Uvalde CISD a Family Affair for the Harrells

Dr. Hal Harrell, Sul Ross alumnus and Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent

By Laura Nelson

Even behind a mask, Hal Harrell's smile sparkles, especially when he talks about Uvalde and the school district he serves.

The native Uvaldean's goal has always been to live in his hometown and give back to the community that has given him so much. He and wife Donna, married nearly 34 years, both graduated from Uvalde High School as did their son Trey and daughter Kristen. Kristen teaches special education in the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD) and his late father, John Harrell, also served as Superintendent of UCISD from 1992-2000 and again as interim Superintendent for six months in 2012-2013.

Following graduation from Uvalde High School, Dr. Harrell earned a bachelor's degree at the Univ. of Texas at Austin with plans to return home and work in real estate. Instead, he accepted a position at The Uvalde Bank, a locally owned operation that was subsequently purchased by a large nationwide bank.

As the young man considered a new career path, he reflected upon what brought him joy. He took pleasure in working with youth, coaching Little League, teaching Sunday School, and finding ways to support them. He chose education and took courses to obtain alternative certification through the Region 20 Education Service Center. He started teaching in special education and found it quite rewarding. He furthered his education at Sul Ross State Univ. Rio Grande College, earning a master's in education and obtaining superintendent certification. He said that Sul Ross allowed him to grown in his career without having to leave his young family to pursue his goals. He credits Sul Ross with preparing him well for his doctoral studies.

Meanwhile, he took on increasingly responsible positions within UCISD, serving as Principal at New Hope Learning Center for at-risk students and then as High School Principal. He moved to the Central Office where over a period of years he held every position except for Director of Curriculum and Instruction. He was Director of Student Services, Deputy Superintendent and also worked in finance and human resources.

His desire to continue his education led him join the second cohort of the Univ. of Texas at San Antonio Winter Garden doctoral program where he completed classroom hours in Uvalde. For his dissertation research, Hal chose to explore how school district leadership can make a difference, a practical topic that could be put to use. He earned his Doctor of Education degree in 2017 and took the UCISD Superintendent's position in November of 2018.

Dr. Harrell said, "As superintendent, having SRSU-RGC in our region helps to fill a critical need in our district that is providing effective teachers in every classroom. SRSU-RGC has consistently produced high-quality candidates for teaching as well as administrative positions. Several of our current administrators who are graduates of SRSU-RGC would not have had the opportunity to advance their careers without the institution located in close proximity. In addition, SRSU-RGC makes an excellent destination for our Uvalde Early College graduates to pursue their Bachelor’s degree. Many of these students are first-generation college-goers who cannot relocate to obtain upper-level courses. Having SRSU-RGC located in this area provides a critical service to students who would otherwise have to cut their education short."

He also spoke about Sul Ross as a community member, commenting, "SRSU-RGC serves as an anchor for so many who live in this region. Our neighbors can earn their Bachelor’s degree as well as a Master’s and provides a valuable resource and benefit to families looking to relocate to our area."

Sul Ross is proud to have a home in Uvalde alongside devoted, community-minded families such as the Harrells.