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Three women with deep ties to the La Joya ISD are running for the Board of Trustees.
Claudia Ochoa, Dr. Alda Benavides and Leonora Garcia have filed applications to run for Place 4 on the La Joya Independent School District board. The race is expected to be heated this year, as 12 total candidates are running for four seats.
Ochoa is the incumbent candidate for Place 4, currently holding the seat on the board.
She has been a nurse for over nine years at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance until January, when she said she decided to take a break from her career as a nurse and act as the CFO at her family business, 8/A Builders LLC.
Ochoa said she feels she is more than prepared to continue on the board.
“As a parent, wife, current board member, nurse – which is a crucial perspective during this time – and business owner, I am confident in saying that I have the knowledge, leadership and experience necessary to make me a great candidate for re-election,” Ochoa said.
Ochoa noted that her three children have been part of the LJISD community their whole lives, and they are her biggest motivation.
“[They] are very proud of it,” Ochoa said on her children attending La Joya. “What I want for my children is what I advocate and want for every child in the La Joya Independent School District. I recognize how important education is to success, whether it be a university degree or vocational training. I’d like to be able to help every student at La Joya ISD receive the educational experience that will help lay a solid foundation for the rest of their lives.”
Ochoa said her platform aims to focus on education for every student, acknowledging there are different needs for all, with attention to student safety and continuous improvement in the community.
“In trying times like these, it is important to assure parents and students that we are willing to go above and beyond to assure students receive a quality education while staying safe,” Ochoa said. “I will always do what is in the best interest of our children, because I know that our students deserve the best.”
Providing students with the best resources available to learn from home is one of the ways Ochoa intends to “champion” students if re-elected.
“I’d like to continue building relationships with constituents in our communities in order to better meet the needs of our students and families,” Ochoa said. “I’d like to continue bringing new ideas into our district, like telemedicine, to continue to provide the absolute best for our children.”
“The last four years have been a testament to that,” Ochoa said. “I would greatly appreciate your support and your vote in the upcoming elections on November 3, 2020.” Ochoa said the students and our district are her ultimate priority.
Dr. Alda Benavides
The former Superintendent of Schools for LJISD has also announced her campaign for Place 4. Benavides spent 13 years as Superintendent for the district, serving from Sept. 2006 to Feb 2019.
Prior to her term as superintendent, she served eight years as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, and worked in other capacities as a teacher, elementary and secondary counselor, Alternative Center Coordinator and Migrant Consultant at the Region One Education Service Center. She also spent eight years as an elementary principal, and led the first National Blue-Ribbon School in La Joya ISD.
Benavides said her experiences as a parent, teacher, principal, administrator and superintendent make her more than qualified to serve on the school board.
“Having done all this in my professional career, I now have the time to dedicate myself as a full-time board member,” Benavides said. “[I will] make sure that students, parents, and staff have a voice to improve the overall services provided to the students.”
“My motivation to run for school board comes from a deep desire to give back to my community and to the District that has been so good to me,” Benavides said. “It was only a matter of time before I found the next way I could serve our district – now as a future Trustee.”
Benavides spoke about her platform for running, which she calls “Students before Politics.”
“It means improving opportunities afforded to students, promoting student and staff health and safety, and strengthening financial accountability. We need to remember that students always come first.”
If elected to the board, Benavides intends to reinforce the “Students before Politics” mindset, and work together as a board to make it a reality.
“This means to serve as a true advocate for the students, staff, and parents, and hire the best qualified people for the job,” Benavides said. “[We also need to have] financial transparency and accountability to our taxpayers.”
Keeping with social distancing guidelines, Benavides has been making trips to constituents in the La Joya ISD.
“I’m looking forward to speaking directly to the students, parents, and staff that live and work in our district,” Benavides said. “I am enjoying talking to them, and getting their feedback and input as to how we may continue to improve.”
Benavides stressed that “just like it was when [she] was a Superintendent,” she would advocate for all children.
“It didn’t matter who their parents were, where they lived, or what school they went to,” Benavides said. “We need to put students before politics. Having done all this in my professional career, I plan to be a full-time board member for every child in our district.”
Benavides added that the time for running a community with tribal politics is over.
“I am here to serve, with no outside interest or influence,” Benavides said. “I’m here to get the job done and put our students first.”
After working for LJISD as an educator, Garcia decided it was time to run for the Board of Trustees. Garcia worked for 18 years at the elementary level and 11 years at the middle school level.
“My platform is that I am trying to push for many fully-funded programs,” Garcia said. “I know La Joya is College-Ready, and always pushing for college, but I feel for a lot of students who are not college-bound, we need to have other opportunities for them so once they leave high school they have some sort of trade besides what is offered in the CATE [Career and Technical Education] programs.”
Garcia felt the call to run for the Board of Trustees when she was still teaching. Several of her peers encouraged her to run for the board even then.
“A lot of teachers at the different levels would always say ‘you’re the voice, you’re the person who can go and speak for us because you were just like us,’” Garcia said. “After I left, I started attending board meetings and got things together before I put myself out there. That was my driving force – I’d been in the classroom and I didn’t have any higher positions. I was at the front lines with the students.”
Garcia aims, if elected, to encourage the teaching of other necessary life skills that many students do not graduate with.
“Even now kids wouldn’t know how to fill out a check if they have to,” Garcia said. “There’s a proper etiquette when answering a telephone at a business – things like that. That’s where I’m coming from.”
Garcia said the district needs to see the outcomes of the programs they are currently investing in.
Garcia also takes issue with the hiring process at La Joya ISD, saying it is often about political connections rather than qualifications.
“I understand that many times there’s no real committee who will sit and listen to the top qualified people for jobs, it’s just one phone call to someone and it’s like a done deal” Garcia said.
If elected to the board, she would ensure funding goes into the classrooms rather than erroneous positions in administration that serve little to no function.
“What can we better do for the students?” Garcia said, adding that the lack of technological resources is especially taxing for online distance learning currently required because of the pandemic.
Garcia said her priority as a board member would be to ensure no child is overlooked.
“Our mission statement is ‘No Child Left Behind,’ but I still feel there’s a lot of children being left behind,” Garcia said. “Just this pandemic proved to us that we were not ready. I think we’re a good district, but we could be great.”
Early voting for the LJISD school board will start Tues. Oct. 13, 2020 and run until Fri. Oct. 30, 2020. Election Day is set for Tues. Nov. 3, 2020.
See our story next week on the candidates for Place 5 on the LJISD Board of Trustees.