from Kansas City, Mo., she has lived in Odessa since fourth grade.

The people and knowing that they are doing things for the good of the students are the things she has enjoyed most about her job.

“I’ve always missed being on campus because I love students. They give you an energy that nothing else can give you. Just knowing that we are making good decisions and making a difference in the lives of children and our staff; I think we’ve done some good things for the staff members as well,” Vanley said.

As a counselor, Vanley saw staff members, but now they have a collaboration with Centers for Children and Families in Odessa where staff can go for advice.

Teachers can also see counselors, but if they need ongoing help they will usually be referred elsewhere.

“Mental health support is there for everyone and with everything that’s happened over the past few years, we’re just in a different place. Needs are greater for staff and children; all of us really,” Vanley said.

Telepsychiatry and counseling services are accessible through the campuses. Telepsychiatry goes through the nurse’s office and CATR goes through the counseling office.

She thinks anxiety and depression have increased over the past year among students.

“I think some of the things we’ve put in place with the guidance council and with the crisis counsellors, the SAS counsellors; these needs are not going anywhere. They’re not going away,” Vanley said.

“We have done a lot of trauma-informed care training for our school and our SAS counsellors. I think that was critical when we had the shooting here in 2019. We made sure before that happened that all of our staff were trained in critical incident stress management, never anticipating that anyone something like this would happen. … After that, we used that to provide services throughout the district. And of course we had the help of some really great people in San Antonio, El Paso, Area 18 brought in advisors from all over. There are just a few systems in place where you don’t expect these things to happen, but when they do happen, you step in and deal with it,” Vanley said.

The district offered to help in any way possible after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. The Area 18 Educational Service Center took the information from the ECIDD and passed it on to people in Area 20.

“Region 20 was the one running it all. It was a tragic, tragic thing,” Vanley said.

As a counselor, Vanley said she was ready to get in the car and drive to Uvalde.

“I just think it’s this advisor mentality that we have from this aid; like nurses and teachers and people who are in education…” Vanley said.

With the bereavement center, Vanley said they will likely start with children, but may also see adults and families.

“There is a lot of grief. A lot of kids have lost people, not just to COVID but… there’s car accidents and just illnesses. We have many grieving children and employees. For some time we have had counselors in town who provide bereavement counselling. But in terms of having a center like they have in Midland with Rays of Hope with supplies and bands… we just haven’t had that availability,” Vanley said.

“… Now is maybe the time when we can actually implement something. We’re going to start small, so don’t expect a building with stuff already. … We’re going to start with some small groups and things like that. … It’s kind of my passion is to come back and work with kids again,” she added.

Alicia Syverson, Assistant Superintendent of Student and School Support, joined ECIDD three years ago.

“During these three years, Nancy Vanley led a team to respond to and surround staff and students in the aftermath of the mass shooting over Labor Day weekend. She assembled her team to accelerate mental health supports during a pandemic. His team has since launched a district-wide SEL (social and emotional learning) curriculum and framework to continue to foster resilience among CISSD students,” Syverson said in a text message.

“His latest efforts are focused on strengthening secondary school education councils to support students in planning their post-secondary decisions. Nancy is an incredibly hardworking child advocate and passionate about making sure (that) all students have the support they need to face whatever they may be going through. Although she will be sorely missed, she has built a team and a foundation that will allow us to continue to do great things for the students of ECIDD, both in the areas of mental health, trauma-informed practices than the school board. His mark on the ECIDD is indelible. She deserves a long awaited next chapter and we are so happy for her,” Siverson wrote.

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