Two first-time candidates compete for SISD Place 1 trustee
With longtime Sharyland trustee Ricky Longoria vacating his seat on the SISD school board, Meagan Sullivan and Sergio Saenz go head-to-head to take over Place 1.
The two candidates entered the election race with differently focused campaigns. Saenz has a platform rooted in safety and security, while Sullivan made communication and transparency the bedrock of her efforts. Neither has run for political office before, but both believe there is room for improvement in the district and on the school board.
Sullivan works in special education. She was a Sharyland ISD employee from 2007-2022, and she has lived in the community since 2002.
Although the 53-year-old believes that Sharyland is already a great school district with major accomplishments, she thinks the area where it “consistently fail[s]” is communication.
“I’ve been a parent in the district since ‘04 and was employed there. I have countless examples of communication breakdowns that create problems that don’t need to exist, that aren’t problems. But they become problems because people are either misinformed, uninformed and it just fosters a sense of mistrust among other things,” Sullivan explained. “I know on the surface, to some, that’s kind of a fluff issue but it’s really not. The foundation of any relationship, whether it’s personal, a business relationship, it all comes down to trust. And the only way to build trust is through communication.”
Sullivan said she encourages the trustees to hold regular open forums outside monthly board meetings to allow the community to talk to them. And if elected, she plans to lead by example and meet with people.
“Just because I can’t answer the question that you want, that doesn’t mean I can’t listen to you and maybe offer something that gives you a sense of confidence in my leadership or my ability to navigate situations on behalf of the community, which is really what I see as our role,” she said.
The trustee hopeful has regularly attended school board meetings for years and is a self-proclaimed procedural nerd. To get ahead of the curve, she requested financial documents to familiarize herself with the Sharyland ISD budget and be ready if voters elect her into office.
And as someone who has seen many trustee meetings, Sullivan said she likes that the community has been more engaging in recent months, even if it is because parents are unhappy with the district and the board. The Place 1 candidate views it as a mirror of her experience as a parent.
“I’m a single mom of kids between the ages of 15 and 23. I have someone mad at me all the time, so it doesn’t phase me,” she said with a laugh. “ Do I like it? Of course not. But it doesn’t stop me from making the decisions I have to make or doing what I have to do. And I kind of see a parallel with the school board.”
After years of fostering relationships in all sectors of the Sharyland, Sullivan feels she has built a reputation as someone constituents can reach out to and trust, and that will not change after Election Day.
“I am so much like almost our entire demographic in our district. I have the same challenges, the same parenting concerns and I’m used to working with people to solve those problems in the district already,” Sullivan said. “I’ve been there as a parent of general ed students, as a parent of special ed students, as an educator, as kind of an outreach of sorts — my track record speaks to that. And those who don’t know me and know that about me already, if they ask around they’ll find out.”
Saenz was the first candidate to enter the race. The Houston native owns several businesses, including Rush Salt, and he has called Sharyland home since 1993. His 10-year-old son attends Hinojosa Elementary, and his daughter is an SISD graduate.
The Place 1 candidate admits he has not been as active in the community before running for office. But Saenz said the recent school shootings around the country are worrying, and he wants to be in a position to make a difference.
“With after what’s happened in Nashville, what’s happened in Uvalde, what’s happened in Michigan, I need to do something,” the 48-year-old said. “I’ve been a successful businessman. I think I can give back by my education — a bachelor’s in police administration and master’s in business — and try to use what I’ve learned running a successful business on the school board [by] implementing budgeting, safety security, retaining staff.”
Although the trustee hopeful commends Sharyland ISD for what they have done so far to keep the district safe, he wants to be on the board to advocate for continued refinement. He had some ideas for security, such as advanced cameras that detect when someone has a weapon and adding more security or officers to respond quicker in a crisis. But he believes the priority should be on prevention.
“[It’s] the behavioral things that go with it — the bullying, the quiet student that doesn’t interact with other students, things like that that we have to focus on and explore and talk to the students to see what is going on to make sure there is no bullying,” he said.
As a business owner, a common strategy he uses to gauge employee morale is focus groups. He believes Sharyland ISD could get ahead of issues by implementing this practice. For students, it could prevent a harmful incident; for employees, focus groups could improve teacher retention.
“See what they have to say,” Saenz said. “Because if the morale is not there then you do not have a successful operation of whatever it is you’re trying to do.”
If elected, the Place 1 candidate said he will have an open-door policy to increase transparency. To hit the ground running, he plans to watch the archived school board meetings and speak to the board of trustees secretary to ensure he is prepared to answer questions and vote correctly.
Saenz said at the end of the day, the most important thing is for Sharyland to be successful. And he believes his 20 years of experience as a business owner can help guide the board and district in a positive direction.
“I feel all that I’ve learned from building up the business helps me be on the school board to make executive decisions on what’s best for the school district, what’s best for the employees and what’s best for the staff,” Saenz said. “Since I moved here in ‘93, I’ve always heard, ‘Sharyland is an excellent school district, everybody wants to go to Sharyland.’ I want to continue with the excellence of this school district, and I think I have the heart in it to make it happen.”
Early voting begins April 24 and runs through May 2. Election Day is Saturday, May 6.