Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District takes school choice seriously. In 2014, HCISD began development of a five-year strategic plan to ensure the district’s educational offerings aligned with the needs of its students and community.
“Public schools serve approximately 90% of Texas children, and it’s our responsibility to reinvent and redesign ourselves to serve those students well,” said Superintendent Art Cavazos.
HCISD’s redesign began with engaging more than 800 community members. Cavazos described the process: “We asked, ‘What are your highest aspirations for HCISD students? What are your biggest hopes for them?’”
“Their message was, ‘We want them to experience a great school district and get a quality education. We want them to be in the best position to take on the challenges of this world and to be globally competitive.’”
In addition to holding community forums and focus groups during the development of the plan, the district involved staff in the transformation process with HCISD design teams.
Cavazos said it was critical to “define our ‘why.’ Why do we exist as HCISD? We exist simply to make certain that every child meets their highest potential. We exist to give them a quality education grounded on strong character. That’s the reason we show up to school every day.”
The robust strategic planning process resulted in a school choice portfolio available to every HCISD student. “Offering strategic choices and opportunities is the best way to engage families and propel students toward their college and career goals,” said Cavazos.
Students and their families make their choices based on unique needs, interests, and postsecondary goals. Elementary school options range from dual-language academies to a robust after-school chess program. At the secondary level, students can opt for early college high school, Harlingen School of Health Professionals, career academies, and comprehensive athletics, arts, and robotics.
For the district, the last step in the planning process was to ensure staff was invested in the HCISD’s choice and opportunity mission.
“We did not want staff functioning at a level of compliance,” said Cavazos. “By involving them and collaborating on a common language and set of goals, we moved from compliance to commitment.”
It may seem like a lot of effort, and for HCISD, it was. But it was worth it for one reason.
“Harlingen is HCISD and HCISD is Harlingen. We belong to them and they belong to us. And if we engage them, they will champion our cause to create a vibrant and prosperous community as well. And they have championed it.”