Three vie for Harlingen CISD Board of Trustees, Place 7

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Candidate Questionnaire

(Note: Candidate Adriana Garcia did not respond to our questionnaire.)

Name: Eladio Jaimez

Age: 42

Community Involvement: Co-founder Blue Sunday Holiday Kickoff fundraiser, Active member of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Family Crisis Center (former board member), Founder of the Fill-the-Back Pack school supply and clothing drive, RGV Sports Hall of Fame selection committee (former).

Question 1: How would you describe the district’s current financial status, assessment levels and overall direction of the district?

The Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District is in excellent financial shape. Administration presents a balanced budget every year which the board of trustees approves. The surplus at the end of each fiscal year goes into the reserve fund balance. The district currently has a reserved fund balance to operate for over two and a half months. The district is given good opinions by auditors. HCISD’s excellent financial status is supported by the Texas Education Agency’s A Rating under the Financial Integrity Reporting System of Texas. The primary goal of this system is to achieve quality performance in the management of school districts’ financial resources. When voters approved the Tax Ratification Election in 2015, the district launched a financial strategy to properly and responsibly address the district’s needs. The strategy included input from all campus administrators in order that all the needs were met in a timely manner.

Question 2: What are the district’s short-term and long-term needs and how would you address these matters?

The overall vision of our district is to prepare all students for college or the work force by providing the best possible education while they are here at HCISD. The goal is always to increase student success and one way the school district is doing so is by putting a focus on early childhood literacy for all of our students. Literacy is the foundation of all disciplines and if we can start off our students on a strong note by building a solid foundation of literacy, they will finish their educational journey with HCISD strong as well. HCISD will continue to provide the best learning environment and utilize the best resources to provide a holistic education for our students. Through focus on the three A’s, academics, arts and athletics, and through various character development initiatives, HCISD educates the whole child. And through its push of career and technical education, the district provides choices for all students and families in our community to pursue their passion and achieve their goals and dreams.

Question 3: Other than what has already been mentioned, what other issue faces the district now and into the near future?

As times change, the school district must adapt to these changes and new realities. Student safety will always remain at the top of the list of priorities for HCISD. That is why the school district recently unveiled a five-year, comprehensive safety plan to include everything from the students’ physical safety to their mental well-being. HCISD’s focus will always remain on providing every student a safe environment where they can learn and develop.

Question 4: Why should voters choose you in this election?

Two words: board unity. We are a unified and visionary board of trustees and take pride in protecting the brand that has been built by boards past. Over the past three years, this group of trustees has worked together to ensure student and teacher success. There is dissent when dissent is needed. When I ran three years ago, I assured you I ran without a personal agenda. And I stand by that today. My only agenda remains the success of our students and to support our teachers.

Name: Israel Aguilar

Age: 36

Position seeking: HCISD School Board Trustee, PL 7

Occupation: University Professor of Educational Administration

Years in Community: 36 years in the Rio Grande Valley

Community Involvement:

  • Member, Board of Directors of Harlingen Boy’s and Girl’s Club,
  • Member, Sunburst Harlingen Rotary
  • Member, Cameron County Appraisal Review Board
  • State Trainer, Texas Education Agency

Family: Christian, married with two sons and expecting a third son late 2019

Question 1: How would you describe the district’s current financial status, assessment levels and overall direction of the district? (200 word limit)

I am concerned with current fiscal accountability. The district has a 119 million dollar debt from bonds dating back to 1999. This debt, coupled with other recent expenditures (i.e. purchase of land), is exasperated because enrollment has been declining in the district. It would be remiss of me if I did not run since I have a lot of knowledge about school and district governance.  As a former teacher, school administrator, and current professor of educational administration, I have a responsibility to serve the community as an advocate for fiscal transparency and equity in allocations.

Question 2: What are the district’s short-term and long-term needs and how would you address these matters? (200 word limit)

Long-term Fiscal accountability and allocations: After reviewing the HCISD budgets from 2017 and 2018, including the independent audits from 2017 and 2018, it appears the district is over budget on many projects, especially many tax ratification election (TRE) projects. Proposed projects need to stay under budget to decrease debt in a timely manner. While the district fund balance currently allows for Maintenance and Operation of the district for about 60 days, there is also a large discrepancy between allocations of funds for different programs across the district.

Short-term Excellence vs. Efficiency: The district seems to privilege efficiency over excellence. The current District of Innovation plan waives limits on student-teacher ratios and allows HCISD the ability to certify teachers “in-house”. Educators should not have class sizes at 25 because it is difficult to differentiate effectively. We need to opt out of the DOI plan.

Community engagement, communication, and relations: Only 2,425 people voted for the recent tax ratification election (TRE), and it barely passed. HCISD must continue to engage ALL the community to encourage participation and elicit feedback to inform practice. 2,425 votes does not represent all tax-payers. Through more community engagement, HCISD can build relationships with more communities, especially low-SES ones, and improve communication channels so that many more people vote on education issues.

Question 3: Other than what has already been mentioned, what other issue faces the district now and into the near future? (100 words)

Once we maintain enrollment, we can explore offering consistent and competitive stipends for hard-to-staff areas/schools, graduate education degrees, bilingual and other certificates/awards. To attract high-quality staff and faculty, we need a health insurance plan that provides more coverage. I would also like to explore grant writing to assist with some of the financial concerns.

Question 4: Why should voters choose you in this election? (100 words)

I bring a background in business and in education. We need to elect a Trustee who can bring a perspective that is needed in order to identify critical gaps on both sides of the district (instruction and business). I aim to work with other board members to address issues currently affecting our district such as: bullying, over-budget projects, and a check and balance between campuses to avoid segregated and over-crowded schools.

Israel Aguilar
Eladio Jaimez