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School board candidates want to impact fiscal responsibility

April 20th, 2017 under Top Stories

By CAMERON DODD

cameron@bigbendnow.com

PRESIDIO — Early voting in the Presidio Independent School District’s board of trustees election begins next week. Eight candidates, including four incumbents, are vying for four seats on the seven-member board. Ahead of early voting starting, the challengers for the open seats expressed their desire to help improve the district and rein in the district’s deficit spending.

Army veteran and long-time highway patrol officer Roberto Carlos Reyna is running for the board of trustees for the first time. He currently works as an energy lease operator in the Permian Basin but lives in Presidio. The father of three has a daughter who graduated from Presidio ISD as well as a children currently enrolled in Presidio High School and Presidio Elementary.

“I’ve seen multiple changes go on throughout the school, some that I have been supportive of, others I have not,” Reyna said. “Now I’m hoping to serve and those that I do not agree with, maybe I can change the things I disagree with.”

Reyna is very supportive of Presidio ISD programs that help prepare students for higher education, such as the Early College High School.

“I’ve definitely seen it benefit my family,” Reyna said. “My oldest daughter, I think she got 30 something credit hours of college classes and we paid almost nothing. I think that’s a huge benefit for a lot of the lower income families in Presidio. That’s one thing I would continue to support.”

Reyna earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Sul Ross. Between his degree, his nearly 10-year career with the Texas Department of Public Safety and his current work, Reyna has experience to offer the board of trustees when it comes to budgeting and administrative duties.

The board needs to be careful how it is spending public funds, Reyna said, and carefully consider any changes to the tax rate, especially if it is an increase.

“I think the school should support teachers,” Reyna said. “I think that is the number one priority. If we take care of our teachers, they’ll take care of our students. That’s the ultimate goal, to educate young children into responsible adults who perhaps want to pursue their education further. And if they do want to pursue higher ed they’ll be ready to and can compete with anyone in the nation.”

Jose “Pino” Armendariz is also making his first run at the board of trustees. After 20 years of teaching and directing the PISD athletics department, Armendariz has an insider perspective when it comes to district operations.

Roberto Carlos Reyna

Roberto Carlos Reyna

Jose ‘Pino’ Armendariz

Jose ‘Pino’ Armendariz

His platform is mainly based on two issues: Balancing the school district’s budget and lowering the tax rate. He has seen mismanagement of district resources, he said, and knows where tough decisions need to be made to get the school’s books in order.

“The education is very good, technology and everything is running well except for the financial part,” Armendariz said.

Armendariz points to the more than $2 million deficit in the district’s 2017 budget as evidence of mismanagement.  “The problem in the school is mismanagement,” Armendariz said. “I don’t think they know how to manage a budget, and I’d like to help in that end.”

Armendariz has a degree in business administration and worked as an accountant before going into teaching.

“I really think I can bring a lot of my experience as an accountant to help out with budget cuts and manage the district within budget,” he said. “If they continue to go where they are headed, Presidio won’t have a school within 2020.”

Armendariz was an employee of the district until this school year. His wife still teaches, and the couple has one student enrolled at the middle school and two in the elementary school. Armendariz would not directly say he thinks the district needs fewer teachers, but said the student-teacher ratio in some areas is too low.

“They have to manage the student-teacher-ratio because currently they have classes with under 10 students,” Armendariz said. “It’s not laying off teachers… If we have to, we have to, but we have to run the district within budget.”

Armendariz said most of the district’s budget cuts should come from the top, starting with contract labor and administrative costs. He would potentially propose replacing the district’s business manager, he said.

Armendariz also wants to improve district financial transparency for the public’s benefit.

“They want to know where the money is being spent,” Armendariz said. “There should be a list available of what projects are going on and how much they cost.”

As a graduate of the Presidio High School, Armendariz has a loyalty to the district and the community. He wants to make sure the district can still offer quality education for the current generation of students. That starts with getting the budget balanced, he said.

“I want to have the district open for my kids to graduate from Presidio,” he said. “At the rate they’re going there will be no high school in Presidio in the future.”

Local business owner and former trustee member Aureliano Ramirez and Dr. Luis Lozano are also running for seats on the school district board of trustees.

Early voting for the board of trustees election begins Monday, April 24 and continues through May 2. The polling place at the Presidio ISD administration building, 701 E. Market Street, will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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