Two longtime Ysleta Independent School District board members were ousted Saturday. 

In District 4, which comprises the Eastwood High School area, challenger and retired educator Michael Stephen Dwyer defeated eight-year incumbent Miguel Rosales. Dwyer received 56% of the votes while Rosales received 44%.

“I hate to lose, but that’s God’s will,” Rosales said. “I did the best I could with the district in a very honest manner. I’m very open, very transparent and resilient that way.”

In District 6, the Ysleta High School area, both challengers received more votes than incumbent Sotero Ramirez III. Deborah Frieze Torres received 42% of the vote while Christopher Hernandez received 39%. Ramirez received 19% of the vote.

Since no one received more than 50% of the vote, Torres and Hernandez are headed to a runoff on June 10.

Hernandez said late Saturday that he would continue his door-to-door campaign to ensure he receives the votes needed to secure his place in the board.

“I’m going to let them know about me, my thoughts on the district and my vision for the district,” he said. “We’ll let the voters decide who they want representing them.”

Torres, Dwyer and Ramirez were not available for comment after the election.

A third YISD trustee, Connie Woodruff ran unopposed in District 2, which encompasses the Bel Air High School area.

In order to be elected a candidate must receive a majority of votes. The runoff for the two top finishers in District 6 is set for June 10.

School board trustees hire, oversee and fire superintendents, approve the district budget and tax rate, and set district policies and goals. Trustee seats are nonpartisan, and those elected serve four-year unpaid terms. The early voting period ran from April 24 to May 2.

Campaign finance reports from District 4 showed Rosales received $2,500 from the El Paso Builders Association and Dwyer took out a $1,500 loan to finance his campaign. In the run for District 6, the El Paso Associations of Contractors donated $2,500 to incumbent Ramirez, and the Austin-based Texas Realtors Political Action Committee donated $1,000 to Hernandez.

The construction of the restaurant-bar Union Draft House across Eastwood High School was at the forefront of the District 4 race, along with teacher pay raises and Senate Bill 8.

If passed, the bill would restrict classroom instruction or school activities about sexual orientation or gender identity for students. The bill also allows parents to opt out of public education and use taxpayer money for private education.

In District 6, decreasing enrollment was the hot issue. At its peak, YISD had about 50,000 students in 1990. In 2020 the number dropped to 40,401. As of February, the district was down to 36,127.

Since 2015, 18 YISD schools have been closed, 12 permanently, and six have been demolished to build new schools or rebranded as other campuses in the district.

Christian Betancourt is an urban affairs reporter at El Paso Matters and Equitable Cities Reporting Fellow for Borderland Narratives with Next City. Betancourt has been a local news reporter since 2012,...