McAllen ISD Superintendent named state finalist for annual award

Out of more than 1,000 school districts in Texas, McAllen ISD’s Superintendent, Dr. James Ponce, is now among a select group of five in the running for the state Superintendent of the Year award. 

The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) made it official on Monday. Dr. Ponce will be interviewed by a selection committee at the TASA (Texas Association of School Administrators)/TASB Convention next month in Dallas. The state winner will be announced Sept. 28. 

Dr. Ponce became the Regional Superintendent of the Year in early June. The state’s 20 regional winners have now been trimmed to five finalists.

The state selection committee, which interviewed regional winners August 23-24 in Austin, focused on such issues as academic excellence, community engagement, career and workforce readiness, student/staff communication, advocacy, and district and community partnerships, according to a TASB news release. 

The selection committee cited his success with parental engagement and district partnerships with universities, city, and county, with student opportunities for dual credit to career and dual credit to college. Dr. Ponce earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees at The University of Texas at Austin. 

The other four finalists are from Bay City ISD, Humble ISD, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD and Comfort ISD. 

McAllen ISD has won its share of major awards since 2012. They include:

•           Outstanding School Board of the Year for Texas

•           A State Honor Board

•           Regional School Board of the Year

•           A Best Community for Music Education in the nation

•           Magna Award national finalist

•           HEB Best Large District state finalist

McAllen ISD has made waves with its introduction of mobile-learning devices as part of a greater framework known as TLC3, Transforming Learning in the Campus, Classroom and Community. This cutting-edge framework utilizes devices like the iPad and iPod Touch so students can embrace technology and cultivate skills for the 21st-century workforce. McAllen ISD is believed to be the largest school district in the nation (approximately 25,000 students) to be introducing mobile-learning devices from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade.               

TLC3 became the subject of many news stories and even a case study by Cisco – a worldwide leader in communications technology. 

TLC3 has been the subject of stories in numerous publications and other media outlets including Texas School Business, Texas Lone Star, Education Week, Parent & Child, The Journal (an education-technology publication), Forbes, Scholastic Administrator, T-M Daily Post (website of Texas Monthly magazine), The Huffington Post, San Antonio Express-News, The Monitor, CNBC, NBC Latino, plus National Public Radio in the Valley, Corpus Christi and San Antonio. An Associated Press story carried news of McAllen’s endeavor across the nation and even into publications in Canada, Japan and China.

It has also been featured in local education magazines like RGV Academic (twice) and Kings, Queens & Scholars (now Texas Scholars). 

Prior to coming to McAllen ISD in May 2009, Dr. Ponce was a national and state presenter on topics of transformation and performance management. He served Dallas ISD as deputy chief of staff where he provided leadership for the district Transformation Management Office, Emergency Management and Operations, Police and Security Services, Parent Services and School Choice along with Athletics.  

Part of his 16 years in the Dallas ISD was spent serving as Area VI Superintendent overseeing 36 campuses and approximately 30,000 students. Beginning his career as a bilingual teacher, he served as a high school assistant principal, an elementary principal and directed the Reading First program. 

Since 1984, the Superintendent of the Year program has recognized exemplary superintendents for excellence and achievement in educational leadership. The award is sponsored by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). 

Region One Education Service Center is based in Edinburg and serves as a resource center for educators in seven counties in South Texas. It serves 46 school districts with more than 400,000 students. 

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. Superintendents from any of Texas' 1,031 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 is a nonprofit association established in 1949 to serve local public school districts. School board members are the largest group of publicly elected officials in the state. The districts they represent serve approximately five million students. 

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