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City Council Members Now Considering Pre-K 4 SA Board Members

Ryan Loyd
Texas Public Radio

City staff members are busy putting together the program that will offer full day pre-kindergarten to thousands of four year olds next year.

The building selections are underway that will serve as the model education centers, the finances are being worked out, and perhaps the most important task is assembling the board that will oversee the program.

At Thursday’s city council meeting, Mayor Julián Castro said San Antonio is doing something it has never done before.

"To ensure that thousands and thousands of children in our city have a brighter future because they never get behind educationally in the first place,” Castro said from his center position at the Council Meeting. “We were able to do that because there was a broad coalition of supporters that was assembled."

With plenty of rallies and speeches leading up to Election Day, Castro had a lot riding on the measure, even saying numerous times that he was staking his entire mayoral tenure on the matter. A city canvas showed nearly 54 percent of voters backed the idea.

Castro will ultimately get to select the chairman of the Pre-K 4 SA board, but each council member will receive one nomination for their choice. In all, the panel will be comprised of 11 members.

Decisions, Decisions...

The city council remains largely undecided on their selection. A poll of the council this week revealed that many are beginning to think about the person they would want to serve on the board. A few more have the selection narrowed down to a few candidates, and one person has made up his mind.

That is District 6 Councilman Ray Lopez; he told Texas Public Radio that he selected former San Antonio Youth Literacy Executive Director Dave Force.

"It's important to have people that understand education, but I think as we get the organization moving, we've got to have people who have organizational skills, know how to bring people together,” Lopez said.

Force has worked for SeaWorld and helped develop Morgan’s Wonderland, a nonprofit theme park dedicated to children with disabilities.

Lopez jokingly said Force accepted his “pleas and grovels” to be a part of the panel.

The other candidates:

District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal said he is still in talks with a few candidates, and that it would be unfair to name anyone prematurely out of respect to those under consideration. However, Bernal did say he hopes the council speaks openly together about the board member selection process to guarantee a diverse group of people who don’t just come from an education background.

District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan says she is also reviewing candidates, but named Northeast ISD board president Susan Galindo as a strong possibility.

Castro, too, will not reveal the candidates on his short list. Asked if he would consider someone who has been a part of the initiative from the start, which was at one time called the Brainpower Initiative, he only said that would be a positive thing.

"We're going to have a conversation about folks who understand the initiative but also, not limited to them; I think it'll be helpful if they understand Pre-K 4 SA already,” said Castro.

This week, the city’s educational excellence committee also heard recommendations on the first two of four model centers under consideration. The full city council was set to hear the first two vetted – one in the 3600 block of Medical Drive on the city’s northwest side and the other in the 2500 block of Southeast Military Drive on the city’s southeast side – but leasing issues pushed the matter back to the Dec. 6 council meeting.