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La Joya ISD makes moves to increase funding and advocacy

After recognizing several students, teachers and parents for their various achievements throughout the school year, La Joya heard a presentation from Shepherd Government Affairs about how the company intends to promote the district.

At this week’s board of trustees meeting, the La Joya Independent School District was told by Augustin Garcia about the state the district is currently in when it comes to grant funding and infrastructure.

LJISD LogoGarcia said that Shepherd Government Affairs’ main goal for La Joya is advocacy for the district in Austin and bringing in more grant funding. After evaluating the district and meeting with several employees, Garcia was confident in the current set up of LJISD.

“As it stands from out initial discussions, we feel the school district is doing a very good job,” Garcia said. “Your technology, CTE [Career and Technical Education] programs, the infrastructure in place is very sound.”

Garcia said that having these programs and successfully executing them is good, because the company doesn’t have to worry about building La Joya ISD up so the district looks better to the Governor’s Office or potential grant programs.

“As far as we’re concerned, La Joya is doing as good of a job, if not better, than probably any other school district in the Rio Grande Valley,” Garcia said. “We’re very happy with the programs you have in place. It gives us the ability to go and lobby for the things we want to lobby for and take things to a higher level.”

He mentioned that La Joya serves five communities in the Valley: La Joya, Peñitas, Alton, Sullivan City and parts of Mission. According to the enrollment report as of May 15, 2018, the total students attending a school in LJISD is 28,059.

“That makes you the second-largest school district providing services to students in Hidalgo County,” Garcia said. “You’re the third largest in the Valley.”

Shepherd Government Affairs, looking ahead, made it clear that losing students would not be good for the district, especially when it comes to grant funding. While the district serves a large community, the tax base from the cities, as far as commercial buildings are concerned, is not at the level of that in McAllen, Brownsville or Edinburg.

“It puts a burden on you, in getting the funds for the programs,” Garcia said. “You’re the largest employer in that community of 30,000 students.”

A concern brought up by some of the staff at LJISD is that other school districts have been actively recruiting students from La Joya and taking them to their program.

“More needs to be done in order to promote different programs,” Garcia said. “The programs that you have are excellent. There’s no reason why a student would have to leave the La Joya school district in order to get the programs and the services that they want.”

Garcia said that the promotion should not only be done by the district.

“We think that your local community partners need to be doing more,” Garcia said. “The cities need to be doing more, government agencies, non-profit agencies need to be doing more, they need to promote the school district more.”

Shepherd Government Affairs plans to advocate for LJISD even more than they are currently, and that involves a detailed plan that they have already begun executing. Starting next week, they will begin developing a strategic plan to address and fix this issue.

“We would like to prepare a strategic plan using some of the things we talked about,” Garcia said. “And find solutions to, number one, retain students and prevent students from leaving by developing either a marketing plan or local advocacy, a way to reach the entire community so students won’t want to leave and parents who’s perception maybe is that there’s other programs or better schooling or educational opportunities for them in the surrounding school districts, and we don’t see that to be the case.”

In the month of June, Shepherd hopes to take Superintendent Alda T. Benavides and one of the assistant superintendents to the Governor’s Office to advocate more for La Joya and the funding of the district. A meeting has already been set.

The company has also set up a meeting with the Texas Workforce Commission as well. Because La Joya employs about 4,000 people, it has become one of the largest employers in the area.

So far, Shepherd Government Affairs is working on developing the plan for promotion and student retention, hopes to bring that outreach to the community and surrounding areas and will bring advocacy for La Joya to the state level.

“There’s a lot of programs right now that the La Joya school district has that other school districts don’t have,” Garcia said.

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