PHARR, RGV – Dr. Narciso Garcia, superintendent of Vanguard Academy Public Charter Schools, has been selected for the Summer 2018 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship.

This summer’s intake has been limited to a network of 24 diverse and talented educators “who are reimagining America’s public schools,” according to the institute. Garcia is the only educator from South Texas to be chosen.

“Now more than ever, it is critical for leaders to reflect deeply on their values, engage with and listen to others who hold different perspectives, and think differently about how they can create radically better opportunities for our country’s young people,” said Kim Smith, Pahara Institute Founder and CEO. “We are thrilled to welcome these talented leaders into the Pahara community and look forward to engaging together in this challenging, yet essential work.”

The Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship is a two-year, cohort-based program that identifies exceptional leaders in the educational excellence and equity movement, facilitates their dynamic growth, and strengthens their collective efforts to dramatically improve public schools, especially those serving low-income children and communities.

According to the group’s news release, the Fellowship provides those selected with an “unusual opportunity to step back from their demanding daily work to reflect with peers on their collective and individual impact as leaders and change agents.” The release says the Fellows “challenge each other to think beyond traditional silos and sector boundaries to develop strategies that enhance their effectiveness as leaders, address leadership challenges in public education, and accelerate the improvements needed to provide high-quality learning opportunities for all of our nation’s children.

The news release adds:

“The Fellowship is a partnership between the Pahara and Aspen Institutes. The Aspen Institute has created a leadership development model through its renowned Henry Crown Fellowship program, which focuses on inspiring Fellows to make a lasting difference in their spheres of influence through the application of effective and enlightened leadership. Pahara-Aspen Fellows become part of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, which currently includes more than 2,500 Fellows from over 50 countries who are collectively making tremendous positive change in the world.”

Interviewed by the Rio Grande Guardian, Dr. Garcia said he is thrilled to be part of the cohort.

“I am extremely excited and enthusiastic to be one of 24 educators in the nation to receive this Leadership Fellowship and honored to represent the Vanguard Academy students, parents teachers, staff and school board.”

Garcia said he went through a rigorous selection process in which he was interviewed four times to ensure the Pahara-Aspen Fellowship committee selected the right leaders and candidates for this “prestigious Leadership fellowship.” He said the Pahara-Aspen Leadership Interview committee delved into his “core values and philosophy” in education.

Asked what he hopes to learn from being in the program, Garcia said:

“I hope to learn best practices from 23 other educational leaders from around the nation as well from the Pahara-Aspen Institute. I hope to bring humility and servanthood to Vanguard Academy, and my Pahara-Aspen leadership colleagues. I hope to enhance my leadership traits by learning from some of the great educational minds in the country.”

Asked what his selection means for education in the Rio Grande Valley, Garcia said:

“By attending the ellowship the Rio Grande Valley will continue to have a voice in educational policy and best practices at the national level. It allows me to bring back this knowledge to continue enhancing Vanguard Academy and sharing it with the RGV community.”

Vanguard Academy Public Charter Schools focuses on Pre-K3 through 12th grade education. It currently has six schools in the Rio Grande Valley with locations in the cities of Alamo, Edinburg, Pharr and the potential to open up campuses in the cities of Mission and Weslaco.

Dr. Garcia joined Vanguard Academy in 2017 after serving as deputy superintendent of Pharr-San Juan Alamo ISD for three years starting in 2014 and culminating in 2017. As deputy superintendent of PSJA Schools, Garcia oversaw the areas of career and technical education, college readiness, curriculum and instruction, finance and special programs for example, bilingual, dual language and special education departments. Garcia also mentored principals in the school district by providing them with instructional and leadership support.

Prior to joining PSJA as deputy superintendent of schools, Garcia served as superintendent of schools for the La Villa ISD, where he established a college going culture by implementing the first early college high school in the Delta Area of the Rio Grande Valley. While at La Villa ISD, Garcia committed to provide all students with free college tuition by providing them with the opportunity to earn up to an associate’s degree, 60 college hours or becoming core complete. Prior to serving as superintendent at La Villa, Garcia served as an elementary, middle school and high school administrator in the roles of assistant principal and principal for seven years.

The Summer 2018 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellows are:

  • Jennifer Andaluz, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Downtown College Prep
  • Peter Anderson, Head of School, Washington Latin Public Charter School
  • Allison Bajracharya, Chief Operations and Strategy Officer, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy
  • Dr. Kevin Baxter, Senior Director and Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Archdiocese of Los Angeles
  • Kaleem Caire, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, One City Schools
  • Alex Cortez, Managing Partner, New Profit
  • Victor De La Paz, Chief Financial Officer, Achievement First
  • Daren Dickson, Chief Culture Officer, Valor Collegiate Academies
  • Hannah Dietsch, Assistant Superintendent for Talent, Louisiana Department of Education
  • Kendra Ferguson, Chief Executive Officer, KIPP Memphis
  • Dr. Narciso Garcia, Superintendent, Vanguard Academy
  • Eli Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer, The Level Playing Field Institute
  • Chi Kim, Chief Executive Officer, Pure Edge, Inc.
  • Dr. Matthew Ladner, Senior Research Fellow, Charles Koch Institute
  • John Legg, Chief Financial Officer and Co-Founder, Dayspring Academy
  • Sara Mead, Partner, Bellwether Education Partners
  • Veronica Melvin, President and Chief Executive Officer, LA Promise Fund
  • Eileen Murphy, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, ThinkCERCA
  • Zack Neumeyer, Chairman, Sage Hospitality
  • Elissa Salas, Chief Executive Officer, College Track
  • John Valverde, Chief Executive Officer, YouthBuild USA
  • Victoria Van Cleef, Vice President, The New Teacher Project
  • DeRonda Williams, Founder and President, DGW Consulting Group
  • Miles Wilson, President and Chief Executive Officer, EducationWorks

“Pahara-Aspen Fellows are taking action to overcome the greatest challenges in American public education,” said David Langstaff, Interim Executive Vice President for Leadership and Seminars at the Aspen Institute. “We are delighted to welcome this new cohort of high-integrity entrepreneurs into the Aspen Global Leadership Network.”