New Pecos superintendent aims for district turnaround

first_img WhatsApp Facebook Pinterest Local News TAGS  Pinterest Twitter By Digital AIM Web Support – February 24, 2021 center_img Previous article012419_Shooting_jf_04Next article011518_OHS_Permian_Girls_17 Digital AIM Web Support Facebook New Pecos superintendent aims for district turnaround Twitter Throughout his career as a superintendent, Jose Cervantes has taken on struggling districts and given them new life. This year, he’s at Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, which is struggling with growth, resources and a D rating under state accountability ratings. “I enjoy working in schools that are challenged, that nowadays they call them IR campuses, improvement required campuses. Some folks have said I’m a reformist … but if you see all the districts I’ve been at, we’ve been able — and I say we — because you have to get everybody on board and make sure that they believe in the vision and mission that you have,” Cervantes said. Before coming to Pecos, he was superintendent at La Villa ISD near McAllen, but he has worked in Alpine, Fabens, Edgewood and Pearsall to name a few. Born and raised in Alpine, Cervantes earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and kinesiology and a master’s of education degree, both from Sul Ross State University. His doctorate is in educational leadership from University of Texas at Austin. He started off as a teacher/coach and worked his way up through administration with the goal of becoming a superintendent. “I told my athletic director, because he asked what I wanted to do. I said I want to be superintendent. When I got my first superintendency, he called me and said, ‘You kept your word,’” Cervantes said. “My dad and my mom’s dream was for all their kids, which they had seven, to go to college and to graduate and we all did that. We all went through Sul Ross. All seven got our bachelor’s and almost all seven got their master’s, too, so we were an education family …,” he added. When he was in Alpine, the district was acceptable and within three years, under a different rating system, they became exemplary and earned a Blue Ribbon designation. Having reached that milestone, Cervantes moved on to Edgewood ISD, the district known for suing the state over school finance. He added that Edgewood is a poor school district in San Antonio. “When I got there, there were six out of 20 campuses that were improvement required. … We were able to turn that around and get all of them off IR,” he said. At La Villa, there were two campuses on IR and within a year and a half, he and his team were able to turn them around. This year, their rating was B plus. Pecos has a D rating under the A through F system. Cervantes said Region 18 Education Service Center, which includes Ector County ISD, Midland ISD and other area districts, has many districts with D ratings, he said. “I know the service center is working toward getting a lot of those districts out. However, we are also being very proactive in putting programs and people in place and holding people accountable. There in Pecos, we have some great, great teachers and great students. I feel very confident that that D will no longer be there,” Cervantes said. He added that he’s been blessed that every district he’s been in has improved. “There are several things you have to look at. One is you have to know your curriculum. As a superintendent, I always keep up with curriculum and seeing what TEA (the Texas Education Agency) is planning to do. The other thing is you’ve got to look at your finances and then you’ve got to look at your people, but the most important thing I like to do is do cultural changes. You have to change the culture. In order to change the culture, you have to have them believe in what they’re doing and you have to motivate them,” Cervantes said. When he conducts convocations, the events that kick off the school year for school districts, he said they’re never boring. “I’ve been known to bring in rock bands. I will pace back and forth. I’ll get down to the (audience) and go back and forth. I just like motivating people. The other thing is that your people need to see you not only as a leader, but as a colleague. That’s why I go into the classrooms a lot. I always make it a point to go into the classrooms because that’s where I get to hear some of the concerns that teachers might have and I take my people with me. I take my finance person in there so they can see where that money’s being spent,” Cervantes said. He added that he tries to instill pride from the students up through the administration. He wants everyone to realize they are the best. “Our students will also have that pride. We want to help people. We want to make sure that every student is treated right and is successful because it’s all about being successful,” Cervantes said. One of his main goals in Pecos is to improve the academics and get out of D status. The district has five campuses. One campus, a fourth- and fifth-grade elementary, is on IR. “We feel confident we’ll get them out of there. There are several things that we do, or strategies, or programs that we have that have been successful. We’re bringing those in, but most of all professional development for teachers and supporting (them) and seeing what works and what doesn’t work,” Cervantes said. He added that there are certain programs that have worked at every district he’s been in. “There are certain things that I know will work with your economically disadvantaged (districts) because that’s (where) I’ve been. If you look at all the districts I’ve been at, they’re all economically disadvantaged. I’m talking from 70 percent to 99.6 percent. That was at Edgewood. The Valley was at 92 percent. Fabens was at 95 percent. We’re talking about very poor districts,” Cervantes said. Along with his other objectives, Cervantes said Pecos is a planning a bond issue. “… We’re looking a new high school with gyms, a natatorium baseball, softball. We’re also looking at an early childhood center. I want to make sure we get our prek 3 year olds and 4 year olds full time because I want to make sure that we start them off early,” he said. Cervantes added that he wants to have full-day kindergarten, as well. “… And we’re looking at probably building another elementary, or redoing an elementary. We also have some other items on that bond,” Cervantes said. He also wants to make Pecos the highest paying district in the region. Currently, a starting teacher makes $44,500 a year. “We’re going to go high. That’s one of my goals is to be the best paying district and have the best benefit package,” he said. Pecos has 450 to 480 employees and about 250 of those are teachers. The district has about 3,000 students and picked up 450 this year, a 16 percent jump, he said. He recently attended a presentation on school finance at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin’s CEED Building. Cervantes said there was one person representing Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. “They more or less gave us the rundown on what the governor was wanting to see passed. We didn’t get answers. It’s just more theory. I don’t know whether they put a lot research into it because I know they mentioned some things that were not accurate. But I’m thankful that they came and they did that so I can be prepared and see what the governor’s office is thinking,” Cervantes said. “I’ve been reading and staying up with the legislature. At the end of the day … who knows what they’ll come out (with), but we do need some relief. I’m a big proponent for fighting the good fight and trying to make sure that we keep all our money here where it needs to be,” Cervantes said. He said Pecos has a budget of about $100 million, but it had to give $75 million back to the state. “That’s crazy isn’t it?” Cervantes said. The district has gone into deficit spending, which makes it more difficult to keep up with facility repairs. “Hopefully they’ll take into consideration this area because this area — everyone’s been saying we have more money than Saudi Arabia. Yet our schools don’t see any of that money. We’re all hurting for roads. We’re hurting for infrastructure. We’re hurting for housing over there, but most of all, we’re hurting on the end of education and that’s our future.” Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board member Victor Tarin said the district is fortunate to have Cervantes. “… I think he’s one of the best superintendents in the whole state. We were very lucky being able to hire him in Pecos. We’re very pleased with the work he’s doing,” Tarin said. What made Cervantes stand out was his track record. “Everywhere he’s been, he’s done great work for the communities that he’s worked in. We’re very happy to have gotten him hired. He has (had) proven success and I think we are on the right track,” Tarin said. “Our school district is improving. We’re doing very well right now. We’re still working to those challenges, but I think we have the right person to lead us in the direction that our … school district wants to go.” Cervantes and his wife Mary have three boys. WhatsApplast_img

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