U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recognized 349 schools today as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2018. Two of them were schools from the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo School District. Carmen Anaya Elementary and Cesar Chavez Elementary, both located in the South Pharr, Las Milpas area, were recognized based on their overall academic performance.

“I'm pleased to celebrate with you as your school is named a National Blue Ribbon School,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a video message to the honorees. “We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives. Congratulations on your students' accomplishments and for your extraordinary commitment to meeting their unique needs.”

The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.

Both Anaya and Chavez Elementary, led by Principals Joe Garza and Roel Faz, respectively, have consistently excelled over the years in both academia and extracurricular activities. Campus leadership, faculty and staff at both locations have become great examples of what working as a team toward a common goal can help you accomplish.

"We commend the hard work of our teachers, principals and staff at both schools," said Dr. Daniel King, PSJA Superintendent of Schools. "This is a great day for the PSJA community. We are so proud of this accomplishment. Carmen Anaya and Cesar Chavez have been recognized as being among the best in the nation!"

Now in its 36th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed recognition on more than 8,800 schools. Since the program's inception, PSJA ISD has had three other schools receive these honors. In the 1987-88 school year Raul Longoria Elementary was awarded the Blue Ribbon School designation. In the 1998-99 school year, Napper Elementary received this honor and in 2009 James Bowie Elementary, now McKeever Elementary was awarded.

On November 7-8, the Secretary and the Department of Education will celebrate the honorees at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

All schools are honored in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:

Exemplary High Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.

Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students over the past five years.



Carmen Anaya Elementary (1000 W. Dicker Road, South Pharr)


Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD’s Carmen Anaya Elementary is located in one of the most disadvantaged areas of South Texas just five miles north of the border with Mexico, but it does not let demographics dictate their students’ success. The school has had a long-standing tradition of community service that has helped staff teach the “whole child” and challenge students to reach their fullest potential.


Through this work, students have excelled, and the school has risen to have the highest academic standing in the district. The school’s curriculum is designed to help students develop intellectually, emotionally, aesthetically, physically and socially. Carmen Anaya staff encourages students to become engaged learners and models of good citizenship through civic work. It is not uncommon to see students and staff beautifying community gardens and nearby parks. This work helps students fortify foundational skills, and contextualize vocabulary and key concepts they learn in their classrooms.


Carmen Anaya staff believe student support is crucial to their students’ academic, social and emotional growth. Through a Mentor & Mentee program, each teacher mentor’s specific children in need and help build their confidence to tackle any challenges they may encounter. The program gives students the safe space to express themselves and their concerns, ensuring they feel valued and supported. Carmen Anaya Elementary staff understands that when students succeed, the entire campus and community succeeds.


Cesar Chavez Elementary (401 E. Thomas Rd. in South Pharr)

Located only seven miles north of the Mexican Border in deep South Texas, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD’s Cesar Chavez Elementary honors its school namesake by providing quality education and embracing his philosophies. Students are taught, at an early age, the values of integrity, humility, service, dedication, patriotism, and respect for humanity. It is the goal of the campus to produce 21st century learners that are ready for college and the real world.


The main practice that makes Cesar Chavez successful is not academic or assessment related, it is the social-emotional focus on providing a safe and nurturing environment for all children. Campus staff embrace the family culture and are committed to inspire and support each child who walks through their doors.


The school’s vision is to create a welcoming school environment based on collaboration, harmony, and mutual respect for students, parents and staff. Focusing on the philosophy of teamwork and collaboration, school leadership does not rest upon the shoulders of one, but upon a team of educators with a common goal. Staff never hesitate to help when the need arises and as a result, every member is responsible for the academic growth and well-being of all students.


Teachers flourish when they know they have support, and when they know their input is valued, sought out and appreciated. This creates an optimal teaching and learning environment, with less teacher turnover and a stable learning atmosphere for all students, lifting Cesar Chavez Elementary to become one of the top schools in the system.