By FRANCISCO E. JIMENEZ
Four-way political races often consist of candidates with backgrounds and views that vary; San Benito is not the exception.
The Place 7 race for the San Benito CISD Board of Trustees is another fully-stacked card which sees incumbent Julian Huerta’s re-election bid challenged by Angel Mendez, Esteban “Steve” Rodriguez and Gilbert Weaver.
The candidates discussed the basis of their campaigns and what they hope to accomplish if elected.
“I wish to continue serving my community and my effort to provide quality education for students and the best environment for our staff and everyone there,” said Huerta.
“My campaign is pretty much offering a strong leadership component from my perspective with fiscal responsibility, truth transparency and implementing policies and procedures according to the rules and regulations,” Mendez said.
Rodriguez said his business experience makes him a prime candidate for the position.
“What I want to do is bring my business experience to the table,” Rodriguez said. “I believe I have been blessed to be doing good. I can bring this to the table by making the right choices. We need to make good business decisions with the district as far as that is concerned. I want to bring academics first. I want to bring academics back to the front. I think academics right now has taken a backseat. We forget sometimes as board members why we’re there. We’re there to serve the public, to make sure our kids do well in school, of course. We have to make choices for the teachers. We have to control spending. I’m trying to put that point across.”
“All children should be educated in San Benito,” said Weaver. “All children should be at liberty to be educated and attend school. Parents also need to be aware that they should be accountable for their children.”
One of the issues discussed by the candidates was that of the investigation and paid suspension of Superintendent of Schools Antonio G. Limón. Huerta, who was one of the four deciding votes who voted in favor of suspending Limón with pay, said that he stands by the decision.
“Concerns were brought to our attention,” Huerta said. “Us as elected officials, each of us have an obligation to protect our students and staff. That’s why we decided to peruse with the investigation. That’s where I stand.”
“We don’t have the information of what has really been occurring with that past administration or superintendent,” Mendez said. “My concern is that if there is an item that (Limón) did wrong, then the board members needed to clear the problem immediately and begin to reconcile their differences and begin that stability on the district’s platform.”
“A lot of this has been kept behind closed doors,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been to some school board meetings, and I don’t know all the details of what’s going on. What I believe, honestly, I think the board could have handled it in a different manner. If they really had accusations and they had concrete evidence showing that he did wrong, then they should have gone with protocol, which is either you fire or you reprimand him. If it was that serious of an issue, then yeah they should have fired him.”
“Through the investigation, whatever system is going on through the students or principal or employee, it’s a due process by law,” said Weaver. “It has to be dealt with according to the procedures. Those due processes have to be dealt with. Whatever Mr. Limón has done with the majority board members, that’s something that will be dealt with if I’m elected.”
All four candidates were also asked to share their thoughts on the $315,000 lien placed by the Internal Revenue Service on SBCISD funds owed to the district’s on-site health clinic administrator, Richard Garza — owner of ISD Managed Care Services Inc.
“I guess the board has to consider all the situations that affect the healthcare to our employees and their families,” Huerta said. “If action has to be taken, then I guess we’ll have to discuss and decide as a board.”
“That’s another item that pretty much impacts, in this particular case, personnel as well as children,” Mendez said. “My concern as a citizen is when we have financial instability, then comes other emotions. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve seen the stress level on individuals that have burdens from criminal charges or IRS levies and whatnot. My concern in that particular item is (whether Garza is) going to conduct or administer his professional expertise to the fullest capacity? If for some odd reason or another there’s no indication that he is being affected, then we need to continue with whatever we have until we find a solution to it.”
“I think that any vendor that’s going to be coming to the board and wanting to do business with the board, I think that we need to make sure that they have a good background,” Rodriguez said. “Supposedly that decision they made is costing us more money. They went along with knowing that this gentleman owed money to the IRS already. He was already in debt, and yet they still go with the same vendor. I believe I read that a consulting firm told them that they need to go with another one. We need to investigate those vendors that are going to do business with us. We can’t just give it to Joe Blow. He’s a friend. He’s a compadre. That’s got to stop.”
“That, in my opinion, was supposed to be dealt with a long time ago,” Weaver said. “I think the majority board members made a bad decision. They should have dealt with it and also the minority should have dealt with it. Everybody should have taken care of it a long time ago. It shouldn’t have gone this long. A lot of taxpayer money has been wasted. It should have never gotten to this point.”
On his campaign, Huerta said there’s more work that needs to be completed. “I definitely care about the successes in our district,” Huerta said. “There are also a lot of things that need to get done. With the community’s help and their trust, we will finish them.”
“One of the things that I have a very strong background in is my advocacy for education,” Mendez said of his candidacy. “I really believe that education is the biggest equalizer for our society. Our district was in the forefront of technology, academics, athletics and whatnot in the Valley. We’ve lagged behind. We need good, strong visionary leadership … to implement those goals and strategies for our district.”
“I’ve always stressed since day one when I began my campaign that I’m going in as an independent,” Rodriguez added. “I’m not on this side or on that side. I want to be accountable only to the people that voted for me that want an independent voice. I’m going to try to do what’s best for the district. I want to unite the board. We all need to work together to make our district shine again.”
“I am an individual that really is for education,” Weaver said. “My parents are in the education field; sisters, brothers, uncles – we’re all in the education field. I am totally committed to education. I am retired and available. I’m going to really push for education and also the students to continue their education after they’ve graduated.”
Early voting will begin on Monday, April 28 and end on Tuesday, May 6. Election Day is on Saturday, May 10.