Three trustees on the Edinburg CISD board will attempt to fend off a single challenger apiece in the Nov. election.
Current board Secretary Robert Peña will face Luis “Louie” Alamia for his Place 4 seat, while board Vice-President Carmen Gonzalez will run against Ramiro Guerra for her Place 6 post and Place 7 incumbent Miguel “Mike” Farias will compete at the polls against John J. Rodriguez.
Although dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is high on the list of most of the candidates’ views, fiscal responsibility, oversight and increasing educational opportunities remain high priorities.
Robert Peña, 52, is a solar and wind facility developer
Pena says the voters chose him for the board four years ago, and he thinks they made the right decision then and should again this November.
“I want to continue our positive progress,” he said. “Our students are advancing well. Our facilities are continuing to grow and be improved. And most of all during this pandemic, COVID time, the safety of our students and teachers is of utmost importance.”
Coping with the pandemic is at the top of Peña’s list for a prospective additional term, Peña said, including safety for the district community and keeping educational standards high through the turmoil.
“Obviously my priority would be a safe return to school for all students, teachers and staff. When the time is right — I want to make sure we understand I’m not imposing it right now,” he said. “Priority two is to ensure that our students do not fall back and are able to move forward positively after these pandemic home-schooling requirements that we have.”
Luis “Louie” Alamia, 37, also thinks the pandemic will be a priority and says he would be more qualified to address it as the Place 4 trustee because of his medical background.
“Being in the healthcare setting and with a medical background I feel that with what we’re going through, what our whole country’s enduring right now with this pandemic, it’s good to bring in a board member with a medical background to help with certain decisions,” Alamia, a physical therapist at DHR Health, said. “Whether it’s virtual learning, in-person learning, safety protocols; decisions on how to make sure our students, faculty and staff all stay safe and secure while still maintaining that high level of education.”
Finding someone permanent to lead the district is foremost in Alamia’s mind in terms of needs.
“My first and main concern is for us to hire a full time superintendent,” he said. “We need a leader, and right now we’re still with an interim. We definitely need to have somebody full-time to help lead our school district and guide in the direction that we’re hopefully seeking to be.”
Carmen Gonzalez, 81, is a retired school board administrator and educator.
She says decades of experience working with the district makes her the right person for the Place 6 job.
“Always with boys and girls in mind,” she said. “I haven’t changed as an educator, I haven’t changed as a board member. I’m real transparent, I call it like I see it, and that’s why I’ve been successful all these years.”
The pandemic and how to deal with it would top Gonzalez’s list of priorities if the voters choose her in November, she said.
“We’re trying to do the best we can with the facts that we know,” she said. “The number one priority is safety for all, and most of the decisions that have been made lately is to keep the safety of everybody in mind. Because this pandemic is something that really has been hard on everyone.”
Gonzalez will be challenged by Ramiro Guerra, another retiree with decades of professional experience in the education field.
Guerra, 66, says those 34 years of experience give him the perspective necessary to serve on the board.
“Successful as a teacher, as a coach, as a parent,” he said. “I advocate for students, for employees and the taxpayers.”
Pandemic safety will be important for the district’s leadership in the immediate future, Guerra said, but he also thinks the school district is due for more oversight.
“I would work hard to ensure strong oversight. I’m into transparency and accountability, and to do that I think that it’s imperative that we call for a forensic audit and term limits,” he said. “People elected to represent our community for community service should not turn it into a career. It’s not about them, it’s about the needs of the community.”
Miguel “Mike” Farias, 52, owns and manages home health agencies and adult daycare centers.
He says he originally ran because he didn’t like the financial situation at the district, and that his business and financial acumen play a large role in what makes him a good candidate.
“Currently I employ over 1,000 individuals,” he said. “Not only that, when I ran the first time, and this is the second time I’m running, I financially supported myself 100% accepting no contributions from anyone. So I am not committed to anyone because of a donation. As long as you put kids first, I think you always make the right decision.”
If the voters give Farias he says he would prioritize the safety of students and staff in the district while advocating for student equality.
“What I really want to do is to assure that every child, no matter your financial situation or where you live, gets the same quality education as everyone else,” he said. “I want to support every kid, not just the one going to college but the one that wants to serve our country in the military. How about the student that wants to get a trade or a skill? I want to make sure that everybody is properly supported in fulfilling their dreams and goals in life.”
Farias’ opponent, John J. Rodriguez, says he would also prioritize supporting students if elected, specifically by promoting higher education.
“Getting kids encouraged, showing them examples,” he said. “Using myself, using community members to show that if you reach for the stars, you can obtain them. If you want that education, you can attain it, regardless of the adversity, regardless of the difficulties you may face personally. And of course, talking to the teachers and making sure they can provide those examples.”
Rodriguez, 46, is an attorney. He says his business experience along with his extensive involvement with the community and the district give him the right perspective for the job.
“I’ve dealt with juveniles pretty much the vast majority of my career. I have children and am currently experiencing them going through the Edinburg school system, and I’m a product of this system, I’m a product with these teachers here in Edinburg,” he said. “I think all of that combined gives me a very unique insight into the needs of the district.”