Talk about poacher turning game keeper: Paul Saldaña, a regular figure in Austin education politics as a campaign consultant and activist, is considering running for the Austin ISD board of trustees this November.
Saldaña has become arguably the Hispanic establishment and business community's most high-profile personality on education matters. Yesterday he confirmed to the Chronicle that he is considering a run against incumbent Lori Moya in District 6. If he does file his paperwork, then he would be this year's first confirmed challenger.
However, that would also require Moya to file as well, and so far she has not made a firm decision on whether she will run again.
Five board positions are on the ballot this year: Aside from Moya's South-East Austin seat, there is also Cheryl Bradley in District 1 (East): Board President Vince Torres in District 4 (North-West); Robert Schneider in District 7 (South-West); And At-Large Position 9's Tamala Barksdale. Out of that list, only Schneider has confirmed that he is running again, while Bradley is definitely stepping down.
AISD elections are often uneventful. In 2010, when these seats were last on the ballot, only three of the five were contested. However, the 2012 elections, which were seen as a referendum on AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, were much more high stakes. With Carstarphen seeming set to resign and move to Atlanta, there's a chance the new board will be selecting her replacement – or at least setting a profoundly different direction for the district than her pro-reform tenure. That means this November's elections could become increasingly significant.
There is still a dearth of announced candidates, with only rumors of challengers to Barksdale and Schneider, and suggestions that a couple of potential candidates are being courted to fill Bradley's empty seat.
Although he has never held office, Saldaña is a former aide to then-council member Gus Garcia. In recent years, he raised his profile by pushing for greater minority- and women-owned business involvement at the Circuit of the Americas. However, he has most commonly been cited as a prominent critic of Carstarphen, publicly calling for the board to replace her. Even though he has worked as a contractor for the district's communication's office, he was not shy about criticizing operations at the Office of Public Relations & Multicultural Outreach, and was at the forefront of the community push back against the campaign to hand Allan Elementary and Eastside Memorial High Schools over to IDEA Public Schools.
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