Hidalgo Independent School District has a long and rich history. It is believed that the citizens of Hidalgo established the first school in 1852. Not long afterwards, the first permanent schoolhouse was built. This building is still in use and is the oldest standing educational facility in Hidalgo County. Outlying communities, such as, Junco, Capote, and Granjeno also established schools in the 1800’s, providing one room structures. These schools operated together as a common school district under the direction of the county. In 1925, the state legislature designated these local schools as one entity to what is now known as the Hidalgo Independent School District.
The 1925 legislative decree established the existing boundaries of Hidalgo ISD. The district includes thirty-six square miles of territory. It includes the original town site of Hidalgo, a portion of the more recently incorporated town site, most of Granjeno, portions of McAllen, Pharr, and extended rural areas. Most students in the district live in Hidalgo or Hidalgo Park, a sector of the Las Milpas area in south Pharr. A few students come from Granjeno or other rural neighborhoods and farms.
Hidalgo ISD grew slowly from 1925 to 1975. The population was relatively stable and consisted of families engaged in agriculture and to a lesser extent, commerce. Having outgrown the original two room school house, a larger facility had been added in the 1890’s to house elementary through high school grades. The older building has since been used to meet a variety of needs over the years. It was converted into a teacherage (dormitory for teachers), then used as a home for the Superintendent, served as the districts central office, and today serves as an Administration Annex. The newer two-story building was used for classes until the 1970’s. Today this historical school building serves as the district’s administrative headquarters and Board of Trustees meeting room.
After decades of proudly celebrating high school graduations, Hidalgo ISD found it increasingly difficult to bear the expense of operating a high school with the small number of students available. In the 1950’s, the district made arrangements to transport high school students to McAllen ISD for their studies. Meanwhile, continued growth resulted in the construction of a new campus for elementary and junior high students. This building housed Hidalgo Elementary from 1960 to 2007. As the enrollment continued to climb, the Board of Trustees decided that Hidalgo could once again afford to operate its own high school. Hidalgo High School was constructed and opened its doors in 1976, serving grades 7-12. In 1978, Hidalgo ISD celebrated graduation ceremonies again for the first time in two decades.
Hidalgo ISD continued to grow throughout the 1980’s, adding a separate junior high campus, for the first time ever (Ida Diaz Junior High), and a second elementary school (J.C. Kelly Elementary) to accommodate the growth in the Las Milpas area. In the 1990’s the district experienced a decade of minimal growth. In part this was the result of the opening of a high school by our neighbors, Valley View ISD. High School students from this district had attended Hidalgo High School from 1976 until the early 1990’s.
The 1990’s was a decade of facility expansion and enhancement. Using the proceeds from two bond issues (1991 and 1997), grants, and reserve funds, the district undertook more than $12 million in facility enhancements. Approximately forty permanent classrooms were added to the high school, including modern science and computer labs, fine arts classrooms, a spacious band hall, and a large gymnasium. A new wing was added to the junior high campus, including, science labs, a new band hall, and a new cafeteria. Hidalgo Elementary was renovated, and a new wing was added. A new library was added to J.C. Kelly Elementary. The district also added its third elementary, Dr. Alejo Salinas, Jr. Elementary, which opened its doors in the fall of 1999. As a result of this aggressive construction schedule, the district alleviated overcrowding and the extensive use of old portable buildings at the campuses. Improvements were made in support areas as well. The district constructed new buildings for the maintenance and transportation departments, and a new central kitchen.
The current decade has seen the student population begin to increase again at a slow, but steady pace. In 2002-03, student membership surpassed 3,000 for the first time ever. The emphasis on facilities enhancement has continued. In 1999, the voters authorized the third bond issuance in less than ten years. This provided $7.7 million for continued improvements. The Board of Trustees again added to this from other sources. As a result, older portions of the Hidalgo High School campus were completely remodeled. The district opened an alternative high school, Hidalgo Academy. Hidalgo ISD also built its fourth elementary school, Hidalgo Park Elementary, which opened in August 2004 and renovated J.C. Kelly Elementary. On July 12, 2003, Hidalgo ISD voters approved the sale of additional bonds in order to continue the improvements to the district’s educational facilities. As a result, approximately $18 million of additional construction and renovations were completed. Some of the improvements include a new High School Cafeteria, remodeling and expansion of the Ida Diaz Jr. High School facilities, completely new facilities for Hidalgo Elementary, additional classrooms at the High School, athletic facilities improvements, and various other improvements and additions throughout the district.
On July 16, 2007 the community of Hidalgo continued its efforts to improve facilities by approving the sale of $9.6 million of a $15 million bond issue. This has provided for conversion of former Hidalgo Elementary to a Theatre Arts Auditorium, Business offices, classrooms for Hidalgo Academy and a new Hidalgo Elementary Gym. Additional improvements include renovations to Football Field, expanded High School Gym, new Fieldhouse and Weight Room. On May 19, 2008, the remaining $5.4 million of the $15 million bond issue were approved for sale and will be used for planned educational facility projects that include two new Learning Resource Centers to upgrade existing libraries at Hidalgo Early College High School and Ida Diaz Jr. High, a new Career and Technology Wing at Hidalgo ECHS, and renovated Parental Involvement facilities. As the District continues to grow, the Board of Trustees, the community and the administration are committed to continually provide quality educational programs and quality facilities for our students and staff.
The improvement in facilities in Hidalgo ISD has been exceptional, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hidalgo ISD has established a Reputation for Excellence and represents one of the best education systems in the State of Texas. In 2001, the district became one of the few to have achieved the coveted Exemplary designation in the state’s rigorous accountability system. Even rarer was the fact that all campuses also achieved this level. Hidalgo ISD boasts student performance above state and area averages at all grade levels and has been ranked either Recognized or Exemplary by the state for nine consecutive years. Hidalgo ISD has also excelled in the realm of extracurricular activities, wining two state marching band championships, numerous district and post district crowns in athletics, and various literary competitions.
In 2005, HEB selected Hidalgo ISD as a finalist for its HEB Excellence in Education Award, ranking Hidalgo ISD as one of the best school districts in Texas. That same year, Hidalgo High School was named one of the best high schools in Texas by the Texas Educational Excellence Project for quality and equity in educating all students. The high school became nationally recognized that year, as well. At the elementary level, J.C. Kelly Elementary was honored with the TEBC/JFTK Honor roll for sustained whole-school academic excellence in Texas.
Challenging the assumption that minority students living in an environment of poverty cannot excel, Hidalgo ISD has caught the attention of many educators and experts at the state and national levels. In the spring of 2005, Hidalgo ISD and the University of Texas System received a grant totaling $1.2 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to transform Hidalgo High School into an Early College High School over the next four years. The goal is to have all of our students “college ready” and enrolled in college during their junior and senior years in high school. The senior class of 2010 was the first class to graduate from the Early College High School. The district received visits from school districts all over the state seeking to find our secret to success. In 2006, Hidalgo ISD was visited by eight different school districts and universities from the state and all over the nation, this in just a two-month period. The ingredients are simple, but rare. Our secret is that Hidalgo ISD boasts outstanding, dedicated teachers and staff working in a supportive, politically stable community, led by a visionary, committed Board of Trustees. Our students are eager and talented and their parents want only the best for them. All of these ingredients are combined in a Total Team Effort and create an Exemplary Educational System: One Student at a Time.
Hidalgo ISD has been praised for its excellence in providing a quality education for all students. Again during the Spring of 2006, Hidalgo ISD was not only ranked as one of the top five finalists for the HEB Excellence in Education Award for the second consecutive year, but was also awarded the best school district in Texas for 2006, and received a cash prize of $100,000. If that was not enough, Hidalgo High School was named among the three highest performing high schools in Texas based on a national study done by Just for the Kids and sponsored by the National Center for Education
Accountability (NCEA). Also this year, Hidalgo ISD received recognition from Teach the Children, a national non-profit organization, during their 23rd Annual Teach the Children Telethon KRGV-TV Channel 5 for the school district’s work in motivating and teaching the students. The Hidalgo ISD 2006-2007 Board of Trustees won the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) School Board Award for Region One and was named as one of the top five honor boards in the state.
The 2007-2008 academic year brought more accomplishments to our district. Hidalgo Early College High School garnered a Gold Medal Award through the US News and World Report America’s Best High Schools rating it as one of the top 100 high schools in the nation in terms of college readiness for all students. Specifically, Hidalgo ECHS was rated as #11 in the nation of over 18,000 high schools rated and was also rated as #1 in the State of Texas. Our Hidalgo ISD Board of Trustees also gained national recognition by receiving Honorable Mention through the American School Board Journal’s Magna Award for outstanding school boards.
The 2008-2009 academic year has brought even greater accomplishments to our district. Hidalgo Early College High School again was named in the US News and World Report America’s Best High Schools and was also one of only three high schools in the nation to be awarded the 2009 College Board Inspiration Award. Our UIL program also had a banner year with Boy’s Soccer Team wining the state title, Girl’s Basketball making history by reaching the final four in state, One-Act play reaching state level competition, Current Issues and Events winning state, Pirate Band receiving a fourth place finish at Bands of America, and our Robotics Team placing second in their first year of competition. Our Hidalgo ISD Board of Trustees again gained national recognition by wining the American School Board Journal’s Magna Award for outstanding school boards in the under 5000 student category.
The 2009-2010 school year marked the first cohort graduating from Hidalgo Early College High School through our partnership with the University of Texas–Pan American and the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation. Together, over 3,800 college hours had been earned by the class of 2010 throughout their four years of high school. The high school once again was named as one of the top 100 high schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. The extra curricular programs continue to provide outstanding opportunities for our students. Our academic UIL participation resulted in a back to back State Championship, individually and team competition. Team sports and Fine Arts continue to provide a venue to develop the outstanding talent of our students.
The 2010-2011 school year brought great accomplishment. The Hidalgo Early College High School graduating Class of 2011 accomplished over 5184 college hours. Once again Hidalgo Early college High School was nationally ranked by the Washington Post Newspaper for their challenge index. The challenge index ranking, which grades college preparation for more than 1900 campuses, ranked our high school nationally at 297 and 39 in the state. In addition, south Texas College became an official Early College High School Program partner. The HECHS also had their first Texas State Technical College Tex Prep Cohort #IV complete, the UTSA Pre-Engineering Program, and the 2011 robotics Team was awarded the FTC Inspire Award.
The 2011-2012 school year continued to be a successful year for the students of Hidalgo ISD. The Hidalgo Early College High School Class of 2012 earned over 5,200 college credit hours. Sports participation also continued to help our students stay productive and focused on academics while also earning their sportsmanship. Power lifting competitor Luis Munoz beat the state record in squats. The Hidalgo Indoor Percussion Ensemble earned the State Championship Title at the Texas Educational Color Guard Association Competition.
In the 2012 – 2013 school year, 32 Hidalgo Early College High School Seniors graduated with an Associates Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from South Texas College; a first in Hidalgo ISD history. The Graduating Class of 2013 at HECHS also earned over 5,600 College Credit Hours. In addition to the academic achievements, the Ida Diaz Jr. High School Winter Colorguard won the State Championship title and the Hidalgo Pirates Baseball Team earned the Area Championship Title.
Success for HISD has continued throughout the school year. The District and the campuses continue to meet the standards of the Texas State Accountability System. At HECHS, an increasing amount of graduating seniors earned more college credit hours and graduated with an Associates Degree from South Texas College. The Hidalgo Early College High School Marching Band was selected twice by the Grammy Foundation as a Grammy Signature School; this honor went to only nine other high schools nationwide! The Diaz Jr. High Indoor Color Guard also won the TECA State Championship! In addition to outstanding performance by the Fine Arts Department, the HECHS Pirate CoEd Cheer Team won the UIL State Championship and was selected as the recipients of the UCA American School Spirit Award and the HECHS Power lifting Teams took first and second place at the State Power lifting Competition.
It has truly been an Upward Journey and as we move forward focusing on College and Career Readiness it can only get better. The rich history and success of Hidalgo ISD continues to be written by you, your peers, and the students you serve. As a result of your hard work and dedication, Hidalgo ISD will continue to be the Treasure on the Border.