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Three familiar faces in the community are running for one place on the La Joya ISD Board of Trustees.
Alex Cantu, Norma Chapa and Jerry Alaniz have all filed applications to run for Place 7 on the La Joya Independent School District board. The race is packed in the district, with 12 total candidates vying for four spots.
Cantu is the incumbent candidate for Place 7 on the LJISD Board of Trustees. He started his career as an educator for six years in the district.
After his son was born, he and his wife Victoria opened the Children’s Education Learning Center in 2012, where they serve young children in Western Hidalgo County. Cantu also serves as a municipal judge for the city of La Joya, Assistant Municipal Judge for Sullivan City and as a board member for the Economic Development Corporation of Peñitas.
“We are entrusted by the taxpayers of our communities to make sound financial decisions that give our district, schools, employees and students the much-needed resources to provide the best quality education, while responsibly managing our financial system,” Cantu said.
Cantu also served as a Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper (as his professional training was in criminology).
“My experience in law enforcement gives me a unique perspective as we think critically about managing school safety with public health and other concerns during a global pandemic,” Cantu said. “Our students continue to be my motivation for serving in public office as Trustee. I see the impact that a quality education, caring compassionate school leaders and a supportive and loving community can have as an equalizer for children from various backgrounds with varying life circumstances.”
Cantu said that in his experience on the LJISD Board of Trustees, they have made strides in providing that security and support for students and families. All employees, including teachers, bus drivers, custodial staff and administration are also part of his reason for running for re-election.
“We continue to believe in them and in the work they do to support our students’ success, and we appreciate the critical role they play,” Cantu said. “I want to continue to keep working toward raising the standard for every student, and to attain the educational excellence they deserve.”
Cantu said his platform would put a focus on continuing the successful academic outcomes of college readiness and Career and Technical Education opportunities, as well as open doors to the community and reward employees for their work.
“Our focus right now is on adjusting to this new learning environment, and ensuring that [everyone is] appropriately equipped and supported through distance learning,” Cantu said. “We are providing the necessary resources to maintain good nutritional and mental health; and ensuring a return to learning environment when it is safe.”
Cantu said as a board member, he has visited every campus at LJISD, as well as all the departments to hear needs firsthand.
“I look forward to continuing to explore innovative ideas that will support and enhance our students’ learning experiences, and to seeing the district evolve and grow,” Cantu said. “I am proud of our La Joya ISD community for coming together and supporting each other during this difficult time. We have witnessed acts of charity never before seen, and though many of us have suffered tremendous loss, we remain hopeful and optimistic of better days ahead.”
Chapa is an administrator at health care companies such as Amigos y Familia Primary Home Care, Amigos y Familia Adult Day Care and Del Sol Personal Assistance Services.
She has over 20 years of experience working with policies and procedures to ensure the companies are fiscally compliant. Chapa also has extensive experience administering Child and Adult Care Food Programs, and currently serves as a member on the Planning and Zoning Board for the city of Palmview.
“I am responsible for overseeing monthly and yearly budgets, payroll and tax reports, revenue operating cost reports, and Food Service Guidelines Reports,” Chapa said. “As a business owner, I have always had an open door policy for my clients and employees. They can communicate with me about any concerns or comments. I will always appreciate their feedback.”
Chapa said on her Facebook campaign page that the open door policy she has for her employees at work will also be in place if elected to the LJISD Board of Trustees.
“I will continue actively encouraging the input and participation of parents, staff and community residents regarding concerns and the operation of the school district,” Chapa said. “I will hear you out, and I will be your voice.”
Chapa was motivated to run in order to change unfair policies within the district.
“I also aim to restore trust between the teachers, students, community and La Joya ISD Board Members,” Chapa said. “I am prepared to help and be the voice for our students, teachers and La Joya ISD personnel. It’s time to concentrate on following the Code of Ethics for school board members.”
Chapa has been holding drive-thru campaign events, and along with her running mate Leonora Garcia, who is running for Place 4, been distributing school supplies and houseware items to constituents. Her goals if elected include improving accountability within district officials and administration.
“I will improve the safety of the learning environment for our students, teachers and personnel, as well as promote fiscal responsibility to improve transparency in the interest of taxpayers and assure school funds are used directly for students’ resources, teachers, and La Joya ISD personnel,” Chapa said. “[We should also be] respecting qualifications, experience and certifications of personnel who want to achieve a higher position.”
A strong moral foundation, honesty and fairness with no hidden agendas are all goals Chapa plans to meet if elected.
“I believe God takes into account exactly who we are and matches us to the angels who bring emotional equilibrium and balance to our lives,” Chapa said. “Let’s work together to help La Joya ISD students succeed during these difficult times.”
Jerry “Chief” Alaniz
Alaniz is the Fire Chief for the city of Palmview, where he has worked since 2001. He started his career as a volunteer firefighter with the city in 1995, and was promoted to full-time fire chief and Emergency Management Coordinator in 2005.
His experience as a public servant gives him the experience and qualifications needed to run for the LJISD Board of Trustees.
“I have a familiarity with budget planning, planning for future capital projects dealing with bonds, dealing with different financing mechanisms on the business side,” Alaniz said. “Most importantly, I have experience as far as protecting the city of Palmview and all the area the city services.”
Preparing for emergencies is important not only for the fire department, but for board members, according to Alaniz.
“One of the big things that I want to do, if given the opportunity by our constituents and by La Joya ISD, is to upgrade fire protection systems within the school district, especially the older campuses,” Alaniz said. “I want to ensure the safety of all the students and teachers and staff.”
With the unprecedented events brought forth by the coronavirus pandemic, Alaniz said he felt the call to do more and expand his scope of public service.
“I want to make sure we provide a safe environment for them to be able to do what they have to do,” Alaniz said. “Teachers teach our future, they provide an education to our children, and I feel if the children, teachers and staff feel safe, that will provide for more comfort and provide the quality of education La Joya is known for.”
Alaniz said he also wanted to expand infrastructure to further support students and staff.
“I want to expand the CTE [Career and Technical Education] course offerings,” Alaniz said. “I want to bring in a Fire Academy to the school district, and provide EMT training and dispatch training.”
Expanding the district’s CTE program will provide further opportunities for employment upon graduation, according to Alaniz. He also wants to make employment opportunities within LJISD itself stronger.
“When we hire, we need to hire the most qualified staff and personnel for each position,” Alaniz said. “Whenever we promote, we need to make sure we promote the best qualified individuals for those positions as well.”
Alaniz said he wanted voters to know that the children’s, staff and teacher safety is incredibly important to him.
“I want to thank the community for embracing me as fire chief and emergency management coordinator for the last 20 years,” Alaniz said. “Just like I look after and take care of the constituents of the city of Palmview and all the area within La Joya ISD that our department serves and protects, I want to do the same to ensure our children, teachers and faculty are taken care of on a daily basis. I humbly ask the constituents for their vote to expand my public service in a different capacity.”
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 political tab in a coming issue with more on these candidates and other races across Western Hidalgo County.