Both incumbents on the Sharyland school board of trustees will be facing challengers in the upcoming school board election.
Certified Public Accountant Ricardo “Ricky” Longoria and engineer Julio Cerda are seeking reelection to the Sharyland school board after serving there for 12 and six years, respectively.
Longoria is facing three challengers to his Place 1 seat while Cerda is facing one opponent to his Place 2 seat.
Longoria will face Cesar Ramirez – a health and wellness director at Walmart – in the election. Ramirez served on the La Joya school board for two terms starting in 2000. Other opponents include Jozabad Jahaziel Palacios, an assistant principal in the McAllen school district, and Matthew Dillon Richter, a McAllen-based attorney who could not be reached for this interview.
According to Longoria, all voters need to know about him when casting their vote is look at his record of serving on the school board for 12 years.
“Over the past four times I’ve run and had challengers the community has continued to support me,” Longoria said. “At the end of the day these new challengers need to make their case. I have a record to run on so I’m hoping folks will go back and look at that record and decide if I’ve been a great contributor to the board and educational excellence at Sharyland ISD.”
Among the many accomplishments Longoria has been a part of are the passing of a $50 million bond that led to the creation of Sharyland Pioneer High School in 2014.
Longoria was president of the board at the time, he said.
“It provided kids more opportunities to participate,” Longoria said of the opening of the new high school. “We wanted to maintain good financial health for the district and as we sit here today, I think it’s better off today than it was when we first started while still providing a great education for our kids.”
Longoria said he is seeking reelection because his son is still a student in the district.
“So I have a vested interest in making sure he and other students in the district continue to be in a good school. I have a passion for kids and our community and wasn’t ready to step down. We’re excited, we’re doing great things right now and continue to do things, it’s a privilege to serve.”
This May, voters will vote on a $40 million bond to update Sharyland High School and John H. Shary Elementary School campuses.
“They’re functional buildings but not conducive to what we consider a modern, educational facility,” Longoria said of the campuses. “Pioneer is a new building, but we can’t forget about our students at Sharyland High.”
Longoria’s 12-year record as school board member is why he needs to be replaced, Place 1 challenger Cesar Ramirez argued.
“Longoria is a good man, I don’t have anything against him,” Ramirez said. “I just think the decisions this board has made, including him, have not been transparent. There’s been a lack of transparency, equality and accountability with this current board and administration and for those factors I thought it was time to get back into it. It’s time for change.”
Ramirez said he brings years of experience to the school board after serving on the La Joya school board for two terms.
“As a student I always saw incidents where I noticed the board doing things in the interest of adults and not students so I told myself I would run for school board when I got the chance and I did after graduating pharmacy school,” Ramirez explained. “We need to put kids’ interest in everything. It may look like things are going well but there’s things that need to be addressed and I feel I am the right person to make a difference.”
As an assistant principal at McAllen High School, Jozabad “Jay” Palacios has experience as an educator and administrator, he said.
Palacios previously ran for Precinct 3 Place 1 Justice of the Peace in 2016 and lost the election.
“I was not successful in that campaign but with this one I feel it best suits me in regard to leadership and job title and mission of learning,” Palacios said. “There’s so much we can do. The opportunity is there, I want to take it and do the best I can with it. I want to be the proponent of our community and ensure we are leaving something for the future to keep kids educated so we can be able to thrive.”
Palacios says he plans to focus on transparency and communication between the board and public if elected.
“One of the things the community keeps talking about is transparency which is communication. Often times we fail to not address things and explain board decisions. Sharyland is a good school district that is rated very well but there’s small issues the public would like to be addressed and I am stepping up to the plate.”
Palacios said he is interested in the upcoming bond election, provided that there is a strategic plan in place.
“As long as we communicate and collaborate with stakeholders then we should be fine,” Palacios said. “A lot of the reasons why we fail to implement a plan is because one hasn’t been developed. As long as we’re clear on how this will be spent then the trust should continue.”
Palacios says he plans to look at other school districts for guidance on how to manage the district.
“I’m always learning and seeing what other schools are doing to see how we can better assist our needs,” Palacios said. “There’s a lot of problems that we can pinpoint but the main commonality is we all want equality, equity and our kids to succeed. We need to look at our campuses and budget and plan and see what they key things are to fix. I’ve looked at the budget, it’s not as detailed as my current school district so I would like to question it a bit more.”
Incumbent Julio Cerda will face criminal investigator Alejandro Rodriguez, who previously ran for school board in 2014 against Longoria.
Cerda brings with him decades of management experience having served as city manager for the city of Mission, executive director for the Agua Special Utility District and been on the school board since 2014.
“I love serving, I bring good experience to the board, loyalty and integrity; it’s what I have for the district,” Cerda said. “I am outspoken and make sure my point gets across. Hopefully my two cents serve a purpose.”
As a board trustee, Cerda pointed out how he has helped oversee several obstacles in the district such as audits, balancing the budget and selecting a new superintendent.
“All the experience I’ve brought in has helped, I’m very proud of our district and school being recognized as distinguished by the state,” Cerda said. “We’ve been an excellent district and in my new term I’d like to see the bond issue pass so we can reconstruct Sharyland High School and John H. Shary Elementary and continue our success as high as we can. It’s easy when you go from the bottom up, it’s hard to maintain the higher level of excellence we have been doing for the last several years.”
“I want to continue the excellence at Sharyland. Let the voters decide who is better and may the best man win,” Cerda said.
Though he lost the race in 2014 when he first ran for school board, Alejandro Rodriguez said he considers that election as a victory.
“I met a lot of people in the community and learned a lot of people are passionate about ensuring our community and school district excels,” Rodriguez explained. “I have several kids who either graduated from the district or are currently students there so the district is dear to us since we’re still involved. It’s important to us that it does well because it speaks not just for the community, but the kids as well.”
Rodriguez said he is running again for the same reason he ran six years ago.
“I believe the students and teachers aren’t being well served by the board,” Rodriguez said. “They try to micromanage the district instead of hiring a superintendent who will lead, the board takes it upon themselves to administrate. It feels like a problem at Sharyland for the last two decades, we should change it now. I found out in 2014 that there’s a sense of the board being treated like a country club and I don’t agree that seven people should be deciding for the community.”
Early voting starts Monday, April 20 and runs through Tuesday, April 28. Election day is set for Sat., May 2, 2020.
This story was originally published in the Friday, Feb. 28, 2020 issue of the Progress Times