With early voting starting Monday, Oct. 22, the candidates vying for seats in the La Joya Independent School District Board of Trustees are engaged in a heated race.
Running unopposed for Place 1 on the LJISD School Board, Cantu began her teaching career at La Joya, calling the district her “second home.” She had already received her bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Early Childhood, and began pursuing her master’s degree while working for the district.
Cantu received a Master of Education in Counseling and Guidance and began working as a counselor at both elementary and secondary levels. After working with LJISD, she began her own learning center in Palmview called Imagination Express Learning Center, LLC in order to continue using her “passion for early childhood and for education.”
The learning center is a community partner with LJISD, and Cantu maintained that in order to “ensure the success of early childhood initiatives.” As a parent of three children who are enrolled in the district, Cantu is an active member of the Site-Based Decision-Making Committee at both elementary and secondary levels, and has been a member of the Superintendent’s Round Table Committee and the School Health Advisory Council.
Currently, Cantu is working on her doctorate in Educational Leadership at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. She believes “when schools, families, and communities work together to support student learning, students achieve more,” and hopes to “provide ongoing, collaborative support to teachers, counselors, school leaders, and all school employees” and “assist school leaders to ensure the safety of all children.”
Frances Salinas could not be reached by the Progress Times by print day.
Esperanza “Espie” Ochoa
Esperanza “Espie” Ochoa is running for Place 2 on the LJISD Board of Trustees, after previously serving on the board from 2007-2016. She has been working in education for 25 years.
Ochoa spent 13 years in elementary schools, three years as a Central Office administrator and 12 years working in higher education. Currently, she is “supporting the implementation of a pilot and research study where she is training, modeling and coaching administrators, teachers and parents.”
Ochoa received her Master of Education and Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of Texas Pan-American.
Ochoa intends to “put children first in all board decisions, advocate for all La Joya ISD district employees, support and encourage parental involvement in all schools and oversee the management of all expenditures with prudence and an awareness of taxpayer burden” if elected back on to the school board.
“I am running for Place 2 seat because I am committed to making the education and achievement opportunities for La Joya students (from early childhood to post-secondary levels) a life-lasting experience that will enable them to become successful in all they do,” said Ochoa. “My education and professional experience as an educator give me the skills to connect and identify the needs of all students and staff.”
Pamela Flores began her teaching and coaching career in 1989 as a boys baseball coach for the Mission Boys and Girls Club. Soon after that she and a few other individuals began a baseball league for Palmview, registering over 300 children to participate.
Flores pursued her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Political Science, stating that her father Lucrecio Flores was her biggest influence and motivation to pursuing her passions. Lucrecio served as part of the LJISD Board of Trustees as well – and his daughter “has always shared the same vision as her father.”
According to her, the qualities passed down from her father such as “confidence, honesty, strong moral values, integrity and commitment” are what qualifies her to serve on the LJISD school board.
Flores currently works as the Mission Junior High Physical Education teacher and Girls Athletic Coordinator, and has been in this position for 11 years. Prior to working in Mission, Flores was the Head Girls Track and Field and Cross Country coach at La Joya High School.
As a parent, Flores said she understands the responsibilities that come with serving on the school board, and “is more than ready to step in and be the voice for the many children and families that feel that because they are not a part of the entitled inner circle that their voice will never be heard.” She hopes to restore hope and transparency in the school system.
Johnn Alaniz is a graduate of La Joya High School, and graduated from the University of Texas Pan-American in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Finance. While he currently works as the Chief Executive Officer at the La Joya Credit Union (after serving as the vice president), Alaniz has also served as the director of the Palmview Boys and Girls Club for three years and the Palmview City Manager for 11 years.
Alaniz has served on the LJISD Board of Trustees since May 2006, “proudly following in his father’s footsteps.”
According to him, he enjoys and appreciates the opportunity to serve the community and school district as a board member.
He considers LJISD an amazing and unique school district that has shown “caring, innovation and resilience.” Alaniz is proud to say that during his time as a board member, the district has implemented “all day Pre-K, buses returned for all students, offers the highest paid salaries for teachers in the valley, a La Joya ISD Free Employee Clinic and an STC Campus in La Joya ISD.”
The LJISD Sports & Learning Complex was also built in this time, and the district began including STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses at the elementary and middle school levels. Alaniz intends to “advocate for the safety of the children” and supports the La Joya ISD Police Dept. by hoping to enhance security for students and staff.
Mary Hernandez graduated from McAllen High School and began working as the Purchasing and Marketing Director at Wickes Lumber for 12 years. After that, she successfully began running BH Trucking for the last 15 years.
She has been part of LJISD since she moved to Palmview with her husband and they began their family. All three of her children graduated from the district, where she has remained involved throughout their school years.
She remained active on a volunteer basis and dedicated “countless hours which enabled her to see firsthand what students, educators and staff needs are.” Hernandez considers herself to be an advocate for students and educators rights.
Hernandez said that she believes being a parent and businesswoman is what most qualifies her to serve on the LJISD Board of Trustees.
“As a parent, one’s focus is primarily on the children and their well being,” Hernandez said. “If the teachers are provided the resources and support to teach, everything else falls into place. Educators also need an environment where they can thrive and their morale is not constantly crushed by cronyism.”
She thinks that her business experience will help to eliminate cronyism, or the hiring of friends and associates to work in positions of authority. Hernandez hopes her career will also be “valuable to her participation on the school board in that she is financially savvy and can ensure that the district is fiscally responsible.”
Hernandez hopes to cause change in the school board, and felt disappointed after she supported different candidates “who pledged to change things once elected and never did.” She said she wants to be part of the solution.
Early voting will run from Oct. 22 through Nov. 2, and election day is Nov. 6.