AISD: Refilling the School Board
Candidates jockey to fill Saldaña's seat
The Austin Independent School District's board of trustees is moving quickly to replace Paul Saldaña after the District 6 trustee stepped down last month. Three candidates have applied to fill the volunteer post, and trustees are scheduled to appoint his successor before mid-June.
Saldaña resigned from the board on April 24, citing the impossibility of balancing his career demands as a consultant, family life, and the extraordinary time required to be an AISD board member. Rather than call a special election, his colleagues decided to appoint a successor to complete the remaining 14 months of his four-year term, and put in a call for applications.
Out of the eight names originally floated ("Next up for Saldaña's Vacant Seat," April 28), six never filed their paperwork. That left two: Foundation Communities St. Elmo Neighborhood Project director Alejandro Delgado, and Seton Healthcare Family Chief Advocacy Officer Geronimo Rodriguez. They've since been joined by a third: computer specialist Glen Shield.
Delgado carries one major strike against him: In 2011, he was hired as the assistant principal for IDEA Allan, the failed and highly contentious partnership between AISD and charter group IDEA Public Schools. After AISD trustees canceled the IDEA contract in 2012, Delgado stayed with the charter when it reopened off East Riverside, and served as principal for a year before joining Foundation Communities last July. In his application questionnaire, Delgado touted IDEA College Prep's academic achievements during his tenure. However, he also conceded that the Allan experiment had been incredibly divisive, noting he had learned that "community engagement matters."
By contrast, Shield cited his district experience as a former PTA member at four campuses (Palm and Perez elementaries, Paredes Middle, and Akins High) and substitute teacher, and his own work with Foundation Communities as a volunteer financial adviser and tax preparer. He enters the competition knowing that the board is likely to select a Hispanic male. In his final speech, Saldaña noted how his departure leaves only one minority trustee (District 1's Ted Gordon, who is African-American), and no Hispanic representation. Saldaña called that unacceptable and unrepresentative of a district in which a majority of students are Latino.
At the moment, Rodriguez appears the front-runner. Aside from his community outreach experience with Seton, he is also a former president of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and has served on four AISD districtwide bodies, including both the 2008 and 2013 citizen bond advisory committees. He was also a member of the city's Hispanic Quality of Life Initiative Community Oversight Team, and has been instrumental in the development of the new Career Launch partnership between AISD, Seton, and Austin Community College at LBJ Early College High School. Moreover, he comes with the sought-after backing of Saldaña himself. While the former trustee said he would not formally endorse a candidate, he has cited Rodriguez's "proven track record as an effective and well-respected leader in the Austin community," adding, "I believe Geronimo is best positioned to hit the ground running and can immediately engage with the District 6 community."
D6 residents now have a chance to vet all three candidates at two public forums. The League of Women Voters will hold a candidate forum on Sat., May 20, 11am-12:30pm, at Travis Early College High, 1211 E. Oltorf; then the Austin Council of PTAs holds its own forum on Tue., May 23, 6:30-8pm at Akins High, 10701 S. First.
The board is scheduled to make a final selection on June 12.