The Judson Independent School District board of trustees welcomed a familiar face Thursday to fill a seat vacated last month.

Rafael “Rafa” Diaz Jr. was sworn in at Thursday’s board meeting. Diaz previously served as the District 4 board member for Judson ISD before resigning on Nov. 19 to apply for the at-large seat, which was vacated by Lynette Perez also on Nov. 19. He said he sought the at-large seat because it gives him and his family more freedom to move than the single-member district seat. At-large board members are elected by all district voters, whereas voters in a certain geographic area elect single-member district representatives.

No one applied for the District 4 seat, so the school district will leave the position open until the May 2021 election.

After the oath of office was administered, Diaz said he felt grateful to be able to continue serving the Judson ISD community with his children and others in the district serving as his “Northern Star.”

“The educational system is a brutally beautiful thing,” he said. “It feeds us when we don’t have food. It can provide shelter when you don’t have a safe space. It promises to provide you an infrastructure of knowledge to be able to go out there and conquer your dreams. It aspires to tap into the potential of people, even when they don’t know they have it. But if left untended, if left with a governing body that doesn’t care about the ultimate mission, it could go very wrong.”

Diaz concluded by saying that he considers the appointment to the District 7 seat to be a “tremendous responsibility” that he does not take lightly.

The school board chose Diaz over two other applicants: retired Judson ISD superintendent Carl Montoya and attorney Alexis Adams. Diaz is the director of product management for Aztec Software, according to a district press release.

School board President Renée Paschall said in a statement that the board chose Diaz after interviewing all three candidates because he brings integrity, compassion as a parent, and knowledge of the private sector to the group. Paschall holds the other at-large seat on the board.

Judson ISD had 23,663 students enrolled in the 2019-20 school year, about 70 percent of whom are considered economically disadvantaged.

Brooke Crum covered education for the San Antonio Report.