Noyola named superintendent of Harlingen schools

Alicia Noyola

HARLINGEN — When Alicia Noyola walked into the Harlingen school district administration building Tuesday, she was pleasantly surprised to find her portrait already on the wall.

“They didn’t waste any time,” said Noyola with a refreshing mix of pride and humility.

Noyola is the Harlingen school district’s new superintendent.

The Harlingen school board voted Monday in favor of Noyola filling the position being vacated by Art Cavazos, who submitted his resignation in November.

“For the past eight years as a senior team member, Dr. Noyola has been instrumental in HCISD’s transformation,” said School Board President Eladio Jaimez.

“The board is proud to name her as our new superintendent of schools and knows she will continue the tradition of excellence we’ve come to expect from our district leaders,” Jaimez said.

Noyola previously served as the district’s chief academic officer for eight years during a time of tremendous change, which included the development of the Strategic Plan.

During her tenure, the district created numerous “academies” such as the STEM and Fine Arts academies.

Several elementary schools became dual language campuses and two even achieved International Baccalaureate status.

When Cavazos resigned, the district posted the position, and she quickly applied.

“I really felt that at this point in time in the history of HCISD that I was the person to continue that trajectory,” Noyola said. “I know the history of our district; I know the plans that we have in place. More importantly, I know the vision. I think we’ve done some phenomenal things for our students and for our Harlingen community and I want that to continue.”

The board apparently agreed and named her the lone finalist for the position in December.

In compliance with state mandate, the district waited the required 21 days before officially hiring Noyola.

To ensure a smooth transition, Cavazos will serve as superintendent emeritus until next summer.

Noyola spoke with passion about the work taking place in the district.

“One of the things over the last eight years that I really think Harlingen has been known for is innovation and providing multiple opportunities for all students,” she said. “So for example, we went from three academies to 12. We’re in the process of opening up our Transition Academy. We have our IB schools; we have all that we have done in Career and Technology Education.”

The Transition Academy will serve life skills students.

Austin and Sam Houston elementary schools just became IB schools after a lengthy process. Noyola is now ready to move to the next step: bringing those same IB experiences to the middle school level.

“When we have brought programming into our elementary schools or even our middle schools, the question that will ultimately be asked is, ‘What happens next once the student leaves that campus?’” she said. “‘What is available for the continuation of that?’”

Noyola said a good continuation of that would be an International Baccalaureate experience at Vernon Middle School. Those students are already learning Spanish, French, Sign Language and Chinese at the World Languages Academy.

“We have already begun the work of preparing Vernon World Languages Academy to be our middle school IB program,” she said. “That’s going to take us a little bit of time, but we hope that through that work we will have a seamless transition for our students that are leaving our IB campuses. If they make the choice to pursue IB learning then there will be a school waiting for them to do that.”

Prior to becoming the district’s chief academic officer, she spent another eight years as principal of Vela Middle School. She also served as a teacher and as the director of student teaching.

Noyola received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas-Pan American, her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas-Brownsville, and her doctorate from The University of Houston.

twhitehead@valleystar.com