Though not yet official, it appears the Mission Consolidated Independent School District will be losing its popular superintendent of four years, Dr. Ricardo López, to a school district in a Dallas suburb.
Tuesday night the Garland Independent School District board of directors selected López as the “lone finalist” for the district’s superintendent vacancy prompting press releases from both the Garland ISD and Mission CISD, the latter where López has served as superintendent since August 2013.
Despite the announcements the subject was the elephant in the room not mentioned during Wednesday night’s MCISD board of trustee’s meeting except for one quip from board president, Patricia Y. O’Caña-Olivarez, that followed the singing of Happy Birthday to two board members and several other district staff members at Wednesday night’s board meeting.
“I think we’re going to add that as an agenda item to kind of lighten it up, you know, acknowledge everybody’s birthday,” said O’Cana-Olivarez. “After 21 days we’ll joke about it.”
O’Caña-Olivarez was referring to the state-mandated 21 day waiting period from the time a candidate is named lone finalist to when they can sign a contract.
López said during a break in Wednesday night’s meeting that during the waiting period his attorney will be negotiating his contract with Garland ISD’s attorney. Because the contract terms are not finalized, though slim, there is a chance he will remain at MCISD, López said.
The announcement of López’s selection in Garland comes eight months after MCISD trustees extended his contract by two years and gave him a $15,000 a year pay raise bringing his current salary to about $240,000. At the time of the contract extension López still had three years remaining on his contract.
“He’s tied here for five years,” O’Caña-Olivarez had said at the time. But Wednesday night she said there are no provisions in López’s contract that would prevent him from, or penalize him for, taking the Garland position.
“If not he would be staying here,” O’Caña-Olivarez said. “He’s going to a larger school district with a larger student population. It’s professional growth and we completely understand it.”
The Garland ISD has 72 campuses in the cities of Garland, Rowlett and Sachse. The district extends from the Dallas city limits to the Dallas County line and has 57,000 students, nearly 4,000 teachers and 3,300 staff members and is among the 70 largest school districts in the nation with a 52 percent Hispanic population, as opposed to a 98 percent Hispanic population in MCISD.
Lopez said Wednesday his decision to leave MCISD comes with a “heavy heart” and “bittersweet emotions”.
“I will miss these kids but I also want to represent people and have them say, ‘Hey, one of our own is doing well up in North Texas. So, I’m going to work hard to make them proud,” Lopez said.
In Mission Lopez has overseen a school district of 22 campuses, a staff of approximately 2,300 employees, nearly 16,000 students and a current budget of $183 million.
In its press release written by Dr. Mida Milligan, Garland ISD’s public information officer, Lopez was noted for having over 20 years of experience in education beginning as a classroom teacher leading up to his current MCISD position. It noted that since arriving at MCISD the district has “reemerged as a leader in education.” It noted Lopez has focused on developing Pre-Advanced Placement and Advanced Placement programs, including a PSAT prep program that begins in third grade. An emphasis on STEAM programs resulted in MCISD robotics teams that advanced to state and national competition.
In 2014, Mission CISD participated in “Code the Town” in partnership with the Mission Economic Development Center to teach coding to elementary students beginning in kindergarten. Additionally, in 2015, MCISD hosted the Rio Grande Valley’s first Educational Google Symposium. Google selected MCISD because of its vision and instructional technology initiatives including 1:1 Chromebooks for all secondary students. In 2015, MCISD was nationally highlighted for its innovative “Read to Lead” balanced literacy program and the recently created MCISD Reads community literacy program that made thousands of books available to students on line. The district has also been a focal point for bilingual dual language program integration and universal full-day prekindergarten. The Garland press release noted López is widely recognized for his proven success in closing gaps for all learners. He also created the district’s first educational foundation.
Garland Board of Trustees President Larry Glick stated, “Dr. López’s track record of strong student learning gains and his approachable, student-centered demeanor are key reasons for his selection as our lone finalist. As we continue our abiding commitment to student achievement, we have identified a transformational leader focused on true 21st-century education.”
Milligan noted López previously served as an area associate superintendent, principal and teacher in Ysleta ISD, an El Paso suburb. As an area associate superintendent, López was responsible for 25 schools serving 17,000 students, pre-kindergarten through 12th grades. These schools saw an increase in graduation rates, SAT scores, student scholarship dollars and improved state testing pass rates. He also helped steer Ysleta ISD in becoming a two-time finalist for the Broad Prize, a national distinction for large urban districts. Dr. López’s area comprised more than half of the district’s English Language Learner population, including the nationally-renowned Alicia Chacon International School, a model for dual language and trilingual literacy.
Milligan continued stating that during the three years that López served as the principal of Del Valle High School, the campus was rated Exemplary by the Texas Education Agency and was the first Recognized high school in Region XIX. All enrolled seniors graduated with their class, and the campus was highlighted in Texas Monthly Magazine for its dual language program. As principal of Desert View Middle School, he led the campus to recognition as a Texas Mentor/Pathfinder School.
López has received numerous awards in recognition of his accomplished leadership, including being named one of the El Paso Times “Top 40 People under 40,” as well as Teacher of the Year for both Ysleta ISD and Region XIX.
While with MCISD the district was also recognized as the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce 2015 Partner of the Year. In 2016, López was named the National Latino Superintendent of the Year by the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents and was honored in Washington D.C. for this award. He has also been nominated to be a Broad Fellow by Commissioner of Education Mike Morath.
López received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at El Paso and his Master of Arts from New Mexico State University. He is a recipient of the University of Texas at Austin Recruitment Fellowship and is a graduate of the Cooperative Superintendency Doctoral Fellow program at the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his Doctorate in Educational Administration with Honors.
López is married to Linda, a high school counselor, and they have four daughters.
If his contract is finalized with Garland ISD López will succeed Dr. Deborah Cron who has served as interim superintendent since January of 2017.
López told the Progress Times Wednesday that if his contract is finalized with Garland ISD he will likely not leave Mission until the end of December.
In an MCISD press release O’Caña-Olivarez said until López’s contract is finalized it would be inappropriate to discuss who might become interim superintendent until a permanent replacement can be found.
Though O’Caña-Olivarez was one of three trustees who four years ago voted against hiring López, she of him Wednesday night, “We do like him and we support him and I meant it when I said he left an impact in our community, in our district and he’s come a long way. And he knows we’re very proud of him.”