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Southside ISD needs trustees without baggage

April 17, 2019 GMT

Successful candidates in upcoming Southside Independent School District board elections may not get to immediately assume their posts.

The Texas Education Agency took over the district two years ago, removed the seven-member elected board and appointed five trustees to take their place. The appointees serve at the pleasure of Education Commissioner Mike Morath. The education commissioner has yet to announce when the appointees will be relieved of their duties and when elected board members can take their place.

Three of the 10 candidates seeking election in May were among the elected board members removed from office in May 2017 after a TEA investigation uncovered governance issues, board members acting individually on behalf of the board and failure to comply with state contract purchasing regulations.

School districts are best served by elected representatives from their own communities, but it does not always work out that way. Unfortunately, in dysfunctional school districts with runaway school boards, trustees cannot work together as a team and suspected criminal activity sometimes requires state intervention.

So, if the TEA is in charge, why vote for any candidates at all? Well, because the TEA will not always be in charge and when it is not, it is in the best interest of the students and taxpayers that the community’s voters cast ballots for candidates who have never been elected to this board.

Moreover, a fresh slate of board members ready to take office will offer TEA incentive for expediting the removal of its appointed board of managers and replacing them with those elected by the community.

So, for Position 1, we recommend Maggie Morales, 26, a cashier at Bill Miller BBQ. She is a Southside ISD graduate and has earned a bachelor’s degree from University of the Incarnate Word and a master’s degree from Our Lady of the Lake. A former intern in the district, Morales would bring a fresh perspective to the boardroom on what students in the district need as they head to college.

In Position 2, we recommend Mary Silva, 66, a retired Southside ISD employee. Silva spent 40 years employed by the district working as a classroom aide, librarian, attendance clerk and as administrative assistant. Her children and grandchildren attended Southside schools and she currently has a great-grandson enrolled in the district kindergarten program. Silva’s familiarity with the inner workings of the district would be an asset in putting the district back on course after the TEA intervention is concluded.

In Position 6, we recommend Brenda Nagelhout-Olivarez, 53, an information management specialist in Edgewood ISD. She went to school in Northside ISD, as did her children. Her husband is a Southside ISD graduate. She is among the few candidates who have experience with schools in other school districts. That is a plus. She is interested in what is going on in the classroom. Unfortunately, this is not always something we hear from school board candidates. We need more board members who are focused on academics.

In Position 7, we recommend Katie Farias, 39, who is employed in the district office of state Rep. Roland Gutierrez. Her husband, Gabe, was on the district’s board of managers, but resigned that seat in November due to job obligations. Farias has children in the district and is involved in their schools. Her employment in a lawmaker’s office and her volunteer work in the schools give her a unique insight on Texas public education and would come in handy when it comes to setting local policy.