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Men From Another Galaxy- Part I- “I Love My Profession Because I Serve Others and Make a Difference in Their Lives” -Daniel P. King

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Dr. Daniel P. King; Superintendent for the Pharr San Juan Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) in the Rio Grande Valley. Photo by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
Dr. Daniel P. King; Superintendent for the Pharr San Juan Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) in the Rio Grande Valley. Photo by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez

By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez

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This Part I of “Men From Another Galaxy” Exclusively written by Publisher Roberto Hugo Gonzalez.

Many of you have read articles about Dr. Daniel P. King; he is the Superintendent for the Pharr San Juan Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) in the Rio Grande Valley. The majority of the residents of the Valley consider him to be a great man; Texas Border Business agrees however also believes that Dr. King is a man that came from another galaxy more superior and advanced if compared to our planet earth. That is why he could easily be called as out of this world.

His ideas in education, his dedication and the selection of people that he calls “team” have made a considerable difference in the communities of the Valley. The difference that he has made has attracted the attention of leaders in education and philanthropists from all over the United States and beyond.

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In order to know him better, it was important to research more about Daniel P. King, where he comes from and more about his family.

Dr. King was born in Wilmington, DE in 1954 to Harold W. King and Mildred King. He is the fifth of ten children. When he was three years old the family moved to the Rio Grande Valley in 1957.

His father entered the ministry in that year, and he decided to move to the Valley with the intention of learning Spanish and after that moving the entire family to the Republic of Mexico to start his missionary work.

During the forties and fifties and especially during that decade thousands of “braceros” were coming to the valley each year to labor in the fields. “My father began to provide spiritual and material relief to braceros in the labor camps and in the fields,” Dr. King said in exclusivity to Texas Border Business.

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His father established a church in Harlingen, a Youth Camp in Rio Hondo and assisted in the founding of a Seminary in Matamoros, Tamaulipas México. He ministered in Matamoros, Reynosa, Santa Maria, La Sara, Harlingen, Rio Hondo, and other communities on both sides of the river. My father passed away a few years ago after a lengthy battle with cancer. My mother still lives in Rio Hondo and will be 91 in October of this year.

Dr. King said, “I am married to a wonderful lady, Sara King, a biology teacher at PSJA Thomas Jefferson TSTEM Early College High School.” He continued to say, “I have 6 children: Elizabeth King Ruiz (29) married to Robert Ruiz; Melissa King Nunez (27) married to Juan Nunez; Stephanie Danielle King (24); Eduardo Mancha (18); Valerie Mancha (16); Alejandro Mancha (15) and I also have two grandchildren: Phoenix King Nunez (2) and Ramona Abigail Ruiz (1 and a half).”

Even though the challenges have been many, he said to be excited to serve in the teaching profession and to have the privilege to impact thousands of young lives and to open doors of opportunity for children. “I am excited about the great, often untapped talent and potential that our students possess and proud to serve thousands of dedicated teachers who entered this noble profession to make a difference,” he said.

Dr. King’s plans for the foreseeable future are to continue serving the PSJA school district and community as Superintendent of Schools.

He said that he is never completely satisfied with the results especially in a large complex organization with more than 4,000 employees serving over 32,000 students. He pointed that there is always more to be done to improve effectiveness, efficiency and reduce errors and underperformance.

The progress that PSJA school district has achieved is admirable.  Under his leadership the district has made a dramatic turnaround in a number of areas.  They have reduced their dropout rate and increased their graduation rate.

Dr. King said that all of these efforts have resulted in several thousand additional graduates over the past few years.  “We are also having a significant impact on the number of students entering and completing college. We also had great improvement in school climate at our campuses, resulting in better discipline, safety, and an improved learning environment,” he stated.

As a classroom teacher and as principal, he worked directly with students to teach them and encourage them to become better learners and citizens and to understand the great potential they have.  As Superintendent, he is able to work with a team of School Board members, teachers, administrators and staff to develop a system that enhances the education and future life and career opportunities for the students.

“I love my profession as an educator because it has put me in a position throughout my career to serve others and make a difference in their lives,” he said.

Dr. King always includes his team and staff in the effort. He said that the PSJA team is providing solutions now for some of the most worrying problems that challenge communities and this country.  He pointed out that a great example is PSJA’s College, Career, and Technology Academy, a unique high school for young people ages 18-26 who dropped out or never completed their high school education.  By partnering with STC, PSJA opened this campus in 2007 offering dropouts a chance to attend community college and work towards a certificate or Associate Degree that would enhance their employability while earning their high school diploma.  He said that almost 1,200 young adults in the PSJA community have earned their high school diploma since 2007 through this initiative.  This program has been replicated in high schools across the Rio Grande Valley resulting in almost 5,000 young adults who had failed to complete their high school requirements returning and earning a high school diploma.  “The program has been replicated around the state of Texas and has been featured at the state and national level as a groundbreaking solution and best practice.  Dr. King said, “It has inspired successful legislation such as SB 975 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr. and SB 960 by Senator Eddie Lucio.”

To make the story short, Rick Perry Governor of Texas named PSJA as a state demonstration site for the “Early College for All” Model. Dr. King said that announcement was made in a formal visit to the district in 2010.

“Our goal is to prepare every student for 21st century careers by connecting them to post-secondary education while they are still in high school in order to focus them on completing Bachelor’s Degrees, Advanced Degrees, Associate Degrees and/or industry recognized certifications.”

They are focused on developing academically biliterate graduates, building on the strengths of the bilingual, bicultural community.  In his point of view, the economy, the community, and the country need multi-literate citizens in this global economy.

For this reason, Dr. King explains, “Each school year approximately 60 school districts and colleges from across Texas and the nation visit PSJA to learn about the back-on-track to college approach to the dropout crisis, our “early college for all” model, and our dual language education initiative.”

In addition he said that all the major urban districts in Texas have visited PSJA and gone on to replicate some of PSJA programs.  “We have been visited by school districts from Alaska, New Mexico, North Carolina, and several other states,” he stated.

On top of that, the US Department of Education has asked PSJA to present their work with dropouts to a consortium consisting of most of the largest urban districts in the United States including New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston, among others.

Where do you get your inspiration? “A number of people inspired me to do what I do. My first inspiration was my parents who lived a life of service to God and to others. They chose to leave a well-established middle class life in Delaware to come to the valley and serve braceros, immigrants, families living in housing projects and colonias on both sides of the river.”

His parents had little in money or possessions, he described them as being poor by choice, because they did not have to give up what they had, but they were rich in spirit and service. “My mother has probably been the biggest influence in my life.”

His teachers also inspired him, like Coach Oscar Perez, his track coach during senior year in high school who taught him to believe in himself.

“He inspired me to choose the teaching profession, initially as a coach.”

Several other educators that impacted his career choices include Dr. Tom Semper (UTPA), Dr. Kenneth White, Mr. Ralph Cantu, and Mr. Gus Zapata (Mission CISD), Mr. Leo Peña, Mr. Juan Alvarez, and Dr. Alejo Salinas, Jr. (Hidalgo ISD). “I have been fortunate to have had many good mentors throughout my career,” he said.

He says his biggest love is his family. “Being Superintendent is a consuming job, I spend as much time with them as I can. God has given me great opportunities.  I have a great family better than ever with my young grandchildren. I have had a great career,  and I currently have a great job with a great team!”

Do you have a social life? “All of my time away from the office is spent with my family.  I guess you could say that I don’t have much of a social life outside my family and my job, but I don’t see that as a sacrifice.  My family and the team I work with at PSJA are my social life,” he said.

Would you change anything in your life or career if you had the chance to do it? “While there are always situations that with hindsight, you would love to have a “do-over”, in general, I don’t think I would change anything.”

Do you have any hobbies? “My primary hobbies are reading, jogging, and trail biking.  I have a real love for history and learning about other times, places, and cultures,” he said.

The progress of PSJA and the dramatic changes they have made the District governance has improved tremendously, as has community support and the district’s image.  “With the leadership of our Board of Trustees and the support of our community we have also been building many new schools and remodeling others and are close to achieving our goal of having every student and teacher in a relatively new or newly remodeled classroom and school building,” he said.

Because of his dedication and his true love for education, Dr. Daniel P. King has been selected to be The BIG Story feature article in Texas Border Business of August 2014. TBB

More on Dr. Daniel P. King

Throughout his career, Dr. King has been involved in a variety of civic activities, including a local Crime Stoppers Board, served in his church, assisted in hurricane shelters, and volunteered on a number of civic drives and campaigns focused on bettering the community.

Currently, he serves on the Board of Trustees for Workforce Solutions, a position he had held for three years. But it does not stop there, his activities aside from being superintendent also include serving on the Board of Directors for the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Education Foundation, a newly formed non-profit, which raises money for scholarships for graduates of PSJA, teacher mini-grants, and Bright Summer Readers (a program that encourages students to read at home over the summer).

Dr. King serves on the Board of Directors of “Jobs for the Future”, a national non-profit that focuses on partnering with schools, workforce boards, and other non-profits that serve students and adults who are struggling to succeed in school and in today’s economy.

He is also is involved with Jobs for the Future (JFF), according to him this entity seeks to influence not only local organizations, but state and national educational and workforce training policy and practice concerning the preparation and advancement potential of those who would otherwise struggle. Finally, every fall he serves as a volunteer in PSJA’s “Countdown to Zero” initiative visiting the homes of high school dropouts on Saturday’s to encourage them to come back to school.

Written by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez the 2009 SBA Journalist of the Year Award Winner & The 2009 and 2012 Paul Harris Award recipient.

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