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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 Ricardo Lopez, one of those Inspiring Leaders.

In January 2018, Dr. Ricardo Lopez took the helm in Garland ISD, stepping into the superintendency with a vision of providing an outstanding education to all students in the district, without exception. In creating that goal, Lopez has also fostered an inclusive environment among staff in Garland, something that makes him proud.

“I am proud that our work is always about the people, and it always has been — those we work with, how to prepare our students for the future — while we continue to honor the past,” Lopez says. “Garland ISD is privileged to have a more than 100-year-old, glorious past. I am proud of our tradition of excellence, and that we have graduates who are now working and leading across the state, nation and world.”

Lopez takes pride in the success of numerous initiatives in Garland ISD, including an investment in Improvement Required (IR) campuses that involved reconstituting two IR campuses using the ACE campus turnaround model to great success: Both campuses moved from a D to a B in just one year. He is also excited that Garland is working to develop P-TECH programs and collegiate academies at all seven high schools in the district.

“Most recently, GISD’s response to COVID-19 makes me exceptionally proud. We moved quickly to provide support by developing an at-home learning platform, distributing devices, providing meals and delivering virtual counseling services for social and emotional learning along with support for families,” Lopez says. “All of these points of pride are grounded in the district’s belief system of helping all students succeed, no matter what.”

Mida Milligan, who serves as executive director of communications and public relations in Garland, praises Lopez’s positive and encouraging tone as one tool he uses to build excitement and inspiration throughout the district.

“He has built strong relationships in our community and district with his ‘Lopez Listens’ meetings and multiple outreach opportunities for both families and staff,” Milligan says. He has energized everyone and is our ‘chief motivator’ and biggest cheerleader. He has rallied everyone to accomplish challenging goals, including our board and staff.”

In a profession that can be challenging and isolating even in the best of times, Lopez embraces the ever-changing nature of the work, saying it’s these kinds of situations that keep him focused on moving ahead. “I view the work as comparable to solving a multifaceted puzzle, and that energizes me,” he says. “I like being able to bring teams together to solve complex issues, making the impossible achievable. I thrive on that kind of work and the successes that result from it.”

Milligan says that Lopez’s unique outlook has helped inspire her to branch out in her work in new ways.