BY: Rachel Thompson
Voters are being asked to demonstrate through their ballot, just how much they value diversity in education and among their School Board Trustees. According to the Texas Education Agency’s 2021- 22 Texas Academic Performance Report, Aldine ISD’s two largest student populations are Hispanic (74%) and African American (21.5%), yet one possible outcome of the upcoming November 7th School Board election could result in African American representation missing completely or Hispanic representation reduced to two Trustees. Positions I, 2, 6 and 7 are up for grabs. Listing current Trustees first, Position 1 features Randy Bates versus Jill Metcalfe. Position 2 is Paul Shanklin versus Zaheer Malik. Position 6 is Dr. Kimberly Booker versus Araceli Ramos. Position 7 features Viola Garcia versus Mikela Levi.
The candidates seem to have aligned themselves, as evidenced by their flyers. A joint fundraising campaign was held for Bates, Shanklin, and Booker. According to the Araceli Ramos for Aldine ISD Facebook post, Jill Metcalfe, Zaheer Malik, Araceli Ramos, and Viola Garcia are a self identified “dream team”. That’s right. Viola Garcia has joined forces with the opponents campaigning against the incumbents. Mikela Levi appears to be campaigning alone. Looking at the current School Board members, there are three African American, three Hispanic, and one White Trustee. There are also three men and four women among them, making this a relatively balanced School Board with the majority of student groups represented.
However, this is subject to change. Voters must ask themselves a series of questions: What is the benefit to the candidates themselves by aligning this way? If all the African American Trustees are removed, who will advocate for African American students? If all the African American Trustees are removed, how will the dynamic change between the School Board and the Superintendent? Ideally, the School Board and the Superintendent should operate as a “Team of Eight.”
It is evident that there is not a “Team of Eight” since Viola Garcia, who is currently on the Aldine ISD Board of Trustees, has formed her ‘dream team’ to get the three African American trustees and the current superintendent, Dr. LaTonya Goffney, packing and out the Aldine ISD door. For the ‘dream team ‘candidates, is this campaign all about revenge and a plot to get a Board without African American representation? Is this campaign about race and a plot and scheme to get what Viola Garcia has wanted for years, a Hispanic superintendent? Is this campaign about trickery, strife, hatred, bitterness, and political gimmicks to work against the Aldine ISD district and school board?
Community members must also remember this is not new behavior from Viola Garcia. She co-signed a letter to President Joe Biden and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland comparing parents protesting school policies to “domestic terrorism”
Her actions led to multiple state school board associations to withdraw their membership or their dues from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and for federal authorities to investigate parents as domestic terrorists. Garcia’s actions and affiliation brought shame to the district in a major way.
For the African American candidates, is the goal to get elected or re-elected then forget about the voters that got them their seats after the election season is over? We hear from them during election seasons, but have a hard time maintaining meaningful contact with them when the along racial lines, students and teachers cannot and should not do the same. We will be watching campaign tactics, rhetoric, and the races for each position closely. Vote for candidates who want the best for students, staff, and the district as a whole. Clearly the main thing has been left out this election, the academic success of students. What does any of this racial driven behavior have to do with the success of Aldine ISD? Regardless of color, remember to vote for the MOST QUALIFIED candidate who will be accessible outside of election season and move Aldine ISD forward. The election is over.
Yet frequent discussions on school and curricular improvements is what it will take to move Aldine ISD from a ‘C’ rating to an ‘A’ rating. Dr, LaTonya Goffney, Superintendent of Aldine ISD, has an Executive Team consisting of 11 people. Seven (63%) of the Executive Team are Hispanic, three (27%) are African American, and one (10%) is White. Again, relatively reflective of the student body in Aldine ISD. This, too, is subject to change if the School Board changes and seek a new Superintendent. Voters in Aldine ISD need to think long and hard before casting their ballot. While some candidates may hope that voters choose along racial lines, students and teachers cannot and should not do the same. We will be watching campaign tactics, rhetoric, and the races for each position closely.
Vote for candidates who want the best for students, staff, and the district as a whole. Clearly the main thing has been left out this election, the academic success of students. What does any of this racial driven behavior have to do with the success of Aldine ISD? Regardless of color, remember to vote for the MOST QUALIFIED candidate who will be accessible outside of election season and move Aldine ISD forward.