Gutierrez reflects on 10 years heading Edinburg school district

EDINBURG — Rene Gutierrez says he’s taking with him a decade of valuable experience as head of the Edinburg school district to Brownsville, where he will take the top spot at the district this summer.

Gutierrez resigned as superintendent of the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District after the Brownsville ISD confirmed his contract Thursday. Edinburg school board members approved Gutierrez’s resignation Friday.

Gutierrez grew up in McAllen after immigrating from Mexico as a child and wanted to stay in the Valley in a leadership position, he said.

“My background is very similar to the kids down here, and through that experience that I had growing up in the Valley, I can identify with their needs,” Gutierrez said.

Edinburg and Brownsville have similar demographic profiles. Edinburg CISD has over 30,000 students enrolled across 43 schools. Brownsville ISD has over 40,000 students across 58 campuses and is the largest district in Cameron County.

Edinburg school board President Robert Peña has served 11 years as a trustee and worked with Gutiérrez during the entirety of his superintendency, Peña said in a recent interview.

“It’s known in the industry that the average life expectancy of a superintendent is anywhere from three to five years, and certainly he’s served well beyond that time,” Peña said.

With his resignation nearing his 10th anniversary as superintendent, Gutierrez reflected on his tenure with the district.

“I never thought about it as years, I just thought about it as, what’s next, what else can we do better for kids, what can we improve for our staff, what can we do to make our district better. It was always work, and work that I kept thinking about and how we could improve… and before I knew it, it was 10 years,” Gutierrez said.

Working with the state budget and covering the goals and expectations of the district were some of the challenges he faced as an administrator, he said.

Increasing the graduation rate and adding new schools are among the accomplishments of his tenure, he added. With over 30 years as an educator, the profession has shifted in instructing students, he said.

“We have to grow with the kids. We have to grow and be able to figure out and be able to be prepared for each generation of students on how they are learning,” he said.

“When graduation day comes around, it’s one of my proudest moments because we’ve done our job, we have completed the journey with our kids and we prepared them for the world,” Gutierrez said.

As he takes the helm in Brownsville, Gutierrez said he will evaluate programs in the district and see where improvements can be made. Collaboration with the school board is important to his role, he said.

“Now that I have 10 years of experience versus when I started, it is about being a little more patient and being able to (make) sure everyone’s ideas and thoughts are valued,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez, who received his education in the McAllen school system, worked his way from the classroom to the top spot.

He obtained an associate degree in applied science and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas Southmost College in Brownsville.

Gutiérrez also obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees in education and educational leadership, respectively, from the University of Texas Pan-American (now UTRGV) in Edinburg.

Moving up from teaching in a classroom setting and being in administration let him impact the whole school system, he said.

“We are empowered by being able to make a difference in an entire school system, working with the school board, working with the community and the entire staff to impact the lives of children from pre-K to 12th (grade),” Gutierrez said.

Board members thanked the former superintendent for his leadership and service to the community as they approved resignation on Friday. With Gutierrez’s departure, former Superintendent Gilbert Garza will serve in an interim capacity as the school board searches to permanently fill the position.

“I feel that a lot of programs are already in place and Edinburg will continue to excel and continue to provide many opportunities for the students in this district for many years to come,” Gutierrez said.

jhoang@themonitor.com