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La Joya ISD celebrates Board of the Year

La Joya ISD’s Board of Trustees has been selected as an Honor School Board for the 2015 Texas Association of School Administrators School Board Awards.

The board, representing Region One, was one of five named for the honor, which came on the heels of the announcement that the district’s Alda T. Benavides had been named Region One’s Superintendent of the Year. The other Honor School Boards are Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Gunter ISD, North East ISD and Socorro ISD.

La Joya School Board 14 15La Joya ISD’s board was honored at a meeting last month, and Benavides pointed out trustees “selflessly give up their time” to support the community.

“Their hard work and dedication is evident in the progress the school district has made in recent years and their unwavering support in doing what is right for children,” Benavides said. “That makes all the difference in our schools.”

They’re all finalists for the ultimate honor of 2015 Outstanding School Board. The winner will be named, along with the state’s Superintendent of the Year, during the TASA/Texas Association of School Board convention in October.

Honor School Boards were selected by a committee of Texas superintendents, according to a news release from the association, based on criteria like finances, academics and community outreach. La Joya ISD submitted a more than 50-page booklet covering the 10 criteria for its nomination. Among the board’s accomplishments listed, the nomination emphasized the district’s summer camp for migrants, salary increases for its employees and a $3.2 million investment in technology.

The school district includes 29,667 students, 4,500 employees and covers 226 square miles.

In its nomination packet, La Joya ISD highlighted its move to academies in high schools and work on the natatorium. The academies were instituted this school year in connection with Ford Next Generation Learning project. The district aims to align its curriculum with future careers through academies that range from business and education to auto repair and fine arts.

Benavides also has touted a stand-alone health science professions academy to help train the region’s future medical workforce.

On the natatorium, the school board supported the purchase of 226 acres along U.S. 83 for $5 million with the intention of building a natatorium and learning center on the property. But after the groundbreaking, district leaders looked at the initial design for the pool, which specified an attached diving well. Three swimming lanes would have to be cleared when the diving well was in use, and ultimately, the board agreed “to build a separate diving well to ensure students had a proper facility.”

“Natatorium changes after groundbreaking had already happened were not taken lightly, but they had to be done when deficiencies in the initial plan were brought to light,” the nomination states.

Board members agreed they work as a team, setting policies and allowing the superintendent and her staff to enforce them. Communication is key, according to Juan Jose “J.J.” Garza, board secretary, and Board Member Jesus “Chuy” Avendaño said he sees his fellow board members as family.

“At the end of the day, it’s easy to see where our hearts are, and that makes all the difference because we know this of each other, we can work together and build on our difference,” said Board member Esperanza “Espie” Ochoa.

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