Administrator enacts new learning environment

One of the main objectives of Art Cavazos as new superintendent of the Harlingen school district is continuing to engage students in relevant learning.

That means the continued implementation of digital classrooms, dual language academies and project-based learning, among many other activities.

“It also has to do with where kids are in a classroom where the environment is more of a learning platform, where everyone is learning together rather than just the recipients of knowledge,” Cavazos said. “They are engaged in the learning.”

Engagement of students in learning refers to their becoming active problem solvers and creative thinkers through project-based learning.

The focus has moved from lecture-based learning toward getting students to be the facilitators in their own learning, all of which are components of project-based learning, or PBL.

The school board Wednesday night voted unanimously in favor of hiring Cavazos as the new superintendent of schools. He replaces Steve Flores who served in that position for five years. Cavazos, a San Benito native, has worked in the field of education since 1987 and has served the Harlingen school district for 13 years. Before he became the interim superintendent, he was the district’s deputy superintendent for transformation and school support since 2009.

His appointment as superintendent makes him the third member of his family to attain that position. His brother Marcelo is superintendent of the Arlington Independent School District. Another brother, Salvador, is superintendent of schools at Goose Creek near Houston.

Art Cavazos attributed their success to a strong upbringing by their parents.

“I want to take a moment to describe part of my journey that began in the fields of South Texas,” said Cavazos, the married father of two sons who attend school in Harlingen.

“My parents did not have a formal education but believed that education was the way out of poverty and the hope for the next generation,” he said.

“With many sacrifices both emotionally and financially, my parents made certain we valued education and attained the highest degree possible. To that end, the youngest three received a doctorate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.”

He said that, with his appointment as Harlingen’s superintendent, he and his two brothers are collectively serving more than 100,000 students in Texas. In Harlingen, he will be serving 18,506 students in 28 schools.

Cavazos referred to a “transformational journey” that is in motion and the district’s strategic planning process that will provide the framework needed to ensure every student in the district will be college and career ready when they graduate.

A previous story in the Star has said he has been instrumental in leading the district’s current transformation.

That transformation includes the digital classroom initiative, implementation of dual language academies, and project-based learning. He has also been instrumental in transforming the libraries into information literacy centers and implemented the campus Internet cafes.

Travis M. Whitehead