By FRANCISCO E. JIMENEZ
The Place 5 race for the San Benito CISD School Board sees incumbent Hector Leal attempting to maintain his seat from challengers Rene Salinas, Bobby Benavides and Joyce Aguirre.
Three of the candidates shared their views on certain issues currently facing the district, including the suspension of Superintendent of Schools Antonio G. Limón. Attempts to reach Aguirre for comment were unsuccessful as of presstime.
“The reason I’m running for re-election is because I see all these things going on, and I want to bring back stability to the district,” said Leal on Thursday. “I think we need to unite and work together for the reason we are there for, which is our children. I just felt that we need to bring back stability and unity to the board. I felt like I could help do that with my experience on the board, and simply that I know what’s going on at this time, the issues that are on hand.”
Salinas, who has been an educator for 17 years and currently teaches English at Progreso High School, believes that his experience as an educator and an athletic coach makes him a qualified candidate for the school board.
“My experiences in the classroom, my experiences as an athletic coach for 17 years in one capacity or another, I think when putting those two things together with the amount of districts I’ve been in, I know what it takes to be successful in the classroom,” Salinas said. “I know what teachers need to be successful in the classroom. I know the environment that the students need to be successful in the classroom. If we’re preaching to all our students about how important an education is, then it’s important that the people who are saying that to them are also college educated.”
Benavides, who works in water distribution for the City of San Benito, said that he feels that it is time for new faces on the board.
“Basically, I think it’s time for a change,” Benavides said. “I’m very keen on good education. Basically, that’s what they (students) need – a good education. I’m an honest man. If it’s in my heart, I’m going to say it. I love children. They deserve every chance in the world to succeed.”
Candidates also discussed the Miller Jordan Middle School teachers’ recent plea to the Board of Trustees and administration for stability at the campus, namely refraining from reassigning campus principal Mary Alice Leal, which would be the eighth such occurrence in seven years at MJMS.
“There are some administrative issues there that I really can’t discuss because it’s personnel,” Leal said. “I think it’s just a matter of giving it time and turning it around. Also, of course, we need to look at the issues and deal with them as they come. There are some issues there administratively, but I think that with the help of the superintendent and the administration, we can get Miller Jordan back to where it was and doing better.”
“You’ve got to hold administrators accountable,” Salinas said. “I’m not part of the district right now, so I don’t know all the details as far as what’s going on at Miller Jordan. I only know what I’ve read. You’ve got to hold people accountable. Teachers have got to be accountable for their actions, administrators have got to be held accountable for their actions and you’ve always got two sides to every story. If the job isn’t getting done, then that’s the reason why the district makes changes. If the job is getting done, then of course there shouldn’t be any changes that need to be made as long as there is progression.”
“I don’t know all the facts on that to tell you the truth,” Benavides said about the Miller Jordan teachers’ concerns. “If you’re going to ask me for a comment, I can’t because I don’t know what’s really going on. I can’t comment on something that I don’t have all the facts to.”
Leal was also candid about his thoughts on Limón’s investigation, which was launched a few months after his suspension and conducted by Guerra and Farah PLLC out of Houston. Thus far, the investigation has uncovered more than 60 allegations, a number which has been narrowed down to single digits, and cost the district in excess of $20,000 on legal fees alone.
“To me, it was a waste of money,” Leal said. “Definitely, we could have looked at it a little slower and possibly taken care of it a while back. From 76 (allegations levied against Limón) we came down to about three allegations that are being looked at. I think it was a waste of time and of money. In a nutshell, I think we should have taken care of it a long time ago. We need our superintendent. If they have the votes or the findings to show that Mr. Limón did something wrong, then let’s do what we have to do. As far as I know, I don’t think there is enough. We could have taken care of this a while back.”
“Everyone is curious to know why Mr. Limón is suspended, but at the same time a lot of the general public, including myself, we don’t have all those details,” said Salinas. “Because we don’t have the details, we don’t know the reasons behind why he is suspended. Knowing what I know about the way the law works, there is some information that I’m sure can’t be disclosed because of the fact that it’s under investigation. Those are the things that the community members don’t know about. It’s tough to say exactly what’s going on with that situation.”
When asked for his thoughts on Limón’s suspension, Benavides said, “That’s another one. It’s not right for me to comment on something that I don’t know the facts to. If I knew the facts I would comment on it, but I don’t know them.”
Early voting will begin on Monday, April 28 and end on Tuesday, May 6. Election Day is on Saturday, May 10.