Pace Early College High School Principal Rose Longoria must be hoping the second time’s a charm.

Amid a sense of deja vu Wednesday morning Longoria learned she is one of five finalists across Texas for high school principal of the year in this year’s H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards. It is the second year in a row that Longoria has been named a finalist.

As was the case last year Longoria was invited to an all-school assembly, this time to meet Sylvia Hatton, the district’s new interim superintendent

But it was all a ruse. The real reason for the “impromptu” pep rally was to present Longoria with a check for $1,000, another one to Pace for $2,500, and to invite her to Austin in May when the winner will be named. Winning would mean a cash bonanza of $35,000 — $10,000 for Longoria and $25,000 for Pace.

H-E-B representatives brought other gifts including balloons, flowers and cookies as students filled the Pace gym, the Pace Drumline kept the beat and Longoria led the students in cheers for their school. Often cheers of L-O-N-G-O-R-I-A filled the air. Longoria’s parents Rose Maria and Gerardo Duran were on hand for the celebration.

Naturally, Longoria has her sights set on winning the competition this time around.

“I’m just hoping to bring back the money,” she said. “You have to go through a very intense interview process. I’m going to be myself and tell my story, the Pace story. Pace is a great story. It comes naturally. As my mom says, if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Created in 2002, the H‑E‑B Excellence in Education Awards are designed to honor outstanding public school professionals and to thank them for their dedication and commitment. Through this program, H‑E‑B seeks to pay tribute to educators who go the extra mile each and every day to serve their students and their communities and who inspire others to do the same.

The Principal of the Year award is based on leadership and campus culture, instructional leadership and management, and communication and community relations.