Thirty-seven South Texas schools named as 2008 Honor Roll Schools by the Texas Business and Education Coalition (TBEC) were recognized for their academic achievement at a dinner held March 25 at The University of Texas-Pan American.
More than 150 of the superintendents, principals, teachers and other administrators from the honored schools were welcomed by Dr. John Edwards, UTPA vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, and Dr. Janice Wiley, deputy director of Instructional Support Services, Region One Education Service Center.
"We have all kinds of celebrations when we win sports events ... but here we are celebrating academics," Wiley said. "This is a most prestigious award. Very few schools are awarded this designation. You are the cream of the crop."
In 2008 only 298 of the more than 8,000 public schools in the state were recognized as Honor Roll Schools by TBEC, which began its Honor Roll program nine years ago. Formed in 1989, TBEC is an alliance of business leaders formed to engage with educators in a long-term effort to improve public education in Texas. According to Edwards, who is a member of TBEC, UTPA is the only university in the state to recognize the TBEC honored schools in their region with such an event, which is sponsored by the UTPA Foundation Board, Region One Education Service Center, and the UTPA Division of Enrollment and Student Services.
Giving the keynote address was Carol Rasco, president and CEO of Reading is Fundamental (RIF), the nation's oldest and largest nonprofit children and family literacy organization. RIF is a partner with UTPA in promoting reading and literacy through FESTIBA (Festival of International Books and Arts) being held March 22-28 at the University. RIF will distribute more than 300,000 books in Rio Grande Valley schools during the weeklong festival.
RIF has also recently joined U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15) and two other South Texas congressmen in forming the South Texas Literacy Coalition to facilitate activities and policies to promote literacy locally.
Rasco, who gave a letter of commendation and a copy of one of RIF's recent favored books titled "Simply Book" to each honored school, talked about the value of relationships formed with children in their roles as educators.
"I see the greatest successes among schools I visit where relationships are stressed. Relationships are important for children even if they come from the most loving and nurturing homes. You are to be commended for the relationships you build for the many of thousands of children here in the Valley - relationships that then allow them to accept and absorb the wonderful education you are giving them," she said.
During the evening's ceremonies, UTPA also awarded its eighth Bridge Builder Award to former UTPA president Dr. Blandina Cárdenas, who retired from the presidency just this year. The Bridge Builder Award recognizes persons for their lifetime contributions to the improvement of public education across the state of Texas and the nation.
Cárdenas was additionally honored with a framed certificate of appreciation for her distinguished service to The University of Texas System from the UT System Board of Regents, which was presented to her by Interim UTPA President Dr. Charles A. Sorber.
Cárdenas thanked the superintendents and teachers for their hard work in helping students succeed and graduate into post-secondary and graduate education.
"Because of the work that you do and because of the extraordinary work that this University does with extremely limited resources...because of that work over the last four and a half years I was privileged to stand and see more than 10,000 of those students who would not have made it out of the eighth grade walk across the stage to get a degree. Both you and I know there is nothing more fulfilling than that. And you and I know that all the awards in the world don't stand up to seeing those kids succeed," she said.
Before giving each school a plaque from UTPA and an Honor Roll designation banner for their school from TBEC, UTPA Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Paul Sale said UTPA planned to further recognize the academic success achieved by TBEC Honor Roll schools by establishing a graduate scholarship for one person at each honored school.
The following Honor Roll Schools were recognized at the ceremony: Castañeda, Putegnat, Resaca, Sharp and Yturria Elementary Schools, Vela Middle School, and Hanna High School, Brownsville ISD; Calallen East Elementary School, Calallen ISD; Travis Elementary School and Windsor Park G/T, Corpus Christi ISD; Liberty Elementary School, Eagle Pass ISD; Austin, Canterbury, Jefferson, and Trevino Elementary Schools, Edinburg CISD; George West Primary, George West ISD; Bonham and Bowie Elementary Schools, Harlingen CISD; Roger E. Sides Elementary School, Karnes ISD; Milam and Rayburn Elementary Schools, Cathey Middle School, and Memorial High School, McAllen ISD; Hurla M. Midkiff and Mims Elementary Schools, Mission ISD; North San Juan Elementary School, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD; San Benito Veterans Memorial Academy, San Benito CISD; Del Rio Freshman School, San Felipe Del Rio CISD; Jessie L. Jensen, Olivero Garza Sr., and Rubén Hinojosa Elementary Schools, Sharyland ISD; South Texas Academy of Medical Technology, South Texas High School for Health Professions, and The Science Academy of South Texas, South Texas ISD; and Airport and Memorial Elementary Schools and Weslaco High School, Weslaco ISD.
For more information on TBEC and the Honor Roll Schools program, visit their Web site at http://www.tbec.org. For more information on UTPA, log on to http://www.utpa.edu. To see a schedule of other FESTIBA activities, go to http://coah.utpa.edu/festiba.