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Three candidates seek Austin district board seat vacated by Saldaña


Highlights

Three candidates are seeking the AISD appointment to the District 6 seat, which represents South Austin.

Saldaña’s departure left the board without a Latino representative, prompting city leaders to ask for one.

The school board is scheduled to appoint a replacement to the seat by mid-June.

Three candidates are seeking appointment to the Austin school board seat vacated midterm by Paul Saldaña.

Saldaña’s departure last month left the nine-member board without a Latino representative and with one minority trustee, Ted Gordon, who is black. Nearly 60 percent of the district’s more than 83,000 students are Latino, and multiple community leaders and local politicians called on the remaining trustees to appoint a Hispanic to the seat.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the replacement in mid-June and will have a series of candidate forums in coming weeks.

A project director for the nonprofit Foundation Communities, a computer specialist and a Seton Healthcare Family executive are competing to fill the remainder of the term for District 6, which represents the southern part of the school district, including Akins and Travis high schools. Each said he will work to build strong parental involvement.

Alejandro Delgado, 31, is the St. Elmo Neighborhood project director for Foundation Communities, which builds and manages affordable housing. A former Teach for America educator, he taught high school social studies at IDEA Public Schools on the border. He was the founding assistant principal, and later the principal, at IDEA Allan College Prep. IDEA Allan started as an in-district charter campus before the school board ended the partnership in 2012.

He said his time at IDEA taught him how much community engagement matters, and that many Austin residents have not been heard and have been left behind by the school district. He said he is seeking the position because “good governance requires deep knowledge of the experience in working in schools.”

Delgado, an Austin native who went to Austin district schools, said the district must prioritize its resources for the students who have been historically underserved.

“Clear and pervasive achievement gaps continue to exist between low-income minority students and their higher-income white peers,” he said. “We must prioritize those that are the most marginalized.”

Delgado said the district must work toward building critical thinking skills among students, getting every child reading by the third grade and ensuring that every high school student graduates college and career ready.

Geronimo Rodriguez Jr., 48, is Seton’s chief advocacy officer and former vice president of diversity and community outreach. Rodriguez’s reach in Austin and nationally is extensive. He served as chairman on an Austin district committee, Leadership Austin and the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; worked with the Clinton administration; and was Texas director for the John Kerry campaign.

Rodriguez, a lawyer, also served as an assistant to former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales and is on the National PTA board of directors.

If appointed, Rodriguez said his top priorities include advocating for equity in the district; communicating across cultures to parents by supporting Family Engagement Centers, which help strengthen relationships between parents and educators; and supporting leadership and governance of the district. He is a proponent of dual language programs and wants to increase participation of employers to work with students to better help graduates be ready for college and careers.

“I know what it was like as a young child not knowing where to go and what to do in various school districts,” said Rodriguez, who was a migrant farmworker as a child, moving multiple times a year. By the time he was in seventh grade, he was attending school only at night three times a week.

“Education is the great equalizer in our democracy, and no matter who you are, where you come from, what language you speak or whether you can afford it or not, public education is a right written into our Texas State Constitution,” he said. It “has raised many of us out of poverty and into incredible opportunities we could have never imagined.”

Glen Shield, 57, a computer specialist, was a PTA officer at four campuses, advocated for a high school in the southeast portion of the district and was a substitute teacher.

He helped change plans for a district bus facility that would have created traffic problems in his neighborhood, but the placement of the facility demonstrates the need for strong representation for this board seat, he said.

He also has served as a political party precinct organizer and leader and as a state convention delegate, according to the board seat application he submitted to the district. Shield could not be reached for comment.

He said his priorities include ensuring that every student has an equal opportunity for high-quality education, restoring confidence in the public school system and increasing efforts to show parents that the Austin district is the right choice.

“Parents are making the choice to not attend AISD schools because they do not fully comprehend the importance of providing their child the opportunities at AISD,” Shield said.

He also said the district needs to end the classification of students based on “irrelevant distinctions based on ignorance of genetics,” including racial distinctions.

“AISD should only consider factors clearly relevant to educational outcomes that are of value to society,” he said. “Many factors are more important to understanding the educational needs of a child than the color of their skin, for example, parental involvement, family income, family composition and family education.”



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