The La Joya Independent School District, located in the western portion of Hidalgo County consist of more than 226 square miles stretching west of Mission to Sullivan City, including the smaller communities of La Joya, Palmview and Peñitas. Boundaries extend South from the United States border formed by the Rio Grande River to the 13-mile line near McCook to the North.
With a peak enrollment of 28,600 students for the 2017-2018 academic school year (of which Hispanic students account for over 99 percent of enrollment) La Joya ISD is one of the fastest growing school districts in Texas with an estimated increase of 1,400 students per year. Overall, La Joya ISD boasts 44 campuses: 23 elementary schools, 8 middle schools, 3 comprehensive high schools, 2 early college high schools, and 8 specialty schools, which employ over 4,260 individuals from all across the Rio Grande Valley and some from overseas.
Just as the growth in student population remains strong in La Joya, the district has a strong and rich educational history. The first schools were established during the 1800’s to provide educational opportunities for the people living in western Hidalgo County who did not have access to existing educational institutions. One of the first of these schoolhouses was built in Havana in 1849 when citizens from the towns and villages of Abram (Ojo de Agua), Penitas, Tabasco (now La Joya), Havana, Los Ebanos and Cuevitas established a place of learning. Although far from the little red schoolhouse one might envision, the structure of rock and adobe sheltered the students of this area and gave them a solid education. This building would later become known as the La Joya Independent School District.
Nellie Leo Schunior, or Doña Nellie was the pioneer of education in this area. She taught at the old Havana school from 1913 to 1916 where she was joined by Guadalupe (Ninfa) Ornelas, a resident of Old Reynosa who crossed the river by boat each day to teach. Schunior’s dream was to build a high school to serve the communities west of Mission to the Hidalgo County line and donated 15 acres of her own land to see that dream become a reality.
Although Doña Nellie did not have the opportunity to see her dream come to life, Nellie Schunior Memorial High School was built in 1926 – six years after her death, and became a part of the newly formed Tabasco Independent School District with a teaching staff of 18.
Today, Schunior’s dream lives on in the hearts of the students and staff of La Joya ISD. Her ideals and values have transformed into La Joya ISD’s mission statement of: “Educational excellence: the right of every student” and that all students have access to quality educational opportunities that enable them to perform at high levels. Ultimately, Schunior’s belief in providing a quality education to all students serves as the foundation for education at La Joya ISD, where teachers, staff and administration work together to ensure that each child is given the opportunity to learn and build on their own natural talents.