Three schools operating with acting principals

Melissa Federspill|Leader-News
Morales Junior High acting principal Darryl Hemphill shakes the hand of Uvalde High School Principal Randy Harris during the school board meeting on Jan. 16.

Three campuses, including Morales Junior High, Dalton Elementary and the Uvalde Dual Language Academy are entering the second semester of the 2022-23 school year with new acting principals.

The new additions bring  diverse skillsets but are lacking State Board of Education principal certifications. UCISD officials said the title “acting principal” is used when individuals serve in a role while certifications are not yet finalized.

Morales Junior High is under the leadership of Darryl Hemphill, who is new to Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District. Hemphill replaces Isidro Escamilla, who has been reassigned as an assistant principal at Uvalde High School.

Hemphill joins UCISD from Northside ISD where he served as assistant athletic director. He has 35 years of experience in education. 

According to a 2018 report by the Laredo Morning Times, Hemphill became the first African-American football head coach in NISD history in 1998. Before that, the New York Jets selected him as a player in the 10th-round of the NFL draft in 1982.

Hemphill holds a state teaching certification for secondary history, and secondary physical education. He previously held a principal certification from 2002-2015. He holds a Bachelor of Science in physical education with a double major in history education, and a master’s degree in principal/mid-management.

Hemphill said he believes children are the essence of our foundation. 

“I strongly believe we need to give them all we can so they can be a successful part of our society. I’ve always felt that if we instill in them ‘the better your education the better your situation’ it will give them an understanding of why they are in school,” Hemphill said.

“He has an outstanding balance of empathy and compassion needed to serve our students,” said UCISD interim superintendent Gary Patterson of Hemphill. “He models for students and staff problem-solving, flexibility, and compassion needed to enhance the nurturing learning environment our students, staff, and families deserve.” 


Dalton Elementary is under the leadership of Margaret Tarski-Rodriguez, a Uvalde High School class of 2007 graduate. Tarski assumed the role following the departure of Mandy Pruitt in late November.

Tarski-Rodriguez, who has been with UCISD for 10 years, most recently served as the district’s curriculum and technology specialist.

She holds a state teaching certification in general education for early childhood through sixth grade, and has a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and a Master of Education with a major in educational technology.

“I am thrilled to be officially part of Dalton Elementary. The campus is full of knowledgable and passionate staff members. I am honored to be a part of the Dalton team,” Tarski-Rodriguez said.

“When I presented the unique opportunity for Mrs. Tarski to serve the students and lead the staff at Dalton Elementary, she responded with acceptance and great flexibility to her current assignment,” Patterson said. “I am thankful for her support and commitment to the success of our students and staff at Dalton Elementary.”


Norma Hill-Garcia, formerly assistant principal of Uvalde High School, is now acting principal of the Uvalde Dual Language Academy.

Throughout her 20 year tenure at UCISD, Hill-Garcia has held several positions, including instructional coach, kindergarten teacher, CTE education teacher, coaching, assistant principal and academic dean.

She holds a bilingual and generalist certification for early childhood through fourth grade. Hill-Garcia also holds a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and a Master of Education.

“I am so blessed to have the opportunity to work with such amazing people. Some I have known my entire career and some I have recently met, but together we are one. I am here to serve our children and my staff. The remainder of our year will be awesome,” Hill-Garcia said.

“Mrs. Hill-Garcia interacts and communicates with students and staff with whom she has a direct connection. Mrs. Hill-Garcia attended this very campus as a student. She reflects the passion, dedication, and commitment needed to ensure the success of our students. I am thankful she accepted and has embraced the opportunity to serve the students and staff of our Uvalde CISD Dual Language Academy as acting principal,” Patterson said.

UCISD director of ESL and Bilingual Migrant Services Mario Ferron Sr. has been serving as UDLA’s interim principal since the resignation of Abraham Contreras. Ferron will resume his role at central office.

UDLA is an in-district charter school and according to the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, state law does not require charter school teachers and principals to be certified, except in the case of teachers assigned to teach in special education or bilingual programs.

Principal certificate

The Texas Education Agency has set five requirements for obtaining a principal’s certificate, including: holding a master’s degree from an accredited university; holding a valid classroom teaching certificate; having two years of creditable teaching experience as a classroom teacher; successfully completing an approved principal preparation program; and successfully completing the required exam.