Last week, the Bishop Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees approved in a 5-0 unanimous vote to extend the contract of its superintendent, Christina Gutierrez, to 2023.
Entering her 17th year as the BCISD superintendent, and her 19th as an administrator with the district, Gutierrez said she is grateful that she can continue to serve the community in that capacity.
“My heart is happy,” she said. “Because I feel like I do the best that I can to keep everybody happy – parents, students, employees, school board members, business owners – and I am extremely happy to be in the position that I’m in.”
A 1986 graduate of Bishop High School, Gutierrez has worked in education for nearly three decades.
She has been an administrator with the Bishop CISD since August 2000, first as principal at Petronila Elementary School before moving to the central office to serve as the district’s assistant superintendent in January 2001.
In December 2002, Gutierrez was hired as the Bishop CISD’s superintendent. That first year was financially rough for the Bishop CISD, she said.
“There was no honeymoon stage, because in February 2003 our property values came back low,” she said. “And what that meant for us was cutting nearly $750,000 from the district. That is a lot of money to cut in one year.”
In 2004, Gutierrez said the property values continued to drop, forcing Bishop CISD to cut an additional $500,000 from its budget.
Gutierrez said she ended up cutting district personnel through attrition along with eliminating administrator positions.
“We were so desperate for money at that time, we even closed one or two wings of our junior high so that we weren’t having to run the air conditioner in them,” she said. “So it got to the nitty-gritty. We were really having to cut left and right.”
The district also began implementing out-of-district student transfers around that time, she said.
“We needed to increase our enrollment, because that’s where (school districts) get most of their funding,” she said.
Gutierrez said in 2002, the district’s enrollment was under 1,000 students. While Gutierrez said the district “struggled for quite some time” financially, she said they worked to manage their available resources to continue offering strong academics as well as to retain, attract and develop its personnel.
Gutierrez credited most of the district’s success during her tenure to her staff and faculty, who she said she has “been privileged to have hired at least 90 percent of who’s on board right now.”
“I work with phenomenal people,” she said. “I love them all, and together we’ve been able to successfully help this district excel. I have been very blessed.”
Heading into the 2019-20 school year, Bishop CISD’s enrollment has close to 1,500 students, nearly 20 percent of which are out-of-district transfers, with more likely coming before the start of the new semester.
“And they come from everywhere,” Gutierrez said. “Kingsville, Premont, Alice, Corpus Christi — everywhere.”
The district also has transfer agreements with both Driscoll and Ricardo ISD that allow Bishop High School to serve as a “feeder school” for their outgoing eighth grade students to attend as high school freshmen, since those districts do not have high schools.
While ODT students have helped increase enrollment in the district, Gutierrez said Bishop has seen plenty of local growth as well.
“The city has been working on expanding its infrastructure to allow growth, like with new apartment complexes and new businesses,” she said. “I do see a lot of interest in Bishop, and a lot of interest in our school district.”
Although she would prefer BCISD stay classified as “a very large 3A” district, Gutierrez said they are preparing for the possibility of moving up to 4A this coming year.
“We’ve been working with a 4A mentality for quite some time now,” she said. “We’re preparing for the next 10-15 years to come and the growth that’s going to take place.”
With that growth, however, comes growing pains, such as Bishop High School’s enrollment exceeding the campus’s capacity. Constructed in 2010, the high school was built to accommodate up to 500 students, Gutierrez said.
“At that time, we were probably in the 300s, and we felt that we had a lot of room for growth,” Gutierrez said. “And now, we’re actually moving a couple of portables from the primary (school) to the high school campus because we are probably looking at close to 600 students at the high school this coming year.”
Gutierrez said she also opened a wing at the junior high that had previously been used for administration offices to be utilized for extracurricular classes. She said the district has also been working to purchase additional properties to allow for further growth in the future.
In 2018, the Bishop CISD received an “A” rating, scoring 92 out of a possible 100 overall points and a distinction designation for postsecondary readiness. Gutierrez said one of the district’s goals has been to provide the best academics to its students, and said “things are lining up” for them to maintain their “A” rating for 2019.
“We’re continuing to build strong educational programs,” she said.
Gutierrez said her relationship with the Bishop CISD has been “like a marriage,” which she said requires communication and relationship building.
“This is my whole life,” she added. “And I am so honored to have been able to do this job for so many years. I love my job.”
Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at email@example.com or (361) 221-0251.