Henderson Chess Team makes EPISD, El Paso proud.

Being the Superintendent of Schools of a large district like EPISD is not an easy job. The task of leading all efforts to provide a high-quality education to more than 60,000 is grand, and I certainly take it very seriously. But the stress, scrutiny and long hours are all worth it when our kids go off and do something so grand … so substantial, that it brings pride to the entire city.

Once again, the students of EPISD are reaching unprecedented heights, and the city is much better off because of it. I am so proud of the Henderson Middle School Chess Team for being the first El Paso middle-school team ever to win first place at the U.S. Chess Federation National Junior High Chess Tournament this past weekend.

This young team of sixth-graders has been making headlines all year long by overcoming several obstacles on their way to winning the Texas chess title, and then mobilizing a whole community to support them financially as they prepared for the national tournament in Louisville, Ky.

Henderson Teacher and Chess Team Coach Saul Ramirez should be praised for taking a team with not much experience playing chess (in fact, some had never played before joining the team) and turning them into national champions. All members of the team are in the sixth-grade and one can only imagine that things could only improve from this point on.

I was also heartened to see the support that the team received from throughout El Paso. More than 100 people showed up to the El Paso International Airport to welcome the team on Monday night. What’s even better, nearly all of them stayed when the airlines announced that the flight had been delayed and would be arriving well past 9 p.m. – past the bedtime of many of the kids in attendance.

It has also been great to see the many signs of support and congratulations throughout El Paso, including a great ad on the marquee of the Fountains at Farah shopping center.

In the next couple of weeks, the Henderson team will be recognized at several venues. Already, the El Paso County Commissioner’s Court and El Paso City Council have scheduled the team to be recognized during meetings in May. The El Paso Chihuahuas are also planning a recognition during one of their home games.

I hope you can join EPISD as we recognize and celebrate the great accomplishment of the Henderson Middle School Chess Team. Go Hornets!

Sometimes, it takes an emergency to remind you just how critical every single employee in the El Paso Independent School District is.  Take, for instance, the small fire in a classroom at Lamar Elementary on Monday afternoon.  An electrical device malfunctioned causing the fire in the classroom to be severe enough to get the El Paso Fire Department on the scene.  We are so thankful that the fire happened after students had gone home and few employees were on campus, so the only damage was material and no one was hurt.

The fire, smoke and water damage, however, did make it impossible for the Lamar to have classes on Tuesday and Administration decided then to cancel them.  That decision was not an easy one to make, of course.  As educators, we hate to interrupt the instructional calendar that can throw off the teaching and learning cycle that our students, teachers and parents are expecting.

Moreover, students in the fourth- and fifth-grade were scheduled to take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, on Tuesday.  Testing is an important part of the accountability system and we do not want to interfere with it.  Thankfully, the state had allowed Wednesday to be a make-up day for these tests, and our students today are as ready as ever to tackle the STAAR.

But before classes and testing resumed, there was a group of men and women who worked tirelessly to clean the smoky, damp classrooms and left them – as one facilities administrator said onTuesday – better than they were before the fire.

I want to thank the custodians and maintenance crews that worked around the clock on Monday night and all day Tuesday to make sure Lamar was ready to welcome students on Wednesday.  Their dedication to the children of EPISD is not often pointed out.  But these employees are a critical part of our mission to provide the students of El Paso the best education we can possibly deliver.

I am proud to work along side with them. And I’m sure today, the Lamar community is proud as well to have them as allies in education.

Dr. Tom Miller