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La Joya ISD welcomes new school board trustee

A former union organizer joined the La Joya school board on Wednesday.

State Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr. administered the oath of office to former American Federation of Teachers representative Juan Jose “J.J.” Luna, 66, of La Joya during a meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

“For 18 years, I sat out there,” Luna said, gesturing toward the audience. “And now I’ll be sitting here, even though it’ll be for a short while.”

Luna replaced former Trustee Oscar “Coach” Salinas, who resigned in March after pleading guilty in a public corruption case.

The school board selected Luna on Aug. 31 after reviewing 10 applications.

Other contenders for the position included former school board Trustee Isaac V. Sulemana of Sullivan City, former Peñitas Mayor Servando Ramirez and former Palmview City Councilman Anthony Uresti.

“I think his strong point is: He’s a very good advocate for staff,” said board President Alda T. Benavides, who added that Luna knows the issues and will provide trustees with an important perspective.


From left to right: Trustee Alex Cantu, Trustee Mary T. Hernandez, board President Alda T. Benavides, Trustee Juan Jose “J.J.” Luna, Trustee Espie Ochoa and Trustee Roberto Zamora. (Photo by Dave Hendricks / The Progress Times)


Luna graduated from La Joya High School in 1975 and earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, history and biology from the University of Texas-Pan American. After working for the Roma Independent School District and the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District, he returned to La Joya in 1984 and spent 20 years teaching history.

“I grew up here. I’m a graduate of La Joya. And I worked here for 20 years. I live here in La Joya,” Luna said. “Thank you for giving me that opportunity to serve my community.”

Two of his former students, Alex Cantu and Nereyda Cantu, now serve on the school board.

“It’s an honor being able to serve with one of my teachers,” Alex Cantu said.

Luna retired from La Joya ISD in 2004, when he accepted a job with the American Federation of Teachers. He spent the next 18 years representing the local union.

As part of his job, Luna regularly attended school board meetings.

“I know for many years we’ve worked side-by-side advocating for the well-being of our staff,” said Trustee Espie Ochoa. “And now here we are as colleagues, doing just that.”

Luna also knows Trustee Roberto Zamora well.

When he was 12 years old, Luna played on a baseball team in Peñitas. Zamora was his coach.

“Many years ago, Mr. Luna and I were on the same team. He was a player and I was a coach. I don’t think we ever imagined that someday we’d be sitting here together,” Zamora said. “Congratulations and welcome to our board.”

Luna will serve on the school board until November, when La Joya ISD will hold a special election to replace Salinas.

While he decided not to run during the 2022 election cycle, Luna said he may run for a full, four-year term in 2024.

“I just want to do the best I can do in the coming months that I’ll be here,” Luna said. “And think seriously about a run for 2024.”

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