Dr. Cornelio Gonzalez is the Executive Director of Region One Education Service Center and serves under the leadership of the Board of Directors made up by seven board members representing school districts in the seven counties served by Region One ESC, and one board member representing the charter schools in the same Region of Texas. Region One provides educational support services to thirty seven school districts and ten charter school systems in the southernmost part of Texas from Point Isabel to Laredo, Texas. “My goal as the Executive Director of the Region One ESC is to unite all public schools in a search for educational excellence and to tailor the services provided by our ESC to meet the needs of all students and all public schools in deep South Texas through innovation and a process of continuous improvement,” said Dr. Gonzalez.
What inspired you to pursue a career in education?
I was inspired by my parents and by my teachers. My parents wanted me to follow a career that would be beneficial to me and others, and my teachers inspired me as role models and persons that I admired and wanted to imitate.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by student needs. I want to impact as many lives as possible, and I see in education the opportunity to make a difference. I have been an educator for many years, and I have come to understand many of the needs our students have. I am inspired to help them dream great dreams and make those dreams a reality.
How do the Regional Service Centers work and how does Region One fit into the bigger picture?
Education Service Centers in Texas were created to provide support to school districts. Originally, their only function was to warehouse and distribute multimedia tools needed by schools, but very soon the state of Texas realized that ESC’s could provide outstanding assistance to school districts in every aspect of school administration. The role of ESC’s was expanded to focus on three priorities: to assist school districts in improving student performance; to enable school districts to operate more efficiently and economically, and to implement initiatives assigned by the state legislature or the commissioner of Education. Region One ESC is proud to provide service to 37 school districts and 10 charter school systems in an area that encompasses seven counties including: Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Jim Hogg and Zapata. Directly or indirectly Region One ESC serves 422,000 students in one of the fastest growing areas of the state, and we are very proud to be of service to our schools.
What are some new and innovative initiatives happening at Region One?
I am very proud of our Region One staff. They are very committed to continuously improving the organization by continuously improving their own capacity and professional skill. Our staff is always researching for better ways to serve our schools. They look for innovative strategies that are being implemented around the state and around the nation and they travel to find out what they are, and to learn about these new strategies so they can bring them back to our Region. Our staff goes to get trained in other parts of the country every year or they bring back researchers, college professors, and educational specialists to provide training to them here. This process of continuously searching for new and better ways to educate students enables our staff to be highly qualified to provide the best possible professional development to educators across Region One.
What does the future of Region One look like?
The future looks very promising. The goal of Region One ESC is to serve our schools; every time the needs of our school districts grow and change, Region One has an opportunity to help them by providing guidance and support so that they may easily and quickly adapt to the circumstances. Our role is to always be ready and always be prepared to come to the aid of our schools. Education is in constant evolution. Change is an inevitable reality in our schools, and Education Service Centers are the most effective system that can help educators by providing professional development, administrative support and technology support.
What changes have you implemented over the past year? What has been a highlight of your tenure thus far?
My first objective on the job was to strengthen the unity of the school districts and charter schools we serve. Region One has always been characterized by a strong feeling of unity. This unity has enabled school districts to collaborate and work together in the pursuit of higher and better performance for the benefit of our students. In order to be effective and efficient, school districts need to identify all the possible ways they can work together to reduce costs, increase effectiveness and increase productivity, and Region One is the link that makes the unity and collaboration possible. During my short tenure I have prioritized promoting the unity of our Region because, in the long run, collaboration will do a lot more benefit to our school districts than competition. Region One is the only ESC in the state with an Extension Office that provides support to an area that is distant from its Central location. Our Extension Office in Laredo has proven over the years to be an outstanding success and a practice worthy to be imitated. For that reason, one of my first decisions was to open UP anther Extension Office in Brownsville so we may provide a higher level of support throughout the entire Region. With strong and effective unity Region One can lead our school districts in our efforts to improve student academic achievement, eliminate the performance gap between student groups, and increase the opportunities to access higher education for all students. We are very proud of our collaborative work with institutions of higher education. We have worked closely with the University of Texas Pan-American, University of Texas at Brownsville, TSTC, South Texas College, Texas Southmost College, Texas A&M International University, and Laredo Community College in the development of College Prep courses that will be utilized throughout Region One, and we have strengthened our partnerships with important community service groups such as Educate Texas, Texas Valley Communities Foundation, RGV Focus and RGV LEAD in projects that promote the creation and of implementation of Early College High Schools, STEM Academies, Dropout Recovery Programs and other initiatives that focus on increasing opportunities for students to access higher education.
What has been one of the most recent and significant changes to education in the RGV and how is Region One managing the change(s)?
The unification of the Texas-Pan American University with the University of Texas at Brownsville may be one of the most exciting events in education in the history of our Region. For the first time in our history, our students will have access to a first class university that is connected to our culture and to our people. This is an opportunity that we cannot let go by. Region One ESC is working in collaboration with all our school districts to make sure that our students will be ready to take advantage of this great opportunity. We know that higher education will open doors of opportunity for our students and we want all of them to walk through those doors and enjoy a better life.