It’s crisp, sunny morning at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) and alumnus, Dr. Sergio Lira is revisiting his alma mater. Looking over the South Deck he spies the Commerce Street Building.
“That was a hotel when I was here,” he says before turning to the recently-installed bronze Gator stature.
“And this is new too,” Lira adds, looking at the latest addition to campus. “A lot has changed since I was a student here.”
While the campus has changed, Lira’s passion for education and community service has remained a constant since his days as a UHD student.
A product of Houston Independent School District (HISD), Lira now serves the state’s largest school district as an elected trustee. Lira is the HISD Board Secretary for District III.
“I am privileged and honored to serve District III,” said Lira, a veteran educator.
A Houston native, he attended Stephen F. Austin High School and made his way to UHD to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Business Commerce. Like many of his University peers, Lira worked his way through school, including a position at historic (and now closed) department store Sakowitz.
He admits that he was not as well-prepared for college as he would have preferred. Still, the University’s flexible class schedule helped him Finish UHD Strong and continue his academic journey.
“My chances of succeeding were very slim,” he said. “UHD provided me with the opportunity to go to college, and I am very grateful to this institution.”
Another inspiration to Lira was his time volunteering at a mission for homeless men.
“That sparked my interest in education and motivated me to seek a career in teaching,” he said. “Following that experience, I began pursuing my teacher certification.”
His first teaching experiences were in elementary school classrooms. He later applied his talents to administrative roles, including as an assistant principal at Cesar Chavez High School and at Bellaire High School.
During his time as a teacher and administrator, Lira earned his Master of Arts in Liberal Arts degree from the University of St. Thomas and a Master of Science in Educational Management from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. He also earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Houston and attended Harvard University on a fellowship.
In Houston, Lira has earned a reputation for helping schools in need, including Chavez High School. During his time at that institution, scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests increased dramatically. Likewise, Bellaire High School students saw a rise in their State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exam scores.
In 2017, he took his passion for education to a new level when he was elected as an HISD Trustee. In addition to his constituents, Lira is supported by his family wife Maria, daughter Liliana, and son Sergio Jr.
“I love HISD,” he said. “This is my district, and I wanted to continue to serve it. With my experience as an educator and administrator, I felt that I could help the board move in the right direction.”
Student success is a priority for Lira, and his goal is to ensure they not only flourish in their HISD classrooms but are prepared for colleges and universities … including UHD.
“As I mentioned, I wasn’t quite college ready,” he said. “UHD, however, helped me succeed and I am now in a position to help even more Houston students rise to their potential. I thank this institution for the opportunity it provided me and for what it does for countless others in our city.”