“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
–Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Associate
Justice, US Supreme Court, 1902-32
Dr. J. A. Gonzalez is a teacher at heart. Put a marker in his hand and a blank whiteboard beside him and his eyes light up. Whether his audience is made up of students or fellow professionals, he relishes the opportunity to teach.
“I am fascinated with the art of teaching and learning,” he said. “Everyone is some kind of smart —be it mathematical, verbal, kinesthetic or musical. We all have a particular learning style and
it is our job, as educators, to help our students discover their talents and to build on their natural skill sets.”
A former state finalist for Principal of the Year and a participant in The Principals’ Center at Harvard University, Dr. Gonzalez has a wealth of experience and a passion for teaching. He has taught in the Educational Leadership Department as a Practicing Lecturer at the University of Texas-Pan American.
Dr. Gonzalez officially became McAllen ISD’s Superintendent on August 4, 2016, after having served as the District’s Interim Superintendent from February through August.
Prior to his appointment as Superintendent, he had served as the District’s Associate Superintendent for Instructional Leadership since 2012. His primary role included coaching, supervising and evaluating all principals in the district. He has also served as a Principal, Assistant Principal, Teacher and Coach in multiple sports during his 21-year educational career (19 with McAllen ISD).
He oversees a district which has four high schools nationally ranked. McAllen ISD has 33 campuses and serves more than 24,000 students.
Dr. Gonzalez initiated the creation of STEAM-Plus in Pre-K-12 grades. This learning framework places a great emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math, including coding, rocketry, and robotics. One elementary team finished third in an international coding contest. In addition, some chess teams – some of them also based in elementary school – advanced to compete at the state and national levels. STEAM-Plus also systematically addresses a child’s emotional intelligence. It focuses on the five key components of emotional intelligence – self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. McAllen ISD also continues to support the highly acclaimed International Baccalaureate Teaching and Learning Framework at elementary, middle, and high school levels. In fact, the IB Diploma Programme at Lamar Academy was awarded the IB School of Distinction Award in 2017.
Dr. Gonzalez has initiated several improvements to the district, including:
- Implemented a Strategic Plan and Performance Metrics for the District.
- Initiated “Mission to Mars” which impacted 14,000 students in elementary, middle
and high school. Students assembled and used Mars rovers and rockets.
- Created inaugural EduFest event in which parents could enroll their children, learn about
programs and ask questions in one place
- Provided smooth transition by being visible in schools and in the community.
- Built relationships with city, chamber and MEDC.
- Built relationships with business representatives through the chamber by leading open discussion about current district topics.
- Created a Leadership Model and presented it to the Board, Parent Advisory Group, central staff and principals.
- Reduced payroll costs for 2016-17 by $1.3 million within three-month period by repurposing staff and closing positions through attrition, reducing the number of external hires, implementing a waiting period for filling vacancies, and streamlining guidelines for stipends and additional duty pay.
- Led search and selection process for filling key staff leadership positions.
- Created McTA+LKS framework to spotlight alumni, staff, and students.
- Created Google Classrooms with directors, principals, Student Ambassadors and Executive Leadership Team to streamline communications and model 21st Century teaching and learning.
- Created Directors Calibration Team to build unity among central staff and to establish systemic method for identifying/addressing departmental concerns.
- Created Professional Learning Community to strengthen working relationships between campus leadership staff and Divisions/Departments.
- Established Early Literacy Initiative, matching 100 members of the Professional Learning Community with first graders from across the district.
- Established Elementary UIL Academics and Chess programs, to include District UIL Coordinator.
- Strengthened training elements in district’s crisis system through targeted presentation and training sessions with leadership staff.
- Established Professional Development Steering Committee to improve efficiency and effectiveness of training process and online management system.
- Initiated rigorous communications system that includes e-newsletters sent to parents and to staff every week, along with regular communiqués to key communicators (business and community leaders).
The school district has received multiple regional, state, and even national accolades in recent years. Some of these successes include:
- McAllen ISD high schools named among the “Best in the Nation” by either US News & World Report or The Washington Post in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
- The district designated a five-time national “Best Community for Music Education” by the National Association of Music Merchants, 2013-17.
- Achieve Early College High School named a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School, the highest distinction offered by the U.S. Department of Education (one of just six high schools in Texas honored).
- Five national or state recognitions for school finance in the past year.
“We’re a world-class district. In McAllen ISD, it’s not about programs. It’s about people and we have great people in this dynamic community and our district. The key is to work collectively to create the vision for our district as we move deeper into the twenty-first century,” Dr. Gonzalez said.
He believes in a strong community as well. He will serve on the McAllen Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for a four-year term (2017-2021).
Born in Laredo, Dr. Gonzalez was raised in Hebbronville. He graduated from Texas A&M University—Kingsville with a Bachelor of Science in 1996 and earned a Master of Science in Educational Administration from the University of Texas- Pan American in 1999. Between 2000 and 2003, he earned his Mid-Management Administrator and Superintendent Certifications. His Doctor of Education with an emphasis in Educational Leadership was completed in 2008 through UTPA.
On June 18, 2011, Dr. Gonzalez married Shahroo T. Gonzalez, a McAllen Memorial High School alumnus. He and his wife have three children – Joe Douglas (5), Samantha Isabella (4) and Joshua Jay (2).