Edinburg CISD Superintendent Rene Gutierrez

Edinburg CISD begins open enrollment

Armed security at every campus

EDINBURG – Edinburg CISD is offering opening enrollment this year, which is a “first” for the school
district, according to School Superintendent Dr. René Gutiérrez.

“We have been kind of like phasing it in, in different stages of an open enrollment over the last two or
three years,” Gutiérrez said, “because our school district has seen a decline in our enrollment in recent
years. Like many surrounding school districts, our enrollments are on a decline, and so little by little
we've been opening up our enrollment policy to other families that want to come to Edinburg.”

Edinburg CISD employees have been allowed to bring their children into the district, regardless of where
they live, said Gutiérrez. That policy later expanded to include people who own a business within the
boundaries of the school district. “They pay taxes, too,” said the superintendent.

“Now the board of trustees has decided to add this other component to say, ‘Well, we're going to have an
open enrollment because we see the decline, and we want to be able to be competitive, simply because the
surrounding districts already have this (open-enrollment) policy in place, and we didn't, so we could be
losing kids to (neighboring districts) as well.’ We also want to compete with charter schools, of course, so
that we can keep our students at Edinburg (CISD), and perhaps even have kids from the surrounding areas
come into Edinburg CISD.”

Parents typically want the best education possible for their children. With that in mind, what does
Edinburg CISD have to offer? It’s a question that never used to be asked. Students went to the district in
which their parents lived. Today, however, with neighboring districts offering open enrollment,
competition from public charter schools and private schools, that question has become more pointed.

“Well, we feel that Edinburg CISD has a very strong academic program as a school district, Gutiérrez
said. “We're the largest (public school district) in Hidalgo county in terms of student enrollment, and the
number of students that we have is (approximately) 34,000. We've excelled in, for example, the
elementary grades for the last two years that I know of for sure, and perhaps even a third year. In other
words, as a district, Edinburg has exceeded the region and the state in the state assessments.”

Plus, said Gutiérrez, Edinburg CISD has four National Blue Ribbon Schools, and two other schools that
have already been nominated for this coming year.

“So, we have a total of six National Blue Ribbon Schools in our district; four that are already recognized;
and two that are nominated for this coming year.”

According to the Edinburg superintendent, a large part of that success has to do with the district’s own in-
house curriculum, so to speak.

“Nine years ago, we decided to create our own curriculum written by teachers, for teachers. And we've
invested over half a million dollars each year to write our curriculum. We get the top-notch teachers who
we have throughout the district to write the curriculum by grade level and by subject area, and we have it
online. We also provide our printout, a printed copy of our curriculum, to all of our teachers. So all of our
teachers have the curriculum online through the I-Curriculum program, as well as hard copies in hand.
The curriculum has specifically every lesson on a daily or weekly basis.”

Staff development has also proven a key to Edinburg’s success, said Gutiérrez.

“We invest a lot on staff development as a district, as well as supplies and materials for the teachers. We
spend very heavily on those three areas: developing the curriculum on a yearly basis, staff development
for all our teachers, and all the materials and resources that the teachers need that come out of the
curriculum that we write. So, the investment is there on curriculum and instruction, and that's our
priority,” Gutiérrez said.

Today, it’s a shuffling act between academics and sports and other extra-curricular activities, said the
superintendent. How to balance them becomes the question.

“We believe in the well-rounded student in fine arts or athletics, but always the main the focus is on
academics. We want to emphasize that our student athletes, specifically at the secondary level from
middle school to high school, are offered college and career readiness, along with the emphasis on fine
arts and athletics. So, we have done extremely well academically, but I'm also proud to say that our teams
and our kids have represented us very well in the fine arts program and the Edinburg athletics program.

As a district, we're very proud to have very well-rounded kids by the time they graduate from high
school.”

School Safety a Priority
These days, sad to say, is there any parent who isn’t concerned about school safety? Not according to
Gutiérrez.

“It's a big priority, and it's a discussion going on throughout the state with the recent events (school
shootings) that we've seen around the state as well as out of the state. We are very fortunate that here in
Edinburg our school board has invested a lot on safety. A couple of examples that I can give is that we
have an armed police officer at every single campus.”

Not all Valley school districts are alike in that regard. Some school districts post armed security at some
campuses, but not others. One neighboring school district, for whatever reason, has armed security
(licensed peace officers) at its high schools and middle schools while leaving their elementary schools
unguarded. Trouble is, that news has already been made public.

All Edinburg CISD elementary schools, all middle schools, and all high schools have an armed officer on
campus, said Gutiérrez.

“I don't know if there is any other district in the Valley that has an armed officer in every school like we
do. Also, all the entrances have been remodeled so that secured entrances are located at every school. We
have old schools and new schools, and so what we've done, we have remodeled all the entrances to have
secured entrances in place.”

Camera surveillance is also a factor, said Gutiérrez, as is a special weapons tactical team that can respond to
immediate threats.

“The district has invested in surveillance cameras,” he said, “to help pinpoint problems before they
become bigger. And then we have a SWAT team within our police force in the event that we need an
emergency unit to safeguard our schools; we already have officers trained to act quickly in the event of
any armed threat.”

Gutiérrez said that it’s not only a case of keeping students and staff safe, but making parents feel more secure
knowing that Edinburg CISD isn’t taking lightly the issue of school safety.

“I believe that having an armed officer in all our schools, including our elementary schools, may attract
some parents to bring their kids to Edinburg simply because we have the safety measures already in place:
armed officers, secured entrances, and surveillance cameras in place. The safety and security of their kids
is what parents want in addition to a well-rounded quality education. They want a quality education, and
we've been working on that, but they also want their kids to be safe and secured when they come to
school.”

Last, but not least, as he begins to kick off another school year, Gutiérrez said that he, his staff, and the
board of trustees are very proud of Edinburg CISD.

“We're very proud of our kids and our teachers, and we have the proven record of academic success from
the elementary to the middle-and-high school levels, along with the extracurricular activities in which our
students and staff have excelled, not only here in the Valley, but at both the state and national levels. We
are indeed proud of our academics. We're proud of our fine arts program, and very proud of our athletic
program as well. So we invite parents from the surrounding areas to consider Edinburg CISD as the
school district of choice (as this new school year slowly begins to take root).”

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