By Steve Taylor
Rio Grande Guardian
PHARR, TX — Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA) ISD has great raw material to work with in part because its immigrant and colonia students come from hardworking families hungry for success.
This is the view of PSJA Superintendent Daniel King, who has seen the success of his district on various fronts highlighted in a new book.
“We can look at data one way and say we are 99 percent Hispanic and 88 percent economically disadvantaged. But, that is not really the story of the people of the PSJA community. The story is that of a very vibrant community, with people with dreams, people with aspirations, people willing to work hard and commit,” King said. “We are about building on the strengths of our community, the strengths of our people.”
King said his job and that of the teachers and administrators at PSJA is to harness those strengths. “It really is a question of how we harness all the energy. Instead of looking at what we think we are missing, we need to look at what we have and say, how can we build on what have so that families can reach what they want to achieve? We become the facilitator and make the connections for the students and families. We look at where the students could be when maybe they do not know it themselves.”
The new book focusing on PSJA is titled “College Bound and Determined.” It has been produced by the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) of San Antonio.
The introduction on the book cover states: “For one school district, transformation went beyond changing sobering graduation rates or even getting graduates into college. This district was to change how we think about college readiness.”
The book states that PSJA has “bucked all trends,” transforming itself from a district with low achievement and low expectations into one where all students are expected to graduate ready to start college.
The book points out that since 2007, PSJA has doubled the number of graduates, halved the dropout rate, increased college-going rates, and implemented policies focused on making high school more like college. The success has caught the eye of Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams, who paid a visit to the district last October.
(Featured Photo: PSJA ISD Superintendent Daniel King, IDRA's Aurelio M. Montemayor and Hector Bojorquez, and ARISE Director Lourdes Flores are pictured with the 'College Bound & Determined' book.)