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TEA appoints new Board of Managers and Superintendent

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) appointed a new seven-member board of managers and superintendent Thursday morning. The appointment comes after an investigation of allegations of fraud and conflicts of interest executed by the La Joya Independent School District Board of Trustees.

In an official press release, TEA debriefed their selection of the board, made of Hidalgo County residents, and the appointment process after 107 applicants across Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr, and Willacy County applied for a spot. Of those 107,

The Agency chose the following individuals based on mission-oriented perspectives, student-focused goals, and working closely with the superintendent:

Julian Alvarez III

A Harlingen native, Julian Alvarez III currently serves as the Executive Vice President-Director of Community Relations at Lone Star National Bank. He previously served as the Commissioner Representing Labor of the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), where he was instrumental in helping school systems in the Rio Grande Valley, including La Joya ISD, receive grant funding for workforce and vocational training.

Anita Chavez

A second-generation La Joya ISD alumna, Anita Chavez is proud to still call the district home. Chavez grew up in a family that understood and stressed the importance of a good education, values that stuck with her as she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences from the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley and a Master of Science in Environmental Analysis from Rice University.

Celso Gomez Jr.

A proud product of La Joya ISD, Celso Gomez Jr.’s roots in the community run deep. Gomez married a La Joya native and sent his three children to La Joya ISD schools. Gomez also served as a band director in several Rio Grande Valley-area school districts, where he dedicated his time to providing enrichment for students through the arts.

Dr. Rosalva Hernandez

Dr. Rosalva Hernandez, a Palmview resident, is a La Joya ISD graduate and native of the Rio Grande Valley. She was the first in her family to obtain a college degree, graduating with a nursing degree from South Texas College in McAllen. In Arlington, she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, in Fort Worth, a Master of Science in Nursing, and in Jacksonville, Florida to become a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Dr. Carlos Margo

Dr. Carlos Margo was raised in Rio Grande City and is a 1991 graduate of Rio Grande City High School. He currently serves as Dean for Industry Training and Economic Development at South Texas College (STC) and, since 1998, has worked at STC in multiple roles within the workforce training or continuing education division. Margo holds a bachelor’s degree in English Rhetoric from Texas A&M University, a Master of Business Administration from The University of Texas–Pan American, and a doctoral degree in Higher Education Administration from Texas Tech University.

Jessica Ochoa:

Jessica Ochoa, a native of La Joya for the past twenty years, is a proud La Joya ISD parent with two children currently attending La Joya ISD schools. She is passionate about positively impacting her community and providing an excellent example of civic engagement for her children.

Alyssa Peña:

Alyssa Peña is a proud alumna of La Joya ISD, attending E.B. Reyna Elementary, Memorial Middle School, and Juarez-Lincoln High School before graduating from La Joya High School in 2006. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international business and a Master of Business Administration. Peña is a co-founder of “Next Generation Cup,” a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Dallas that provides high-quality extracurricular activities through the game of soccer.

“These seven individuals, in collaboration with the new superintendent, have volunteered to work collectively to move the district forward in service of the incredible students, staff, families, and proud communities that make up La Joya ISD,” said Texas Education Commissioner, Mike Morath. “Their willingness to serve under unique circumstances is a testament to their character and care for kids. I am confident they will succeed in charting a path forward that will enable the LJISD elected board to eventually resume its role and sustain a culture of success in the district.”

TEA also selected a new superintendent to lead the new board: passionate educator, leader, and student advocate Dr. Marcey Sorensen.

Dr. Macey Sorensen, LJISD’s new Superintendent of Schools

Sorensen joins La Joya ISD as Superintendent after serving as Deputy Superintendent for the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). During her time at VDOE, Sorensen focused chiefly on initiatives surrounding learning acceleration, early literacy, and special education for Virginia’s 1.3 million public school students enrolled across 131 districts.

A 1995 graduate of Northern Illinois University, Sorensen obtained her Master of Education in Pre-K-12 Administration & Supervision from Northeastern Illinois University in 2004. She earned her doctorate in Educational Policy & Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2015 with her superintendency endorsement.

From 2017 to 2019, Sorensen worked at the Madison (Wisconsin) Metropolitan School District, joining as Executive Director of Curriculum & Instruction before finishing her tenure as Deputy Chief of Secondary Schools.

In 2019, Sorensen joined the Fort Worth Independent School District as Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning before being promoted to Chief Academic Officer. During her tenure, the district saw an 80% increase in the number of campuses that improved to a B rating while simultaneously seeing a nearly 90% decrease in the number of F-rated campuses.

There, Sorensen reorganized the district’s special education department to better serve students with disabilities; overhauled instructional practices, led the adoption of an aligned and nationally recognized, evidence-based curriculum in literacy, math, and dual language; and collaborated with Texas Christian University to establish a principal pipeline to help train the district’s future leaders.

She also oversaw the Department of Multilingual Learners to ensure that students needing dual language services received evidence-based instruction and support while aligning resources for families so that multilingual learners had the resources needed to become more academically successful.

Dr. Sorensen, her husband, a lifelong educator himself, and her two children are thrilled to be a part of the La Joya ISD Community and to call the Rio Grande Valley home.

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