Celebrating 50 Years of Service to South Texas Schools
What started off as an operational grant 50 years ago by educators in the Rio Grande Valley to fund a program to serve the Spanish-speaking student population of South Texas became the framework for what was to later become the statewide system of regional education service centers. The administration and staff of the Region One Education Service Center recognize this history as they celebrate 50 years of service to public schools and charter schools of the South Texas area.
“We’ve always prided ourselves in being innovative and pioneering in our approach to serving the students of our region,” said Dr. Cornelio Gonzalez, Region One ESC Executive Director. “That spirit of innovation started right here in this area by educators who wanted to make a difference in the landscape of education; and we are dedicated to continue that commitment with cutting-edge programs to serve students and educators over the next 50 years!”
Dr. Gonzalez explains that the predecessor to regional education service centers was an organization called the Valley Association for Superior Education (VASE). VASE which was created with a $200,000 operational grant authorized by the U.S. Office of Education, under the provision of Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965. The grant provided for the development and demonstration of an oral language instructional program for Spanish-speaking children and other administrative services to serve the school districts of the Rio Grande Valley. Initially, the major objectives of VASE were to “develop for widespread application English lessons with accompanying materials and teacher training plans to enable Spanish speaking children to succeed in school, to provide assistance to all teachers in the use of the latest aids to instruction, and to provide administrative services to support desirable change in education,” according to early news articles. Individuals instrumental in developing the grant application were Mr. James F. Cherry, Mr. A.R. Ramirez, Mr. Lee W. Hones, and Mr. Augusto Guerrero.
Witnessing the success of VASE, in 1965, the 59th Texas Legislature authorized the State Board of Education (SBOE) to establish media centers throughout the state following the design of VASE. Later in 1967, the 60th Texas Legislature expanded the Regional Education Service Centers’ (RESCs) services and designated the roles of each service center in coordinating educational planning for respective regions. The SBOE divided the state into 20 regions, assigning each media center to begin operations and serve in each region. Originally, regional education service centers were used as media lending libraries housing and distributing 16 mm reel-to-reel equipment to school districts throughout their respective regions.
The roles and responsibilities of the centers have since expanded to include services that have a direct impact on the success of students, says Dr. Gonzalez. The three main objectives of today’s regional education service centers are to assist school districts in improving student performance, to enable schools to operate more efficiently and economically, and to implement initiatives assigned by the Texas Legislature or the Commissioner of Education.
“Today, school districts and public charter schools rely on Region One to provide technical assistance not only in the area of media and technology, but in the areas of curriculum and instruction, student services, administrative training, purchasing cooperatives, and business procedures and applications,” said Dr. Gonzalez. “We strive to seek out ways to support our schools by engaging with community partners and our local colleges and universities to provide every academic advantage to our students.”
Region One ESC serves over 427-thousand students in the seven county area of South Texas including Cameron County, Hidalgo County, Jim Hogg, Starr County, Webb County, Willacy County, and Zapata County. Through Region One ESC’s main office in Edinburg, and extension offices located in Brownsville and Laredo, Region One staff provided almost 3,000 individual professional development opportunities to the over 28-thousand educators in Region One in 2015-2016.
To learn more about Region One ESC and the programs and services offered to its school districts, visit the Region One website at www.esc1.net.