Socorro Independent School District Superintendent Dr. José Espinoza was honored with the 2017 Escalante-Gradillas Best in Education Award during a special presentation Friday, December 8 at the District Service Center.
The prestigious prize is named after East Los Angeles’ Garfield High School teacher the late Jaime Escalante, of the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver,” and his Principal Henry Gradillas, who now serves as an academic advisor for TheBestSchools.org, the independent educational website that awards the national prize. Established in 2014, the award goes to those who exemplify a commitment to learning, discipline, character-building and high expectations that Escalante embodied.
“This is a great award we have earned together as Team SISD,” Espinoza said. “As Helen Keller said, ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’ We have accomplished so much together. That’s why I dedicate this award to our students, teachers, staff and all of Team SISD.”
Dan Edelen, director of marketing services for The BestSchools.org who bestowed the award to Espinoza, said he knew early on the SISD superintendent was the man to beat.
“I have to be frank,” Edelen said. “When Jose Espinoza’s nomination crossed my desk, I said to my team, ‘I think we can stop looking.’ But, of course, we didn’t. … Dr. Espinoza has done it all: teacher, school counselor, assistant principal, principal, school improvement officer, assistant superintendent and now, superintendent. What is at the heart of all this unbelievable work? Well, it’s the one quality we look for that I have yet to mention. … Ganas. Jose Espinoza has it. That’s why The Best Schools chose Dr. Espinoza. When you are accomplishing the unbelievable, it’s worth celebrating.
The superintendent, who was named the winner in October, earned the award for doing more with less, overcoming obstacles, boosting achievement levels and raising the standard of excellence for SISD schools and the district overall.
Under his leadership, TeamSISD has opened four early college high schools, more than any other district in the region, and the nationally-recognized Win Academy, which provides additional learning time and resources for students who struggle in a typical classroom setting. The program is offered at 19 schools in the district.
Besides the trophy and accolades, Dr. Espinoza was awarded $10,000 for SISD and $10,000 for himself. He plans to donate his part in the form of scholarships and the district winnings will go toward academic programs.
The ceremony included many special guests, including WIN Academy principals, teachers, students and parents; SISD Board Vice President Cynthia Ann Najera and Trustee Hector F. Gonzalez; community member; and district administrators.
WIN Academy student Damian Villalpando, 12, and his mother, Irma Villalpando were happy to attend to the ceremony. The Capt. Walter E. Clarke Middle sixth-grader said Dr. Espinoza is an amazing superintendent.
Being in the WIN Academy for two years has changed Damian’s academic life. Diagnosed with dyslexia in the third grade while attending another school district, the youngster always struggled in class. The family decided to move to East El Paso so Damian could attend SISD.
“I had heard so many good things about SISD,” Villalpando said. “Now I am so glad we made the change. He has improved so much. His reading has drastically gone up. Academically, he is doing extremely well. Before, he didn’t want to go to school. It was a constant battle. Now he likes going. He is making As and Bs. You can really see the difference.”
For Damian, school is now a fun place to be. He likes math, science and hopes to be either a Major League Baseball player or an engineer someday.
“I like to learn now,” he said. “Plus, we get a lot of stuff in our school to help us learn that other districts don’t. This is where I want to be.”
Click here to read more about the 2017 Escalante-Gradillas Best in Education Award Winner Dr. José Espinoza