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TASA’s “Inspiring Leaders” tagline is not just a reminder of TASA’s commitment to leadership development; it describes our members themselves — school leaders who inspire others as they work to prepare future-ready students. Meet Celina Estrada-Thomas, one of those Inspiring Leaders.

Dr. Celina Estrada-Thomas has spent her entire 38-year career in public education, serving as superintendent in Hutto ISD since 2017. With a lifelong goal of ensuring equality for all children, Estrada-Thomas has been inspired by her family, including her father, an immigrant raised in poverty who was able to overcome numerous obstacles to become a successful business owner. Her work extends beyond the borders of Hutto, as she also serves as a board member for the Texas Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (TALAS) and dedicates her time to mentoring upcoming superintendents.

“We all get ahead by pulling each other up, especially when we mentor other female superintendents,” she says. “We are slowly making inroads in the Texas superintendent ranks; roughly 17% of all superintendents in Texas are female. Regardless of gender, the mentor grows as much, if not more than, the mentee in a mentoring relationship.”

Stan Paz, executive director of TALAS, says that Estrada-Thomas is an outstanding role model for Latina women hoping to serve in the superintendency, and recently continued her work remotely while suffering from COVID-19.

“She weathered the illness while continuing to lead her school district and participate in our virtual TALAS meetings,” Paz says. “Celina is truly an inspirational and unselfish leader who steps up and tackles the toughest issues facing us in Texas.”

In the face of challenges, Estrada-Thomas turns to her personal philosophy to “leave no stone unturned” as she focuses on her ultimate goal.

“When it comes to serving Hutto ISD, I challenge myself to work through every possibility, every opportunity and every possible outcome that is best for the students and staff,” she says. “The worst form of stress for me is knowing that our students or staff missed out on something because I failed to look ‘under that one last stone.’”

Staff and students in Hutto ISD have a motto of “better together,” and Estrada-Thomas says it’s become more than just a catchphrase as the district weathers a global pandemic.

“What makes me exceptionally proud is our ability to hold on to being better together. We will persevere through this crisis because we rely on each other for reassurance, for hope, for virtual hugs, for each other’s expertise, and most importantly, for emotional support.”