8 leadership changes, new tax rates shook up RGV schools in 2023

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With 2023 coming to an end, the public education institutions in the Rio Grande Valley saw about eight superintendent changes in addition to school districts passing new tax rates and bonds.

The implications of these changes over the past year pose a significant impact to the communities and youth these districts serve, and span much of the region.


With former Harlingen CISD Superintendent Alicia Noyola’s retirement in May, it caused a domino effect that resulted in various leadership changes beginning with J.A. Gonzalez.

At the helm of McAllen ISD for seven years, Gonzalez — in what board President Debbie Crane Aliseda called a “surprising” move — took the top spot at Harlingen CISD in September.

The Harlingen school board set Gonzalez’s salary at $300,000.

In a span of a few months, McAllen ISD’s search for its next superintendent came to a conclusion with former Brownsville ISD Superintendent René Gutiérrez.

Gutiérrez, a graduate from McAllen High School in 1983, is the first superintendent that is a product of McAllen ISD. He attended McAllen schools throughout his K-12 education after migrating from Reynosa, Tamaulipas.

“I would have never thought about this when I was 8 years old when I arrived from Reynosa, Mexico,” Gutiérrez said. “Never in my wildest, wildest dreams did I think that I was going to one day lead the district like I am now and so I’m very excited about that.”

Starting on Nov. 27, Gutiérrez’s contract is $395,000 with a salary of $300,000 and $95,000 in benefits such as an automobile allowance totaling $12,000.

The BISD Board of Trustees named Brownsville native Jesus H. Chavez interim superintendent of schools in October as they are still looking for a permanent superintendent.

Sharyland ISD’s Maria Vidaurri announced her retirement in September and is set to step down from the position at the end of the school year in June. The district is searching for the next person to take the helm and is asking for community input for what people want in the next superintendent.

Another retirement came when Santa Rosa ISD’s Yolanda Chapa announced her last day would be Dec. 1. The school district then announced Abram Estrada as the lone finalist as superintendent with his tenure beginning Dec. 4.

Weslaco ISD welcomed back Richard Rivera as the superintendent 12 years after he retired from the same position in 2011.

La Joya ISD appointed Heriberto “Beto” Gonzalez to the superintendent position amid a potential Texas Education Agency appointment of a board of managers to replace the existing board.

And Edcouch-Elsa ISD also selected a new superintendent with Alda T. Benavides.

Election Day at Lark Library Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])


School districts across the Valley ordered tax rate elections and two others tried to pass bonds.

McAllen ISD voters passed a tax rate of $0.8448. Ailseda said the district is excited the community voted in favor of keeping four additional pennies in tax revenue. She added the additional tax revenue will enhance staff salaries and will be invested in school infrastructure.

Brownsville ISD voters approved a tax rate of $1.030964 and cleared the way to award raises for employees.

Edinburg CISD passed a tax rate of $0.7892 with superintendent Mario Salinas saying the margin of the vote is reflective of the community’s confidence in the work that the district is doing.

“As a school district … those three pennies that were approved, are going to generate $3.2 million in local taxes and then the matching state fund of $3.4 million,” Salinas said. “So we intend to use those funds … mostly for compensation for our employees. To be able to offer competitive salaries to our employees. We feel strongly that an investment in our staff is an investment in our students.”

Voters also passed a tax rate of $1.1113 for Mission CISD, $0.7892 for PSJA ISD, $0.8179 for Hidalgo ISD, and $0.7892 for Monte Alto ISD.

The adoption of a $0.7892 tax rate in La Joya ISD was split nearly down the middle with early voting numbers but Election Day votes pushed the proposition to fail with 1,488 votes against and 1,336 votes for the measure.

Another failed proposition is Progreso ISD’s proposed tax rate of $0.7892, which garnered 154 votes against it, or 58.78 %, and 108 votes for it.

Weslaco ISD residents voted on three bonds with all three passing. Proposition A asked for $140 million for the construction, acquisition and equipment for district buildings and new school buses. Propositions B and C asked for $10 million for the construction, acquisition, rehabilitation, renovation and equipping of performing arts facilities and an athletics facilities.

Edcouch-Elsa ISD residents also voted on a bond proposition which asked for $40 million for the construction, acquisition and equipment for school buildings and new school buses.

The proposition failed.