The Edgewood ISD school board.
The Edgewood ISD school board. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Early voting is set to begin Oct. 22 on school board races for two San Antonio districts. Four seats are up for grabs in the Edgewood and South San school district, and candidates for both districts’ boards have said this election has the potential to create immense change.

South San Antonio Independent School District’s election comes just months after voters rejected a tax rate increase to help bridge a district deficit. In three of the four races, incumbents who backed the increase face challengers, some of whom were critical of the move.

As new Superintendent Alexandro Flores takes his spot leading the district, a change in hands on the school board could alter the trajectory of the district.

In Edgewood ISD, newly elected trustees will eventually return to governing the district as the board of managers filters out. The transition process has already begun with the addition of trustees Martha Castilla and Edward Romero to the board.

The Edgewood trustees elected in November don’t have a clear date for when they will begin their governance but know that within their four year terms they are likely to take their spots on the dais.

South San Antonio ISD

Seven candidates are running to fill four seats on South San’s board of trustees. Three of the seats are in contest, and each has an incumbent vying for re-election.

In District 1, board President Angelina Osteguin is seeking another term. Osteguin, a CPR instructor, said she has seen immense change under her leadership in the past two years on the board.

“The board dynamic greatly increased positiveness and collaboration due to the Lone Star Governance framework,” Osteguin said in reference to a system the board follows to provide structure to governance. She said her “sole reason” for seeking re-election is “to continue that momentum.”

Osteguin, 44, a proponent of the failed tax rate increase, said she understands why the community rejected the proposition. She said she wants to work with Flores to determine what is best for the district and is open to another tax rate increase election.

When asked why someone should vote for her over her challenger, Osteguin said she would not have to overcome a learning deficit and could continue making progress immediately. If re-elected, Osteguin wants to look at repurposing recently closed campuses for educational needs.

Osteguin’s opponent, Mandy Martinez, 34, is a senior specialist. Martinez did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In District 3, incumbent Edward Mungia, 25, is battling Homer Flores, 46, for a shortened two-year term.

Mungia, a council aide to City Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4), was appointed to his position on the board in January. Before joining the board, Mungia said he was hesitant to get involved with South San ISD given past issues that led to a state-appointed supervisor’s installation.

In his time as a trustee, though, Mungia said he has come to see the importance of focusing a school board’s attention toward good governance.

“Having a focus on that background, and working in the City Council office, I have some experience with what good government looks like,” Mungia said.

Mungia said that during his short time on the board, he is proud of the action the district has taken to track student progress, including implementing a student analytics system that helps teachers and administrators create targeted action plans to teach individual state standards.

If re-elected, Mungia said he would want to get more buy-in from community members and increase family engagement. He said he fears that this election could be a turning point for the district if trustees not supportive of Lone Star Governance are elected.

“The ship has turned around and it is moving forward,” Mungia said.

Mungia’s opponent, Homer Flores, is a sales representative for Chuy’s Produce and has three children who graduated from the district. Flores said the main difference between him and the incumbent is support of the tax rate increase. Mungia voted to call the tax rate increase election; Flores said he would not have done the same.

A lifelong resident of the district, Flores said he understands that even adding a few extra dollars to an annual bill can have a big impact on low-income families.

“There was a concern because [about a] year before, schools were closed and that fractured the community,” Flores said. “Being an alumni of Kazen Middle School and it being closed, I pass by it everyday and it looks like a ghost town. … When they closed the schools they were supposed to have more money.”

Flores said he would be open to calling for another tax rate increase but would want to explore avoiding a maximum rate increase, as the failed August proposal called for.

If elected, Flores said he wants to look closely at how to increase enrollment. He said he doesn’t know if enough attention has been paid to students leaving the district and that more could be done.

Alexandro Flores will be the new superintendent at South San Antonio Independent School District.
Alexandro Flores, the new superintendent at South San Antonio Independent School District, joins the board in September 2018. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The third contested race is in District 6 between Luis Rodriguez, who was appointed to his position in March, and Gilbert Rodriguez.

Luis Rodriguez, 65, a retired university budget analyst, said he applied for a special seat appointment because he thought he could contribute his financial acumen and positive attitude in shaping the district.

“I know we’re not there yet,” he said. “The present board, at least 71 percent of us are following the Lone Star Governance model, which puts kids first, and since we have that vision together as a team, it makes us even stronger. I don’t want to give up halfway through and say someone else can have it.”

Luis Rodriguez was one of the five trustees who voted to call the tax rate increase. Even though it failed, he said he would want to consider pursuing another in the future. The money produced by the tax rate increase could be used toward needed improvements in the schools, he said.

Gilbert Rodriguez, 45, has four kids who have either graduated from or are currently enrolled in the district.

“It looks like we are hitting a wall with the current district leadership and I’m not certain where it is going to go from here,” Gilbert said. “I’m energized and have a positive outlook to collaborate with the existing board members and the new superintendent.”

The IT professional said he believes accountability is crucial to building a better district. He said he didn’t feel accountability was present when the last tax rate increase was suggested but would be open to proposing another with the knowledge of where all the money would be going.

Gilbert Rodriguez said he would be open to adhering to the Lone Star Governance model and would want to learn quickly to get up to speed if elected.

The only uncontested race in South San is in District 4. Shirley Ibarra Peña, 45, the sole candidate, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Edgewood ISD

Notably, two of the original five managers Commissioner of Education Mike Morath appointed to govern Edgewood ISD are running to change their appointed roles into elected ones. It is unclear to Stella Camacho, who is running for District 2’s seat unopposed, and Richard Santoyo, who is running in the only contested race for District 6’s seat, when their titles would change if they won election.

A Texas Education Agency spokesperson told the Rivard Report if an existing manager won a trustee seat, they would remain a manager until their trustee position was added to the board by the TEA.

Santoyo, a current manager and retiree from the San Antonio Fire Department, is up against Dina Serrano, a former Edgewood ISD employee.

Santoyo, 64, said he wanted to continue his time serving the district because he has enjoyed his role and seeing the board’s mission come to fruition. In his term on the board, Santoyo said he is most proud of the decision to hire Eduardo Hernandez as superintendent.

If elected, Santoyo said he would bring consistency to a district that has previously been riddled with instability.

“I think if someone new to the system, so to speak, were to come in, they would be like a burp in the process, although eventually I’m sure they would catch on,” Santoyo said.

A district product, Santoyo said he brings an innate understanding of what Edgewood students face. Other than his time attending Stanford University, Santoyo has lived most of his life within the school district. To this day, he lives 2 miles from where he was born.

“I am not a stranger and I understand the community,” he said.

Serrano, too, has lived in the district all her life. She worked for several years at the Stafford Early Childhood Center and has daughters attending an Edgewood school.

While not familiar with some of current district initiatives, Serrano, 35, said she would do her best to get up to speed by attending every board meeting, staying late to talk to managers and trustees, and asking a lot of questions.

On her priority list is increasing family and community engagement with the district.

“I would like to see more of our families at our PTA meetings, at our board meetings, at community events,” Serrano said. “I know our superintendent just had a town hall meeting and I would love to have it filled up.”

In addition to Camacho, running unopposed in Edgewood are James Hernandez, 26, in District 1 and Luis Gomez, 67, in District 3.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.