José Leal was appointed to the Board of Education in August 2017 by unanimous vote of HISD trustees. He is serving a portion of the unexpired term of District III representative, a position left vacant by the passing of Trustee Manuel Rodriguez Jr. Leal’s term expires in January 2018. A special election for the office will be held on Nov. 7, 2017.
Leal was born in Chicago but grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, with Spanish as his primary language. He returned to the U.S. in 1980 and attended adult-education programs at Austin and Milby high schools, where he took English as a Second Language classes at night. Leal went on to the University of Houston–Downtown, where he earned a bachelor of science in business information computer systems and graduated cum laude, and a master’s degree in education/counseling from University of Houston Central Campus. Leal holds a certificate of leadership from Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies and a certificate from the Harris County Department of Education’s Campus Leadership Academy.
Leal has worked in HISD schools since 1981, beginning his career in the operations and maintenance departments. Midway through his district tenure, he became certified as a bilingual teacher and taught second grade at Pugh Elementary School. Later he became certified in other areas, including counseling and school administration. Leal worked as a counselor at Hamilton Middle School and assistant principal at Wheatley High School. He also served as dean of students at Hamilton and Johnston (now Meyerland) middle schools, both of which improved their status from acceptable to exemplary during his tenure. “It was all about teamwork,” he said.
Leal retired from HISD in 2011 but returned to work as an assistant principal at North Forest High School and as a counselor at YES Prep Northbrook Middle School. Currently, he is a special education teacher at Houston Can Academy, where he has also worked as a Spanish teacher and assistant principal.
Leal is a member of the Houston Licensed Professional Counselors Association and Houston Counseling Association (HCA). His volunteer activities include serving as an HCA representative at the annual Hispanic Career Day; panelist for the First Latino Education Summit at Rice University; and doing counseling for Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse. He and his wife have one son, who attended Park Place and De Zavala elementary schools and Hamilton Middle School and graduated in 2012 as the valedictorian of Heights High School (formerly Reagan).