The new Southside Independent School District Superintendent of Schools Mr. Rolando Ramirez believes Southside ISD can become an A-rated district under the Texas Education Agency A through F accountability rating system. “Our district rating at the end of the year will measure how effective we were. We will work harder, smarter, and as a team to make Southside ISD an A-rated school district,” said Mr. Ramirez.
The new superintendent also believes Southside campuses can become national U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Schools and also earn National Distinguished Performance Awards. He knows it can happen at Southside ISD because it happened during his tenure in the Valley View ISD; a school district just a little smaller than Southside ISD and located along the U.S.-Mexico border. Valley View’s students are 92 percent economically disadvantaged and 62 percent limited English proficient; similar demographics to Southside’s.
Mr. Ramirez grew up in the Las Milpas barrio of Pharr, Texas which is located adjacent to the larger city of McAllen. Las Milpas, which translated means “the farming fields,” is a humble part of Pharr filled with hard-working immigrant families. It also produced Rolando Ramirez; a star athlete and Class of 1993 valedictorian.
“I was that boy that had to wear the same clothes several times a week. I was that teacher that had to buy supplies for kids. I was that principal that went looking for kids when they didn’t show up for school. Now, I’m the superintendent that looks for the opportunity to help as many people as possible,” said the new Southside ISD leader.
Naturally, children are always on his mind and methods of instruction given the current challenges facing school districts because of COVID-19. “Our main and most important goal is to maximize student learning in a safe and secure environment,” Mr. Ramirez said.
Valley View ISD School Board President Mr. Noe Pruneda said Southside ISD students and parents should prepare to see the superintendent at campuses, games, and community events. He said Mr. Ramirez always places students first and finds ways to make sure all children feel included. “He developed a park for children with disabilities. Now, children in wheelchairs can swing. He’s very compassionate. You’ll see him high-fiving kids everywhere. He’s about school spirit. Just watch, everybody is going to be wearing red shirts. You’re gaining somebody that is spectacular,” said Mr. Pruneda.
When it comes to student performance and student achievement, Mr. Pruneda said charter schools, such as Idea, cannot even come close to achieving Superintendent Ramirez’ school district success. “We’ve been an A-district and we’ve been the top public school in this area. Down here, none of the charter schools can even touch us.” With pride Mr. Pruneda added, “We have 300 kids graduating and all of them have at least one college credit course.”
As a high school social studies teacher, the future superintendent became known for his creative and fun learning strategies. “He once assigned a project for his students to make a song out of the “Bill of Rights” in order to prepare them for the state test. This became one of his highlights as the social studies department increased their scores dramatically,” said Valley View High School teacher Mrs. Marta Andaverdi.
Mrs. Andaverdi has known the new Southside ISD Superintendent for more than 20 years. She says he has an open door policy for teachers, students, and parents. But his overall focus remains student success. “His mind is always a step ahead and looks at the possibilities and potential in everyone and everything. I don’t think the word “impossible” exists in his vocabulary; as his determination always figures out a way to make it happen,” said the Valley View High School teacher.
Superintendent Ramirez says the coronavirus pandemic has given families greater awareness and appreciation for the work of teachers. He said, “In my opinion teachers should be paid in gold. The public is now experiencing the value of the teaching profession. Teaching is not easy and it takes very special individuals to practice this profession. Therefore, they should be compensated accordingly.”
His former board president also described Mr. Ramirez as selfless; thinking more of others first before thinking of himself. He recalled offering only the superintendent a pay raise. “He said, ‘what kind of a leader am I if my staff doesn’t get a raise’.”
Mr. Ramirez’ friends and colleagues repeatedly mentioned student success and teamwork as part his key objectives. Mrs. Andaverdi emphasized, “You all should expect big changes. He thinks outside the box and expects everyone to work together as a team to send out a motivational message. His creativity will positively impact your students, staff, and community as he did ours.”
Superintendent Ramirez and his wife, Graciela, are the parents of two boys; Josh, 16, and Santiago, 7, and have made their home in the Southside ISD.