Four Austin ISD School Board candidates faced questions Thursday from a group that might be their most important constituents: students.
Eastside Memorial High School students peppered the candidates for District 2 and the at-large District 8 with their concerns at a student-organized forum. Many of the student concerns centered around the stigma of their high school and equal opportunities for East Austin students.
“My question is: What is your plan to change the stigma of Eastside High?" Melina Guerrero asked, referencing the school's difficult academic past. Over the past 12 years, the school has struggled academically. It was closed by the state and reopened under the Eastside Memorial name. A few years ago it was nearly turned into a charter school, which angered a lot of students and community members.
But, the school has recently turned a new leaf and has been academically successful for the past two years. Students want to know how they can shed the old reputation and look forward.
“It’s still going on the way people perceive Eastside because Eastside is mostly minorities," Guerrero says. "It’s not going to change right away. We still have to work for it. We just have to get ourselves out there even more than usual. We have to work harder than we’ve ever worked.”
Guerrero says she liked David Quintanilla, who is running for the at-large seat. She felt he understood students of color and Eastside more than his opponent, Cindy Anderson.
Senior Daniela Flores said she’s interested in any candidate who will bring more opportunity to Eastside Memorial. Flores says she notices other schools have better classes and equipment than Eastside.
“They have better, tools to make you prepared for college," Flores says. "Not just college, but the outside world. Compared to Eastside, where we have teachers and some old type of tools. We just want to feel a part of it.”
Flores says Eastside Memorial got new equipment for audio and video class last year. Before the equipment update, Flores says she was using cassettes to record audio.
“[The new equipment] inspired me to become, like 'Wow, I can become a news reporter. Maybe I could run the radio [station].' Because of the tools I realized and I know, and I also learned how to use this equipment and how to make a difference.”
Without the upgrade, Flores never would’ve gotten interested in audio and doesn't want other Eastside students to miss out on opportunities because they aren't exposed to the same things as other students.
The at-large race and the District 2 race are the only two Austin School Board races with more than one candidate this election. Incumbents Amber Elenz, Ann Teich and Yasmin Wagner are running unopposed in their respective districts.