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Ben Perez Named 2021 NAESP National Distinguished Principal for Texas

Apr 20, 2021 | Community Relations

Taylor Ray Elementary Principal Benjamin Perez has been named the 2021 NAESP National Distinguished Principal for Texas. District leaders gathered at his campus this morning for a quick surprise announcement. In early May, Perez will celebrate with state education and community leaders.

Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association will host the May event where Perez will be awarded a check for $10,000 thanks to a generous donation from long-time TEPSA business partner Mentoring Minds. Perez will represent Texas at the National Distinguished Principals program sponsored by the National Association of Elementary School Principals in Washington, D.C. in October.

Embracing data decision-making to drive continuous improvement for students and teachers, Perez has created a school community dedicated to high expectations and student success. Through data teams and collaborative action planning during professional learning communities, teachers provide the best instructional approach to address the individual needs of all students.

“Mr. Perez has created a school vision to serve students to the fullest extent possible by providing high quality staff development and empowering his teachers to make instructional decisions,” Lamar CISD Principal Shannon Hood wrote in her recommendation letter. “He leads Taylor Ray Elementary in a way that places student and adult learning at the center of every decision.”

During Perez’s 11 years at Taylor Ray Elementary, the school has garnered recognition for its innovative programs and intervention strategies. Despite the challenges posed by a highly mobile population, the school has a consistent passing rate on STAAR, and the school’s math model is being implemented at several elementary campuses in the county. Students who struggle to complete their homework receive additional support during Power Hour, an afterschool program currently serving 150 students from K-5th grade. The school’s Intensive Reading Program is designed to reduce the number of retentions in first and second grade, as well as help students improve their reading. Additional time to support students with tutoring and enrichment activities are built into the school day.

“By creating a comprehensive support system and providing ongoing professional development for his teachers, Benjamin ensures every child on his campus has the same opportunity to flourish and succeed,” TEPSA Executive Director Harley Eckhart said. “His ultimate goal is to instill a lifelong love of learning and sense of hope in all his students.”

The school’s learner-centered approach and positive school culture has resulted in high parent engagement and community support. Perez believes parents are a critical partner in their child’s success, and he encourages that partnership with open and consistent communication. From weekly emails and phone calls to home visits and hosting parent education evenings, parents are not only aware of their child’s progress but they are equipped to support them at home as well.

“Texas schools have endured much hardship this school year," said Shad Madsen, CEO of Mentoring Minds. "Principal Perez embraced change to help his community overcome some of Texas' most difficult times. His commitment to students, to his community, and to growing leaders is evident in all that he does. Thank you for setting the standard and for all you do to support your students, parents, and teachers.”

TEPSA received more than 137 nominations for the 2021 NDP award. After a rigorous reading process, in which applicants shared their educational philosophies and professional accomplishments, a peer-review committee selected the five finalists. These outstanding leaders then showcased their achievements during a virtual school visit by a team of educators. Perez will be recognized throughout the year including the awards gala in Washington, DC.

Perez is a two-time H-E-B Excellence in Education finalist and a former Lamar CISD Principal of the Year. He has served in Lamar CISD for 25 years.

This is the second time a principal from Taylor Ray Elementary has received the prestigious National Distinguished Principal Award. Perez worked as an assistant principal with Diane Parks who received the award in 2007.

TEPSA, whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 5,900 members who direct the activities of more than 3 million PreK-8 school children.

Sponsored by NAESP, The National Distinguished Principals program honors outstanding elementary and middle-level administrators who ensure that America’s children acquire a sound foundation for lifelong learning and achievement. The program was established in 1984 to recognize and celebrate elementary and middle-level principals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, character, and climate for the students, families, and staffs in their learning communities. Learn more at

About Mentoring Minds, the Critical Thinking for Life company

Mentoring Minds is on a mission to put critical thinking at the center of K-12 education. Founded by teachers, Mentoring Minds provides curriculum that empowers educators to infuse critical thinking skills into standards-based instruction. Students learn the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking through the ThinkUp! Standards Mastery System, which provides rigorous materials that elevate achievement among all students. Mentoring Minds’ commitment to education extends beyond the classroom as well—the company proudly sponsors forward-thinking administrators across the U.S. and supports community-based education initiatives through MindShare, an employee-driven grant program. For more information, call 800-585-5258 or visit