Solid Candidates Find Their Way to AISD Board Races
Wanted: heroes. Salary: nothing
Five of nine seats on the Austin ISD Board of Trustees are up Nov. 8, with only two incumbents seeking reelection; the new board's main order of business will be to conduct a promised national search for yet another new superintendent (Anthony Mays has taken the reins in the interim). If trustees got paid for what is easily a 20-hour-per-week job, we might have more candidates, but at least we have some good ones.
Current Board Prez Geronimo Rodriguez left AISD watchers in suspense as he waited to file for reelection until last week. His District 6 covers South-Central Austin, running along and just west of I-35, including the district's central offices. Rodriguez was first appointed to the board to replace Paul Saldaña in 2017, reelected without opposition in 2018, and then named president by his colleagues later that year, 12 hours after then-President Kendall Pace was forced out over revealed texts that disparaged local activists as "poverty pimps." Rodriguez has often acted as a peacemaking middleman, although crises such as 2019's school closures escalated quickly beyond his reach. Challenger Andrew Gonzales, a former AISD teacher, seeks to address the school-to-prison pipeline, overly stressful testing, teacher pay, and "attacks on public health and teaching historical truth in our schools."
The other incumbent, Arati Singh in At-Large Position 9 – an expensive race that covers the entire district – faces two opponents, pediatrician Tim Porter and interior designer Heather Toolin, neither with a campaign website as of press time. Singh, who lives in Southwest Austin, is an education consultant and former teacher elected in 2018; she's been vocal about improving equitable outcomes in the district and creating metrics to assess the success of equity efforts.
The open District 1 (Northeast Austin) race, in the AISD Board's traditionally Black seat, sees LaTisha Anderson retiring after one term. Former Statesman reporter/editorialist and district communications chief Roxanne Evans, a leader in Austin education politics and policy for decades (including as a tri-chair of the district's powerful Facilities and Bond Planning Advisory Committee, or FABPAC) faces Candace Hunter, who's taught in AISD, Manor ISD, and at Austin Community College and currently runs Teacher Boot Camp, which coaches educators.
Likewise, the District 4 (Northwest Austin) seat is being vacated by Kristin Ashy after one term and features two members of noted political families, both of whom filed late. Kathryn Whitley Chu, the wife of Justice of the Peace Nick Chu and mother of an infant daughter, is a talented-and-gifted educator, formerly at Wells Branch Elementary. Clint Small, a builder, former member of Austin's parks board and Planning Commission, and onetime owner of Clint Small Phillips 66 on Northland Drive (a Best of Austin winner in 2002), is a grandson of the namesake of AISD's Clint Small Middle School.
In District 7, the sprawling southwest district, David Kauffman is running unopposed to succeed Yasmin Wagner. Kauffman worked in AISD for 17 years, including 10 years as principal of Perez Elementary (which opened in 2006), and as AISD's director of multilingual education. He says he'll focus on equity.
* Editor's note Monday 8-25 12:45 pm: This story has been updated to correct that Kathryn Whitley Chu has published a campaign website.