An interview with Dr Arturo Cavazos

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1.  What are the most important features that make Harlingen CISD successful?  What can be done to improve the district?  Please give a brief state of the district.

Our students are our greatest assets, and we understand that each of them possess individualized learning needs. Our district believes in providing our parents and students with choices in their pursuit of a quality education, and that HCISD continues to meet the demands of both our students and changing society.

Our district has seen transformation these past few years, and with developments, an increase in options for educational advancement.  Our Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy, Leader in Me Academy, Dual Language Academies, Digital Classroom initiative, and the Harlingen School of Health Professions scheduled to open August 2014 offer students the opportunity to find their passion while nurturing college and career readiness in the 21st century.  Our increasing choices and dedication to students will remain integral in promoting academic achievement within our district.

We have a responsibility to continually develop the learning that takes place in our classrooms and the curriculum our students engage in.  These responsibilities have led us to the development of our district’s strategic plan, which will guide our important work for the next three to five years.  This plan serves as an opportunity to promote high achievement for all students by focusing on areas like early literacy and college and career readiness.  By creating meaningful learning experiences and remaining committed to our students’ futures, our plans for improvement will stay a focal point to our overall mission as a school district.

2.  Describe your approach to leadership.  How do you tailor your leadership style to faculty, staff, and students?

Leadership is very much a collaborative effort at HCISD.  We work together to manage the daily and long-term operations, and how we handle them is based on the concept of situational leadership.  What that speaks to is adapting your approach to leadership to reflect the individuals or group you are leading.

We focus on building relationships with our community, parents, teachers, and staff.  We value their input, as it has made a large impact this past year by playing an integral role in the development of our strategic plan, which will drive our initiatives for the next three to five years.  As Superintendent, I remain committed to visiting our campuses and speaking with our staff and students about how we can help continue our tradition for world class schools and providing students with the tools for 21st century success.

When taking on a leadership position in this capacity, it’s also important to maintain a balance of the heart and mind.  You have to a find a balance of the two, which will differ in each situation, and maintain that balance to yield the decisions and in turn the best result for our students and community.

3. It has been said that you come from a family of education leaders in Texas.  Was this instilled in you and family members from an early age?  Why?

My parents did not have a formal education but believed that education was the way out of poverty and the hope for the next generation.  With many sacrifices both emotionally and financially, my parents made certain we valued education.  It was an attitude they instilled in my siblings and me as we progressed through schools and studied to attain the highest degree possible.  We carried our parents’ message to that end, as the youngest three received a doctorate degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and all are serving in the position of Superintendent and collectively impacting over 100,000 students in Texas.

It was the support of my parents and family that has given me the opportunity to be where I am today.

4.) Please highlight current challenges taking place in education across the nation and statewide.  How is Harlingen CISD stepping up to meet these challenges?

Our society is changing rapidly.  With those changes comes the challenge of how do we prepare students for tomorrow?  If we focus on preparing them for today, there’s a good chance that the world they will be entering once they exit our schools will be very different.

Our district works to anticipate the future of education and develop the appropriate curriculum and initiatives so that our students can develop the critical thinking skills and problem solving skills to navigate themselves through an ever-changing world.  We’ve done this by launching dual language academies, which provides our students an advantage in a globalized economy.  College and career readiness is emphasized by allowing our incoming freshman at the Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy to select a career-oriented pathway, much like a major at a university.  Students will learn through projects related to real life experiences associated with their selected pathway.  The same is said for our Harlingen School of Health Professions, which is expected to open Fall 2014. Students who have a desire to pursue the medical field will have curriculum that is relevant to medicine and have the opportunity to work with local medical professionals and institutions.

Our students need a strong foundation to promote learning at an early age.  Reading is the key to that foundation, and we are working to ensure that all of our students are ready to learn when they come to our schools by focusing on early literacy.  Education is currency, and with the above average percentage of economically disadvantaged students enrolled in our schools, we have the ability to provide them with the tools early on to create lifetime success for themselves, their families, and their community.

These represent a few of our current challenges and transformational pieces.  We anticipate furthering our progress on eliminating these and other obstacles for our students with initiatives brought on through the implementation of our strategic plan this spring.

5.  If you had a message to the community and especially parents about what they can expect with regards to your priorities at Harlingen CISD, what would that message be?

There will be an emphasis on reading, rigor, and engagement in our classes.  It’s going to take involvement from all of our stakeholders, but we must continue our collaborative efforts on behalf of our more than 18,560 students.  With our strategic plan, we will embark upon the next chapter for our district as we attempt to promote early literacy for our incoming students, incorporate collaborative learning platforms into our curriculum (technology, communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking), retain and maintain highly effective teachers, and engage our community in meaningful ways that enhance our students’ success.

We remain committed to these initiatives as they align with our district’s vision, mission, and goals, and to our students who will determine the future of our world by becoming the leaders, innovators, and trailblazers of tomorrow.