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 Penitas. Boundaries extend from the United States border formed by the Rio Grande River to the 13 mile line near McCook.
With a peak enrollment of 23,444 students for the 2004-2005 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 27 campuses seventeen elementary schools, six middle schools, an alternative education center, and three high schools and employs over 4,260 individuals from all across the Rio Grande Valley and some from overseas.
Because of the district’s tremendous growth, La Joya I.S.D. continues with construction projects every year to accommodate the fast growing student population. The most recent school facilities include Juan N. Seguin Elementary located on 7 mile-line and Western Road in Mission and Emiliano Zapata Elementary located on 7 3/4 mile-line and La Homa Road in Mission.
Additional construction projects for the Summer 2005 include Elementary No. 19 and 20 set to begin in August or September of 2005 and ready to house students by next August of 2006. Locations of these two elementary schools are 1 1/2 mile north La Homa Road (north of Memorial Middle School) and 4-mile line and Bentsen Palm Drive. The district is also in the planning stages for High School No. 2 that will house students in grades 9th through 12th and a Middle School No. 6, but the locations for these facilities have yet to be determined.
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 build 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 Dona 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 even donated 15 acres of her own land to see that dream become a reality.
Although Dona Nellie did not have the opportunity to see her dream become a reality, Nellie Schunior Memorial High School was built in 1926-six years following her death. It became a part of the newly formed Tabasco Independent School District and boasted a teaching staff of 18.
Today, Schuniors dream lives on in the hearts of the students and staff at La Joya ISD. Her ideals and values have transformed into La Joya ISD’s mission statement that educational excellence is 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.