BY ROBERT MORALES
CCAISD trustees officially named Dalia Benavides as the next superintendent on Monday night. After a short closed session, Board President Paul Uranga asked Ms. Benavides to have a seat with the rest of the board.
Prior to her stint as superintendent, Ms. Benavides was a principal at Lamesa ISD. This will be her first job as superintendent. [See Ms. Benavidesâ€™ profile in the inset for more personal information.]
Trustees began their meeting by recognizing Angelica Garcia as Teacher of the Year and Betty Velez as Employee of the Year. Valedictorian Darden Morriss was honored for her accomplishments in UIL Academic Poetry and Prose, and finally, Luis Garcia recognized the boys and girls track team. Coach Garcia noted that Karina Ramirez, over her high school track career, had garnered a total of 96 medals, including first, second and third places, and 76 gold medals. Karina was salutatorian for the class of 2015.
Principal Kittie Gibson and Assistant Principal Dolores Upchurch gave a presentation regarding this yearâ€™s STAAR tests, the state-mandated standardized exam. Ms. Gibsonâ€™s students included 5th grade reading, 5th grade science, 6th grade reading, 7th grade reading, 7th grade writing, 8th grade reading, 8th grade social studies and 8th grade science. It also included End of Course (EOC) exams in algebra I, English I and II, biology and U.S. history.
This yearâ€™s scores were compared with last yearâ€™s scores using two averages, a Region 18 average and a state average. In most instances, these students surpassed the regional average, but not the state average. For example in the 6th grade reading, students did not attain either the Region 18 average or the state average, meanwhile, the 7th grade reading students surpassed the Region 18 average.
Ms. Upchurchâ€™s students included 3rd grade reading, 3rd grade math, 4th grade reading, 4th grade math and 4th grade writing. The scores for these students surpassed both the Region 18 average and the state average.
New CCAISD superintendent Dalia Benavides was born in Odessa, and she attended Odessa High School. She earned a bachelor and a masters in Counseling from Sul Ross State University. She also earned a masters in administration from Sul Ross. She received her superintendent certification from University of Texas at the Permian Basin (UTPB).
Prior to being hired in Van Horn, Ms. Benavides was principal at North Elementary in Lamesa. Previously, she served in various capacities in Big Spring, including two years as elementary principal, two years as junior high principal and one year in curriculum.
Ms. Benavides spent 16 years at Midland ISD where she served nine years as an elementary principal. She also taught high school English, and she coached the junior varsity girls basketball team.
She added that many of the students she sees in Van Horn remind her of her childhood days. She said that she grew up with a single mother who worked long hours. “My mother instilled in us that education would be our way out. If at any point I feel that Iâ€™ve lost sight of the kids, then I know itâ€™s time for me to go. If Iâ€™m not making an impact or making decisions that are good for kids, then I donâ€™t need to do this any more.â€
Having just arrived in Van Horn, Ms. Benavides has hardly had time to settle down in her environment. She said that before putting together a list of objectives and goals, she plans to talk with as many people both in the school system and in the community and get feedback from them about their expectations for our educational system in Van Horn.
“I also plan to listen. I must pay close attention to what those expectations are. Until I feel comfortable that I have enough information and I have a good perspective, itâ€™s really going to be a sit and listen discussion. Once I feel I have enough information, then Iâ€™ll begin to set some prioritiesâ€
Ms. Benavides also plans on meeting with all staff and employees at CCAISD to get to know all of them personally.
“I really do believe that relationships are very, very important,â€ she said. “Iâ€™m not sure I can explain how you create that family atmosphere and you gain peopleâ€™s trust, but I know that Iâ€™ve done it at other places where Iâ€™ve been. We must have these relationships with people so that we can trust each other, not to mention the professionalism between people is important, and thatâ€™s the first place Iâ€™d like to start.â€
In closing, she added that she was very happy and excited to be here. “Iâ€™m going to work very hard.â€