Scott Ball / Rivard Report
On Monday, the San Antonio ISD school board voted unanimously to appoint Christina Martinez to fill the District 6 trustee position left vacant by Olga Hernandez following her arrest in a federal wire fraud investigation.
“You gave us a very tough job,” SAISD Board President Patti Radle said before the vote. “It was wonderful to have so many candidates with wonderful qualifications.”
Martinez, 37, is vice president of external relations for Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas and has lived in District 6 for five years. She has worked for nonprofit organizations such as San Antonio Youth Literacy and the Girl Scouts for more than 10 years. Martinez has a 12-year-old son at the Young Men’s Leadership Academy and a 4-year-old daughter at Lamar Elementary.
“I feel relieved. It’s been a tough couple of days and not really knowing what to expect,” Martinez said after the vote. “I have to really dig my feet in and do everything I can to be successful.”
Martinez will be sworn in at the next regular board business meeting on April 10. She will serve the unexpired term that runs until May 2019, when the next elections will be held.
Each SAISD trustee represents one of seven single-member districts and is elected by voters of that district. Trustees serve four-year terms.
District 6 includes Edison High School, Twain and Whittier middle schools, Advanced Learning Academy (Euclid campus), and the elementary schools Arnold, Beacon Hill, Cotton, Franklin, Neal, Rogers, and Wilson.
Martinez applied for the position alongside Steven Ibanez, Rachel Ponce, Lola Rodriguez, David Soto, Cynthia Spielman, and Dana E. Wrann. Hernandez was present throughout the special meeting held at the Burnet Center at 406 Barrera St., a former elementary school that now serves as the meeting place for board trustees.
In late February, the SAISD board voted to fill Hernandez’s position by appointment and accepted applications for her seat through March 10. Hernandez advocated for an appointment, saying that a special election would cost the district time and money. On Feb. 21, Hernandez supporters openly called for appointing Ponce, a parent and life-long resident of District 6. At the Monday night meeting Hernandez sat with Ponce.
Other citizens called for novel perspective and innovation, recommending that a fresh face join the board.
“I want to bring a focus back to schools in the communities,” Martinez told the Rivard Report at the end of the meeting. “I know we put a lot of effort into the in-district charters but there are still schools in the community that aren’t part of that, so how do we bring as much work and effort into bringing those schools up as well?”
During Monday night’s meeting, all seven applicants went through initial five-minute interviews conducted by trustees. During their first interviews, Soto and Ibanez both withdrew their applications in favor of other candidates – Soto for Spielman and Ibanez for Ponce – and lauded their qualifications.
And then there were five. After the initial interviews concluded, board members voted for Ponce, Martinez, Wrann, and Spielman to receive a second, longer interview to answer additional questions.
“Anyone who applied should be held in high regard, because they are willing to dedicate their time and effort to serve the students of our community,” District 1 Trustee Steve Lecholop told the candidates.
Trustees asked candidates how they would deal with potential situations regarding conflict of interest, if they would show trust and respect when a board decision didn’t go their way, how to measure if a board member crosses the line into management, and how they would ensure that both incoming and long-time residents of District 6 feel included in the community.
“I’ve been around a long time and have institutional knowledge,” Ponce said after District 2 Trustee James Howard asked what strengths she would bring to the table. “To know where you’re going you’ve got to know where you’ve been.”
District 3 Trustee Debra Guerrero and Lecholop pressed Ponce on the importance of bringing change to the district and “stepping back from a perspective of comfort.”
“Education moves very quickly, and I’m not afraid to give a chance to something else,” Ponce said. “Change is evident. You’re stuck if you are not willing to see change.”
Martinez said that bridging the newcomer and long-term resident gap in District 6 is all about building relationships and going out into the community.
“You need to leave your ego at the door,” she said after District 4 Trustee Art Valdez asked her how she would react if a board decision didn’t fall in her favor. “It’s about how to better the entire district – about coming here to make decisions that are best for all.”