We visited with one of our longest-tenured leaders, Dina Acevedo, and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Q: What was your path to educational leadership at ResponsiveEd??
A: My path to education started when I was young. Like many students in Texas, my parents were from Mexico, and growing up, I was an LEP (Limited English Proficiency) student. I was able to persist and get caught up, thanks to the intervention of my caring parents who insisted that I would become proficient in 2 languages. When I look back I think the experience fueled my dedication to educate students who need extra support. I started off teaching in a rough neighborhood in New Mexico and fell in love with the profession, I then moved to South Texas and started teaching at a school in Mission CISD. While there, I went back to college and received my master’s degree in counseling. After serving as a school counselor I decided to return to the University of Texas-Pan American and received my master’s degree in school administration. I was soon promoted to principal at a junior high school and spent over 25 years working for the Mission CISD before leaving. When I met ResponsiveEd COO, Robert Davison, he asked me to serve as interim Campus Director for a ResponsiveEd school in Brownsville, Texas. After finding a permanent Campus Director for the school, I was asked to open up a new school in Mission, Tx. I had the privilege of working with some strong community advocates who provided the resources to construct a campus that would help us stand out from all the other charters. We were successful in the opening of our campus and that led to yet more Premier High Schools opening up in the Valley. A few years later, I had the opportunity to serve a campus in El Paso. I worked there for 6 months while also finding and mentoring my replacement. Shortly after that, I was brought on full-time as a Regional Director and then promoted to Executive Director. I am currently in my third year serving as Superintendent of 36 Premier High School campuses.
Q: You are Premier High Schools’ Superintendent, what all does that encompass?
A: There are 36 campuses across Texas under the Premier brand. The Premier schools are divided into regions containing five to six campuses and each region is supervised by a Regional Director. The state is then split in half and our two Executive Directors oversee each of their respective regions and campuses. It takes a team to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our students. I work closely with my Leadership Team, our Regional Directors and there is always a direct line to our Campus Directors. I also work closely with our support staff at our Corporate Office to ensure that campuses have the resources and assistance they need. Under the leadership of our CEO, Mr. Chuck Cook, Superintendents meet regularly and are always making sure that our students and parents are receiving the best quality educational services possible.
Q: How do you manage everything?
A: I lean heavily on my Regional Directors and my Executive Directors. It has taken me about three years to physically visit almost all thirty-six campuses, but Regional Directors are meeting with their campuses every week, meeting with them in person, individually, or by their region. During our Regional Directors meetings, they share out how each campus is doing on any given issue. If ever there is a serious situation on campus, RDs immediately know to get me involved.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
A: Trying to get our students prepared for state testing. We are continuously reviewing the data. Regional Directors are working hard with Campus Directors to develop written plans to get students prepared. Our students face many challenges, and sometimes, they aren’t able to afford the time needed as they have other obligations or time constraints. Campus Directors don’t accept excuses. They continue to provide tutorials daily and even on Saturdays. Right now, Teachers are instructing virtually and in person. We know that our students can’t receive their diplomas until they pass all five of their EOCs, so this does create a great deal of stress.
Q: How do you cultivate a positive work environment?
A: I truly think that my values and beliefs have a lot to do with how I lead. I was raised in a home with very strong values, with a high level of respect and integrity. Having a positive environment is critical and that starts with me. I think that it’s important for me to model those values because it’s very easy in our line of work to reach a point of frustration. Our job can be very challenging but if we stay focused on our purpose we can all help cultivate a positive environment. I’ve always seen my career as a calling and that motivates me to lead with calmness. If you don’t have a positive work environment with common values you don’t have a strong organization, and we have that here at ResponsiveEd.
Q: How has COVID changed the way you lead?
A: I have regular meetings with Campus Directors, and other levels of staff through Zoom, which I love. Before COVID, a lot of our meetings were held via phone conference calls, but through Zoom, I can have the whole group together, I can see their reactions and their nonverbals. Through the online meetings, we get a lot of input and collaboration with the entire team and that’s important to me. I want to always know what my Campus Directors are thinking. They have amazing skills, I don’t ever want to assume that because I’m the Superintendent that I am the only one who has something to offer. I’ve learned so much from them, especially during this COVID season. Technology is not one of my strengths. So many of my Directors and Regional Directors, especially the young ones, are so talented in technology. They took on the challenge of remote instruction and added activities and created venues that would help our students stay on track.
Q: Why do you enjoy working at ResponsiveEd?
A: I love this organization and I love working for Chuck Cook and our Executive Team. I know that they run this organization with the same values I have. That’s one of the reasons I have stayed so long. I have been in education for forty-plus years. I am retired and thought about stepping down three years ago, but I keep coming back. Responsive Ed is about serving students through various options. As a parent and grandparent, that’s important to me! Premier High Schools have allowed me to serve a population of students that are very dear to my heart. I want every student to know that there is always hope. No circumstance or situation should have the power to take away any student’s right to the best education possible!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
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