Thirty schools from South Texas were honored during a ceremony and dinner titled "A Legacy of Excellence" at The University of Texas-Pan American April 26 for their inclusion in the 2006 Texas Business and Education Coalition (TBEC) Honor Roll of Schools.
The South Texas schools honored at the event, sponsored by the UTPA Foundation and Region One Education Service Center, were among 270 in the state this past year meeting the demanding criteria required to make the honor roll, now in its seventh year.
TBEC was formed in 1989 by Texas business leaders to engage with educators in a long-term effort to improve public education in the state and its board of directors is comprised of both corporate and educational leaders in the state, including UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas.
Dr. John Edwards, UTPA vice president for Enrollment and Student Services and a member of the TBEC coordinating committee, thanked the educators for a job well done in preparing students for a successful pathway to a college or university.
Edwards said the results of their efforts are indicated by the number of students now entering UTPA with college credit and the subsequent improvement in retention rates.
"In 1999, 25 percent of the 1,800 students entering UTPA as freshmen had college credit but in fall 2006, 50 percent of more than 2,800 entering freshmen had college credit. Also, the students who come in with college credit are retained from the fall of their freshman year to the fall of their sophomore year at a more than 80 percent rate," he said.
Before awarding each district a plaque, Dr. Paul Sale, UTPA provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, also acknowledged the honor roll schools' efforts.
"We consider you our friends and partners in our mutual endeavor to prepare our students in our Valley for quality lives and to help our region," he said.
The following schools were recognized at the ceremony: Paredes, Putegnat and Resaca Elementary Schools and Vela Middle School, Brownsville ISD; IDEA Academy, IDEA Public Schools; Business, Education & Technology Academy (BETA) and The Science Academy, South Texas ISD; Jefferson, Lincoln and Treviño Elementary Schools, Edinburg CISD; Los Cuates and Resaca Middle Schools, Los Fresnos CISD; Milam Elementary School, McAllen ISD; Mims Elementary School, Mission CISD; Valley View Elementary, Valley View ISD; Ricardo Middle School, Ricardo ISD; Berta Cabaza Middle School, San Benito CISD; San Isidro Elementary School, San Isidro ISD; Bowie, Cesar Chavez, Clover, North Alamo and North San Juan Elementary Schools, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD; San Perlita High School, San Perlita ISD; A.N. Rico, Dr. R.E. Margo and Memorial Elementary Schools, and Beatriz G. Garza and Central Middle Schools, Weslaco ISD; and Bruni Middle School, Webb CISD.
During the evening, two special honors were also awarded by UTPA. Michael L. McGuire, founder and president of ChemShare Corporation in Port LaVaca and project team leader for the TBEC Honor Schools Award, was recognized with a Bridge Builder Award for his lifetime contributions to the improvement of public education across the state of Texas.
McGuire is an active volunteer for Texas A&M University, serving on numerous advisory councils and sponsoring, with his wife Marilyn, a number of scholarships in chemical engineering at Texas A&M. He co-founded and chairs the Partners in Education coalition in Calhoun County, which supports many of the school district's programs for students.
In the past 10 years, McGuire's participation in TBEC has provided guidance and support for a number of the organization's most successful programs, including the TBEC Honor Roll Schools initiative. In 2001, he was awarded the "Hero for Children" award by the Texas State Board of Education for his volunteer efforts for children in Calhoun County and Texas.
"It was the Valley that led the way. It continues to lead the way. You've shown that it can be done," he said. "Our criterion from the very beginning has been successful kids. This award you don't apply for, you get it for performance and your kids are performing."
McGuire said TBEC's focus on the improvement of public school education and work force development is important to ensure the quality of life for Texans in the future.
"If the work force is not here, the companies will not move into here and we will not have the standard of living we want for our grandkids," he said.
Also recognized for her contributions to education was Rio Grande Valley native Edna Gonzales-Tamayo, who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Gonzales-Tamayo has won state honors from the Texas Association of School Boards for her implementation of a district-wide Parental Involvement Program in the Harlingen CISD. She also developed a Drop-Out Prevention Program for the district and directed both until her retirement in 2003. During her years as an educator, she received numerous "Woman of the Year" and other local, state and national honors. As a private consultant during her retirement she has implemented her model programs in other school districts throughout the state.
In 2003, Gonzales-Tamayo was elected Cameron County commissioner for Precinct 4. As commissioner, she has created Family Learning Centers in communities isolated from after school programs found in more populated areas. Subsequently, the Cameron County Family Learning Centers received the Texas Association of Counties Leadership Foundation's seventh annual "Best Practices" award in 2006.
The mother of two children, who are also educators and community activists, Gonzales-Tamayo is also active in many civic groups and a member of the Texas Association of Counties.
Edwin Tamayo, Edna's husband of 43 years, accepted the award on behalf of his wife who could not attend. He said Edna's theory is that it takes a village and many people to educate one child.
"I was speaking to several people (here tonight) and they said Edna is like a 'little tornado' but that's not true. Edna is a like a hurricane. She just keeps growing every year," he said. "She has an indomitable spirit."
Attending the event from the Mission CISD was Aurora Delgado, executive director of Curriculum and Instruction, who said she was proud of her district's honoree - Mims Elementary.
"They are the only school in the state of Texas to have received this award since its inception so we are very proud," she said.
Principal William Snavely at Berta Cabaza Middle School in the San Benito CISD said his teachers worked incredibly hard for their first appearance on the TBEC Honor Roll and he enjoyed seeing them get the additional recognition at the University's event.
"The honor roll is something that is measured over three years; it is not just a one-year item. I am extremely proud of the teachers because they work as hard as they do to help make us look so good," he said.
In its seventh year, the Honor Roll program is underwritten by H-E-B, IBM and Washington Mutual, with support provided also by other business and education organizations that participate in TBEC.
The 2007 TEBC Honor Roll of Schools will be announced in October. For more information on TBEC, log on to www.tbec.org.