Saturday, June 23, 2018
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sharyland-logo-copy-1SHARYLAND—In February, the Sharyland ISD Board of Trustees agreed on a settlement between LULAC and the school district, which converts the board election process from “Cumulative” back to “Plurality-at-large” election system.

In 1996, the League of United Latin American Citizens, concerned about the available opportunities for Hispanics to win a place on the board, sued Sharyland Independent School District, leading to an agreement with Sharyland ISD that changed the way board members were elected.

The agreement changed the election system to the cumulative voting system, which allowed voters to have as many votes as there were open seats, according the district’s attorney on the case, David Mendez. The votes could be used for several different candidates or all votes could be given to an individual candidate.

Mendez said after going to the federal district court in conjunction with the representatives of the original case, they negotiated a modification, which would convert the election process back to the more traditional “Plurality–at-large” election system.

The “at large” election system puts candidates into separate places, and voters choose one candidate in each place.

This year, in Place 1 incumbent Ricky Longoria is running against newcomer Alejandro Rodriguez. In Place 2, incumbent Juan F. Zuniga will be in the running with former Mission City Manager Julio Cerda.

Longoria said the election system change was community driven. He added with the new system, citizens would see an election process they are more familiar with.

“As a candidate, I haven’t run in it (Plurality-at-large election) so it is going to be different for me as well,” Longoria said. “As a voter, I do think it does make things a lot easier. Now it is a one man-one vote process.”

Rodriguez said the case was initially started due to the mindset that the school board needed more representation by minorities, and he added the cumulative system has served its purpose.

In Place 2, Zuniga said he likes the conversion to the new election process and added it has been a long time coming. He added some people may be hesitant to the change but said it is a system seen at surrounding municipalities.

Cerda said the former process was helpful in the ’90s but he is happy to see the change come to fruition.

“I’m excited. It will make sure everyone’s vote counts and doesn’t influence someone to come in and give more votes,” Cerda said. “It comes down to the citizens having a say so. It was great back in the day but now it’s back to one-on-one.”

Each candidate is prepping for the election that is rapidly coming up in May, and they all bring something different to the table.

Longoria has six years of experience on the Sharyland ISD Board as president, vice president and secretary. He also recently served as the Region One School Board Association president.

As a certified public accountant, Longoria said he has knowledge in auditing public entities that allows him to help build a structure for the district’s budget.

While Rodriguez, Longoria’s opponent for Place 1 has an undergraduate in business administration and is currently working as a criminal investigator. He believes his experience from both would contribute to keeping an efficient budget and help him serve the community fairly and impartially.

“Most importantly, I am a father of four children who are all in the Sharyland school system,” Rodriguez said. “So I have a huge interest that this school district recruits the best administrators, hires and maintains the best educators…so every child grows up to be responsible and fruitful members of our society.”

Zuniga, a Sharyland High School graduate of 1985, has nine years of time on the board, and he said he plans to continue with efforts to keep taxes low if elected for another term.

“I want to lower property taxes where we can and increase teacher and staff pay,” Zuniga said. “Also, I want to push hiring from within, we are filling key slots with staff from outside of our district. I think that is a big mistake.”

Cerda said he plans to use his city manager experience in dealing with millions of dollars annually to keep a fiscally sound district. He added his engineering background also lends a hand to future infrastructure for Sharyland ISD.