A dozen candidates have filed to run for four seats on the Hidalgo ISD school board in the November election.
Incumbents Blanca Lara, Raymundo “Ray” Martinez, Rafael “Ralph” Garza and Luis Trejo Jr. have all filed to run for reelection and will face two new challengers apiece.
Lara will face challengers Polly Hosanna and Norma Torres in the Place 1 election.
Martinez will run against Martin Carrasco Jr. and Wendy Garza-Rodriguez for the Place 2 seat.
Garza finds himself challenged by Frank Cruz and Pete Sanchez for the Place 6 post.
Trejo will go up against Frank Torres and Heriberto “Beto” Rangel for Place 7.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Blanca Lara, the current board president, is a 57-year-old Hidalgo resident who describes herself as an entrepreneur
Lara says her experience on the board qualifies her for another term.
“I’ve been there for quite a long time, around 15 years,” she said. “There’s a lot of things we get to experience and get to learn and to know. The first thing above all is to serve the children and to make the best choices for them.”
If reelected, Lara says she will focus on student safety and educational standards, especially in regard to the pandemic and the return to normalcy after it.
“There’s a lot of things to reach, many goals and challenges to fulfill and meet, so there’s a lot of work still ahead. It’s good to be there serving and supporting our employees, our students, everybody,” she said. “These times that we’ve experienced have changed many things in our minds, in our lives, but we will try hard to go to normal in the future.”
To work toward those goals, Lara will have to beat challenger Polly Hosanna, a 50-year-old Hidalgo resident who currently works in real estate.
Hosanna says she has years of experience working in logistics and operating a home daycare business, experience she thinks can be applied to serving on the board.
“I have a lot of experience working with kids in Chicago, working with the YWCA and many other organizations, and I also have my associates in early childhood,” she said. “Having my own business, I know the need of working as a team.”
If the voters feel the same way and elect Hosanna to the Place 1 seat, she says she’ll use the position to improve communication between the district and parents of students at the district.
“My priority would be to open up the communication between parents, teachers and school board members. Right now the communication is pretty limited to parents…” she said. “Right now it seems pretty tight, all the decisions, everything is made only through the board members, and the parents are not involved at all. So parental involvement has to be key for Hidalgo ISD.”
Norma Torres, who describes herself as a retiree from Hidalgo who’s lived in the district for over 46 years, did not respond to requests for comment.
Incumbent Raymundo “Ray” Martinez, 47, says he is a CEO at an adult daycare business from Hidalgo.
Martinez says his experience working with district youth is extensive, especially in regards to sports, saying he played a role in bringing football to Hidalgo.
“I’ve coached our kids there in Hidalgo for many, many years, and I do baseball and coach the basketball team there in Hidalgo,” he said.
If reelected, Martinez says he would strive to be a voice for kids in the community and promote student equality.
“I believe in equality in all kids,” he said. “It doesn’t matter your last name or where you come from, everybody should be represented the same.”
Two challengers think they can do the job better.
Martin Carrasco Jr., 62, lives in Hidalgo and says he works for Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez.
Carrasco, who served on the board about 15 years ago, says he was prompted to run for a seat once again because of a desire to change direction on the board.
“I strongly believe that there’s a need for change and I see a lot of things that are not being right,” he said. “With the experience I had before, that I served before as a school board member, I believe that I can do a good job because I am there for the kids. I’m not looking to get a title.”
Like Martinez, Carrasco cited student equality as the chief concern for him if elected.
“That’s my main concern. To make sure all of the kids have the right equipment so that everybody can get educated,” he said.
The third candidate for the Place 2 seat, Wendy Garza-Rodriguez, says student equality is important but has an additional priority in mind if she wins the seat. If elected, Garza-Rodriguez says she’ll advocate for improving nutrition programs, a concern she says parents have shared with her.
“The main topic that they have voiced to me has been the child nutrition, the food that they’ve been serving,” she said. “That’s going to be one of my main priorities, is going to be kind of seeing what we can do to feed these children because they need nutrition to excel and produce. So if they don’t have the proper nutrition, then how can they even go on their day to day duties?”
The 35-year-old resident and court clerk of the city of Hidalgo says her close ties with the community give her the insight she needs to serve on the board.
“I feel that I have the experience and knowledge because I’ve lived here my entire life, known [and] had children in the school district, and had family members who have worked and are currently working for the district,” she said. “So I just feel like I have the knowledge to better serve the children and the parents. You know, firsthand information.”
Current board treasurer Rafael “Ralph” Garza, 49, is a Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant from Granjeno who says he has been active with his community since high school. His experience includes working to incorporate Granjeno and serving as its mayor, along with a long list of professional and leadership experience and certifications related to his career in law enforcement.
“I’ve got an extensive background in leadership here at the sheriff’s office and in terms of serving the community,” he said. “I apply all of my training in law enforcement and ethics into everything I do at our school district.”
Although Garza notes that it’s difficult to narrow down priorities on the board to a specific issue, he said encouraging growth and development, along with fiscal responsibility, would continue to be a major concern for him if voted into another term.
I’ve been very active with my community since high school.
“When I went in there four years ago, we were not in the financial shape that we wanted to be,” he said. “But through a lot of dedication, hard work, tightening of the belt, being very conservative with our spending, we are now in a far, far better financial situation than we were back then. We’ve done a number of projects that have really started bringing our school district back into the top shape that it was once held at, at once again we’re getting to the pinnacle of being the one to be the innovators in education.”
To retain his seat, Garza will face Frank Cruz, a court bailiff from Hidalgo who’s lived in the district for 36 years, and Pete Sanchez, a registered nurse from Hidalgo who’s lived in the district for 47 years.
Neither of the newcomers responded to requests for comment as of press time.
Luis Trejo Jr., 31, currently serves as board vice president and is an industrial mechanic from Pharr.
Trejo says his business experience, which includes being a foreman and managing employees, helps him serve the district.
“I believe I’ve got the proper leadership to run a group and take proper decisions for the community. Not only that, but also being a taxpayer of the community,” he said.
Trejo says if elected to another term he would continue supporting policies that include keeping taxes low and acquiring new buses, and, especially, acquiring improved technology for the district which has become even more important because of the pandemic.
“Which is the enormous thing that’s moving everything around, eventually we’ve seen it,” Trejo said of technology. “We weren’t ready for it, like many others, but we’re continuing striking forward with better technology, better buses, better services for not only our students but also the employees of our district.”
Frank Torres, an occupational therapist from Hidalgo who’s lived in the district for four years, and Heriberto “Beto” Rangel, a college student from Hidalgo who’s lived in the district for 20 years, will both challenge Trejo for the seat.
Neither Torres nor Rangel responded to requests for comment.