Voters will see seven candidates on the ballot for the Weslaco school board in November with three seats up for grabs.
Incumbents Erasmo “Moe” Lopez and Patrick B. Kennedy will both attempt to defend their positions against sole challengers, with the former against “Coach” Jesse Treviño for Place 1 and the latter against Jacky Muñoz Sustaita for Place 3.
Three newcomers will contend for the Place 2 seat: Oscar Caballero, Marcos De Los Santos and Paula Sanchez.
Place 2 incumbent Richard Rivera did not file for reelection.
Erasmo “Moe” Lopez, 60, is the owner of L&G Concrete Construction.
He says his experience in business and on the board means he should retain his seat.
“I’ve been on the board now for 12 years, and having gone to many, many conferences and having attended those conferences,” he said. “Learning and having the knowledge to know what really is going on and what really the function of a board is.”
Lopez says if reelected he would work to continue current board policies.
“The work that we’ve been doing in keeping Weslaco ISD at the top, making it better,” he said. “All the way around.”
“Coach” Jesse Treviño, 46, owns One Stop Janitorial services and is a former teacher.
He says both careers make him the best candidate to serve in Place 1.
“I think I have the best of both worlds. I’ve been in the education realm for the last 20 years, I’ve been in the trenches so I know what teachers want, their expectations, and the students as well,” he said. “On the other side of the realm, I’ve been on the business side for over 15 years now, and I’ve had a lot of success there.”
Treviño says he wants to serve on the board in order to promote educational equality.
“My priority would be to make sure that we are fair across the board, across the district in everything that we do, and equal with the kids,” he said. “Make sure we’re providing the same amount of staff, the same amount of resources to all schools within our district.”
Oscar Caballero, 50, is a territory manager for DFA who says previous experience on the board and community service qualify him for the Place 2 post.
“I’ve served my community in so many ways as far as nonprofit organizations around the city, dealing with the financial aspects in these nonprofit organizations,” he said. “Of course, having kids in the district, that’s one of my biggest things of why I feel I need to serve.”
Coping with the pandemic — keeping the community safe while continuing to educate students — tops Caballero’s to-do list for his prospective term.
“That we continue to lead our school district in servicing our children’s education, giving them a well-rounded education,” he said. “My second priority would be the staff, keeping them safe and keeping them at the highest paid salaries that we can afford.”
Marcos De Los Santos, 40, is the grant director for Mercedes ISD, who says he’ll focus on fiscal management if elected.
“Making sure all resources are being appropriately focused on student and staff needs to increase academic achievement,” he said.
Having served for 15 years with Mercedes ISD, De Los Santos says he has the experience to ensure the district meets that goal.
“This job has also allowed me the opportunity to work not only directly with teachers, but also campus administration, department coordinators and directors across all departments. So I understand and I relate to their needs,” he said.
Paula Sanchez, 53, says a long career in education is also what makes her a good fit for the job.
Currently an assistant principal at Port Isabel Jr. High, Sanchez says she’s served in a variety of educational roles over the years.
“I know what it takes to know the needs of the school. I have a passion for education, and I just want what’s right for the community and the teachers and our students,” she said.
Sanchez views pandemic support for students and staff as the most pressing need at the district.
“My perspective in all of this is trying to see what we need to do to get the children back to school,” she said. “I know that we have a lot of children who have social and emotional needs, and I want to focus on that while doing it safely.”
Patrick B. Kennedy, 33, is an attorney who says he should continue to serve on the board because of his experience, which includes previously serving as a city commissioner and as a teacher with the district.
“So I have prior experience handling big budgets, handling government; and I have a heart for education. I want to see Weslaco build a great education system for our children,” he said. “Weslaco was the heart of the Valley, and I firmly believe that if we have an excellent education system in place we’re going to be leading the Valley into the future.”
Along with infrastructure improvements and staying competitive as a district, Kennedy says he would focus on school safety if he wins another term on the board.
“There was that shooting in Houston, so we have upgraded our security features, we completed putting fences around all our schools and we now have security checkpoint systems at our elementary schools,” he said. “The second issue we are concerned with is the coronavirus pandemic, and I want to make sure that our students and staff are safe heading into the next term.”
Jacky Sustaita, 37, is the part owner of Munoz Foundation Drilling and is also a former teacher.
She says she would draw on those nine years of teaching experience if the voters choose her for Place 3.
“So I have a lot of experience in the classroom. I know exactly how tough it is for a teacher, what kind of things we need and what needs to be brought to our attention,” she said. “So that’s why I decided to go ahead and help my community out with that experience I have in the classroom.”
Sustaita, a musician, has plans to revamp the district’s music and fine arts program if the voters pick her, along with a slew of other ideas.
“I think first and foremost, having the communication with the community of what are the issues that you think are more important…” she said. “But of course the safety of our children. The teachers and the staff. Budgets, which I’m not even going to get into because I’m not going to pretend to know about their budgets, but I’m sure things can be rearranged to make the teachers a little happier also.”