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Last month, TEA (Texas Education Agency) released its scores of Texas’s public schools, and lo and behold, Vanguard Academy Public Charter Schools was rated number one in the south Texas region (Region 1) with an A+ rating of 97 (100 is max). Why is that a big deal for Vanguard? Consider, Region One (Education Service Center) is part of a statewide system, one of 20, which encompasses Cameron, Hidalgo, Webb and Willacy counties. All told, Region One includes 37 school districts and 10 charter school systems from Brownsville to Laredo. To say that Vanguard’s superintendent, Narciso Garcia, is excited over the news would be an understatement. A Valley native (Edcouch-Elsa), he has been the charter school’s chief administrator since the summer of 2017. Garcia has a doctorate in education and has served previously as a deputy superintendent at PSJA ISD and as superintendent at La Villa ISD. “When we discovered that Vanguard Academy was number one in the region; number one in Hidalgo County; and then tied for number one with South Texas ISD from Cameron County, we were very excited because our teachers and our staff put in a lot hard work this last school year, which obviously benefits the students,” said Garcia. The Early Days For those of us who have been around long enough to watch the continued unfolding of history within the PSJA community in particular, and Hidalgo County in general, the rise and growth of Vanguard Academy Public Charter Schools has been a relatively amazing transformation to watch pass by the way. Slow and steady would be a good way to describe Vanguard’s growth process, considering it all began inside the Sunday School classrooms at Templo Bethel Church in 2001, six years after the Texas State Legislature approved the state’s charter school law in 1995. Pharr businessman Marty Moore was on Vanguard’s founding board and remained there for 17 years. “When the church’s pastor, Joe Perez, asked me if I wanted to be on the board, I had no idea what I was getting into,” he said. Moore stepped down from the board last summer (2018). “Lots of good memories,” he said. Not too long after Vanguard started enrolling students, however, TEA officials handed down an edict (to paraphrase): “Either decide you’re going to be a private school that is part of a church, or separate and become a stand-alone charter school as the state law intended. You’re not supposed to be ...

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