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Education

9 Out Of 10 Bexar County School Board Incumbents Retain Seats; Comal ISD Board President Ousted

SAISD Board in March 2019.
File Photo | Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
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The majority of the San Antonio ISD board from this 2019 file photo remain on the board. Two out of the three incumbents on the ballot Saturday retained their seats.

With 16 competitive races spread across six different Bexar County school districts Saturday, familiar names held a lot of sway.

Nine out of the 10 incumbents on the ballot won reelection.

San Antonio ISD

However, downtown residents and residents of the Monte Vista, King William and Lavaca neighborhoods opted for new representation in the San Antonio Independent School District. Single-Member District 1 incumbent Steve Lechelop, an attorney who has represented the district since 2013, was narrowly defeated by Sarah Sorensen, a former legislative analyst in the New York State Assembly. Sorensen is the mother of a 5th grader enrolled at SAISD’s Bonham Academy and vice-president of the Lavaca Neighborhood Association. She currently works as a COVID-19 contact tracer.

Sorensen was part of a slate of candidates backed by the teachers union, student groups and progressive organizations running against board incumbents and former city councilwoman Leticia Ozuna.

Even though she was the only member of the slate to win election, Sorensen said narrow margins in the other races show a lot of people are behind them.

“I think it shows our message has resonated with the community, and people are ready for change,” Sorensen said. “That’s a responsibility I take really seriously coming into the board.”

Sorensen said she wants parents and students to have more of a say in their schools, and to bring more transparency to the budgeting process.

The other three members of her slate, Judit Vega, Luke Amphlett and Yasmín Parra Codina, received 40 to 45% of the vote in their races.

Northside ISD

San Antonio’s largest school district, Northside ISD, had three competitive races on the ballot.

Current board president and UTSA education professor Carol Harle easily won reelection in District 6, and incumbent Karen Freeman received the majority of the vote, even with a crowded field of three challengers.

The District 5 seat, left open for the first time in 31 years after longtime trustee Katie Reed decided not to run for reelection, also attracted four candidates. Retired principal Corrine Saldaña narrowly won election with 33% of the vote. Northside board policy is to declare whoever wins the most votes the winner, so there won’t be a runoff.

Irma Iris Duran de Rodriguez came close to coming out on top, with 31% of the votes. The housing policy coordinator was endorsed by former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and the Northside chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

Harlandale ISD

Harlandale ISD residents reelected both incumbents on the ballot in their first election since the Texas Education Agency put them under the oversight of a conservator.

Three out of every four voters chose current Board President Norma Cavazos over former trustee David Abundis, who resigned during TEA’s investigation into the district.

Louie G. Luna, the only viable candidate for Harlandale’s District 3, won election by just 16 votes. He received 38% of the vote, placing him a fraction ahead of Lillian Zapata.

If Harlandale’s board policy required candidates to win a majority of the vote, trustees would have had to either call a special election or appoint someone to represent District 3.

Zapata was disqualified from the race due to residency issues. Zeke Mendoza, who died shortly after Texas’ winter storm, was also on the ballot for District 3. He received 120 votes.

Judson ISD

Former Judson trustee Jose Macias Jr. will once again represent Judson’s District 4. He’s returning to the board after resigning to join the Alamo Colleges Board in 2019.

Rafael Diaz, who was appointed to replace Macias, won the District 7 seat, which represents all of Judson. Diaz is married to Texas State Board of Education member Marisa Perez-Diaz and was endorsed by Julián Castro.

Alamo Heights ISD

Alamo Heights ISD had two competitive races without incumbents. Clay Page will be the new trustee representing Place No. 5. Carey Watson Hildebrand will represent Place No. 7.

Southwest ISD

Two incumbents and five challengers competed for three trustee seats on the Southwest ISD board. Incumbents Flo Bernal and James Sullivan, Jr. retained their seats. They will be joined by Daniel Carrillo.

Comal ISD

Comal ISD, located primarily in Comal County, also had an election to watch. Trustee meetings drew packed board rooms this year following a series of controversial actions, motivating those who opposed their decisions to launch a get-out-the-vote campaign.

Last fall, current Board President David Drastata called the coronavirus the “China virus” in an athletic booster letter, a term criticized for contributing to anti-Asian rhetoric.

Drastata and four other board candidates voted to remove the district’s mask mandate in March without surveying parents or giving them time to make alternative plans.

Courtney Beach Biasatti, Drastata’s opponent, said she would have polled her constituents before making a decision about masks. She defeated Drastata Saturday with just under 59% of the vote.

Comal ISD incumbent Tim Hennessee received 61% of the vote in his race, despite facing two challengers. He was one of two trustees to vote against removing the mask mandate.

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