Texas Education Agency Appoints La Joya ISD Board of Managers and New Superintendent


AUSTIN, Texas – February 1, 2024 - The Texas Education Agency today announced the appointment of a seven-member Board of Managers and a new superintendent to oversee the operations of the La Joya Independent School District (LJISD). 

The appointment of the Board of Managers and Superintendent is the result of a comprehensive TEA investigation that substantiated allegations of fraud and conflicts of interest executed by members of the elected LJISD Board of Trustees. The newly appointed leadership team – comprised entirely of Hidalgo County Residents - will be tasked with guiding the focus of the district toward good stewardship of public resources and ensuring public trust while continuing to align district goals and efforts toward positive student outcomes and academic success. Four of the seven board members reside within LJISD boundaries. 

In selecting the new school board, TEA chose individuals with a diverse set of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives who are mission-oriented, believe that all students can learn and achieve at high levels, and will work closely with the superintendent to improve operational and academic outcomes in the district. 

“These seven individuals, in collaboration with the new superintendent, have volunteered to work collectively to move the district forward in service of the incredible students, staff, families, and proud communities that make up La Joya ISD,” said Texas Education Commissioner, Mike Morath. “Their willingness to serve under unique circumstances is a testament to their character and care for kids. I am confident they will succeed in charting a path forward that will enable the LJISD elected board to eventually resume its role and sustain a culture of success in the district.” 

The agency’s intervention is occurring because of needed change at the board of trustee level. However, in concert with this new management team and to ensure productive district leadership moving forward, TEA is also naming a new superintendent. 

“It should be noted that outgoing superintendent Dr. Heriberto “Beto” Gonzales has done yeoman's work in trying to keep the district’s focus on students amid challenging circumstances. I thank him for his service,” Morath added. 

La Joya ISD Board of Managers

The following seven individuals are appointed to the La Joya ISD School Board:

Julian Alvarez III: A Harlingen native, Julian Alvarez III currently serves as the Executive Vice President-Director of Community Relations at Lone Star National Bank. He previously served as the Commissioner Representing Labor of the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), where he was instrumental in helping school systems in the Rio Grande Valley, including La Joya ISD, receive grant funding for workforce and vocational training. Prior to his appointment to the TWC, Alvarez III served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, where he fostered relationships and helped coordinate programs to advance regional economic development through education and employment opportunities. He holds a degree from Texas A&I University. 

Anita Chavez: A second-generation La Joya ISD alumna, Anita Chavez is proud to still call the district home. Chavez grew up in a family that understood and stressed the importance of a good education, values that stuck with her as she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences from the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley and a Master of Science in Environmental Analysis from Rice University. Professionally, Chavez is an Environmental Compliance Specialist doing contract work within the Rio Grande Valley. 

Celso Gomez Jr.: A proud product of La Joya ISD, Celso Gomez Jr.’s roots in the community run deep. Gomez married a La Joya native and sent his three children to La Joya ISD schools. Able to view the district from an educator’s perspective, Gomez Jr. served as a band director in several Rio Grande Valley-area school districts where he dedicated his time to providing enrichment for students through the arts. After receiving his Master of Business Administration, he transitioned into the automobile industry where he has worked for the past 13 years. 

Dr. Rosalva Hernandez: Dr. Rosalva Hernandez is a La Joya ISD graduate and native of the Rio Grande Valley. As a second-generation immigrant, Hernandez understands the struggle many in her community face and puts her focus on serving those most in need. She was the first in her family to obtain a college degree, graduating with a nursing degree from South Texas College in McAllen. She moved to Arlington to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Fort Worth for a Master of Science in Nursing, and Jacksonville, Florida to become a Doctor of Nursing Practice. Hernandez and her husband Isaac reside in Palmview with their two children.

Dr. Carlos Margo: Dr. Carlos Margo was raised in Rio Grande City and is a 1991 graduate of Rio Grande City High School. He currently serves as Dean for Industry Training and Economic Development at South Texas College (STC) and, since 1998, has worked at STC in multiple roles within the workforce training or continuing education division. Margo holds a bachelor’s degree in English Rhetoric from Texas A&M University, a Master of Business Administration from The University of Texas – Pan American, and a doctoral degree in Higher Education Administration from Texas Tech University. He lives with his family in McAllen and has three children enrolled in the McAllen Independent School District. He also serves as the Vice President of the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley.

Jessica Ochoa: Jessica Ochoa has called the Rio Grande Valley home for more than 20 years and is a proud La Joya ISD parent with two children currently attending La Joya ISD schools. She is passionate about positively impacting her community and providing an excellent example of civic engagement for her children. In her free time, Ochoa enjoys exploring new places, volunteering in the community, and spending time with her extended family and friends. She is a graduate of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin and holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley. 

Alyssa Peña: Alyssa Peña is a proud alumna of La Joya ISD, attending E.B. Reyna Elementary, Memorial Middle School, and Juarez-Lincoln High School before graduating from La Joya High School in 2006. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international business and a Master of Business Administration and currently works for the Ford Motor Company as a Senior Solutions Sales Manager. Peña is a co-founder of "Next Generation Cup," a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Dallas that provides high-quality extracurricular activities through the game of soccer.

La Joya ISD Superintendent

Dr. Marcey Sorensen: A passionate educator, leader, and advocate for students, Dr. Marcey Sorensen joins La Joya ISD as Superintendent after serving as Deputy Superintendent for the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). During her time at VDOE, Sorensen focused chiefly on initiatives surrounding learning acceleration, early literacy, and special education for Virginia’s 1.3 million public school students enrolled across 131 districts. She launched Virginia’s high-intensity tutoring program to address learning loss in both reading and math for students across the Commonwealth in response to learning disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In 2019, Sorensen joined the Fort Worth Independent School District as Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning before being promoted to Chief Academic Officer. During her tenure, the district saw an 80% increase in the number of campuses that improved to a B rating while simultaneously seeing a nearly 90% decrease in the number of F-rated campuses. Sorensen reorganized the district’s special education department to better serve students with disabilities; overhauled instructional practices, led the adoption of aligned and nationally recognized, evidence-based curriculum in literacy, math, and dual language; and collaborated with Texas Christian University to establish a principal pipeline to help train the district’s future leaders. Dr. Sorensen also oversaw the Department of Multilingual Learners to ensure that students needing dual language services received evidence-based instruction and supports while aligning resources for families so that multilingual learners had the resources needed to become more academically successful.   

From 2017 to 2019, Sorensen worked at the Madison (Wisconsin) Metropolitan School District, joining as Executive Director of Curriculum & Instruction before finishing her tenure as Deputy Chief of Secondary Schools. Sorensen began her career in 1995 with Chicago Public Schools, spending 10 years as a social studies teacher before transitioning into an administrative role, where she led three campuses as principal for almost 11 years.   

A 1995 graduate of Northern Illinois University, Sorensen obtained her Master of Education in Pre-K-12 Administration & Supervision from Northeastern Illinois University in 2004. She earned her doctorate in Educational Policy & Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2015 with her superintendency endorsement.   

Dr. Sorensen, her husband, a lifelong educator himself, and her two children are thrilled to be a part of the La Joya ISD Community and to call the Rio Grande Valley home.  

Background on Agency Intervention and Board of Managers Application & Selection Process 

On May 9, 2023, TEA’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) issued a final report recommending the appointment of a Board of Managers for La Joya ISD. An extensive, statutorily protected appeals process was then afforded to the district, which it exercised. While no final decision was issued until February 1, 2024, the application and subsequent selection process for the La Joya ISD Board of Managers was initiated on July 19, 2023, in the event Commissioner Morath decided to act on the SIU’s recommendation.  

Applications for the Board of Managers were received from La Joya and Rio Grande Valley residents with a diverse array of skill sets and expertise.
Total Applications: 107

Total Applications within LJISD Boundaries: 63

Total Applications within Rio Grande Valley (Starr, Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy Counties): 107

Total Male: 54

Total Female: 53

Highest Degree Obtained. HS Diploma: 16 /Bachelors: 25 /Masters: 47 /Doctorate: 19

Superintendent Selection Criteria 

In conjunction with the opening of the Board of Managers application, TEA engaged in a comprehensive, nationwide search for a new district superintendent. Primary consideration was given to candidates with a strong track record of improving outcomes for students in prior school system leadership roles. Additionally, candidates were evaluated for competencies in several key areas, including curriculum and instructional leadership, student support services, talent management, performance management, systems leadership, and community engagement and communication.  

To Learn More

Information on the Board of Managers selection process and intervention history, including TEA’s role in the district moving forward is available on the agency’s La Joya ISD Board of Managers webpage