Unlike most quiet school board meetings, this week in La Joya there was actual music to be heard.
At the La Joya ISD board meeting on Monday, Ann Richards Middle School’s 8th grade Varsity Classical Guitar Ensemble played a medley of songs for all those in attendance.
The group, under the direction of Luis Ramos, was recognized toward the beginning of the meeting, and in the middle of the meeting performed various classical guitar pieces – two Mexican Revolutionary selections and two Venezuelan Waltz selections – for the board and the public in the room.
“We could not think of a better way to close off School Board Recognition Month,” Superintendent Alda Benavides said. “They did an amazing job.”
Along with the guitar group, the board also honored student volunteers and chess teams who participated in the Regional Chess Tournament that took place on Jan. 20 and 21 at La Joya High School.
J.J. Guajardo Jr., from La Joya’s Thelma R. Salinas T-STEM Early College High School, spoke about the students and the work that went into the tournament and that goes into competing in chess.
“La Joya ISD’s three high school chess teams took the top honors at the Region 10 Regional Chess Tournament,” Guajardo said. “Since their inception three years ago, these three teams have placed in every tournament they have competed in, earning over 25 team trophies and numerous individual trophies as well.”
All the teams recognized have qualified for the state competition, which will be held in Edinburg on March 3 and 4. Guajardo, who prides in the fact that his family has been active in the chess community all over the Valley for decades, applauded La Joya’s students for their dedication and consistent effort.
“Right now more people play chess population density-wise in the Rio Grande Valley than anywhere else in the world,” Guajardo said. “La Joya ISD is part of that movement. It pleases me that I am part of that movement in La Joya, and I know it will become a powerhouse in the upcoming years.”
Along with the chess teams, student and adult volunteers for the tournament that was held in La Joya were also recognized and thanked for their efforts.
“I’ve gone to 25 regional tournaments, and this was the best-run tournament,” Guajardo said. “And part of that reason was because of the kids we had. It was amazing.”
Trustees also got an update on their ongoing LED Lights project and listened to a presentation to consider hiring a consulting firm for government and educational affairs.
The LED Lights project involves replacing the lighting for interiors, exteriors, and parking lots in the La Joya school district. The update was presented by Cody Glover from Performance Services, the company installing the lights.
“With the exteriors, we are 100 percent complete,” Glover said. “Parking lots are at 75 percent, and we pretty much just finished our interior work as well.”
The presentation involved photographs depicting various locations at schools in the La Joya district before and after the LED lights were installed, and there was a visible difference between them.
After that, Gus Garcia from Shepherd Government Affairs gave a presentation detailing how his firm would help the district apply for more grants and federal funding. The certified economic developer said this money would be used to ensure students are more likely and willing to pursue a higher education after college and contribute back to the economy in La Joya.
“At the state level we would help La Joya ISD get grants, drive or create programs that would help students achieve career opportunities and get certified,” Garcia said.
“We’d work in tandem with your grant writer or grant writing program, and we’d also work with local cities and local industry and different programs throughout the city, throughout Hidalgo County and universities to help develop programs that would help strengthen students.”
The superintendent said that the district had looked up TEA Certifications that the Texas Education Agency was going to give La Joya credit for this year, and the presentation was to determine if expansion in other certifications was possible.
“We’d like to expand in trucking technician area, in certified networking area, in clinical, which includes the certified medical assistant and the certified dental assistant, medical laboratory assistant, and the emergency medical technician, and wastewater collections and water operators,” Benavides said. “These are the ones where we see a need based on student interest, and the presentation today is to see whether we would like to engage in services with Mr. Garcia to help us see if there is funding available to expand these programs.”
The board of trustees listened to the presentation, and no word has been made yet as to whether or not La Joya will be utilizing Garcia and Shepherd Government Affairs.