Montenegro makes El Paso a role model

The school system in this country is facing a major challenge–more and more students entering Kindergarten don’t know English. And more than that, children coming from impoverished homes are fundamentally years behind an average student.

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Hector Montenegro rose to the challenge and was featured in the February 2008 issue of Texas Monthly as one of “35 people who will shape our future”. He was recognized as the League of United Latin American Citizens 2005 Educator of the Year. In 2003 he became superintendent of the least affluent of El Paso’s three ISDs, Yselta Independent School District (YISD) where 91% of students are Hispanic and schools face chronic problems with test scores and dropouts.

However, between 2005 and 2006 YISD saw a rise in TAKS test scores from 9 to 23.

How did he do it? He strengthened bilingual, dual language and ESL programs. The traditional school of thought is to transition children into English as soon as possible, but that’s not the approach he took.

The program builds on the strengths of all children. It’s not a deficit model; it’s an enrichment model that not only teaches survival English, but also academic language and socialization skills. It eliminates the stigma of social segregation that other programs create…We all need to have a sense of urgency in preparing this generation of children to become responsible leaders in a very diverse and inclusive future.

Montenegro is now the superintendent of the Arlington ISD. Get involved now by mentoring youth in your area, volunteering in schools or supporting local non-profit organizations such as College Forward in Austin, TX, one of Mercury Mambo’s community partners.