Are children prepared to function in a four-year institution successfully?
It’s a question Cantu asked rhetorically several times over the course of an interview, along with others.
Are school district administrators and faculty doing everything they can at elementary schools and middle schools to prepare students for a post-secondary education?
That’s another one.
Then he gets technical. What are the five foundation areas being measured in San Benito?
The questions he poses result in a revelation. Entering the district last November amid an investigation into the district’s suspended former superintendent, Antonio G. Limón, Cantu acknowledges he entered a school district with a bright future ahead.
“I have this passion that all kids should be prepared for post–secondary education and that we should do everything at the elementary schools and middle schools and secondary schools to prepare for post-secondary,” Cantu said. “Post-secondary doesn’t begin in the ninth grade when they get into high school. It should begin as early as kindergarten, where we should be thinking as to how our children are going to be prepared to be able to function in a four-year institution successfully.”
The San Benito CISD Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Cantu as Interim Superintendent of Schools in December 2013.
A 1968 graduate of the University of Texas-Pan American with a Bachelor of Arts in History, Cantu then earned a Master of Science Degree from Texas A&I University in 1972, where he majored in Educational Administration and minored in Latin American History. He earned a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Michigan in 1975.
Beginning his career at Mercedes ISD in 1968, where he worked as a Social Studies and Reading teacher, he has since served as Superintendent of Schools at Santa Maria ISD and Superintendent of Edinburg’s One Stop Multi-Service Center Charter School.
He has also served as Area Director of the Mid-Valley Academy in McAllen, where he was responsible for the operations of two Open Enrollment Charter High Schools, and has also worked as an Assistant Principal at Brownsville ISD and as Executive Director of the Bilingual Education Program at Houston ISD.
His work in the post-secondary arena included stints with Western Illinois University’s Undergraduate and Graduate Programs as a Professor/Administrator; the University of Houston, where he served as an Assistant Professor with the Curriculum and Instruction Department; and the University of Texas/Brownsville, where he served as Professor with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Department of School Administration.
Most recently, he worked in the Texas Education Agency’s Division of Compliance and Accountability, where he served as a Program Specialist. As an Independent Test Monitor with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), he has monitored the administration of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test during various test administration windows.
Cantu says his expertise includes assisting campuses identified in need of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) intervention.
“You are able to see education from a different perspective, and you are able to see where certain school districts failed to meet their responsibility to certain sub groups and populations,” Cantu said of his experience working at the state level with TEA.
“I have had the opportunity to work with school districts throughout the state, and because of the jobs that I have had with TEA, I can tell you from experience, that San Benito CISD is a district with an established, sound educational base and is positioned for greatness in the future,” Cantu said. “Sometimes you have to come from the outside to tell people, ‘hey, we have a great school district, not just a good one, but a great school district.’”