McAllen superintendent named lone finalist for top spot in Harlingen

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McAllen ISD Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez at Achieve Early College High School on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

HARLINGEN — The Harlingen CISD Board of Trustees named current McAllen ISD Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez lone finalist for the same spot in Harlingen Tuesday evening.

Harlingen has been without a permanent superintendent since the resignation of Alicia Noyola earlier this year.

Gonzalez has served as superintendent in McAllen since 2016 after working his way up through the ranks of the district.

The board conducted superintendent interviews Tuesday as well, following interviews conducted by the board last week.

During his tenure at McAllen, the district consistently performed well academically and operated innovatively, launching unique partnerships and programs.

The Texas Association of School Boards named Gonzalez Superintendent of the Year in 2020.

However, a scandal in the district’s communications department that became public this year prompted the board to issue directives to Gonzalez that so far remain unfulfilled.

Gonzalez also leaves McAllen ISD about a month before the first day of school in the midst of a staffing reduction plan and possible tax rate election push, both efforts to address a less than enviable financial situation tied to declining enrollment in recent years.

The superintendent — generally a consummate optimist — acknowledged those challenges in an interview after the board voted to approve its budget after significant struggles earlier this summer.

“There was a little bit of jabs being thrown, ‘You got us into this, we got ourselves into this,’” he said. “I think it’s just the nature of the beast right now, it doesn’t matter who’s sitting in this seat. It’s always gonna be a problem.”

The McAllen school board will meet Thursday to consider naming a temporary replacement for Gonzalez.

Board President Debbie Crane Aliseda, who described news of Gonzalez attending an interview in Harlingen last week as surprising, expressed confidence in a letter to the community responding to the lone finalist decision.

She said the board has a plan in place if Gonzalez accepts the post.

“We will share more details at the appropriate time,” she wrote. “We will stay resolute and focused as we work hard toward our common goal of making the district even better. We will do this collaboratively to empower our students to thrive and succeed in their academic journey.

“Thank you for your ongoing support and collaboration. Together, McAllen ISD will continue to deliver the exceptional education our students deserve.”

Crane Aliseda also complimented Gonzalez for his service with the district.

“For 25 years, including seven years as Superintendent, Dr. Gonzalez has made significant contributions to our school community,” she wrote. “Under his transformative leadership, our district has achieved remarkable success and become a shining example of educational excellence across the state. His dedication and tireless efforts have not only earned McAllen ISD a state “A-rating” multiple times but also has fostered strong community relationships.”