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Like many residents of McAllen, I was very disappointed to hear about the potential departure of McAllen Superintendent Dr. J.A. Gonzalez, who reportedly is being courted by the Harlingen CISD. While I understand that no one is truly irreplaceable, I firmly believe that some individuals are exceptionally challenging to replace, and Dr. Gonzalez undoubtedly falls into the latter category. Losing him would be a tremendous loss for MISD. Replacing an outstanding superintendent is tedious, distracting and very, very expensive for a school district.

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

Dr. Gonzalez’s journey within the MISD system, marked by substantial academic achievements in the MISD schools he led before becoming superintendent, showcases his dedication and passion for McAllen and the district. MISD invested in his growth, and he, in turn, has contributed significantly to the district’s success. Under his leadership, MISD transformed into an “A” rated district, an accomplishment that holds immense significance in Texas and indicates exemplary academic performance, student achievement and progress toward state educational goals.

Achieving an “A” rating is a remarkable feat, especially considering the challenges posed by having several high-poverty campuses within the district. All of us expect no less from our school district. Dr. Gonzalez’s leadership and commitment have been pivotal in overcoming such obstacles and propelling MISD to its current standing.

While it is natural to have differing opinions about a leader’s performance, the objective evaluation by the Texas Education Agency in 2022, which lauds MISD’s accomplishments under Dr. Gonzalez, speaks volumes about his effectiveness. As we’ve seen in neighboring districts, petty political conflicts can overshadow the exceptional efforts of educators and administrators, resulting in devastating consequences. Fortunately, MISD has managed to avoid such pitfalls so far, and I sincerely hope this positive trajectory continues.

Notably, during the challenging times of the pandemic in 2019 and early 2020, Dr. Gonzalez displayed exemplary leadership, skillfully navigating MISD through these uncertain waters. This, coupled with his recognition as the 2020 Texas Superintendent of the Year, reflects his exceptional abilities as an educational leader. To be awarded this prestigious title in the state of Texas, one must truly be the best among the best. Additionally, Dr. Gonzalez was one of only five finalists for the 2020 National Superintendent of the Year. This was a truly amazing feat for a superintendent in the United States. I have heard nothing but accolades about Dr. Gonzalez by his peers.

Considering the significant investment and faith placed in Dr. Gonzalez, it is only reasonable to explore every avenue to convince him to stay. His desire to retire working at MISD should be given earnest consideration. As the top administrator, he sets the tone for the entire organization, making his role invaluable to the district’s continued success. It is my understanding that he has the overall respect of the majority of teachers and administrators at MISD.

As a parent with children in the McAllen school district and an alumnus of MISD myself, I share the concern that all the years of grooming Dr. Gonzalez would be in vain if he decides to leave. All those McAllen tax dollars spent on grooming Dr. Gonzalez to run MISD, and to help our teachers and administrators succeed with him as MISD’s leader, would be wasted. Therefore, I implore the MISD board to take the opportunity to meet with Dr. Gonzalez and demonstrate their commitment to retaining his exceptional leadership. It is not too late for the board to rise to the occasion and express the value he holds within the community.

Let us remember the wise adage: “Anything worth having is worth fighting for.” I urge the MISD board to fight to keep Dr. Gonzalez within our district and ensure that the future of our schools continues to be guided by his expertise and dedication.

Marcus C. Barrera

Marcus C. Barrera is a McAllen lawyer.