Celebrating 100 years of “free public education,” leaders with Edinburg CISD say they will continue to find innovative ways to address a soaring student population as well as foster its partnerships with principles and educators.

Edinburg school Superintendent Dr. Rene Gutierrez presented the ECISD State of the District Address as the highlight of the Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Luncheon on Thursday Sept. 24.

At the event, Gutierrez told a gathering of the business community and city officials that he advocates change for the “betterment of a quality education.” The district’s goal remains to be the first 5-A Exemplary District in the Region One service area, he said.

“I want change for the better, but it requires a team effort,” Gutierrez told attendees at the Chamber luncheon. “It’s going to take, continuing working with our principles and our teachers to provide the quality instruction in the classrooms. It’s going to take providing opportunities for our students so they can be ready academically for the state exams as well as for higher education.”

More than two months into his tenure, Gutierrez takes the helm of a district encompassing 945 square miles, about the size of Rhode Island.

With close to 32,000 students, half of which are elementary students, the district has grown by 9,235 students over the last 10 years and now consists of 15 Exemplary and 14 Recognized campuses by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

The district predicts the student population will be about 42,000, by the 2015-2016 school year.

“We have to continue with our programs that have been very successful (and) to find innovative ways to address the student population in our district,” Gutierrez said. “ECISD is one of the fastest growing school districts in the Rio Grande Valley … in the state (and) in the nation.”

To account for growth, ECISD officials say there are at least 11 projects at a cost of $111,920,000 scheduled to be online within the next three to four years. By the 2010-2011 school year, the District plans to open three new elementary schools with a cost $8.5 million each to be located at the La Sienna development project in north Edinburg, on Alberta Road and Rooth Rd.

Three new Fine Arts facilities will be added to each of Edinburg’s three high schools at a cost of $6.2 million each. Renovations to the Brewster campus are also slated to be complete by next year with a cost still to be determined, according to the District.

Two new middle schools, and an additional elementary school are slated for completion by the 2011-2012 school year. A new high school to be located at the current Harwell facility will open by 2012-2013.

ECISD goals include:

Ensure all students’ educational needs are met, which includes special education, migrant, at-risk, gifted and talented and limited English proficient students.

Focus on reducing the drop-out rate and increasing the graduation rate through programs and the creation of an Options High School.

Establish partnerships with UTPA and STC.

Provide a clear, concise and accurate exchange of information to the community.

Promote a culture at every campus where parents feel they are valued partners in their child’s education.

Maintain an open door policy with staff, parents and the community.

Ensure all bond construction projects are completed in a timely manner.