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PNGISD board extends Superintendent Gonzales’ contract; District recognized as one of state’s best

PORT NECHES — After a nearly hour-long evaluation, the Port Neches-Groves Independent School District board of trustees extended Superintendent Dr. Mike Gonzales’ contract by one year through Jan. 30, 2023.

Gonzales, who was on a rolling three-year contract, will be paid $176,500 annually.

“What I like about Dr. Gonzales is his leadership,” PNGISD board President Dr. Scott Bartlett said. “He takes control of our district. He puts the right administrators in the right positions through all of this, so he has a solid team behind them. But Mike is very diligent in making strong decisions for the district and leading by example.”

Gonzales’ success could be reflected in high rankings from online neighborhood and school data search firm Niche (niche.com). Nationally, PNGISD ranks in the top 5 percent among the best districts for athletes (524th of 10,817) and in the top 10 percent of districts with the best teachers (836th of 11,645) and places to teach (912th of 11,294). For the 23-district Beaumont area, PNGISD tops the lists of best places to teach, best school districts and best teachers; ranks second among best school districts for athletes and safest school districts; and is third among most diverse school districts.

Gonzales announced the rankings during the open session of this week’s board meeting at Port Neches-Groves High School. His evaluation took place in closed session immediately afterward.

“Our administrative staff does a great job working with the teachers on a daily basis,” he said.

The superintendent also praised district maintenance supervisor Jeff Bergeron for his work in keeping the facilities operational through hurricanes Laura and Delta, adding Bergeron “doesn’t pass the buck; he takes responsibility.”

Gonzales was hired as superintendent in December 2017 after serving as assistant superintendent in the district. But Bartlett doesn’t like to call that a “promotion.”

“We went through a complete job search, and he was hired as our superintendent,” Bartlett explained. “It was not a promotion from assistant. … I’ll step up and say he earned that spot. It wasn’t just a fill-in spot from assistant. He didn’t just level up because we lost our superintendent.”

Gonzales concurred.

“Superintendent jobs are not given. They’re earned, just like a head coach’s job isn’t given. It’s earned,” Gonzales said. “… We should interview for every position that comes up. If we want to pick the very best people, that’s the route to take, for sure.”

The 25-year education veteran has also worked in the Port Arthur and Beaumont ISDs.

Letter to TEA commissioner

Gonzales openly read a letter to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath asking for a waiver to STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) testing for this school year, given the challenges PNGISD had to face in the way of the recent hurricanes, the November 2019 TPC Group explosions and the coronavirus crisis. The reading drew a small applause from meeting attendees.

Gonzales said Gov. Greg Abbott, state Rep. Dade Phelan and state Sen. Brandon Creighton also received a copy of the letter.

“I sent them the letter because I wanted to make sure they understood the concerns of our community,” Gonzales said. “We have community members who are concerned about the loss of instructional time and how that could impact our students during the STAAR test. It’s not just the entire community. Our teaching staff is concerned about that. Our administration was concerned about that. We’ve been so busy just trying to get through COVID that we hadn’t had much time to focus, but we have heard some chatter on it, and although we’ve been busy working through this pandemic, I’ve also heard their concerns.”

Other district business

Gonzales expects construction of intermediate school campuses (grades 3 through 5) to begin in spring 2021, with primary schools (kindergarten through grade 2) to follow as early as September. Port Neches and Groves each will have a new intermediate campus and primary campus.

“Normally, they take about two years to complete,” Gonzales said.

PNGISD also approved the purchase of 130 teacher computers with VGA (video graphics array) adapters for the Taft, Van Buren, Woodcrest and Ridgewood elementary campuses. The cost totals $129,665.90.

Each of the seven PNGISD board members — Brandon Cropper, Eric Sullivan, Rusty Brittain, Lana Parker, Jake Lefort, Dustin Marsh and Bartlett — have completed continuing education credits before the PNGISD uniform election date (Nov. 3). The hours include training in student achievement, cyber security and child abuse.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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