Meet Our Team
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction
Dr. Dana Yates serves Mercedes ISD as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. Her primary role entails working with district and campus administrators to ensure all students reach their highest academic performance through the coordination of instructional resources, professional development, and implementation of district-wide programs. Dr. Yates coordinated grant-writing efforts focused on improving teacher effectiveness and enhancing student learning opportunities, which resulted in the district receiving the U.S. Department of Education’s Professional Development Grant for Teachers of Advanced Mathematics and Science, and the Texas Education Agency’s HB4 Highly Qualified Pre-K Grant. She spear-headed the acquisition of the Mercedes High School T-STEM Academy and was selected by the Texas Education Agency to the state-wide District Coordinators for School Improvement. Dr. Yates has a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from the University of Texas at Pan American and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Houston. She continues to dedicate her time and passion to provide teachers with the resources to enrich the learning experiences of our students.
Curriculum and Instruction Department
Lisa Serna Sánchez was born and raised in Mercedes, Texas, deeply rooted in education alongside her 8 older brothers. Lisa was hired to serve Mercedes ISD first, as Assistant Principal at her childhood school, and then as the Language Arts Coordinator to oversee Reading and Writing curriculum and instruction from PreK-12th grades. Her duties also include Spelling Bee and UIL Coordinator. Her career started as a Teacher for grades 1st through 3rd. While living in California for 5 years, she was hired as a Title I pull-out Reading Teacher for grades Kinder through 5th, focusing on Guided Reading. After moving back to Texas, she became an Assistant Principal and Instructional Facilitator for Progreso ISD and Weslaco ISD, respectively. Lisa has also served IDEA Public Schools as Elementary Language Arts Coordinator and as Principal for 2 years. Nothing has brought her more joy than serving God, her family and her community. Mrs. Sánchez earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from the University of Texas-Pan American.
Ramon Mejia Jr. currently serves Mercedes I.S.D. as the Social Studies/ G.T. Coordinator. His primary role is working with social studies teachers and campus leaders in an effort to improve academic performance and curriculum development so as to reach district accountability goals. Mr. Mejia also provides additional support to campus administrators in overseeing the district’s compliance for the Gifted and Talented Program. Before joining Mercedes, he served 11 years at Valley View I.S.D. as a secondary social studies educator, lead teacher and assistant principal. A graduate of Mercedes High School, Mr. Mejia proudly served in the U.S. Navy, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Government from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg. His educational philosophy stems from the belief that an effective public education system is a great equalizer and an important safeguard for ensuring a just, equitable, and sustainable society
Mrs. Evangelina Ortega Gracia serves Mercedes ISD as the Bilingual/ESL Director. Her responsibilities consist of overseeing compliance of the Title III, Part A Program. She supports the development, implementation, and evaluation of the Bilingual/ESL program. She collaborates with district/campus staff and parents to identify needs and establish goals to improve the success of our English Learners. An additional duty for Mrs. Ortega Gracia consists of supervising the RTI/504 Program and the Dyslexia Program. She received her Bachelor of Science in Applied Learning and Development from The University of Texas in Austin in 1993 and a Master of Education in Elementary Education- Bilingual/Bicultural, as well as a Principal Certification from The University of Texas-Pan American in 2004. She has been in the education field for twenty-six years. Prior to becoming the Bilingual/ESL Director, she was a First-grade bilingual teacher for 10 years. Two of which were in Austin ISD and eight in Mercedes ISD. She has also served Mercedes ISD as a Literacy Coach, Assistant Principal and Principal. She is passionate about empowering bilingual children by meeting their unique needs and values the importance of bilingualism because “El que sabe dos idiomas vale por dos.”
Mrs. Judith (Judy) Guerra serves Mercedes ISD as the Mathematics Coordinator that oversees Math Curriculum from Prekindergarten–12th Grade. Judy has been a Secondary Math and Science Teacher, Instructional Facilitator, Region One Senior Specialist and Middle School Math Coordinator before her current position. She has been a professional development trainer for AgileMind, Science Advocate for Texas Instruments, served on TEA Committees for Item Analysis, Objective Alignment for EOC, and Performance Descriptor Levels. Judy has also been a presenter for TEA Kindergarten - 3rd Grade Math Academies as well as RGVCTM, CAMT, and TASM conferences on differentiated instruction and concept development, and highlighted as a TASM Spotlight Member. She is also certified as an Advanced Ed Evaluator. Mrs. Guerra earned her Bachelor’s Degree from TAMU-Kingsville and her Master’s Degree from UT-Brownsville. She serves her community as Lead Eucharistic Minister, and Treasurer for Women of Faith Retreat Team at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. Her passion for student achievement motivates her to research and collaborate with educators for their success in the future.
Ms. Juanita (Jayni) Mariscal, a Mercedes native, currently serves as Mercedes ISD’s Science Coordinator. Upon graduating from UT Pan American with a BS degree (Science Composite Certification), Jayni began her 34-year career in science education. During this time, she earned a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, as well as a Principal Certification. After dedicating 20 years as a high school science educator, she sought the position of Science Curriculum Coordinator with the goal of impacting science education district wide. With that goal in mind, Ms. Mariscal served on various TEA Science Committees which included committees that set passing standards for state assessments and reviewing state assessment items. Her primary responsibility is to oversee the implementation of a science instructional program that provides students with the knowledge and understanding of the principles of science, as well as an appreciation of the natural world. It is her belief that a strong science foundation will provide MISD students with the analytical skills and problem-solving abilities needed to accomplish their college and career goals.
Diana Pequeño Gomez is currently the Early Childhood Director for PK-3rd Grade for Mercedes ISD. She has been an employee of the district for 40 years. She started her educational career as a 3rd Grade teacher at Travis Elementary back on September, 1978. She taught many students, some who are now her colleagues’. After being a teacher for 20 years, she was hired as an Instructional Facilitator. This new position was the beginning of her Administration career with the district. As an Instructional Facilitator at Graham Elementary a 5th and 6th grade campus her duties included overseeing the instruction of all subjects, state testing, special programs, UIL activities, assisted teachers with resources and materials and provided professional development to staff. She served as an Assistant Principal at Graham Elementary and Mercedes Early Childhood. Then she became the Principal at the Mercedes Early Childhood Center (MECC) for 2 years. Her current duties as the Early Childhood Director include working collaboratively with district and campus staff to monitor and support instructional activities, conduct six weeks data meetings and ensure the implementation of ELA/ SLA initiatives for Grades PK-3rd Grade. She is a proud graduate of Mercedes High School. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Pan American University, her Master’s Degree in Educational Supervision from UTPA and her Principal Certification after being selected for the first Mid Management cohort group at Region One Education Service Center. Her goals are simple success for all students today and tomorrow, build a solid literacy and mathematical foundation in the early years, empower staff and establish favorable relationships with parents and the community.
Norma Flores is the Academic Facilitator for Pre-K - 3rd for Mercedes ISD, where she provides our teachers instruction with a personalized touch. Mrs. Flores takes great pride in tailoring strategies to each teacher based on the support they need and the content they’re conveying to their students, inspiring teachers and students alike to rise above their potential through the trusting relationship she forms with them. Over the 28 years she’s spent with us, she’s taught 1st and 2nd grade students in a bilingual setting and 90/10 Bilingual Program, then becoming the Literacy Coach for MECC, teaching Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers through data in the area of reading. Her passion for enriching the achievement of MISD’s students helped her rise to Academic Coach, the success that followed leading to her position as Academic Facilitator for our district today, where she continues to support and coach teachers, making sure none of MISD’s students fall through the cracks. Mrs. Flores holds a Bachelor of Science with a minor in Bilingual Education from the University of Texas Pan-American.
Deana S. Llanos serves as the Section 504/RtI/Dyslexia Coordinator for Mercedes ISD from PreK-12th grades. Deana was a Kindergarten Bilingual teacher, Reading Interventionist, and Math/Science Interventionist/ACE Site-Coordinator for the Mercedes Early Childhood Center before her current position. In 2005, she was chosen as the Teacher of the Year by Mercedes Early Childhood and the Elementary Teacher of the Year by Mercedes ISD. Ms. Deana S. Llanos has a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Early Childhood with an endorsement in Bilingual/ESL-Spanish and a Master in Education with Master Reading Teacher and a Reading Specialist certifications all of which she obtained from the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas.
Mr. Daniel Runnels is the Testing Coordinator/Data Analyst for Mercedes ISD. This role entails providing coordination of the Texas Student Assessment Program and data analysis tools that are implemented by Mercedes ISD. After the completion of several years in Business Management and Texas Higher Education, Daniel settled into his role at Mercedes ISD. His combined experience as an analyst in Texas Higher Education and MISD has provided expertise in online data analysis program implementation. These programs are used to provide concise reporting at all levels to assist with continuous school improvement. He additionally enjoys working with institutional strategic planning and state accountability tools that are used to guide instructional practices and lead toward successes at Mercedes ISD. Daniel holds a BBA in Marketing from Texas A&M-Kingsville and a M.A.Ed. in Instructional Technology from the University of Texas-Brownsville.
ACE/21st Century CLC
Marcos De Los Santos is the 21st Century Community Learning Centers – ACE Program Director that oversees the planning, implementation, management and evaluation of the Texas ACE Program at each campus in the school district. He prides himself in ensuring students from Kindergarten through 12th grade have access to high quality before and after school academic intervention programs that will assist in the districts overall goal of student academic achievement. In addition to student services, ACE provides parents of participating students a variety of intentional educational opportunities such as Child Development Courses, GED, Ingles Sin Barrera’s, Financial Education Courses, Nutritional Courses, Health Courses and Technology Courses, in the ACE Parental Learning Center and across all campuses. After proudly serving in the United States Army from 1998 - 2002, De Los Santos attended the University of Texas Pan American in the Fall of 2002 and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Biology in the Spring of 2005. After spending four years as a teacher and campus site coordinator, De Los Santos decided to pursue administration and was selected as the ACE District Coordinator for the 2009 school year. Since 2010 until present De Los Santos has written and has been awarded 4 grant cycles bringing a total of $18,678,413 to the students and staff of Mercedes Independent School District. De Los Santos has also represented the district and regional out-of-school time programs as a Region 1 representative for multiple cycles at the state level for out-of-school time programs and has represented and presented the Mercedes ACE Program at the Department of Education in Washington D.C.
Mr. Guy McKinney is the Director of Bands/Fine Arts for Mercedes ISD. He oversees all aspects of the music department, continuing to positively promote the MISD student musicians and their performing ensembles for both band and orchestra. Under his direction, the Mighty Tiger Marching Band and the Wind Ensemble have earned many UIL Superior Ratings. Guy is an active member of TMAA, having served as a judge for both UIL concert/sight reading evaluations in several regions and UIL solo and ensemble contest in Region 15. As an active member of TMEA, he has served as coordinator for internationally renowned conductors at our Region 28 honor band clinic and concerts. He has been published in BandWorld Magazine and served as a guest conductor for the Fulton County Honors’ Band in Ohio. Most recently he has organized the annual Queen City Marching Festival as well as the 76th Annual UIL Pigskin Jubilee here at Tiger stadium. Mr. McKinney earned his B.M.Ed. from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, graduating as Salutatorian of his class. He has also earned his MM from the American Band College of Southern Oregon University.
Mrs. Hinds has lived her whole life in Mercedes and is a product of Mercedes public schools. She attended and was graduated from Pan American University with a BBA in finance and accounting. She is a Certified Public Accountant. After a career in banking, she began a career in the Mercedes schools in 1990 being employed as Assistant Chief Financial Officer. She has served as Chief Financial Officer since 2007. Mrs. Hinds is a member of TSCPA, TASBO and VASBO.
Delia Garcia serves Mercedes ISD as Director of Accounting. Her role entails supervising the operation of the district accounting, budgeting, accounts payable, state reporting, federal grant expenditure reporting, and district auditing. Mrs. Garcia holds an MBA from the University of Texas – Pan American and has over 16 years in school finance experience. She is a member of VASBO and is a member of Texas Association of School Business Officials.
Career & Technical Education Department
Child Nutrition Services
Construction & Facilities Department
Federal Programs/Migrant Department
Lisa Cantu-Reyes is the Federal Programs Director for Mercedes ISD. Her role entails overseeing federal fiscal compliance of grants provided by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that includes: Title I, Part A, Title I, Part C, Title II, Title III and Title IV. In addition she oversees the College Ready, Career Set!-Gear Up Grant for current 7th grade students. She also oversees the Parent and Family Engagement Program for the district and prides herself in volunteering in her community. Mrs. Cantu-Reyes has a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Special Education and a Master in Bilingual Education with an endorsement in Gifted Education all of which she obtained from the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, Texas.
Mrs. Maryann Handy is the migrant counselor for Mercedes ISD. She ensures that all migrant students are provided with the appropriate educational services necessary to go beyond state academic achievement standards while minimizing disruptions that occur due to family relocations. Throughout her 26 years in the education field, Mrs. Handy has worked as a teacher in both elementary and middle school settings, with 22 years of experience as an academic and licensed professional counselor. She has served as a middle school counselor, a therapist in private practice as well as in the urgent care setting, screening adults for hospitalization. She has also worked in local school districts as an outside mental health agent, counseling students from Pre-K to 12th grade in the areas of divorce, depression, abuse, and various emotional areas of concern. A graduate of the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in English. Continuing her education, she earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Guidance, ranked first in her class, and also received a professional counseling license also from UTPA. One of the most rewarding aspects of her job is assisting migrant seniors in obtaining scholarships to attend college. This year, seniors have received 15 CAMP awards in total, as well as early acceptance to multiple universities with migrant programs. Working with migrant students has, without a doubt, been the highpoint of her professional career.
Ralph Mendez has been the Director of Purchasing for Mercedes ISD since 2014 where he oversees the purchasing, warehouse operations, records, and risk management functions for the District. His biggest achievement in MISD has been facilitating the transition to a self-funded group health insurance plan. Prior to his service with Mercedes ISD, he worked as a financial analyst in the private sector for 8 years. He started attending Mercedes ISD schools in 3rd grade and graduated from MHS in 2002. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Military Police where he deployed multiple times in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Ralph holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from the University of North Texas and a Master of Business Administration, with a concentration in Health Care Administration, from the University of Texas – RGV.
Safe School Department
Ms. Veronica Y. Bustamante is the Mercedes ISD Head Nurse. Her role is to oversee the campus school nurses in the district and serve as a leader for all school health policies and programs. Ms. Bustamante is a certified registered nurse and has 9 years of nursing experience. She received her associate’s degree in nursing from South Texas College Nursing and Allied Health. Prior to joining MISD, Ms. Bustamante served as a charge nurse at Knapp Medical Center for 5 years specializing in Women’s Health and 1 year at Women’s Hospital at DHR as a gynecology nurse. She has also worked for Elite Cosmetic Surgery for 1 year as an OR nurse and was a health instructor for an alternative certification program for 2 years. After working for Mercedes ISD for 5 years as a campus school nurse, Ms. Bustamante decided to pursue her dream and continue to serve her community as the head nurse for Mercedes ISD. She has currently been in this position for one year. Ms. Bustamante is currently taking the role as a school nurse at two campuses. Other duties assigned are coordinating health education training to staff, providing staff wellness programs, coordinating with other entities for continuing education to school nurses, collaborating with our medical director, Dr. Bonilla, regarding doctors standing orders and medical procedures and ensuring health care practices comply with the laws relating to student health issues, conducting mandated health screenings and immunization data and reporting them to the Texas Department of State Health Services, serve as the nursing staff leader in student health advocacy, and promote preventive health practices. Ms. Bustamante is also involved with her community and serves on the ambulance board for the city of Mercedes and a Lions Club Member. Her goal for the MISD nursing department is to implement a high-quality comprehensive school health program within the philosophy and objectives established by Board and local policies.
Special Education Department
Dr. Dora Diana Rodriguez, Director of Special Education Services
Dr. Dora Diana Rodriguez is the Director of the Special Education Department at Mercedes I.S.D. She oversees the Memorandum of Understanding, a collaborative partnership, between Hidalgo County Head Start (HCSHP) and Mercedes Independent School District (MISD) that provides Head Start services to age and income eligible Pre-K children as per the guidelines established by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The intensions are to collaboratively develop and foster a cohesive partnership for the provision of a high quality early childhood program for children and their families; to ensure that these collaboration arrangements between Mercedes I.S.D. and HCHSP are developed, implemented, and reviewed annually to improve quality of services. Dr. Rodriguez graduated with her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2019. In 1995, she received her Masters of Education Degree as an Educational Diagnostician and also received her Principal certification. Prior to becoming the Mercedes Special education Director, she was the Section 504 Coordinator at Pharr- San Juan-Alamo Independent School District. Here at Mercedes ISD, she has also served as an Educational Diagnostician. Her goal is to ensure that the children at Mercedes Special Education Cooperative (MSEC) are well served and educated with strong foundational skills.
Rolando joined Mercedes ISD as the Director of Technology in 2006. In his role, he provides strategic planning, and operations for administrative and instructional initiatives, including data, voice and wireless networks, PEIMS, student and finance applications, and district public communications systems. Before joining Mercedes, he spent 13 years at Weslaco ISD as an educator, assistant principal, and instructional technology coordinator. A graduate of Weslaco High School, Rolando earned a Bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and a Master’s degree in administration from the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas. He is a TASBO member and served on the district executive team. Rolando and the Technology staff are committed to helping educators, staff and community propel our students to achieve success in their academic goals.
Sandra L. Torres is the PEIMS Coordinator for Mercedes ISD who oversees PEIMS data quality, campus attendance data, and State reporting requirements. PEIMS is the acronym for the Public Education Information Management System. PEIMS encompasses all data requested and received by TEA about public education, including student demographic and academic performance, personnel, financial, and organizational information from school districts and education service centers. Sandra L. Torres earned her AS in Accounting from the University of Texas at Brownsville, a BS in Interdisciplinary studies from the University of Texas at Brownsville and a MBA from the University of Phoenix. Working with PEIMS since 1999, Mrs. Torres is truly passionate for this field of work as she gets to collaborate with district staff and build strong relationships while striving for students’ success.
Ruben Cantu has been the District Network Specialist for Mercedes ISD since 1999 where he oversees the computer technology operations for the district, which includes but is not limited to the computer network, cybersecurity, wireless networks and voice over IP. Ruben’s biggest challenge is allowing students access to internet and 21st century tools, but still keeping them safe from inappropriate content. Ruben has implemented tools that makes the district CIPA (Child Internet Protection Act) compliant and always makes the student's internet safety a priority. Prior to his service with Mercedes ISD, he worked as a Systems and Network Analyst for the private sector for 9 years. That experience has helped him manage multi-million E-Rate projects that transitioned the district's computer network to the 21st century. Ruben holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Brownsville in Computer Informations Systems. He also has industry standard certifications as a Cisco Certified Network Associate(CCNA) and a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer(MCSE).
Jose Vasquez is the Instructional Technology Specialist for Mercedes ISD since 2014. He oversees the educational technology programs for K-12. His role consists of training and assisting teachers and staff in the integration of information technology tools and resources to support the core curriculum. In addition to integration, Mr. Vasquez assists in the development and support for digital content related projects, deployment of new classroom digital tools and resources, district content management, social media implementation and management, G Suite Administrator, and digital citizenship training and resource person for students and staff. He prides himself in helping others make technology a bit easier! Joey (preferred nickname) spent 5 years as a CTE Business Education Teacher. He taught various business and technology courses and was the Campus Technology Coordinator at Mercedes Junior High and Mercedes Early College Academy. Mr. Vasquez holds a BBA in Management from the University of Texas-Pan American and a Master of Education in Educational Technology Leadership from Lamar University. Joey holds a mid-management certificate and is a Google Level 1 and Level 2 Educator.
Mercedes Early Literacy Program
Mrs. Domitila T. Hernandez is the Mercedes Early Literacy Coordinator for Mercedes ISD. Her position focuses to improve the literacy performance of early readers and to support the Mercedes ISD mission statement. Mrs. Hernandez served 6 years as a 1st and 4th-grade teacher for Travis Elementary in Mercedes. She received her Master’s degree in Education and decided to venture out and work as an Early Childhood Coordinator at a Migrant Seasonal Head start. After working with Head start for 8 years, she came back to her roots to give back to her community and serve the children of Mercedes. She brought years of experience to her position and now works with the Memorandum of Understanding between Hidalgo County Head start and the Mercedes ISD Early Literacy Program. Her responsibilities as a coordinator to this collaboration requires providing office services by implementing organizational systems, procedures, and policies that help monitor literacy developments. She also maintains all required documents for attendance and ensures to maintain a professional relationship with students, colleagues, parents, interns, administrators and community members between the two agencies.
Mr. Adan Vallejo is the Transportation Director for Mercedes ISD. Throughout his thirty-one years of employment within the district he has attained experience working with the intricacies of personnel management, fleet operations, and student safety. He has earned numerous certifications which include Texas Engineering Extension Service-School Bus Trainer, School Bus Safety Inspector, Texas School Bus Driver Safety, CDL License PS Endorsements, DOT Medical Examiners, Texas Commission of Environmental Quality Fuel Operators License, Region One Special Needs, DOT-49 CFR, CPR, and Diesel Mechanic. His accreditations throughout the years have allowed him to gain experience in the areas of School Bus Air Brake Systems, School Bus Routing and Scheduling, School Bus Safety Inspections, Personnel Management, Evaluation of Transportation Operations, Budgeting, School Bus Accident and Investigations, TEA State Reporting, Transportation Roadmaps Compliance, and Accessing/Interpreting Driver Records. The mission of the Mercedes I.S.D. Transportation Department is "To ensure a safe and dependable school bus ride to and from school to all eligible students. Our department’s services ultimately support a positive learning experience for every student, every day, without exception. Our Route Operations goal is “To provide an efficient school bus ride on every trip. Our Fleet Operations goal is “To provide and maintain the vehicles necessary to support a safe bus ride on every trip.” Mr. Vallejo thrives to cultivate organizational success in the department through teamwork, attention to detail, and ability to be cost conscious while having an unwavering approach to student safety.