Superintendent Dr. Gonzalez named state finalist for top award

McAllen ISD’s Superintendent, Dr. J.A. Gonzalez, is now one of just five finalists for the state Superintendent of the Year award, it was announced this week.  

Five superintendents across Texas were selected for the award sponsored by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB).  

“On behalf of the McAllen School Board and our district staff, I would like to congratulate Dr. Gonzalez for this incredible honor, and it is will deserved,” School Board President Conrado Alvarado said. “He has shown tremendous leadership and foresight during this time of incredible challenge, and our community’s children has benefited from his leadership.” 

Dr. Gonzalez earned the Region One Superintendent of the Year award in June. This is an eight-county region in south Texas extending from Brownsville to Laredo. 

The state selection committee interviewed regional winners August 28-29. They targeted such issues as advocacy, diversity and inclusion, the impact of the pandemic on education, and the board-superintendent relationship. Candidates are chosen for their strong leadership skills, dedication to improving educational quality, ability to build effective employee relations, student performance, and commitment to public involvement in education. 

“I am humbled by this great honor and blessed to be selected from a group of many outstanding educational leaders across the state,” Dr. Gonzalez said. “This would not have been possible without the support of our School Board and the hard work of dedicated teachers, administrators, staff and students. I come from a family of educators and, all my life, I've wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of children.” 

The 2020 Superintendent of the Year will be announced at the Texas Association of School Administrators/TASB Convention which runs September 30-October 2.  

In a TASB press release, the committee cited Gonzalez’s small-town approach to leading this district of approximately 21,400 students, with a focus on relationships among individuals and organizations. Putting relationships front and center, Gonzalez places a premium on emotional intelligence in district staff, includes the community in board goal-setting, and nurtures close ties to other local government entities. Thanks to those partnerships, when the pandemic struck, McAllen ISD was able to lean on established connections with the city and county to keep the district running smoothly through the transition.  

The district has enjoyed some major accomplishments under Dr. Gonzalez’ leadership. Some of these include:  

The district earning the state’s highest designation, an “A,” from the Texas Education Agency two straight years. 

The district earning the state’s Post-secondary Readiness Distinction three straight years. 

The district earning a state School FIRST award for financial integrity with a perfect score nine straight years.  

The district being named “Favorite School District” in The Monitor’s Readers’ Choice Awards in 2020 (the third time in four years).  

High schools ranked among “America’s Best High Schools” for the sixth straight year. All five in McAllen ISD were listed in spring 2020.  

All eligible schools named “America’s Healthiest Schools” since 2014.  

The district being named a national Best Community for Music Education for eight straight years.  

Leading the district as the community passed a Tax Ratification Election with 76 percent voter approval in 2018. 

Implementing a State & National award-winning Strategic Plan for the district. 

Sam Houston Elementary School earning a national Blue Ribbon Award in 2019. 

“We’re a world-class district,” Dr. Gonzalez said. “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 execute the vision for our district as we move deeper into the twenty-first century.” 

Dr. Gonzalez has served in McAllen ISD for 22 years and has been Superintendent since 2016. Within the district, he served as a science teacher before becoming an Assistant Principal, Principal and Associate Superintendent for Instructional Leadership.    

Gonzalez earned his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University–Kingsville and his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Texas–Pan American. 

The other four finalists include Roland Hernandez, Corpus Christi ISD, Region 2; Michelle Barrow, Newton ISD, Region 5; Jamie Wilson, Denton ISD, Region 11; and Becky McCutchen, Alpine ISD, Region 18. The districts of the winning superintendent and the state finalists will receive an award from Balfour, program underwriter. 

Superintendents from any of the state’s local school districts are eligible for nomination by their School Boards. Local nominees are submitted to a regional selection committee, which chooses one nominee to send to the state selection committee. TASB has recognized exemplary superintendents for excellence and achievement in educational leadership since 1984. 

Established in 1949, TASB is a nonprofit association which serves local public School Boards. School Board members are the largest group of publicly elected officials in the state. The districts they represent serve approximately 5.4 million students.