HARLINGEN — “Woo-Hoo!” “Awesome!”
“What? What’s going on?” Principal Irma Davis wondered.
Dishman Elementary students crowded the cafeteria with signs of reverie and congratulations Wednesday morning. The Harlingen High School Marching Band played in the back and then Linda Tovar from H-E-B came dancing in with a big check for Davis.
“Today is a perfect day for your school,” said Tovar, senior manager of public affairs for H-E-B. She and other company representative had come to recognize Davis as a finalist in H-E-B’s Excellence in Education program.
“You have one of the most amazing, intelligent and beautiful principals,” Tovar said. “What do you think?”
“Yes!” cried the children all dressed in blue “Dishman Elementary” shirts.
“Let me tell you something,” Tovar said. “H-E-B recognizes that, too, and we are here to tell you she is one of only five finalists in the H-E-B Excellence in Education.”
She turned to Davis, who wiped tears from her eyes, and said, “I’m here to present you a check of $1,000 for you. For all the work going on in the school there’s also a grant of $2,500 for your school.”
Children, faculty, staff, school board members and even Davis’s family all cheered. Children held signs with such messages as “Congrats Ms. Davis!” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Faculty and staff also bore signs that read “Thank you for guiding us in the right direction,” and “Be a unicorn in a field of horses.” The H-E-B mascot, dressed as a bag of groceries, smiled and waved at everyone.
Finalists will be invited to Austin in May when the winner will be named. Winning would mean a cash bonanza of $35,000 — $10,000 for the person and $25,000 for the school.
No one at Dishman, including Davis, knew what was coming until Tovar presented their star principal with a check. She appeared surprised, touched, and a bit overwhelmed, but she was by no means speechless about the work taking place at Dishman.
“This is another honor for Dishman,” she said. “Remember the work we do here at Dishman as a team. I have said it before. We are one of the top schools in HCISD. We are the only school in the district to win the Blue Ribbon Award. This is an honor for the teachers and staff and my beautiful children.”
Dishman had some areas that needed improvement eight years ago when Davis became its principal, and she immediately began addressing those.
“We faced those challenges and we devised strategic plans of action, we executed them and that’s every member of the team,” she said. “This is not certain grades, it’s everybody.”
Dishman’s success also makes a statement about the capacity of students in low income areas.
“The children are outstanding,” she said. “They’re so driven and goal-oriented, and they want to do the best that they can. They are showing something about that research that tells us low economic areas don’t succeed. We’re living proof that they can. We have done it, and we will continue to do it.”
This latest recognition “solidifies” the work being done at Dishman, Superintendent Art Cavazos said.
“We are super proud of all their accomplishments and it recognizes the importance of great leadership,” he said.
Accomlishments at Dishman since Irma Davis arrived
• Was one of six Harlingen schools last year named to the 2017-2018 Educational Results Partnership Honor Roll for high achievement and student success. Bowie Elementary, Early College High School, Harlingen School of Health Professions, Lee Means Elementary School and Zavala Elementary School also made the list.
• Dishman was one of 24 schools in Texas recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School for 2018. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
• Dishman last year earned all six possible distinctions for the elementary level on the state’s accountability ratings. Bowie, Lee Means, and Travis Elementary also earned those six distinctions.
What is the H-E-B Excellence in Education Award?
“The awards program was started to recognize educators. There was a lot of media around educators leaving the profession, so our CEO and chairman Charles Butt wanted a program in place that recognizes them and lets them know we appreciate what they do and also award them with a monetary gift. As the program grew we added principals, school districts, early childhood, and school boards. We’re in our 18th year.”
Jill Reynolds, public affairs manager for H-E-B
How did she do it?
“We committed ourselves that Dishman would get to number one. We also committed ourselves to putting Dishman on the map. Dishman has been prescriptive and strategic to meet student needs and to ensure their academic success. We teach our children. We teach and instruct children to their needs.”
Principal Irma Davis