A memorable week in Presidio….

I’m continuing to recount my adventures from 25 years ago when I took some time off from the law firm and volunteered to work as a teacher’s aide in various districts across the state.  Presidio was memorable. 

All I knew about Presidio before I got there was that it was often cited during the weather portion of the evening news as “our nation’s hot spot.” Presidio frequently recorded temperatures that were the highest in the country.  As I drove to this small town on the Rio Grande I noticed the English language radio stations all fading away. Then most of the Spanish language stations faded out as well. This place is remote.

There were not a lot of lodging options in Presidio so it was a blessing that high school principal Ted Purcell offered to put me up in his garage apartment.  Little did I know at the time that Ted and his daughter, Molly (a future superintendent) would turn out to be longtime friends. 

One day that week I went to the elementary campus in Candelaria which was even more remote.  It was as close to a one-room schoolhouse as I had ever seen and the students were delighted to have a visitor.  There was a small footbridge that took you right into Mexico.  You could walk from Texas to Mexico and back in five minutes. You could play catch with a frisbee from one country to another. I read on Wikipedia that this bridge no longer exists.  That’s not surprising.

The students were bright-eyed and struck me as eager to learn. The things that were going on in Presidio, and even in Candelaria, were the same as the things I’d seen in all the other districts I had visited—teachers teaching the same curriculum, kids being kids. But there was a definite sense in Presidio of being a long way from the mainstream.  I remember one of the teachers telling me what it was like to take the students to an out-of-town event and how many of them had to be instructed on how to order food at McDonald’s. This was a new experience for them.

It was a week that brought home how diverse Texas is. The high school in Presidio was new, well maintained, and nice looking, but the facilities were nothing like what I had seen in Keller or Leander.  The library, the science lab, the gym—just not the same.  And yet our state holds all students to the same academic standards without genuinely addressing the obvious disparity in wealth.  If students are to have an equal opportunity to get a good education, money needs to pour into the poorer parts of the state.  

The Comptroller reports that the 2023 legislative session will open up with a budget surplus of $27 billion. Let’s hope a huge chunk of that goes to our public schools.


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at jwalsh@wabsa.com