The Hutto ISD board of trustees voted Aug. 31 to hire Raúl Peña as its new superintendent.

Peña is from El Paso, and holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership & Policy, both from The University of Texas, and earned his Master of Education in School Administration from Texas Woman’s University. Peña also completed the Harvard National Institute for Urban School Leaders. Previously, he worked in Fort Worth and Dallas ISDs.

Community Impact spoke with him about his plans for his first year as Hutto ISD's superintendent as well as his professional background. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What made you want to become an educator?

I left El Paso to go to The University of Texas, and to make a long story short, ended up in Dallas as a clothes buyer for the JC Penney corporate office. Upon doing Career Day in one of the Dallas ISD schools, I really found an affinity for teaching. I just fell in love with the kids. I transitioned to becoming an educator soon after through an alternative certification program in Dallas ISD.

What is something parents should know about you?

Students come first. The main reason why I'm here is to make sure that that every student has an opportunity to sit at the table of their choice and that they have access to grade-level curriculum and to make sure that through their path in Hutto ISD schools, any of our schools, that they have an opportunity to have that quality instruction and exposure to an engaging environment, both in the classroom and at after-school activities.

What are some of your plans to address Hutto ISD’s growth?

I will continue to work side by side with the board and see what their vision is, and continue to engage in meaningful and intentional work with them. Communication is going to be critical as part of that ongoing relationship. I will also work with the city and our parents, community and businesses, as they're all part of the community and its growth. It's going to be important to be intentional about our student projections, our anticipated growth and making sure that the board has the best information in front of them so that we can make the best decisions for our students.

What experiences do you think have shaped your approach to improving student outcomes as a superintendent?

It's been a conglomeration of experiences with students having great teacher mentors. When I first started teaching, I had 35 fifth-graders as a first-year teacher, and I know that I probably didn't do my best that year as I was learning to teach. But you're able to reflect on those experiences and be able to grow and to take feedback from others. Making sure that you're always open to feedback and growing is a very important part of this role. We're always learning, not just the students, but also the adults that work in Hutto ISD.

What stands out to you about Hutto ISD?

It is a warm community. It is focused on family. It's focused on students. Going to the visits at the elementary schools and some of the other schools, seeing students ride their bike to school, it just painted this kind of vintage image of what family should look like, what it could be like, and as for me, it was a perfect opportunity to come in and just be a part of that and able to provide opportunities where we can continue to strengthen that connection with their families. I just fell in love with it.