Two incumbents on the Mercedes ISD Board of Trustees with each face a lone challenger in the November election, while two newcomers will square off for an undefended seat.
Current Board President Oscar “Big O” Riojas will face Lucy Alvarado Delgado for the Place 5 seat, while incumbent Elvia Sandoval will run against Pete “Capt.” Martinez III for Place 6, and Horacio Pequeno will contend with Eddie Howell Jr. for Place 7.
Place 7 incumbent Arturo Ayala Jr. did not file to run for reelection.
Oscar “Big O” Riojas, 45, currently works as the executive director of athletics and district facilities at Weslaco ISD.
Riojas says over 20 years in a variety of education positions, along with his previous board experience qualify him to continue to serve.
“I feel like I bring a lot of experience,” he said. “I certainly believe that public education is the best, and we provide well-rounded students with not just a quality education but lots of opportunities to help the individual grow and become a productive member of our community.”
Strengthening curriculum and working toward financial stability top Riojas’ list of priorities if he wins another term, along with school safety.
“Right now we’re fighting an invisible threat with COVID-19, so we’re working tirelessly to prepare our schools for that. But there’s always something we are having to alert ourselves to and protect ourselves from, so school safety is very important,” he said. “Financial integrity is very important, obviously curriculum and instruction are very important.”
Lucy Alvarado Delgado, a 56-year-old who’s spent most of her career working in human resources and the correctional detentions industry, thinks she can do a better job on the board.
Delgado, who says her three daughters attended the district, says her ties to the community and experience working with the district as a parent give her a perspective uniquely useful for a board trustee.
“I am a parent, and I’ve attended the meetings, I’ve been involved in a parental advisory committee where we met with the superintendent and some of the parents,” she said.
Along with responsible budgeting and keeping standards of education up to par, Delgado says she would work to improve communication between the district and the community.
“I’ve seen a sense of detachment between our district and our community,” she said. “It’s just opening up that communication between our school board and our community and the parents. Parents need information.”
Elvia Sandoval, 71, is a retired classroom teacher who continued to substitute teach up to the beginning of the pandemic.
Sandoval says over 35 years in education qualify her for the role of trustee.
“I have the experience of the educational background as far as curriculum,” she said. “I’ve been aware of the finances, now we are in a finance situation, so I feel that I’m qualified because I do have that information and background.”
Along with improving the district’s financial and academic standing, Sandoval says pandemic preparedness would top her list of goals for a fourth term on the board.
“I know a lot of parents are very scared, a lot of employees are scared because of the position this pandemic has put us in,” she said. “So my priority will be safety for everyone involved, and of course I want our academics to improve and also our finances, we need to move forward on that.”
Sandoval’s challenger for the seat, Pete “Capt.” Martinez III, a retired educator/fishing guide, did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.
Eddie Howell Jr., the owner of Howell Insurance, will contest with Horacio Pequeño, the 54-year-old executive director of the Mercedes Housing Authority, for Place 7.
Attempts to reach Howell for comment have been unsuccessful.
Pequeño, who previously served on the board, says that experience along with his business experience make him a good fit for the seat.
“I think the experience that I bring to the table is that I have already served four years as a school board member,” he said. “I have worked with budgets in my employment, and I think one of the most important things is to have experience coming into a bigger organization.”
If elected, Pequeño says he would work toward improving communication with the community.
“To be more out in the community, to have more input from community members — I think that would go a long way,” he said.