New Members Coming To Bexar County School Boards After Critical Elections
Updated Nov. 6 with election results.
Incumbent school board members at the South San Antonio and Edgewood independent school districts fared poorly in Tuesday night's election.
All three of South San’s incumbents lost, including board president Angelina Osteguin and board members Edward Mungia and Luis Rodriguez.
Dina Serrano defeated appointed board member Richard Santoyo in the only competitive Edgewood race.
Two San Antonio school districts with a history of unstable leadership have multiple school board seats up for grabs this election.
The South San Antonio and Edgewood independent school districts are working to maintain or regain local control.
It’s been less than a year since the Texas Education Agency decided South San’s board no longer needed state oversight. Now more than half of that board could change hands.
Three incumbents have challengers; a fourth seat is going to Shirley Ibarra Peña, a new member who is running without opposition.
Edward Mungia, who was appointed to fill an empty seat in January, said he’s concerned that the board could revert back to old behavior if he and the other incumbents aren’t elected.
“A lot of times community members have the set expectation that previous boards had, where we can do anything in the school: ‘I alone can change the principal of the school’ … and that’s not quite the case,” said Mungia, a 25-year-old staffer for City Councilman Rey Saldaña.
Under the state-approved Lone Star Governance model, school board members hire superintendents and set policy, but leave other hiring and firing decisions to the superintendent.
“None of the people running are bad people and nobody’s coming in to do bad things,” Mungia said. “What I think is the main difference is how people see themselves on the board and what role they play.”
South San parent and graduate Homer Flores, 46, is running against Mungia to represent District 3.
He pointed to a failed attempt to raise property tax rates in August as an example that the school board is disconnected from the community.
“The folks weren’t too happy with all the goings on that contributed to saying, ‘Hey, we need more money.’ One of the things was we had school closures in 2017. The district said we were supposed to save money doing this,” said Flores, who was against the tax election.
On his Facebook page, Flores promoted voting against all three incumbents. But the Chuy's Produce employee said he and the other challengers aren’t allies who plan on voting as a block.
“I think that’s reaching because I’ve done a lot of work all by myself here on the streets, and my voice is used for the constituents,” Flores said.
Board President Angelina Osteguin said she is running for re-election to keep the Lone Star Governance model going at South San.
“That really brought structure to the way we hold ourselves in our meetings,” Osteguin said. “Initially, in my first two years as a board of trustees, … it was very chaotic — very dysfunctional.”
Osteguin said the failure of the tax increase election “told me that we don’t have community buy-in. So we have to build on that.”
She’s being challenged by Mandy Martinez to represent District 1. Both Osteguin and Martinez have children enrolled in South San schools. Martinez did not respond to requests for comment.
Luis Rodriguez, who was appointed five months ago, is running against Gilbert F. Rodriguez to represent District 6.
This school board election is also important for South San's neighbor to the north, Edgewood ISD. Edgewood is transitioning back to local control after a state takeover two years ago due to board infighting.
Voters in the Edgewood school district have four school board seats on their ballots this election.
The elected school board members won’t immediately have governing power, but they’ll likely be making decisions for the district before the end of their term.
Stella Camacho is one of two state-appointed board members running for an elected position.
“I just wanted my role to be more of a governance and a protector — to say we don’t want drama in this role here. We don’t want chaos in this role,” said Camacho, 54, who runs a bookkeeping business.
Richard Santoyo, the other appointed member running for election, also said he wanted to help maintain the work he and the other board members have been doing.
The 64-year-old is vying for the board’s only competitive seat against Dina Serrano, a 34-year-old district parent who did not respond to a request for comment.
“My primary asset, so to speak, is that I’m a district product, and it’s an encouragement to others,” said Santoyo, who graduated from Stanford University and worked for the San Antonio Fire Department before retiring in 2015.
Texas Education Agency spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson said Edgewood’s elected school board should regain full governing authority by May 2020. That means the candidates elected this November will be in power for at least two years.
Camille Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille