While local school board elections rarely bring crowds to the polls on their own, this November’s presidential race should yield higher turnout. The higher turnout is typically good for local races, but the long ballot means that name recognition might be the deciding factor for school boards.
In the embattled South San ISD, Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4), hopes that candidates can connect with community members so that the right names stand out at the polls. The candidates need to make sure that when people look at the ballot, they equate their name with the bright future of South San, said Saldaña.
South San ISD came under the control of a conservator during the 2015-16 school year, prompting Saldaña and others to form South San Kids First, a community advocacy group. One of the group’s chief objectives is to increase community participation in school board elections, both as voters and candidates.
This election will see challenges to two incumbents, Board President Connie Prado (D5), 67, and Trustee Stacy Estrada (D7), 31.
Prado faces a challenge from Eugene Polendo, 27. Polendo, a South San alum, is an engineer with a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Polendo got involved with South San Kids First, but was never encouraged to run for office, according to Saldaña. His decision was based on the call to action for interested alumni to get involved.
“What makes him most appealing is that he doesn’t have a connection to any faction on the current board,” said Saldaña.
Estrada’s challenger, Elda Lazano Flores, 65, is a retired teacher. Saldana says that Flores was not encouraged by one faction or another to run, which makes him happy to support her.
Trinidad Mata (D2) and Carlos Longoria (D3) will not seek re-election.
District 2 voters will choose between Linda Longoria, 56, and Lisa Perez Porter, 51, owner of the Del Rio Tortilla Factory, a Southside institution. Linda Longoria is Carlos Longoria’s mother.
In District 3, Nancy Aldana, 42, is running against Louis Ybarra Jr., 42. Ybarra is a self-employed parent of two young daughters in the district. He has participated in South San Kids First activities as well.
South San Kids First has yet to endorse particular candidates and instead is focusing on continued community involvement at every level in the district. Speaking for himself, Saldaña endorsed Polando, Flores, Perez Porter, and Ybarra.
“This school year is going to be one of the most critical years in South San history,” said Saldaña, “(Polando, Flores, Perez Porter, and Ybarra) represent the new era of South San.”
Another district looking to start a new era is San Antonio ISD. With an ambitious blueprint outlined by Superintendent Pedro Martinez during the 2015-16 school year, the district now seeks to close the gaps in funding that the administration says is necessary for progress.
SAISD will place two measures on the ballot aimed at updating and enhancing the district’s facilities and classroom resources. While presidential election year voters tend to vote in favor of spending measures, some within the district are concerned that seeing two tax increases on the ballot will lead voters to choose one or the other, while both are sorely needed.
The first measure is a $450 million bond to update facilities,which will result in a temporary tax increase.
“It is estimated that the tax rate of .4626 will be required for approximately a seven year period, starting in 2020 and thereafter will decrease as existing bonds are retired,” said SAISD spokeswoman Leslie Price.
The other measure, a Tax Ratification Election (TRE), would result in a permanent tax rate increase from $1.04, the base tax rate for Texas schools, to $1.17 per $100 of property value, the highest regular tax rate allowed by the State.
“The bond is like a mortgage, and the TRE is an actual rate change,” said Price.
Bond money is restricted by law, and cannot be used for standard operations. SAISD’s current bond proposal is aimed at 13 schools in need of modernization. A long history of differed maintenance has left these and many other SAISD campuses in need of repair and renovation.
“We know there are more than 13 campuses that need work,” said Price.
The district anticipates needing as many as three bonds to address all critical needs. The 2010 bond was the first of these, and the 2016 bond, if it passes, will be the second.
The TRE would increase the operating budget of the district. The $0.13 increase would yield an additional $15.6 million, which the State would then match at $16.5 million.
Martinez plans to use the additional $32.1 million in additional revenue for “21st century classrooms” and “extended learning opportunities beyond the school day.” Those funds will be part of the district’s operating funds, and can be use to meet its changing needs in the future, according to Price.
In the coming months, the Rivard Report will be looking into both the bond and the TRE and examining campuses and classrooms that will be affected.
Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD will place a $137 million bond issue on the ballot. If the bond passes, the district plans to make renovations and expansions at two elementary schools and update HVAC and technology infrastructure throughout the district. The money will also be used to purchase additional buses.
Somerset ISD will also place a bond before voters. The proposed $10 million measure will be used to improve sports, transportation, and agricultural facilities, as well as a new cafeteria for Somerset Elementary School.
The district has removed its school board races from the ballot, as sitting trustees Leo Salas, Robert Sanchez, and Andrea De La Cruz are all running unopposed.
East Central ISD will see a three-way race for the District 6 seat currently held by Claudia Barrientos. The 41-year-old accountant will face a challenge from Mona Lopez, 52, and Amanda Rivas, 35. Lopez retired from SAISD as assistant superintendent for middle school leadership. Rivas works for St. Mary’s University as associate director of the student externship program.
John Massengale (D3) and Victor Garza (D4) are running unopposed.
In spite of Edgewood ISD’s board of trustees being replaced by a state-appointed board of managers, the district will still hold elections for three positions on the school board.
Winning candidates will serve the final year of their four-year term when control of the district returns to the school board three years from now.
Martha Castilla, 54, a community health worker, and Joe Guerra, 65, a retired respiratory therapist will run unopposed for places 4 and 5, respectively. Guerra has previously served as president of the Edgewood ISD school board.
Luis (Louie) Gomez, 65, and consultant Edward Romero, 34, are both running for Place 7. Gomez is retired.
Top image: Early voters walk to the polling site at Lions Field. Photo by Scott Ball.
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