Dr. Israel Aguilar
Occupation: University Professor of Educational Administration
Years in Community: 36 years in the Rio Grande Valley
• 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?
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?
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.
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 taxpayers. 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?
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?
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.