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9 compete for four seats on Mission school board

During the 2016 Mission school board elections, current school board President Jose Carlos “Charlie” Garcia, board Secretary Gerardo Javier “Jerry” Zamora, Sonia M. Trevino and Patty Y. O’Cana Olivarez ran together and won.

Now, Trevino and O’Cana Olivarez have opted to not seek reelection on the board of trustees while their running mates will face opponents to their seats. Many of these individuals are familiar to the community as they have served the Mission Consolidated Independent School District either as an educator or a former board member.

Place 2

Among the potential new faces to the board is former Mission High School softball Coach Nelda Iris Iglesias.

Iglesias has been with the district since 1980 and started the softball program in 1995 at Mission High School before retiring in 2014. The district softball complex was named in her honor last October.

“I’ve been blessed with a lot of time in the district and community I love,” “Coach” Iglesias said. “I want to give back and thought going to the school board will be a good and beneficial way to do so.”

Iglesias’ husband, Moises, previously served on the school board from 2007 through 2014. Iglesias said this gives her familiarity with the board.

“I don’t have a strong agenda going in but it’s a table of seven,” Iglesias said of her plans on the school board. “As a group we can work together and I can be a voice to help do what’s best for the district and the kids in it. I’ve been in the district for 34 years, I bring to the table my part as someone who has been there in the trenches working with kids all the time. I’ve got a wealth of experience. Having a united group of seven will help with the process for everyone.”

Iglesias’ challenger is Humberto Garza III, a planning inspector for the county.  Garza is a graduate of Mission High School and has children in the district.

“I have always strived to remain active in the community, I decided to run for a position on the board in order to give back to my hometown and the surrounding communities that pertain to our school district,” Garza said “Dedicating my time to the children, teachers, and all employees in our district will be my way of staying involved and giving back.”

Garza says he wishes the best for his opponent and shares Iglesias’ attitude on the need of a united board, adding that any issues facing the district can be resolved by focusing on the students, teachers and staff.

“I strongly believe that a well-rounded school board with members that come from all walks of life is what’s best for our community,” Garza added. “A diverse group of individuals serving on the board will truly represent the entire community. My goal is to be the voice for everyday people, all MCISD employees and the children that attend Mission schools. As a board member I will advocate for equality for all programs and employees in the district.”

Place 3

The Place 3 seat will see incumbent Gerardo Javier “Jerry” Zamora run against retired educator Sylvia Caratachea.

Zamora has 20 years of military and law enforcement service as a former marine and has served on the Mission police and fire departments. He is currently a state trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“When I first ran four years ago, I saw an issue with security in the school district,” Zamora said. “I wanted to bring my experience in this field to assist the school district and implement new safety measures. We’ve been making small strides these last few years.”

Since his appointment to the board, the school district has seen the implementation of a security guard in every campus and additional security provided by Precinct 3 constables to patrol the district.

Zamora says he hopes the district will eventually create a communication center to serve as a hub for the district’s radio and security system, and to eventually create the district’s own police department.

“I believe we are ready for our own police department but our budget wasn’t where we needed it to be four years ago,” Zamora said. “Since then, we’ve been able to save over $6.6 million in our fund balance which will help us make a police department in the near future. I want to continue building the fund balance, work toward creating a police department and continue giving teachers salary increases without raising their insurance or raising the tax rate.

Zamora’s opponent, Sylvia Caratachea, is a retired school teacher who served on the Mission school district for over two decades.

Despite retiring from teaching in 2011, Caratechea is still educating children. She is the owner of the Mission-based daycare Bright Beginnings Learning Center.

“I think I can make a difference on the school board with all the educational experience I have,” Caratachea said. “The district has expanded so much but there’s more to offer to children. I want to be a part of that to take advantage of all the things out there for kids. This is my first time running, I’m just getting my feet wet.”

Caratachea says she wants to focus on parent and student engagement as a member of the board.

“We need to work on addressing bullying to help our students and on technology improvements to be able to show the people these are all the things out there for children,” Caratachea said. “We need more curriculum involvement to bring in parents more often so they can see how their kids are doing in school for themselves without having to worry about it.”

Place 4

Former school board member Rogelio “Roy” Vela Jr. plans to make his return to the school board after losing his bid for reelection in 2018. He is facing local salesman Oscar Martinez who did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Though Vela Jr. lost his seat, he said it was a blessing in disguise as it allowed him to care for his ailing mother and father, who were diagnosed with cancer and kidney failure after the election, respectively.

“Now they’re doing better, and I have their blessing to go back to the board,” Vela Jr. said. “I have children who are either attending the school district or have graduated from there so it makes it personal for me to see students succeed in the district.”

Vela Jr. touted his experience as a former educator and an entrepreneur as reasons to be on the board while praising current members.

“The board has done good, the district is financially sound, but we do have some areas of improvement,” Vela Jr. said. “As far as facilities are concerned, we need to look at them and ensure all the facilities are appropriate with the number of students each campus has. We have so many kids thriving and representing the district, but I would like to see more of them in state and national competitions. At the end of the day, when our kids are doing better, test scores are higher, and the district is thriving.” 

Place 5 

Incumbent Jose Carlos “Charlie” Garcia III is in the most competitive seat in the district as he faces two challengers, Juan M. Gonzalez and Romeo C. Gonzalez II.

When he first ran alongside his slate in 2016, Garcia said the new board members wanted to bring to the board individuals that were part of the Mission school system who have gone off to become professionals and were coming back to help their community.

“We think we’ve achieved that. We want to continue giving back to the community the way we can,” Garcia said. “Mr. Zamora and I are licensed professionals in our career fields and we feel bringing that sense of work ethic to the school board highlights not only our experiences as professionals, but sets an example for administrators and students that shows you can go out, get educated and be professionals and give back to the community. We are shining examples of that.”

Garcia, who owns the McAllen-based architecture firm Arkiiform Architecture and Management, says he is focusing on finding ways to retain students to combat low enrollment numbers.

“We have a lot of competition from charter and private schools but we’ve set high level goals to maintain our excellence in ranking among the state,” Garcia said, adding that the district has been rated with a “High B” by the Texas Education Agency. “We are on the verge of getting an A and we wanted to maintain that, and we have continued that while also maintaining options for our students with academies like our fine arts academy and health science academy opening in the fall. We feel we are providing options to kids and parents to give us a competitive edge over other districts.” 

Juan M. Gonzalez, one of Garcia’s opponents, is a 1994 graduate from Mission High School and said he has three children attending the district. As the development director for the McAllen-based non-profit Inspiracon, Gonzalez said he has experience with balancing budgets.

“I think many on the board have done a good job but don’t have experience in non-profits which I bring to the table,” Gonzalez said. “I work and understand budgets and with my masters degree in public administration I can help find ways to help decreasing expenditures and look at ways for saving while finding better opportunities for students. We want to continue changing the world, we feel our kids are capable of doing that. As board members are keeping an open mind and dialogue to look for new and innovative programs to excel with.”

Gonzalez said he is familiar with his opponents and wishes them the best during the election.

“I don’t see it as competition, I just want to help the community I love and make a difference.,” Gonzalez said. “Win or lose it’s a great experience and we’re all trying our best to help the district overall.” 

Romeo C. Gonzalez II, no relation to Juan Gonzalez, is an assistant director of purchasing for the La Joya school district and has previously worked for Mission CISD.

“I’ve always wanted to run for school board, but it never felt like the right time until now,” Gonzalez II said. “My family is from Mission and I went through that district, my father was  a teacher there for 34 years, my wife is employed at the district so my family has always served there in some capacity and I wanted to try to bring something to the table at Mission CISD.”

Gonzalez II says he hopes to improve the district by increasing the district’s anti-bullying stance and offering more vocational courses for students.

“At the end of the day it’s for the kids, we take pride in making sure what they need they get in a timely manner and everyone is given an opportunity to try to serve the district,” Gonzalez II said. “I want to find out what the fund balance is and how we can improve it and I will listen and assess exactly what is being done and used and so forth to see how the process works.”

Despite the heavy competition, Gonzalez II said he wishes the best for his opponents.

“I see this as nothing more than a chance to represent my school district and will run a clean campaign. May the best man win,” Gonzalez II said.

Early voting starts Monday, April 20 and runs through Tuesday, April 28. Election day is set for Sat., May 2, 2020.

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