Donna, Sharyland school districts named finalists for statewide H-E-B awards

The H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards program honors outstanding public school professionals to thank them for their dedication and commitment to serving their students. (Courtesy: H-E-B Excellence in Education/Facebook)
Only have a minute? Listen instead
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Sharyland ISD and Donna ISD school boards were named top five finalists for the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards program for Outstanding School Board, with Donna ISD also being a finalist for the Early Childhood Education Facilities.

Created in 2002, the 22nd annual H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards program honors outstanding public school professionals to thank them for their dedication and commitment to serving their students.

As finalists, the boards received $5,000 and have a chance to be awarded $25,000 if named the outstanding school board for 2024.

Donna’s M. Rivas Primary Discovery Academy nomination as a finalist also resulted in $5,000 and a chance at $25,000.

Entering the school district in 2018 and retiring at the end of this school year, Sharyland ISD superintendent Maria Vidaurri said the school board being named a finalist is a culmination of the current and past school boards and an honor that validates all the work and dedication spent serving the district.

“I’ve been here for six years, I’ve seen different boards … but it’s always the same outcome,” she said. “You’re always going to see their passion, you’re going to see them driven, you’re going to see them holding leadership accountable and with high expectations.”

The school board consists of President Jose ‘Pepe’ Garcia, Vice President Maritza Venecia, Secretary Hector Rivera, Assistant Secretary David Keith and trustees Meagan Sullivan, Juilo Cerda and Noe Oliveria.

Donna ISD Superintendent Angela Dominguez said this is the first time the school district is being acknowledged by the H-E-B awards and feels a tremendous honor having two finalist nominations.

“Both of these distinctions really stand out,” Domniguez said. “It’s exciting to be acknowledged by H-E-B because they do so much work in public education and for them to identify us as excellent in these categories really goes a long way.”

The Donna ISD school board consists of President Fernando Castillo, Vice President Jose Reyna, Secretary Ida Garcia and trustees Eloy Avila, Jose Valdez, Maricela Valdez and Eva Castillo Watts.

Asked what was the initial reaction upon being named a finalist, Garcia said he was like a kid in a candy store with excitement.

The Sharyland school board president said he gets chills thinking about being able to participate in the process of an outstanding award.

“We are unified and work as a united team because we respect each other,” Garcia said. “We have really good communication and … we all come from different backgrounds and professional lives but that doesn’t matter. We are very into any decision that we make and if it is the right decision for the students.”

Garcia said the H-E-B committee will come down sometime in April to talk to the board members and the community to see how the school board operates and how they are seen in the community.

Vidaurri, the Sharyland superintendent, said the community is excited.

“I’ve been speaking to students and community members and everybody’s really excited,” Vidaurri said. “For all of them, either individually or collectively as a group, it’s never been about the honor for them. It’s always been about the work that it entails.”

Dominguez, the Donna superintendent, said that being on a team of eight individuals can be challenging but knowing the board’s focus is always centered on kids makes work fun and exciting.

“As a superintendent, it’s exciting to me that the focus of our board is on the right work,” she said. “It’s on what is happening in the classroom and how we can help students grow and advance academically and socially.”