Election settles three races across Brownsville district
Three new trustees will join the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees once the votes are canvassed in Tuesday’s election, although one of them is no stranger to the issues facing the district.
Drue Brown, BISD’s recently retired longtime public information officer, won election to the Position 1 seat, fending off four challengers. With 44 of 47 precincts reporting, Brown led with 7,824 votes in unofficial returns. Former board member Catalina Presas-Garcia received 6,504 votes, while Brownsville businessman Mark Cortez received 5,268. Jose Valdez received 4,260 votes, while Tim Ramirez tallied 3,123. Both are retired teachers.
Candidates generally expressed optimism for the district but also said parents and other stakeholders should be more involved in decision making. Cesar Lopez, the Position 1 incumbent, did not seek re-election.
Twelve candidates were running for three open seats on the board, and the candidate with the highest vote total in each race won election.
In the Position 2 race, Erasmo Castro tallied 10,059 votes, beating out challenger Herman Otis Powers, who got 8,569. Incumbent Carlos Elizondo polled 8,284 votes.
Castro said he is ready to hit the ground running and deliver on his promises.
“ We need transparency,” he said. “We need there to be a little bit more clarity and more education in regards to some of the things the board does. It’s just making people more aware of what’s actually happening. I think one of the things that we learned about the special meeting that was held on Monday was that the idea that they can basically do anything without informing the public of what’s going on. One of the things I’m going to do is to bring back transparency that the board is lacking at this time.”
Castro added that the board and district need to focus on students, teachers and personnel rather than vendors.
“ I want to thank everyone that participated in this process,” he said. “I want to thank the local media as well. They’ve been doing their best to cover this. I think working together as a community and individually is an awesome way to educate the individuals about the importance of going out there and voting.”
Prisci Roca Tipton was the top vote getter for Position 4, polling 9,746 votes and narrowly beating out Joe A. Rodriguez, the incumbent and former BISD athletic director, who received 8,494. Randy Gonzales garnered 3,955 votes and Jorge Valdez 4,495.
Tipton said she wants to ensure that all trustees work together in a professional manner.
“ We (also) need to focus on academic excellence, which is focusing on student achievements,” she said. “We can’t let our eyes go off and not focus on the students. That needs to be our number one priority. Every decision that we make, we need to keep the children in mind.
“ I’m very excited to be part of the board. I’m hoping to make this community very proud in building consensus, focusing on academic excellence and student achievements.”
During the campaign candidates expressed concern about the number of students BISD is losing to charter schools, urged more transparency about the forces that drive decision making and advocated greater involvement by parents and all stakeholders in that same process.
Brown said she and her husband Dave spent the afternoon driving from polling place to polling place in a car loaded with bottled water and snacks for anyone working the election.
“ Win or lose, and in light of the students we’re losing, the stakeholders of the district should be more involved in the decision-making process,” Brown said Tuesday afternoon. She said funds raised by the recent tax increase would be better spent on making the schools safe and secure, ensuring that students have access to the latest technology, and making sure BISD salaries are competitive with other Valley districts.
“ I had a great group of volunteers who started the campaign with me (and worked) right till the very end,” Brown said Tuesday night at her watch party just after the Cameron County elections office announced early voting results. The early totals showed her about 1,700 votes ahead and she maintained the margin throughout the night.
“ I have learned that running for office is a lot of work, but it’s certainly been a great experience. The main thing I’d like to do is commend my opponents because from the very beginning, we decided to run a race that was professional and civil and I have the greatest regard for them. We were very congenial and supportive of each other and we focused on the issues.”
Presas-Garcia, who served on the board from 2008-2016, said she hopes the new board recovers some of the respect the BISD Board of Trustees has lost with the community.
A real estate agent, Presas-Garcia said it is important that BISD gets back on the right track because “a strong school district will draw people to the community.”