Members of the Board of Trustees govern and oversee the school district. Trustees set the vision and goals for the district, oversee the superintendent (who they can fire and hire), and adopt the annual tax rate and operating budget. This is an unpaid, nonpartisan position. Trustees serve four-year terms. You can find YISD trustee district boundaries by clicking HERE. Click HERE to view a personalized sample ballot.
Who’s running for this seat?
Sotero G. Ramirez III, 64, is an associate professor at El Paso Community College and a YISD trustee.
Debbie Torres, 73, is retired.
Christopher Hernandez, 38, is a community organizer and political consultant.
Candidates were asked to limit their responses to 100 words. Responses have been lightly edited for grammar.
What experience do you have with curriculum, overseeing budgets, or setting and analyzing policy? Please explain.
Sotero G. Ramirez III: As a first-line supervisor and manager, I have overseen budgets for as many as 150 employees and operations. I have participated in curriculum and book selection for the program I teach at El Paso Community College since 2008. I currently serve on the Texas Association of School Boards Region 19 Legislative Advisory Council, which establishes a platform for the region in preparation for the current state legislative session.
Debbie Torres: As a program manager at UTEP, oversaw both federal and local budgets.
Christopher Hernandez: My work as a community organizer, political consultant, and as a government staffer has forced me to be extremely familiar with budgets and policy for all levels of governments.
What are your budget priorities and how would you balance funding those priorities while keeping property taxes in check?
Sotero G. Ramirez III: First is to provide a fair and competitive wage and benefits for our employees in hopes of attracting and retaining the most talented teachers for our students. Ensuring that our spending priorities are utilized in a manner that promotes educational advancement for our students. This is challenging with the mandates from the legislature and TEA.
Debbie Torres: Maintain teacher and staff salaries; no teacher furloughs; protect instructional resources for students.
Christopher Hernandez: Instruction and instruction resources would be my top budget priority. The district needs to make about $10.5 million in cuts so that expenditures don’t exceed revenue. I would start by taking a hard look at our budget department. We are paying $2,142,761 in salaries for the budget department alone, plus the department is spending $14,348,000 in “other operating” expenses with no clarification as to what these expenses are. We can start by asking the budget department to look for cuts in their own department.
What recommendations would you make for the district to recruit and retain quality teachers and other employees?
Sotero G. Ramirez III: As stated, fair compensation, quality benefits package (that’s affordable) and an environment where teachers are allowed to teach and respected.
Debbie Torres: Competitive salaries; annual raises; provide the resources teachers need to do their job; offer training that is relevant to their jobs and less paperwork/more time to teach.
Christopher Hernandez: We need to continue to be the district with the highest starting salaries. Our students deserve top talent, and top talent deserves top pay. But we also need to listen to our teachers. Teachers don’t need to be micromanaged by administrators. Teachers need to be provided with the resources they need to make our children successful in the classroom.
How would you address the district’s enrollment trends?
Sotero G. Ramirez III: We have done this by the creation of Early College/Dual Credit College and Academies. Creation of a Young Woman’s Early College Academy. Creation of international schools for elementary student opportunities. I would note that the pandemic created challenges when students did not immediately return to our schools and this continues to be an ongoing issue.
Debbie Torres: Discuss combining school campuses. This would result in healthy enrollment numbers and save district dollars.
Christopher Hernandez: YISD is still using “due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus” as an excuse for declining enrollment. They say we live in an “aging demographic.” That seems to be a cop out. YISD needs to do a better job marketing itself. We are the only “A rated” district in the county, yet most community members don’t know that. Families should be sending their kids to YISD schools, even if they live outside district lines. Instead the opposite is happening.
How would you respond to special interest groups or parents who want to limit access to existing curriculum or library books they perceive to be in conflict with their personal beliefs?
Sotero G. Ramirez III: Parents have the right to review curriculum and determine the types of books their children read. They do not have a right to mandate and censure the books in a school library. They have the right to not have their children learn a particular curriculum. Again, they should not mandate for a whole community or school.
Debbie Torres: Each situation is unique and should be addressed with thoughtfulness and include all those involved. Honor the chain of command.
Christopher Hernandez: There is no one more influential on a child’s values and personal beliefs than their parents. Parents should feel confident in their influence over their children. Children need to understand that not everyone shares the same beliefs as them, and that’s okay. I am against limiting access to any books or curriculum simply because it conflicts with their personal beliefs.
Aside from free breakfast/lunch programs and after-school care through partner organizations, what other resources and social services should schools offer the community to help ensure overall student success?
Sotero G. Ramirez III: Schools offer so many opportunities with fine arts, athletics, tutoring, academic programs such as High Q and club/school organization meetings. It should be noted that schools also offer free after-school meal programs. Other services could be mental health/counseling and healthcare opportunities. While our District already does this, expanding services would be of great benefit.
Debbie Torres: Short courses for parents that would offer insight and understanding of day-to-day instruction. This would also make it easier for parents to help children with assignments if needed.
Christopher Hernandez: We need to increase the resources available to our students when it comes to mental health support, to create a welcoming and inclusive environment that encourages students to speak up about their mental health concerns without fear of judgment. Mental health is a community issue, and we need to ensure that families have access to the support they need. This may include providing educational workshops and counseling services for parents, as well as partnering with community organizations.
Two of the candidates seeking a seat on the Ysleta ISD board say the dwindling enrollment, which has dropped from about 50,000 in 1990 to about 36,000 students, must be reversed.