CFO Maricela Valdez (center) and Business & Finance Dept. Staff

The Donna Independent School District has received the highest rating by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for the way it managed, distributed and reported its financial resources for the fiscal year 2014-2015.

TEA recently released its final financial accountability ratings to approximately 1,200 school districts and charters across the state. Donna ISD once again earned an “A’ for “Superior Achievement.” It’s been recognized at this highest level six other times.

Donna ISD Chief Financial Officer Maricela Valdez said the district strives to achieve quality performance in managing its financial resources. “The Superior rating of financial accountability received by Donna ISD is a solid reflection of teamwork, dedication, commitment, and culture of high expectations from the entire Business Office staff. The team consists of experts in their respective areas that work collectively each day to achieve financial accountability,” Valdez said.

Valdez said the students are the ones who benefit in the long run. “This approach results in the distribution of financial funds placed directly into the classroom to meet the academic needs of all children in the school district,” Valdez said. “It is also evident that this approach worked successfully as all Donna schools met state academic standards for the first time. That is true accountability in both finances and academics.”

State law mandates school districts and charters to submit annual financial reports to TEA. The state agency is then required under the School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) to review them and rate them. FIRST is an accountability system created several years ago to encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources and meet the needs of student instruction.

The FIRST ratings are based on 15 financial indicators, such as administrative cost expenditures; the accuracy of a district or charters financial information; and any financial vulnerabilities. Based on the data, the educational institution is assigned one of four possible letter grades: A, B, C or F as well as a coinciding financial management rating – Superior, Above Standard Achievement, Meets Standard or Substandard Achievement.

Donna ISD Superintendent Fernando Castillo said the district’s Superior rating speaks volumes about the district and school board’s commitment to allocating fiscal resources to student learning and achieving results cost-effectively and efficiently. “In order to receive such rating, a district must receive a score ranging from 70-100 and our district received a 98. I applaud and commend our Chief Financial Officer and staff for their excellent accomplishment as it pertains to the district financial budget,” Castillo said.