SAISD announces 2019-20 campus leadership
San Antonio ISD is pleased to announce the principal selections for the 2019-20 school year. These proven leaders will help lead the District into its next phase of growth and success. The new principals represent a mix of exceptional talent from within SAISD, as well as accomplished individuals from outside of the District.
Briscoe Elementary School
Jennifer Emerson is the proud principal at Briscoe Elementary: An International Baccalaureate World School in San Antonio ISD. She strives to develop teachers into master teachers and ensures that students are prepared to be internationally minded and become contributors and advocates for their own community and the world. Mrs. Emerson believes in bringing a community together to share leadership in many different avenues. In a quote from Tom Peters, he states "leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders." In a community, this starts at the top in working with others to develop their leadership in every position and level of school. Mrs. Emerson has worked in San Antonio ISD for 10 years. She started her career as a student teacher at Briscoe, and then became a pre-kindergarten teacher and continued in her endeavors to become a principal. In 2013, Mrs. Emerson was chosen as one of only six recipients in SAISD to receive a Trinity Principal Fellowship. In 2014, she received her Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Trinity University.
Johnny Angel Diaz has been in educational leadership for more than 24 years. He began as a Trustee in Edgewood ISD, where his passion for supporting students began. Mr. Diaz became an alternative-certified bilingual teacher in Dallas Public Schools. Later, he returned and joined San Antonio ISD to teach at Graebner Elementary School and Madison Elementary School. He served at Knox Early Childhood Education Center as a campus instructional coordinator. He was promoted to assistant principal and served at Hillcrest Elementary School, Beacon Hill Academy, and DeZavala Elementary School. He was honored to be named principal at Benavidez Elementary School in South San Antonio ISD. In a two-year span, he was promoted to principal at Zamora Middle School. Mr. Diaz attended St. Mary's University and Southwest Texas University where he received a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science. He considers himself a life-long learner.
Kelly Allen began her career in 2004 as a bilingual educator in Comfort ISD. Eight years later, Mrs. Allen worked as a bilingual/ESL educator and leader in Northside ISD. She also served as an administrative intern through the Northside Leadership Academy. In 2017, Mrs. Allen proudly joined San Antonio ISD as a bilingual/ESL instructional specialist. In 2018, Mrs. Allen worked as the leadership instructional coordinator in the Bilingual/ESL & Migrant Department. She served as interim principal at Herff Academy from March to June 2019. Mrs. Allen obtained her Bachelor of Art Degree from the University of New Hampshire, double majoring in Spanish and International Affairs. She received her Master of Education in Teaching and Principal Certification from Schreiner University, and her Superintendent Certification from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Mrs. Allen is currently working on her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her love of bilingual education and diverse cultures stems from her years abroad as an exchange student in Ecuador and Spain. Mrs. Allen’s passions include building positive relationships with all school stakeholders, instilling love for literacy, and promoting a school culture where all students excel and flourish.
Huppertz Elementary School
Linda Rios-Garcia graduated from Benavides High School and earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Learning and Development from the University of Texas at Austin. She began her professional career teaching in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD and quickly thereafter joined the San Antonio ISD. Here, Ms. Rios-Garcia blossomed into a passionate, bilingual educator who continuously advocated for her students and pursued a Master’s Degree in Bicultural-Bilingual Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Ms. Rios-Garcia was an energetic assistant principal at Longfellow Middle School for five years where she had a plethora of opportunities to lead in varying capacities while building relationships and empowering members of the school community. Today, Ms. Rios-Garcia continues to expand her leadership skills through countless daily interactions and strategically collaborates with stakeholders to prepare students to succeed in our ever-changing society.
Hillcrest Elementary School
Santa Lopez received her bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2004. Ms. Lopez began her career at Highland Hills Elementary as a kinder, second and fourth grade teacher. During her time at Highland Hills, she participated in the SAISD Aspiring Assistant Principal Academy and served as a District presenter for the Science Department. Ms. Lopez earned her master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2014. In 2016, Ms. Lopez was promoted to assistant principal at Highland Park Elementary. Ms. Lopez has enrolled and completed the Emerging Leaders program. In 2019, was promoted to principal at Hillcrest, beginning with the 2019-20 school year.
Cyber P-Tech 9th Grade Academy at Sam Houston High School in partnership with St. Philip’s College
Dr. Delinda Castro has served in public education for 27 years. Her service includes 12 years as a secondary math teacher in Spring Branch ISD and 10 years in administrative leadership positions in Dallas ISD from coordinator, to director and principal of both an early college high school and large comprehensive high school. More recently, she has served the last five years as chief academic officer for South San Antonio ISD. The majority of her experience is in “turn-around leadership” and school improvement. She is extremely enthusiastic about leading the Cyber-P-TECH 9th grade Academy at Sam Houston High School in partnership with St. Philip’s College. She leads with the core belief that all students will enjoy successful educational experiences that empowers them to make decisions in a future they create.
Dr. Castro earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Mathematics from Texas A&M University-College Station, a Master’s Degree in Education Administration from the University of North Texas-Denton and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership & Policy- Cooperative Superintendency Program (Cohort 19) from the University of Texas at Austin.
Knox Early Childhood Education Center
Perla S. Kwiatkowski will lead Knox Early Childhood Center with excellence and equity in mind. She was born in Monterrey, N.L., Mexico and moved to Laredo, Texas as a young child. Mrs. Kwiatkowski graduated from United South High School and received her Bachelor of Science from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Her Master of Education was completed at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. A firm believer that all children can and will achieve when afforded quality educational opportunities, she began her career as a kindergarten teacher at Bancroft Elementary in the District of Columbia Public Schools. Upon returning to South Texas, she served as a special education teacher and coordinator at the high school level. In 2013, she joined Lewisville ISD as an assistant principal at Central Elementary School where she developed a passion for coaching educators. The past four years, Mrs. Kwiatkowski has served as principal at C. M. Soto Jr. Elementary School in Dallas ISD. In her tenure there, she has significantly increased student achievement scores and reading proficiency, improved student attendance, and built a community of leaders who value feedback, collaboration, and data-driven instruction.
Lanier High School
Moisés Ortiz is a life-long educator committed to developing PK-12 socially just public schools. His tenure has earned him the moniker “The Fixer,” after successfully uniting the professional learning communities of the two middle schools and two high schools he has led as principal, guiding them out of state and federal unacceptable accountability status within one school year. His perspective on education is simple and stems from what his parents ingrained in both his brother and him, “la educación abre puertas y reautoriza vidas” (education opens doors and changes lives). He earned his B.A. and M.Ed. from Trinity University and completed his doctoral studies in Educational Policy and Planning from the University of Texas at Austin. In 2019, Dr. Ortiz was named a Columbia Teachers College Cahn Fellow and inducted into the International Association of Educational Leaders researcher network. Currently he sits on his district’s Principal Advisory Council and mentors Trinity University educational leadership candidates.
Lowell Middle School
Yvonne Marie Hernández has 20 years in public school education as an educator, instructional technologist, instructional facilitator, campus testing coordinator, and administrator. Most recently, Ms. Hernández was the principal of South San Antonio ISD’s Dwight Middle School, which included the STEM Academy. She served as its principal for four years, prior to joining SAISD as the principal for Lowell Middle School. In 2015, The Texas Association of School Administrators awarded her The Johnny L. Veselka Scholarship for outstanding achievement as a doctoral student pursuing a career in educational leadership. This experience led to an opportunity for her to represent as a Delegate at the 2015 Annual Conference sponsored by the British Educational Leadership, Management & Administration Society (BELMAS) in London, England. She was selected to be part of a panel and represent American School Principals. In 2017 she was selected as Texas State University’s Rising Star for implementing her research as a practitioner. Ms. Hernández was born and raised in San Antonio. She has a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a specialization in Spanish from the University of the Incarnate Word, a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in technology from Houston Baptist University, and currently is earning a Ph.D. in School Improvement from Texas State University.
Sandra Galinzoga was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, where she graduated from Nixon High School. Upon receiving her B.S. in Math from the University of Texas at San Antonio, she began her career in Harlandale ISD teaching at Terrell Middle School. After leaving Harlandale ISD, she held various positions in San Antonio ISD and Floresville ISD. While working for San Antonio ISD she served in the following capacities: math teacher at Lanier High School, campus instructional coach, academic dean at Whittier Middle School, assistant principal at Tafolla Middle School, and principal at Wheatley Middle School. While working for Floresville ISD she served as the district’s K-12 math coordinator as well as principal of Floresville High School. Her numerous educational experiences have afforded her the opportunity to collaborate with diverse groups of faculty, staff, parents, and students. Her educational philosophy is based on her uncompromising belief that all students can learn, given a positive learning environment, strong and knowledgeable leadership, and a committed and focused educational team. Ms. Galinzoga will lead Margil Academy as principal with the motto “We are here to help kids.”
Nicanora Martinez has been in education for 13 years. She has served as a bilingual educator, curriculum coordinator, and administrator. She has most recently served San Antonio ISD in the capacity of an assistant principal at Ogden Academy for the past three years. During her time in administration, she has had the opportunity to demonstrate her abilities in coaching teachers, communication, and leading an organization while providing scholars with rigorous instruction at the core. She also has the excellent ability of utilizing data to create strategies and implement them schoolwide to ensure the success of all scholars. Mrs. Martinez graduated cum laude from Our Lady of the Lake University with her Bachelor of Science in Bilingual Education. She also earned her Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and her Master in Business Administration from Our Lady of the Lake University. She has most recently completed RELAY National Principals Academy Fellowship with Honors, which focuses on developing current school leaders to become transformational leaders in their schools. As a transformational leader, she will continue to implement her skills in coaching teachers, utilizing data, and creating a positive school culture to turnaround a school. It is her belief that an equitable education is deserved by ALL scholars no matter their background or past experiences.
Pershing Elementary School
Thamesia Handford has 17 years of experience in public schools and private education as a special education teacher, second grade and fifth grade teacher, behavior specialist, program specialist, and school site administrator. Additionally, Dr. Handford is a visiting professor for DeVry University. Dr. Handford was born in California and moved to San Antonio in her early teens. She graduated from Winston Churchill High School, has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, a master’s degree in Human Resources, and a Doctor of Management in Leadership from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Handford is determined to ensure all students have an opportunity to engage in learning with the highest of expectations. She believes education is the greatest equalizer and her job as a school administrator is to ensure each student has access to a high-quality education. Dr. Handford believes all children can learn and benefit from an active, engaging, and rigorous learning environment.
Rhodes Middle School
Rick Flores is a product of San Antonio ISD, born and raised in the San Juan Housing Projects located on Calaveras and Brady Streets. Mr. Flores attended Storm Elementary, Lowell Middle School and graduated from Burbank High School in 1990. In 1995, Mr. Flores earned concurrent B.A. degrees in Sociology and Music Education from Texas Lutheran University. In 2001, he earned his master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Schreiner University. In 2013, he completed his superintendent coursework at Texas A&M-San Antonio and this past January began his doctoral journey at Texas Tech University.
Mr. Flores launched his educational career as director of bands in 1996 at Truman Middle School in Edgewood ISD. In 1999, Mr. Flores transitioned to San Antonio ISD and served as director of bands at Irving Middle School. During his tenure, the band program experienced unparalleled success at both the state and national level, which contributed to Mr. Flores being honored with an H-E-B Excellence in Education Award. Furthermore, Mr. Flores was also named to the National Honor Roll for America’s Outstanding Teachers, as well as awarded the Trinity Prize for Excellence in Teaching and named the Outstanding Young Graduate Award Winner by Texas Lutheran University.
In 2011, Mr. Flores transitioned to assistant principal at Burbank and in 2014 was appointed principal at Mark Twain Middle School. Although Mr. Flores momentarily left the district in 2017, his journey has brought him home to serve as principal at Rhodes Middle School. Principal Flores is excited to return to his SAISD family with a renewed sense of passion and purpose for the community that he has been charged to lead. It’s a great day to be a Wildcat!
Smith Elementary School
Mayra Gutierrez-Ibarra has more than two decades of experience in the field of education. She began her career as a bilingual elementary teacher and in the past 22 years has served in various leadership capacities, including that of instructional coach, instructional specialist, and bilingual & ESL coordinator. Most recently, Mrs. Gutierrez-Ibarra served as the assistant principal at Twain Dual Language Academy, the first school-wide dual language campus in Bexar county. She received her undergraduate degree in Linguistics and Psychology from the University of California San Diego and a graduate Degree in Educational Leadership from California State University, Northridge.