The event, co-sponsored by the UTPA Foundation and Region One Education Service Center, paid tribute to South Texas schools that were among only 385 schools in the state this past year meeting the demanding criteria required to make the honor roll, now in its eighth year. Less than five percent of the more than 8,000 public schools in Texas meet the award's criteria.
"UTPA – the Valley – is the only area of the state that recognizes in this manner their area Honor Roll schools. This Honor Roll Award is important because it shows that our schools are taking positive steps to improve student success, as determined by a non-Valley entity (TBEC)," said Dr. John Edwards, UTPA vice president for Enrollment and Student Services and a TBEC member, who greeted the more than 200 honor school superintendents, principals, teachers and other administrators attending.
|Pictured at a March 26 event at UTPA to honor the 29 2007 TBEC Honor Roll Schools from South Texas are left to right Dr. John Edwards, UTPA vice president for Enrollment and Student Services and a TEBC member; Bruce Mercer, who accepted the Bridge Builder Award on behalf of his late father T. Edward Mercer; Jack Damron, executive director, Region One Education Service Center; Yvonne Zamora, principal, Mims Elementary School (Mission CISD), an eight-time recipient of the TBEC Honor Roll Award; Ken Zornes, TBEC executive director; and Oscar Rodriguez Jr., superintendent, Mission CISD.|
"Your campuses are performing at remarkable levels," Damron said as he thanked the schools for their hard work.
TBEC compiles its Honor Roll annually by analyzing three years of performance data for all Texas public schools. A school must have a high percentage of students meeting state standards on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) in all subjects for three consecutive years, with an emphasis on how many students score at the state's highest standard – commended – on all tests. Each school's demographics, number of subjects tested, and the grades served are also considered. 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.
Edwards, who was also recognized at the event for his receipt of the 2008 Distinguished Achievement Award in Education from TBEC in February, described some of the events on campus, such as FESTIBA and summer camps, to get students to feel "at home" on campus. He also touted some examples of progress in students pursuing higher education and being successful because of the preparation conducted in the elementary through high schools in South Texas.
"In 1999, 50 percent of the entering freshmen at UTPA needed educational development courses but in 2007, 50 percent of the entering freshmen already had college credits. That is a revolution in a very short time," he said.
Dr. Salvador H. Ochoa, dean of the UTPA College of Education, handed out a plaque to each of the following schools recognized at the ceremony: Egly, Gallegos, Longoria, Paredes, Putegnat, Resaca, Sharp, and Yturria Elementary Schools and Stell and Vela Middle Schools, Brownsville ISD; Canterbury, Jefferson, Lincoln and Trevino Elementary Schools, Edinburg CISD; George West Elementary, George West ISD; Bonham and Bowie Elementary Schools, Harlingen CISD; Dr. Alejo Salinas Jr. Elementary School, Hidalgo ISD; Lasara Elementary School, Lasara ISD; Liberty Memorial, Los Cuates, and Resaca Middle Schools, Los Fresnos CISD; Milam Elementary School, McAllen ISD; Carl C. Waitz, Hurla M. Midkiff, Mims, Raquel Cavazos and Salinas Elementary Schools, Mission ISD; Bowie, Clover, Ford, North Alamo, and North San Juan Elementary Schools, Pharr-San Juan-Alamos ISD; Ricardo Middle School, Ricardo ISD; De La Paz Middle School, Riviera ISD; North Heights Elementary School, San Felipe-Del Rio CISD; San Isidro Elementary School, San Isidro ISD; Olivero Garza Sr. Elementary School, Sharyland ISD; South Texas Business, Education and Technology Academy and The Science Academy, South Texas ISD; Trautmann Elementary School, United ISD; Valley View Elementary School, Valley View ISD; Aloe Elementary School, Victoria ISD; Bruni Middle School, Webb CISD; and A.N. Rico, Airport and Memorial Elementary Schools and Beatriz G. Garza and Central Middle Schools, Weslaco ISD.
Concluding the event, a special honor from UTPA – Bridge Builder Award – was given posthumously to T. Edward Mercer, UTPA's first vice president for institutional advancement, who died after a yearlong battle with brain cancer on Nov. 25, 2007. The Bridge Builder Award recognizes persons for their lifetime contributions to the improvement of public education across the state of Texas.
During his 17 years at the University, Mercer helped build the UTPA Foundation and an endowment fund of more than $30 million upon his retirement in 1999. After his retirement, Mercer remained a part-time member of UTPA's advancement team as its chief planned giving officer until 2004. Since 2000 the scholarships from endowments raised by Mercer have aided almost 3,000 students with nearly $2.5 million from endowment interest money Edwards said.
"I have never met anybody as unselfish as Ed Mercer," said Dr. Miguel Nevárez, former UTPA president, who worked with Mercer for 22 years and described his talent of recognizing the long term benefits of establishing endowments with money raised for the University.
In accepting the award, Mercer's son Bruce Mercer talked about how important this area was to his father.
"At his funeral I said that he was more of a friend raiser than a fund raiser," he said. "The Bridge Builder Award fits him – it's easy to burn bridges, it's a lot more challenging to build them."