Photos courtesy SISD
The Socorro Independent School District officials announced Friday that the district is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, a milestone achievement for the nationally recognized school district that has evolved from several schools serving a small rural farming community to a high-performing urban district providing a high-quality education for more than 47,000 students.
Officials share that SISD has been a pioneer in education and has cultivated a legacy of excellence since its origins dating back to the 1800s. Socorro was one of five schools in El Paso County in 1886. Over the years, the development of the schools was in tandem with the community’s steady growth.
On July 8, 1961, voters unanimously approved shifting Socorro from a common to an independent school district. When SISD was created, the enrollment was 718 students with 26 teachers and one principal.
Since then, the district has raised the level of achievement for numerous students and staff while proudly working with the community it serves.
Over the last 60 years, Team SISD has celebrated tens of thousands of high school graduates. SISD became accredited in 1968 for grades first through 12th. This allowed the first graduating class of the district’s flagship school, Socorro High School, the opportunity to graduate from an accredited school and they could enroll in state colleges without having to pass a test before acceptance.
Fast forward to 2021 and SISD proudly celebrated some 3,600 high school graduates who collectively earned more than $69.4 million in scholarships, grants, dual credit savings, and military awards. In addition, 285 of those graduates earned associate degrees while still in high school through the district’s early college high school program saving thousands of dollars in future college costs.
SISD is one of few districts in the state of Texas to have an early college program in every comprehensive high school in the district.
SISD consistently has been at the forefront of education innovation. In 1983, the Board of Trustees approved the implementation of a new “high tech” curriculum whereby all students would take typing in the eighth grade and computer literacy and occupational investigation laboratory in the ninth grade, according to “The History of Socorro Independent School District 1680-1984.” The “high tech” curriculum was designed to provide Socorro students with the skills needed in a technological society.
The board also voted to require that students master the Texas Assessment of Basic Skills (TABS) test to graduate from high school. The requirement would be effective with the graduating class of 1986. Socorro ISD became the first district in the El Paso County to require “high tech” courses and TABS mastery for graduation.
With its longtime focus on increasing student performance, SISD became the only district in the El Paso County and the largest district in Texas to earn the Texas Education Agency top honors in 2019 and 2020: an “A” rating and postsecondary readiness distinction.
In the last standardized test conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (2019), Socorro ISD outscored the Texas passing rates in all 17 STAAR exams in grades three through eight for the sixth consecutive year.
In addition, during the 2020-2021 school year, SISD students earned more than 36,400 college credit hours and saved more than $13.2 million collectively in college costs.
On the technology side, SISD has long been a pioneer in advancing blended and digital learning and providing technological resources for students and staff.
In 1995, Socorro was one of eight districts in Texas to have a domain “SISD NET” and the only district in West Texas and only of the few on the state to network computers throughout the district, according to “The History of Socorro Independent School District.”
The same year, the district’s technology committee developed a three-year plan to equip all schools in the district with computer technology. Bond money funded the project and provided a districtwide network that connected all SISD schools with each other and with the Internet, or “Information Superhighway,” according to the SISD history book.
In the last two years, SISD has invested $22 million in laptops/tablets for all 47,000 students to have access to a personal mobile tech device.
The district won the prestigious National Consortium for School Networking (COSN) Team Achievement Award, which recognizes the vast investments in technology acquisition; was honored as a District of Innovation by the National Digital Promise, League of Innovative Schools; and in 2020 became the first district in the El Paso region and one of only 20 school districts statewide to be selected to participate in the cohort of the Raise Your Hand Texas Blended Learning Project.
The educational leaders and board trustees of Socorro also have had equity in education at the forefront of their vision for the district.
In 1987, Judge Harley Clark ruled in Edgewood vs. Kirby that the state system of school finance was unconstitutional because it discriminated against students who resided in property poor districts and ordered the state to develop a remedy to be implemented in 1990. Socorro ISD was one of the original seven plaintiffs in this case.
Equitable learning facilities has been of utmost importance as well. Over the last 60 years, the Socorro community has boomed in population and infrastructure and SISD has worked tirelessly to keep up with the rapid growth ensuring staff and students are teaching and learning in state-of-the-art and safe learning facilities.
In the fall 1990, Montwood High School, the district’s second high school, opened its doors for 1,700 students in grades seventh through 10th. On October 31, 1991, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the SAC.
This 11,000-seat complex was designed as a multi-purpose facility used for sports events, graduation ceremonies, band contests, NJROTC events, and wellness and community activities. During 1992-93, the Students Activities Complex was completed. On August 7, 1995, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for Socorro’s third high school, Americas High School.
The passage of Bond 2011 was a critical step in meeting the demands of growth in the district and allowed the district to improve many existing facilities. The development of Bond 2011 was driven by community input and passed with a 56 percent approval rating. It was the largest facilities bond in the state of Texas for the 2011 bond cycle, during an unprecedented economic recession.
As growth continued and facilities matured, the community again overwhelmingly passed Bond 2017 with a 60 percent approval rating. The $448.5 million dollar bond has allowed the district to improve facilities, including the highly anticipated total reconstruction of Socorro High School, and meet the demands for new campuses in the growing SISD community, including Cactus Trails Elementary and the new combo school in the Eastlake area.
Bond 2017 also includes improvements to three SISD high schools, 16 new auxiliary gyms at elementary schools across the district, a new technology and support services facility, a new Student Activities Complex, and athletic improvements.
In the past 60 years, Socorro ISD has faced challenges, achieved unprecedented success, adapted, and changed, all with a focus on the future generations of the community in mind. SISD has embraced a family mentality with unity and compassion to serve with a commitment to provide the best education and service all students and families deserve. Socorro ISD has and will continue to ensure our students are Tomorrow’s Leaders Learning Today.