The seven members of the Board of Trustees govern and oversee the district. Trustees set the vision and goals for the district, oversee the superintendent — who they can fire and hire, and adopt the annual operating budget. Voters can choose up to three candidates. This is an unpaid, nonpartisan position.

Who’s running for this seat?

Tony Reza, 61, is a former chief financial officer for Socorro ISD.

Cindy Carrillo, 40, is a manager.

Salvador Gonzalez, 46, works in construction materials testing.

Salvador Payan, 76, retired from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and is a current Canutillo ISD trustee.

Breanne Barnes, 35, works in sales and design.

Jess Salgado-Ramos, 19, is a marketing manager and student at New Mexico State University.

Laure Searls, 65, a current Canutillo ISD trustee, did not respond.

Bobby Simental, 55, is a licensed private investigator.

Andy Gomez, 40, is a maintenance supervisor.

Lucy Borrego, 52, is chief academic officer at Socorro ISD.

Candidate Questionnaires

Candidates were asked to limit their responses to 100 words. Responses have been lightly edited for grammar.

What must the Board of Trustees do to build the community’s trust?

Tony Reza: In order to build community trust, the Board of Trustees ust conduct board meetings with as much transparency as possible to completely inform the community of relevant issues facing the district; ensure that resolutions of major concerns brought to the board should be published on the district’s website so that the community can see what has been done, or at least know why perhaps something they are requesting cannot be done; conduct periodic community meetings for feedback from the community in order to answer their concerns; conduct biannual needs assessments surveys of parents in order to gather their most pressing concerns and to get a pulse of the community.

Cindy Carrillo: To build trust we must be honest. We need to listen to our community and try to do things the correct way. They must get to know us and see we can be trustworthy. We must be transparent in the situations that are happening.

Salvador Gonzalez: Be transparent and let parents have a voice to which you will respond honestly.

Salvador Payan: Be open and transparent about everything that we do as a board, which I am confident that we have done.

Breanne Barnes: Be completely transparent and follow through with promises made to the district and community.

Jess Salgado-Ramos: The community of Canutillo deserves representatives that are going to fight for all of us. There is a broken chain of communication between the board and our community and with that, a lack of trust. I have committed to holding monthly trustee/community meetings to ensure that our community is informed, armed with resources and able to express their concerns. We must also ensure that we are transparent with the items being placed on the agenda and any relationship between vendors and trustees. Restoring trust in our community also includes passing a campaign finance reform, preventing trustees from voting on items that benefit their contributors.

Laure Searls: No response.

Bobby Simental: We must make sure our community is informed and has access to how their tax dollar is being spent. Transparency and accountability is our community’s right.

Andy Gomez: The first thing in my opinion is to get more parents involved in the school board meetings. That’s the first step to start building the community’s trust.

Lucy Borrego: Trustees are elected to serve the community and ensure the district is meeting its goals of ensuring a safe and supportive learning environment for all students and staff, high student achievement and fiscal responsibility. Trust is built through open, transparent actions and consistent communication which I am committed to carrying out in my service to the Canutillo community.

What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the district, and why?

Tony Reza: Assessment of priorities/concerns of the community and its relationship with the board. The district has experienced some very contentious board meetings in the past. This is not conducive to good governance. Good governance is when all segments of the community are being heard. Consequently, the district needs to strive to assess the overall priorities of the community and find ways to compromise with those groups who feel that their concerns are not being heard.

Cindy Carrillo: Security for teachers, staff and students. With everything going on in the world and it being so easy to have weapons, I think we need more security in our schools. Also, teachers, staff and students must be prepared for any situation. Everyone must know how to react in case of an emergency.

Salvador Gonzalez: Uncontrolled spending of district funds and asking for more money which will raise taxes for the community even more.

Salvador Payan: The upgrading and construction of the instructional facilities. Students need modern, comfortable, secure classrooms so they can learn in such an atmosphere. Currently, many of the campuses are lacking these amenities due to age extensive use and lack of funding by past boards. Overcrowding is a big problem at some of the campuses. Safety and security is an issue that must be upgraded due to the current atmosphere that exits in our society. The Career and Technology Program must be provided the instructional facilities to offer students programs that will provide them with certification in different fields upon graduation. 

Breanne Barnes: Transparency because the community deserves to know how their tax dollars are being spent and why. Questions should be answered when asked before money is spent or contracts are made.

Jess Salgado-Ramos: We have an equity issue in Canutillo. A ZIP code should not define the quality of education that a student receives. We have to fight to ensure that every student in Canutillo has equitable access to quality education regardless of their socioeconomic status or where they live. Our students are also facing a mental health crisis and post-pandemic learning loss that we have to ensure that we address promptly. We have to be the biggest advocates for our teachers, fighting the state legislature to fully fund public education and finally pay our teachers a fair and livable wage.

Laure Searls: No response.

Bobby Simental: Our students should always be our priority. We need to give our students the opportunity to succeed whatever the disadvantages or obstacles in their way.

Andy Gomez: The most pressing issue I think is keeping up with the evolving technology that we’re dealing in today’s world.

Lucy Borrego: Something that is not often enough on the forefront of conversations regarding K-12 education is students’ and employees’ social emotional wellbeing. This unfortunately has been magnified over the last few years as we have all lived through some of the most challenging times in recent history with the COVID-19 pandemic. We must prioritize and invest our resources to support our students’ and employees’ wellbeing.

How should the district address COVID-19 learning loss?

Tony Reza: Learning loss due to COVID-19 should be addressed by the district assessing and evaluating students to determine which students have regress and incurred learning loss. Once that determination is made, these students should be provided with additional tutoring using federal ESSER funding. The district should see if any special curriculum is available that addresses learning loss and consider implementing it. Providing professional development for teachers that will assist them with instruction for those students who have incurred learning loss. This should include additional days of instruction for all students to reverse the impact of learning loss and to have them learning at their expected grade level.

Cindy Carrillo: We need to see how each child has fallen behind. Every child learns at a different pace. Teachers need to know how to work with kids and the way they learn better and are able to catch up to the level the must be in. After-school tutoring would be a great option for many or extra online courses as well.

Salvador Gonzalez: Make sure students have enough time to make up assignments.

Salvador Payan: This issue has been addressed by the administration. The Texas Legislature has required that schools address this issue through House Bill 2445. CISD administration is fully engaged on this issue by offering students assistance with closing the gap in learning loss.

Breanne Barnes: We need to figure out where the students’ gaps begin and start from there. Without knowing the foundational gaps our students have, we can’t address or fill those gaps and you can’t build on foundational skills that the students are lacking.

Jess Salgado-Ramos: We have an amazing team of teachers, paraprofessionals, counselors, and student support services in Canutillo that are working tirelessly to address the post-pandemic learning loss. We have to acknowledge that learning loss will show up differently in every grade and every school. We have to ensure that we have a supportive school environment and that we are developing strong teacher-student relationships. We also need strong systems that show us early warning signs of learning loss to address with early intervention.

Laure Searls: No response.

Bobby Simental: Students learned less when they were remote according to the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University. The main problem was that we weren’t prepared for it. We need to come up with ways of making up for missed learning. One approach would be high-dosage tutoring; another could be adding more days to the school calendar. We already have the teachers, the facilities. Logistically it may be easier than hiring tutors.

Andy Gomez: I think we should focus on the kids needs and put forward a plan to make up for the learning loss gap with special tutoring and after school fun learning activities.

Lucy Borrego: Through the hard work of Canutillo ISD faculty and staff, the district is a leader academically. CISD is the only district in the region to have earned an A rating for three years in a row. That said, there is always room for improvement. We must look at each student and ensure we are addressing any gaps in their learning through individualized learning plans. We must ensure that not one child is left behind.

How would you respond to special interest groups or parents who advocate for censoring existing curriculum or library books perceived by them to be in conflict with their personal beliefs?

Tony Reza: I believe that it is the school district’s responsibility to provide a wide scope of library books and curriculums so as to provide different points of view on issues for the promotion of learning. Censoring existing curriculum or library books would limit those opportunities to expand their areas of learning. Nevertheless, it is the district’s responsibility to ensure that this literature is decent and does not contain obscene materials. Any curriculum that parents have concerns with should be addressed to see if some resolution can be attained. And it goes without saying that parents have every right to review the books that are in the library.

Cindy Carrillo: I would respond by saying that the way of teaching is for everyone. That it is not meant to make anyone uncomfortable due to different beliefs. Parents can explain to each their own children what they believe, or think is correct. Censoring certain things can confuse students instead of helping them learn. It would be very difficult to teach each individual child what each family believes.

Salvador Gonzalez: Parents should have the right to teach certain things in the safety and privacy of their own homes and should not have to worry about their children being taught inappropriate things that have no educational value behind their backs.

Salvador Payan: We have to rely on the expertise of our administration to address this issue. They are the experts in these fields. Librarians are professionals and have conducted extensive oversight and administered this issue in accordance with national and state standards. I am confident that the issue of age-appropriate offering of books is well done. At Canutillo ISD this issue was addressed by a committee of parents, teachers and administrators. I feel that the results that they arrived at have addressed the issue in a satisfactory manner.

Breanne Barnes: First, we need to start with the law. If the curriculum or library books break state or federal law in any way, they should be removed from our schools. Secondly, curriculum should only follow the TEKS provided to us from TEA. Anything additional to that should require approval from parents before the lessons/exposure. If parents feel something is against their personal/ religious belief, they should have the opportunity to opt-out before the material is presented to their child with no ramifications.

Jess Salgado-Ramos: I respect parents’ decision to refuse to teach their child a certain topic however the respect should be mutual for those who do. In regards to book censorship, I strongly believe that our teachers and librarians have the best interest of the student in mind when they pick a certain reading material. We cannot deprive our educators of their professional judgment. History is history!

Laure Searls: No response.

Bobby Simental: As part of the Board of Trustees, we would have to follow district policy as well as state and federal law even if it conflicts personal beliefs.

Andy Gomez: Plain and simple if it’s not in the TEKS it should not be in the curriculum. I think if certain books offend parents personal beliefs, parents should have a right to pull their kids off that school.

Lucy Borrego: Our schools should have established processes for identifying and vetting instructional resources. There also should be policies and procedures for an individual to formally challenge an instructional resource used in the district’s educational program. So long as we follow these standards, I stand by and trust that our educators are doing the best by our students. Books are the foundation of education and our students deserve every opportunity to see far beyond the world they live in through a variety of educational resources.

What experience do you have with curriculum, overseeing budgets, or setting and analyzing policy? Please explain.

Tony Reza: I have 35 years of experience with school district finance. I have been an internal auditor, accountant, budget director, and chief financial officer. I have worked in three different school districts, El Paso ISD, Canutillo ISD, and Socorro ISD. I have been a chief financial officer for both Canutillo ISD (10 years) and Socorro ISD (13 years), so I have extensive experience in overseeing budgets. I am familiar with different curriculums due to the funding that was needed to procure those programs. I have also attended many cabinet and board committee meetings where curriculum programs were explained and detailed.

Cindy Carrillo: I am a business owner and I have worked with a lot of employees. I do the books for the business; I write out checks and payroll. I have to balance the checkbook make sure everything has gone through. Also, I have to make sure everyone is working as they should and following rules that are set.

Salvador Gonzalez: Only the education which one received in the past, which is a lot better than what it is now, or what they are trying to implement.

Salvador Payan: My experience related to curriculum is limited to what I have experienced during my last four years as a board member. The training that I attended twice related to Lone Star Governance, that is offered by the Texas Education Agency, addresses these issues during a two day intensive offering. Student outcomes, board policies, privacy issues, safety and security and community engagement are topics that are covered in a very intensive manner. Board ethics are also a major topic that is well covered. Additionally, Region 19 Education Services Center has conducted ongoing training related to curriculum, student outcomes, ethics, safety and security and inter-board relations.

Breanne Barnes: I have over 15 years of experience with knowing and following curriculum based on my over 11 years of teaching in public schools and four years of college in the education field. I have to oversee budgets in my own family/ household and have overseen budgets for programs such as when I was a cheerleading coach in East Texas and volunteering to manage the coffee shop at our church. I have helped create and revise policies and procedures in place at the campus level at schools I have worked for and security policies and procedures for my daughter’s current school. It is important that budgets and policies are consistently discussed and revised as needed year by year.

Jess Salgado-Ramos: As an organizer at heart, policy and law have been at the forefront of my advocacy. Focusing on public education policy, fighting to get our teachers a fair and livable wage and our retired teachers a cost-of-living adjustment. Fighting against the STAAR test as it does not accurately measure growth, is a waste of our tax dollars, and is not a viable form of accountability. I’ve had the pleasure of leading the Democracy Summer program, creating and developing the curriculum for the program, and most importantly facilitating instruction for our amazing cohort of students.

Laure Searls: No response.

Bobby Simental: I have worked in and around county government all my career. At one point i was the chief deputy for the District Clerk’s Office. Part of my duties along with the elected official was to oversee the budget and be part of the budget hearings with the County Commissioners Court as it pertained to the District Clerk’s Office.

Andy Gomez: The parenting curriculum is the experience I have and I think is the most critical one to start. As a supervisor in my department I manage my budget on a daily basis. My work sheet policy that I follow and put to use on a constant basis for safety and daily maintenance issues is very crucial to my work place environment.

Lucy Borrego: I have nearly three decades experience in education, having served as teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, and chief academic officer. Through my district leadership roles, I have direct experience managing all aspects of education to include curriculum, finance, and policy. I, however, value my time as a classroom teacher and school principal above all because that experience keeps me grounded in understanding what our teachers and school personnel experience every day.

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