Finalists Named for 2020 Superintendent of the Year (SOTY) Award

For release: August 31, 2020  
Contact: Joan Randall, 512.340.2983
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(Austin)—Five public school administrators from across Texas were selected as state finalists for the annual Superintendent of the Year (SOTY) award. Sponsored by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), the SOTY program has recognized exemplary superintendents for excellence and achievement in educational leadership since 1984.

The 2020 finalists are:

  • Jose Gonzalez, McAllen ISD, Region 1
  • Roland Hernandez, Corpus Christi ISD, Region 2
  • Michelle Barrow, Newton ISD, Region 5
  • Jamie Wilson, Denton ISD, Region 11
  • Becky McCutchen, Alpine ISD, Region 18

The state selection committee, which interviewed regional winners August 28-29, targeted such issues as advocacy, diversity and inclusion, the impact of the pandemic on education, and the board-superintendent relationship.  

Gonzalez has served as an administrator in McAllen ISD for 22 years and has been superintendent for the last four. The committee cited Gonzalez’s small-town approach to leading this district of around 21,000 students, with a focus on relationships among individuals and organizations. Putting relationships front and center, Gonzalez places a premium on emotional intelligence in district staff, includes the community in board goal setting, and nurtures close ties to other local government entities. Thanks to those partnerships, when the pandemic struck, McAllen ISD was able to lean on established connections with the city and county to keep the district running smoothly through the transition. Gonzalez earned his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University–Kingsville and his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Texas–Pan American.

Hernandez is entering his seventh year at the helm of Corpus Christi ISD, and he has 22 years of administrative experience. The committee noted the humility with which Hernandez leads, whether guiding this district of 36,000 students through a series of recent crises, turning around 18 schools in just four years, or acknowledging that it takes the whole community to make the district a success. They noted the value he places on input, actively listening to assess the diverse needs of Corpus Christi students and reaching out to parents during the pandemic. Hernandez is an active advocate for public education, serving as the 2020-21 president of the Texas School Alliance. Hernandez received his bachelor’s degree from Texas State University, his master’s degree from the University of Houston–Clear Lake, and his doctorate from The University of Texas at Austin.

Barrow has 17 years of administrative experience. She has been superintendent of Newton ISD for five years and serves approximately 1,000 students. The committee noted her resilience and her loyalty to this East Texas community. A graduate of Newton ISD, Barrow is committed to remaining in this small district and helping it continue to grow stronger. She takes a grow-your-own approach to teacher recruitment to get others to stick around as well. Whether providing diversity training to students and staff, free breakfast and lunch to all students in this 392-square-mile district, or adult classes to the community (planned for spring 2021), the committee said Barrow shows her heart for Newton’s students and the community. They also noted her efforts to build trust, considering it essential to district success. Barrow received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Wilson serves a diverse population of about 32,000 students. He has been in education administration for 19 years, serving as superintendent of Denton ISD for eight of those. The committee noted that Wilson leads this fast-growth district with a can-do attitude and a data-driven approach. Wilson places a priority on social and emotional learning and considers it an essential ingredient for academic success. They stated this focus on the whole student was evident during the pandemic, when the district worked first to meet the basic and emotional needs of students before addressing their learning needs. Wilson is an avid advocate for public education and ties district outcomes to legislative priorities. Wilson earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees from the University of North Texas.

McCutchen has led Alpine ISD for five years and has been in education administration for 12 years. She serves approximately 1,000 students in this 1,995-square-mile West Texas district. Of particular note to the committee was her empathy for the district’s students and her involvement in advocating for rural schools. The committee stated that McCutchen shows she values the many differences among students, including special needs students, a population with whom she has spent much of her education career. She uses her ability to relate to the students to make decisions that take all children into consideration and are guided by the belief that schools exist for the students. McCutchen earned her bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and her master’s degree from Sul Ross State University.

Candidates are chosen for their strong leadership skills, dedication to improving educational quality, ability to build effective employee relations, student performance, and commitment to public involvement in education. Superintendents from any of the state’s local school districts are eligible for nomination by their school boards. Local nominees are submitted to a regional selection committee, which chooses one nominee to send to the state selection committee.

Regional superintendents of the year nominated by regional selection committees are:

  • Marshall Scott III, Bay City ISD, Region 3
  • Danny Massey, Brazosport ISD, Region 4
  • Andrew Peters, Caldwell ISD, Region 6
  • Jerry Gibson, Marshall ISD, Region 7
  • Greg Bower, Como-Pickton CISD, Region 8
  • Todd Wilson, Chillicothe ISD, Region 9
  • Marc Smith, Duncanville ISD, Region 10
  • David Edison, Aquilla ISD, Region 12
  • Roger Dees, Giddings ISD, Region 13
  • Joe Young, Brownwood ISD, Region 15
  • Darryl Flusche, Canyon ISD, Region 16
  • Juan Cabrera, El Paso ISD, Region 19
  • Thomas Price Jr., Boerne ISD, Region 20

The 2020 Superintendent of the Year will be announced at the Texas Association of School Administrators | TASB Convention. The districts of the winning superintendent and state finalists will receive an award from Balfour, program underwriter.

TASB is a nonprofit association established in 1949 to serve local public school boards. School board members are the largest group of publicly elected officials in the state. The districts they represent serve more than 5.4 million students.