Gonzales ISD Announces New Leadership: Shannon Leal at Gonzales Elementary while Richard Varela Takes Helm as the new Apache Band Director.


Gonzales Elementary Welcomes Shannon Leal as New Principal

Gonzales Independent School District is excited to announce the appointment of Shannon Leal as the new principal of Gonzales Elementary School. Leal, a seasoned educator with over two decades of experience, is set to take the helm starting this summer.

Leal brings a wealth of experience and a strong commitment to fostering an inclusive and dynamic learning environment. With 20 years in education, her roles have ranged from classroom teacher and reading specialist to instructional coach and assistant principal. Most recently, she served as the Assistant Principal at East Central ISD for the past four years.

In her acceptance statement, Leal expressed her enthusiasm for joining the Gonzales Elementary team, saying, "I am honored to join Gonzales Elementary as the new principal and am excited to work alongside the dedicated staff and engaged community to foster an environment where every student can thrive. This opportunity is both a privilege and a responsibility that I embrace wholeheartedly."

Leal's academic credentials include a Bachelor's of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Texas Lutheran University and a Master's in Educational Leadership from Lamar University. Her educational philosophy centers on the belief that every student deserves a supportive and empowering environment to achieve their full potential. 

"We are excited to welcome Shannon Leal to the Gonzales Elementary family," said Gonzales ISD Superintendent, Dr. Elmer Avellaneda. "Her extensive background in education makes her an excellent fit for our school and community."

Gonzales ISD Welcomes New Band Director

Gonzales Independent School District is pleased to announce the appointment of Richard Varela as the new head band director for Gonzales High School. Varela, a distinguished music educator with a robust background in both performance and instruction, will be leading the Gonzales Apache Band starting this fall.

Varela is a graduate of Texas A&M University at Kingsville, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in music education. During his time at TAMUK, he was a member of the renowned “Pride of South Texas” Javelina Marching Band, jazz bands, and the percussion studio under the guidance of Randy Fluman and Ron Schumerhorn. Varela's impressive performance credits include collaborations with jazz luminaries such as Maynard Ferguson, Claudio Roditi, Bobby Shew, Paquito D’Rivera, Bob Mintzer, and Wayne Bergeron.

Before joining Gonzales ISD, Varela served as the director of bands at Cuero High School, where he significantly expanded the band program, leading to numerous accolades including the Bands of America Austin Regional Champion in 2014 and multiple superior ratings at UIL competitions. His efforts established various ensembles such as the Mariachi Orgullo Verde, Indoor Drumline, Winter Guard, and a jazz band, all of which contributed to the program's growing reputation for excellence.

Varela's career also includes successful tenures at Mathis High School, where he helped the Mighty Pirate Band reach the UIL State Marching Contest and achieve state-level recognition in the ATSSB Outstanding Performance Series. Additionally, he has been an integral part of the Genesis Drum and Bugle Corps of Austin, where he served in various capacities from percussion technician to administrative staff.

In his new role, Varela is eager to build upon the rich history of the Gonzales Apache Band and continue to grow the program.

“I am excited to begin my career with the Gonzales Apache Band. Having grown up in Cuero, I have seen the Mighty Apache Band through the years. The band has had many successes, and I intend to continue these successes while moving the program in new directions,” Varela said.

He emphasized his vision for the future, stating, “I would like to see new programs and ensembles implemented within the band program. In talking with community members, I agree that the band needs to return to the pride and passion it was known for in its past. Bigger, louder, better bands make for more fun for the students, school, and community. Along with professional staff members, I hope to establish new traditions within the program and allow Apache Band members to excel in every musical endeavor.”

When not immersed in his teaching responsibilities, Varela remains active as a performing drummer for local country bands and has toured extensively with various artists, including Latin recording artists La Machy and La Conquista. He enjoys spending his leisure time with his wife, Alexis, and their three children, often attending sports events and visiting waterparks.

Gonzales ISD is excited to welcome Richard Varela to the district and looks forward to the exciting new era for the Gonzales Apache Band.