The Austin Chronicle

AISD and ACC Board of Trustees

By Richard Whittaker, August 26, 2016, News

Independent School District Board of Trustees

AISD trustee elections generally fall into two categories: uncontested drifts back to the dais, and bloody, bare-knuckled throwdowns over the broadest of policy strokes. This time around, with five seats on the ballot and four incumbents back for another round, even with only two contested races the battle lines have been made clear with the early announcement of endorsements from employee union Education Austin.

District 2: In his first four years representing the southeast end of AISD, incumbent Jayme Mathias has courted controversy. He was a standard bearer in the fight to end the district's contract with IDEA Public Schools and has gained employee support for his forthright support for classroom and pay equity, improved teacher working conditions, and pay raises. However, he's faced personality clashes behind the scenes, often over procedural matters and presentation of board unity. Yet he gained the union endorsement when he drew Andy Anderson as an opponent. An IT consultant and manager at the Department of the Treasury, Anderson has served on a series of district bodies, including the Boundary Advis­ory Committee, the Budget & Finance Advis­ory Committee, and most recently as co-chair of the District Advisory Council. However, his conservative-style support for aggressive school accountability, especially when it comes to teachers, pushed the union to back Mathias' substance over his style.

District 3: Former AISD teacher Ann Teich has been pugnacious in her defense of her north-central seat and her pro-teacher, pro-diversity positions – most notably daring fellow Trustee Ted Gordon to call her a racist to her face. Yet she both secured the Ed Austin endorsement and scared off any challengers for her second (and, she says, final) term.

District 5: First termer Amber Elenz avoided a challenger in her Northwest seat, but didn't secure a union endorsement. Her record on employee issues is mixed – she supported placing contractors on the federal Davis-Bacon scale, but opposed three-year contracts for teachers – so while the union held back on full-throated support, they weren't looking for a replacement, either.

District 7: Back on the electoral roundabout for Yasmin Wagner: Two years ago, she lost to incumbent Robert Schneider in a race for this southwest seat. Then last year she was appointed to fill Schneider's position after he died, but with the unexpired four-year term shortened to two years, per state law. So she's back on the ballot after only 14 months in office, with no opposition, and the Ed Austin endorsement.

At-Large Position 8: The second unexpected race on the ballot. After one term, incumbent and former board president Gina Hino­josa leaves the board room to take a seat in the Texas House, running as a Democrat to replace retiring District 49 veteran Elliott Naish­tat. There are two potential replacements: Austin Council of PTAs' first vice president Cindy Anderson may have more experience in district affairs, but attorney and Council on At Risk Youth board member David Quinta­nil­la took the union endorsement.

ACC Board

Austin Community College Board of Trustee elections rarely draw attention or headlines. Yet they are sprawling, expensive affairs: Board members run for at-large seats with precincts in five counties and are elected to six-year terms. With nine members, and staggered terms, that usually means three seats on the ballot every two years. So this election is unusual. First, all three incumbents at the ends of their terms have decided not to run again. Former board chair Jeffrey K. Richard steps down from Place 4 after 12 years, while Guadalupe Sosa (Place 6) and current board chair Victor Vil­lar­real (5) each leave after one six-year term. And there's an unexpected addition to the list: On Aug. 1, the board accepted the decision by vice chair Allen Kaplan (Place 9) to step down two years early after 22 years of service. End result: four races instead of three.

Place 4: There's a three-way race to replace Richard: Stanford Law graduate, Obama for America regional director, and former high school history teacher Sean Hassan takes on Michael J. Lewis, who is running as a first-generation college graduate and an auditor with experience with the Texas Education Agency. In a last-minute filing, they are joined by Realtor George Robinson.

Place 5: When it comes to establishment credentials, Thomas Miranda is arguably the lead candidate in this three-way race. Former chair of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and therefore honorary ex officio member of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, the president and CEO of tech consulting firm Sparkovation Advisors approaches from the employer-need side of the training equation – a large part of ACC's remit. But he faces youthful, yet politically experienced, competition. A 2014 graduate of Sen. Kirk Watson's campaign academy, Anthony Schog­gins spent the 84th legislative session on the staff of Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Hous­­ton, before running Lakeway Police Chief Todd Radford's unsuccessful primary campaign for Travis County Sheriff. Now he's in the first flushes of his own campaign, facing another first-time candidate in ACC student, business financial administrator, and Green Party activist Nicole Eversmann.

Place 6: The first candidate to announce in any race, Nora de Hoyos Comstock is known internationally as the founder of nonprofit Las Comadres Para Las Americas, but locally her strongest credentials arguably come from being the former chair of the Capital Area Workforce Development Board. She faces structural engineer Douglas Gibbins.

Place 9: So far, there's only one candidate filed to fill Kaplan's empty seat: former ACC student and Bernie 2016 organizer Julie Ann Nitsch, who also serves as a member of the city's Committee for Quality of Life for College Students. However, due to Kaplan's late exit, filing has been extended until end of business on Aug. 25, and former Cedar Park council member Mitch Fuller has said he will join this race.

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