Cardona comes to the Houston Independent School District from North East ISD, where he has served as principal of Robert E. Lee High School since 2009. He previously served as principal of North East’s Driscoll Middle School from 2006 to 2009. Cardona was among just five Texas finalists for this year’s H-E-B Excellence in Education Secondary School Principal Award.
HISD Superintendent Terry Grier said Cardona has the expertise needed to continue the transformation of Houston middle schools.
“The middle school years are a crucial time in the academic journey of every student,” Dr. Grier said. “The schools under Mr. Cardona’s leadership have successfully raised the level of academic rigor for all children, regardless of their background, and prepared them to succeed in college and in the job market.”
The number of college-level Advanced Placement exams taken by students at Robert E. Lee High School more than tripled on Cardona’s watch. The 2,700-student campus, which is home to three magnet programs, was included among the National Center for Educational Achievement’s list of Higher Performing Schools in 2011.
Cardona said he plans to use his experience as a principal on the middle school and high school levels to help students make the transition from eighth grade to ninth grade. Students must leave HISD’s middle schools prepared to tackle the rigor of AP classes in high school, Cardona said. This means exposing students to challenging classes in middle school, because high school is too late, he said.
“We have got to get these students ready when they enter high school,” Cardona said. “All kids are capable of being successful if they’re given the right structures.”
Cardona hold a master of science in educational administration from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, and a bachelor of arts in political science from Texas A&M University. He is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University.
Cardona began his education career in 1992 as a teacher working with students with disabilities. He served as an assistant principal at three North East ISD middle schools and one high school. His wife, Leila Cardona, is an elementary school reading facilitator. They have two sons, ages 7 and 12.
Cardona will report for duty in HISD on July 2. He replaces Dr. S. Dallas Dance, who was recently named superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland.