To inform readers about the candidates seeking their votes on the November ballot, the San Antonio Report asked all candidates to answer the following questions. We edited answers for clarity, not substance or grammar, and we did not fact-check responses. We restricted responses to 200 words for each question.
Read other candidates’ answers here.
North East ISD, District 6
Link to campaign website:
What is your educational background? Where did you go to school growing up and what is the highest level of education you completed?
I attended schools in San Antonio and Alexandria, Virginia. I have a Graduate Degree from UTSA.
If you have completed higher education, what degrees or certifications have you earned and from where? In what years did you complete these degrees or certifications?
Virginia Military Institute – B.A. Economics (1995)
UT-San Antonio MBA Finance (2006)
What is your current occupation, employer, and job title?
Occupation: Investment Banker; Employer: Estrada Hinojosa & Company; Title: Registered Municipal Advisor
List any previous elected offices that you held and the term you held that office. List any elected offices you sought and the years you sought those offices.
Why do you feel you are the best candidate for the office you are seeking?
My experience as an incumbent as well as professional background as an investment banker gives me a huge advantage over my opponents. When I was first elected, my knowledge of school finance and our bond portfolio allowed me to have a deeper understanding of our strategy and how it would help the District manage its tax rate. My colleagues looked to me as a resource in this area. I also bring a perspective unique from my opponents having served on other District committees and groups. Serving at various levels, provided me with a working knowledge of the many departments in our District and the role they play.
Now that I have navigated many issues these past four years, not the least of which has been the COVID-19 pandemic, I am able to provide a perspective that is hard to make up for when you are just learning how to be a Trustee. My ability to seek consensus and, at times, respectfully disagree with colleagues enabled me to earn their respect and is why I was selected to serve as Vice President after only two years of service.
What three issues do you feel are most important to your constituents?
1) Fiscal Responsibility – I think my constituents count on us to be good fiscal stewards of their tax dollars. A significant portion of the District’s revenue comes from taxpayers and the least we can do as Trustees is to act responsibly. I’m proud of the fact that I voted to lower the tax rate each year I have been on the Board.
2) Safety and Security – When our parents send their children to school, they want to know they will be in a safe environment conducive to learning.
3) Robust Academics and Innovative Programs- NEISD is a destination district in San Antonio. Our parents depend on us to offer challenging courses and career related programs that prepare our students for college, a career in the military or private sector.
If you are elected, what will be your top priorities once you take office?
If re-elected, I will focus on the following areas: fiscal responsibility, closing achievement gaps, and continuing to develop innovative programs. I don’t think there will ever be a time when we can afford to be irresponsible with our finances. School funding is challenging, and the near-term outlook is cause for concern. We need to continue to plan wisely and save where we can. In a district as diverse as ours we need to ensure that we are doing all we can to help our students succeed. Focusing on solutions and strategies that help to close achievement gaps across all demographics is critical. Finally, part of being a destination district involves offering programs that are in high demand. I will work to see that we continue to be forward thinking in our course offerings and programs in Career and Technical Education. Our recent announcement of a cybersecurity facility is a prime example of how NEISD is a leader in Career and Technical Education.
For incumbents: What accomplishments are you most proud of during your time in office? Is there any vote or decision you would change now looking back?
One of the most important decisions a Trustee will make is to hire a Superintendent. This truly is one that I am proud of. Dr. Maika, who just completed his first year, has done a marvelous job navigating through a difficult time and brings a new energy to the District that is infectious.
Implementing an ambitious bond program, one of the largest we have had, that improved many facilities in the District all the while lowering taxes a total of $0.09 over the last five years is somethin I am also proud of.
Finally, I am proud of the decisions made to help the District navigate through this recent pandemic. From expanding wi-fi availability so our children could access lessons on their devices to offering meals for our children to continuing to pay staff members other than teachers, we helped to make life a little better during such a trying time.
For non-incumbents: Would you do anything differently from the current representative holding the office you’re seeking?
How do you assess your community college district or school district’s performance during the pandemic and the way it served students?
As I alluded to in my prior response, I am proud of our actions taken during the pandemic. Upon leaving for spring break, we were preparing for the fact that we might not come back for a week, maybe two. Upon learning that classes would not resume as normal, we immediately began deploying meals to our students on what would have been their first day back, one of the first Districts to do so in Bexar County. We quickly established a plan for continuity of education and began exploring options to bridge the digital divide that this pandemic exposed. Our staff had the foresight to stock up on equipment that would be needed to sanitize areas if needed on campuses. The Board was informed that special meetings might be needed for issues that might arise because of the pandemic and we made ourselves available. The biggest challenge was trying to get information from the Governor’s office or T.E.A. in a timely manner so we could communicate the same to our parents. Overall our Superintendent and his team did as superb job.
How will you approach budgeting for your district given the economic uncertainties? What are your budget priorities you would want to keep intact?
There are many challenges on the horizon with respect to our budget and we are not alone. NEISD will always take a conservative approach to budgeting as it has in the past. As with most entities, the biggest part of our budget is our personnel. Ideally, I would like to be able to budget for pay increases to our teachers in the District. I think they are among the best anywhere and deserve it. At the very minimum, when we can’t provide increases due to funding constraints in Austin, I would like to consider retention bonuses. Our District provides a robust plan for health insurance. Making sure that remains affordable for our personnel is another priority. Also, it is important to maintain adequate reserves. This is another priority that I think is critical. Maintaining adequate reserves helps our District weather those unanticipated events.
How do you plan to work to overcome academic gaps that may have developed or widened during the pandemic?
Many are accustomed to dealing with the “summer slide” but the pandemic and the quarantine that ensued caused a “COVID Slide” also. We tried to mitigate this effect by offering enrichment camps over the summer and we have adjusted our school calendar to allow for additional instructional days. I would encourage the District to continue to offer enrichment camps during the summer to offer ways for children to catch up. We have currently built into our school day opportunities for coaching to address this issue of the “COVID slide”. I support the use of technology to also help address this. Providing our kids with devices to take home allows them to use different programs and applications and provide feedback to their teachers so they are aware of areas of deficiency.