Tradition of excellence: Sabine Pass named 2018 Academic State Champion

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, May 9, 2018

By Lorenzo Salinas


Sabine Pass Independent School District is continuing a strong tradition of excelling when it comes to academics. Just check the latest University Interscholastic League results for incontrovertible proof.

Sabine Pass High School students competed in the 2018 UIL Academic State Meet last week. It is the same Conference 2A state meet where the school had been named academic state champions five years in a row and earned second place overall last year.

This year, Sabine Pass earned 242 points to become the 2018 UIL Academic State Champion. The next school to come closest had earned 163 points.

“We did really well and won more awards than we ever had. This year we ended up setting a new school record,” Andy Bates, high school principal and UIL academic coordinator, said. “Last year we earned around 155 total points; this year we scored over 240 points.”


First in accounting

Among the more than a dozen placements in individual categories, Sabine Pass students placed first in accounting, second in current issues and computer science and second and third in literary criticism.

Students dominated social studies, where they took second through fourth places, and current issues, where they also took fourth through sixth places.

“We ended up taking 24 students to state overall,” Bates said. “Several qualified for multiple events, some as individuals and some as team members.

“We were able to take five different team titles, which is the most we’ve ever done.”

Those team titles consisted of accounting, social studies, spelling and vocabulary, current issues and literary criticism.

Bates credited the school’s preparatory work toward helping students perform so well.

“It’s a year by year thing, something we start in the summer,” he said. “We do UIL boot camp to get the kids going before the school year actually starts; and, for some events, we have to start every year.”

Bates cited subjects like current issues and social studies that, by their nature, change regularly and thus the students must be kept well-informed on the newest facts.

“You can’t use a ton of knowledge from years before…” Bates said. “You could be really good one year, but everything could be different the next year.”

In addition, Sabine Pass students practice on the local level to get ready for the larger stages.

“We go to practice tournaments; we hone our skills there. We actually won all the local tournaments this year,” Bates said. “Even though we’re a 2A school going against 1A through 6A schools. It gives a judgment of where we are.”

Bates attributed those competitions with prepping students for real-life factors in competition like pressure and timing.


District culture

Overall, the school’s multiple wins and high placements seem to reflect the culture of Sabine Pass ISD.

“It’s a combination of things that it symbolizes,” Bates said. “The dedication of the students — and certainly of their teachers and coaches — and also, I think, of the administration and the school board.

“You can’t really have this continued success unless the whole community and school board is supporting you 100 percent of the way.”

Superintendent Kristi Heid would appear to agree, referring to the school’s success as a community effort.

“It takes a whole village,” Heid said. “And everybody celebrates because everybody has a part in it.”

Bates pointed to the time, finance and efforts of the school as a whole — teachers, coaches, administration — for allowing the students to maximize their potential.


Systemwide effort

Heid thanked everyone from the teachers to the staff to the bus drivers — and to especially the students — for the school’s success.

“We’re just really proud of them,” Heid said. “This contest they went in hoping to be where they needed to be to win… and not only did they do well, but the closest school to them was 80 points away. They did such a wonderful job.”

Nevertheless, there’s always next year to get ready for, and Bates said he was aware of the demands.

“We have an amazing group of seniors — maybe one of our best ever — that’s going to be tough to replace,” Bates said. “But that’s the challenge every year, to find that next group of students to step up. We’ve been lucky to have that.”

Bates made special mention of two individual state champions in the accounting category: Adrian Espinoza and Lisseth Aguilar. The two seniors tied for first place in state overall.

“People will call us or email us from around the state,” Bates said. “And they want to know how we do it and how they can replicate it.

“The secret is a lot of hard work and dedication. It comes to wanting it and going out and doing it. It’s time and effort.”