Texas Border Business
By Roberto Hugo González
In the vibrant community of McAllen, Texas, a familiar name stands out — Sam Saldivar Jr. With a remarkable 15-year tenure as a trustee on the McAllen Independent School Board, he has become a symbol of dedication and commitment to local education. In this article, we dig into the journey of Sam Saldivar Jr., exploring his motivations, the challenges he’s encountered, and the lasting impact of his service.
Saldivar’s journey into the world of education governance is rooted in his personal experiences. As a young student, he faced his own struggles in school. However, he was fortunate to have teachers who guided and supported him along the way. These educators left an indelible mark on his life, instilling in him a deep sense of gratitude. It’s this sense of indebtedness that drove Saldivar to give back to the profession and the students who came after him.
A legacy of service also played a significant role in shaping Saldivar’s path. His grandfather, a school board member in Weslaco in the 1950s, instilled in him the importance of preparing the next generation. This idea of nurturing young minds and helping them succeed became a guiding principle in Saldivar’s life.
When he embarked on his journey as a school board trustee 15 years ago, he did so with a clear vision. Drawing from his extensive career with a major insurance company, where he refined skills in leadership, management, advocacy, and influence, Saldivar saw an opportunity to make a difference in education. He aimed to bridge the gap between the needs of local students and the expectations of the corporate world.
Over the years, Saldivar’s dedication led to fruitful collaborations with various governmental entities, including the city, the county, and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). Together, they worked towards enhancing the educational landscape in McAllen. One of the crowning achievements during Saldivar’s tenure is the upcoming construction of a collegiate high school, a project that reflects the dream of generations past.
As he reflects on his journey, Saldivar’s emotions are palpable when he speaks of the collegiate high school project, the evidence to his passion for education. For him, it’s not just about imparting knowledge; it’s about lifting entire families out of poverty and giving children a brighter future.
While Saldivar’s journey has been marked by successes, it hasn’t been without its share of challenges. One of the primary hurdles has been the issue of consistent state funding for education. He said, “The McAllen School District has been prudent with its resources, making conservative fiscal decisions, but it relies heavily on local property tax revenue.” He pointed out that, “The shift in funding dynamics, with a move towards more state funding, has created a transition period that challenges smaller school districts like McAllen.”
Despite these challenges, Saldivar’s commitment remains resolute. He believes that education is the key to a better future, not just for individual students but for entire communities. His tireless efforts as a trustee have left an indelible mark on McAllen’s educational landscape, and his legacy will continue to shape the path forward.
Having served as a trustee on the McAllen Independent School Board for 15 years, Saldivar’s contributions extend far beyond the ordinary. In this second part of our exploration into his remarkable journey, we go into how he managed to balance his leadership role with a demanding career and family commitments while achieving transformative milestones for the school district.
Saldivar’s retirement from a prominent insurance career five years ago did not signal a departure from the world of education. Despite the demanding nature of his role as a trustee in one of the largest school districts in Texas, he continued to dedicate his time and energy to the betterment of education. This commitment, coupled with his leadership experience, set him apart as a formidable advocate for educational reform.
During his career, Saldivar’s occupied a unique position as a mobile employee. With a home base, a company car, a laptop, and a cell phone, he maintained a seamless connection with both his work and the school district. He embraced technology and video meetings, ensuring he was always present, even when physical attendance was challenging. His employer recognized his dedication and allowed him to balance work and school board commitments effectively.
Saldivar’s wife, Judith Azalea Flores Saldivar, herself an accomplished attorney, has been his pillar of support. Together, they raised two children, Sarah Judith and Samuel Juan Andres, both of whom have achieved their own milestones in education and careers, a demonstration to the importance the Saldivar family places on education.
As he approaches the end of his fourth term as a trustee, he acknowledges the substantial work that lies ahead. The district is currently engaged in the intricate process of budget planning, facing fiscal challenges that require careful navigation. Furthermore, they just selected a new superintendent of schools, a decision of paramount importance as this individual will serve as the academic leader of the district, reporting directly to the board of trustees.
When asked about the accomplishments of the board during his tenure, Saldivar highlights two programs that he holds close to his heart. The Strides program, catering to special education students aged 18 to 22, provides them with opportunities to earn licenses and certifications through South Texas College (STC). This initiative equips these students with valuable skills and fosters their integration into the workforce, a transformational program that represents Saldivar’s commitment to inclusive education.
Another significant achievement is the expansion of the dual language program, which now spans from elementary to middle school and high school levels. Graduates of this program not only earn a high school diploma but also gain language certifications that open doors to employment opportunities, mirroring the real-world demand for multilingual skills.
His leadership extends to the McAllen ISD Board as well. Having served as board president three times, he demonstrates his steady dedication to planning and executing the district’s goals.
Sam Saldivar Jr.’s journey is a confirmation of his dedication and leadership. His passion for education and firm commitment to the McAllen Independent School District have left a permanent mark on the community. As he continues his service with 18 months left in his current term, there is no doubt that his legacy will continue to shape the future of McAllen’s education system for years to come.