The University of Texas-Pan American applauded 26 South Texas schools March 26 for their high performance in landing on the Texas Business and Education Coalition (TBEC) 2011 Honor Roll of Schools.
"Tonight is about recognizing excellence in schools that in turn develops excellence in students," said Dr. Martha Cantu (BA '85, MED '90, Ed.D. '02), vice president for Student Affairs, who welcomed the superintendents, principals, teachers and staff attending the event.
Each school was presented a plaque by UTPA Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Havidán Rodríguez in recognition of achieving the Honor Roll designation.
Considered the most prestigious academic award a Texas public school can receive, a TBEC Honor Roll school must meet the state's most demanding academic standard - commended performance - for at least three consecutive years on all subjects tested.
The 253 schools in Texas that made the 2011 Honor Roll included 181 elementary schools, 38 middle schools and 34 high schools.
Giving the keynote address was 2012 Texas Poet Laureate Jan Seale. Seale, who lives in McAllen, is author of seven volumes of poetry and 14 other books, including nine children's books. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in creative writing and teaches writing workshops locally and nationally.
Seale talked about creativity and the steps undertaken in the creative process, not only by writers and educators, but by scientists, business people and others.
"Creativity is in everything; it is problem solving; it is applying new ideas to problems and projects," she said. "Consistently encourage students in their creativity. Don't let them give up so easily."
A Bridge Builder Award, which also recognizes excellence in education, was presented at the event to Dr. Daniel King (BS '76, MED '77), superintendent of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA) Independent School District.
King, who has been a superintendent in Texas for 13 years, has led the PSJA school district to receive state and national recognition for its dropout prevention and recovery program and brought its four-year graduation rate and overall high school completion up to surpass the state average. The district's model College 3 initiative encourages concurrent enrollment, dual credit and career pathways for all students. He has also been a national leader in endorsing dual language programs with the goal of developing college ready bi-literacy in all PSJA schools. He previously served eight years as superintendent of the Hidalgo ISD, which became the first Early College High School district in the nation under his leadership.
"I am very honored," King said. "The focus of my career, since about 1988, has been working and finding every way possible to remove stumbling blocks for students to get connected in a way to get into college and to succeed in college. I have a firm belief that our young people here in the Valley can do anything that anybody else can do."
The Texas Business and Education Coalition (TBEC) 2010 Honor Roll Schools of South Texas are:
Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco ISD: Palito Blanco Elementary School
Brownsville ISD: Ortiz Elementary School, Paredes Elementary School
Calallen ISD: Calallen East Elementary School, Calallen Wood River Elementary School
Corpus Christi ISD: Windsor Park Gifted & Talented
Edinburg CISD: Canterbury Elementary School, Freddy Gonzalez Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School, Trevino Elementary School
George West ISD: George West Primary School
Harlingen CISD: Bowie Elementary School
IDEA Public Schools: IDEA College Preparatory Donna, IDEA College Preparatory San Benito, IDEA Frontier College Preparatory
Los Fresnos CISD: Olmito Elementary School
McAllen ISD: Gonzalez Elementary School
Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD: Carnahan Elementary School, North San Juan Elementary School
Roma ISD: Florence J. Scott Elementary School
San Benito CISD: Downs Elementary School
Sharyland ISD: Lloyd & Dolly Bentsen Elementary School
South Texas ISD: South Texas Preparatory Academy, The Science Academy of South Texas
United ISD: Trautmann Elementary School
Valley View ISD (Pharr): Valley View Elementary School
TBEC was formed in 1989 by Texas business leaders to engage with educators in a long-term effort to improve public education in Texas, according to their website. This year will be the last Honor Roll list based on performance data for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, which has been replaced for the 2011-2012 academic school year with the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test. Learn more about TBEC at its website.
The TBEC banquet was of the week's activities celebrated as part of UTPA's FESTIBA (Festival of International Books and Art) March 24-April 1. See a complete day-by-day schedule of events at the FESTIBA website.