An exciting new partnership is underway between the Texas Education Agency and four South Texas school districts. Brooks County ISD, Freer ISD, Premont ISD and San Diego ISD are part of the first Innovation Zone program to increase student achievement and boost our South Texas region. Under this model, each campus will offer a specialized track that students can choose from. Ben Bolt ISD and Benavides ISD are also preparing to join this group in the coming years.

Premont will offer a STEM Center, Freer will have Health Sciences, Brooks County will have Career and Technical Education, and San Diego ISD will have Industrial Trades. Each school district is partnering with a local university or community college as part of the program. A benefit to this kind of partnership is that credits taken in high school will also count toward higher education dual credit.

These educational opportunities are set up to mirror what many students in urban and suburban school districts already have the opportunity to take advantage of. By creating this group, we in South Texas are creating a model that other rural school districts around the state can follow. Much like the longstanding partnership between Premont ISD and Texas A&M-Kingsville, other school districts are looking to us for leadership in creative ways of delivering high-quality public education.

Like many in these school districts, I am excited about the opportunity that this new partnership.