By GAIGE DAVILA
For the 2019-2020 school year, Point Isabel Independent School District (PI-ISD) has several new faces in its leadership, and a new goal for its students: all students graduate with college credits, a certificate in a trade, or are “military ready.”
PI-ISD is partnering with the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley in an effort for Port Isabel High School (PIHS) students to graduate “core complete,” or with most of their basic college courses completed. UTRGV and PI-ISD will use this year’s incoming juniors as the first class of the pilot program.
“Our goal is to expand all of our dual enrollment classes that we have right now, along with adding additional areas of certification for students,” said Theresa Alarcon, PI-ISD’s superintendent. Alarcon said students can receive both certifications and college credit.
“Core complete” does not mean graduating with an associate’s degree, Alarcon clarified. PI-ISD is hoping to offer certifications in construction, medicine, air conditioning, boat machinery, and electrical to name a few. Alarcon said partnerships with local industries and colleges to provide instruction and certification were still being discussed.
Alarcon is PI-ISD’s new superintendent, joining the district after 10 years at Hannah High School in Brownsville, with seven of those years as principal. Alarcon took over Dr. Lisa Garcia’s role after the latter retired in late February.
For this school year, Alarcon says she found what the district needed to work on within the first 3 months of the job. One of the issues Alarcon addressed was staffing. Several long-time faculty and coaching staff have left the district, many of them teaching upper level and dual enrollment courses.
The partnership between UTRGV and PI-ISD is attempting to address that issue: UTRGV will supply adjunct faculty to teach dual-enrollment courses and pay their salaries. PI-ISD will not be paying the salaries of any dual-enrollment faculty.
PI-ISD’s goal of post-graduation preparedness does not begin at the high school level however. Elementary students attended coding camps over the summer, learning coding languages. Coding classes for both Garriga and Derry elementary schools will be available starting this year, Alarcon said.
Imelda Munivez became principal of PIHS in mid-June, after Dr. William Roachm who had been principal of PIHS for 10 years, left. Munivez “hit the ground running,” she said, developing the school’s master schedule and staffing the high school almost immediately into the job. This year, the high school will go from a ten-period day to a nine-period day.
“There’s a lot that goes into starting a (school) year,” Munivez said.
Munives spent eight years as principal of Harlingen High School. Since taking the position, Munivez has been meeting students attending their band and color guard practices at the high school, sometimes as early as 6:45 a.m.
Munivez said she is supportive of the district’s goal of preparing students for post-graduation life, specifically at the high school level.
“I think at the high school level, it’s just so much more important to ensure that once they walk that stage and get that diploma, they have a plan,” Munivez said.
Munivez addressed income inequality within the district, saying she is intent on addressing it and remaining communicative with the community, through these dual enrollment initiatives.
“There’s a big disparity,” Munivez said. “There’s some cycles that have not been broken and need to be broken, and we have a responsibility to do that with our students.”