Get to Know The Austin ISD At-Large Place 8 Candidates

Oct 27, 2016

If you live within the Austin Independent School District, you have at least one Austin School Board race on your ballot: the at-large school board trustee. Two candidates, Cindy Anderson and David Quintanilla, are running to replace Trustee Gina Hinojosa, who is running for a Texas House seat vacated last year.

Quintanilla comes with a business and law background. He runs Serrano’s Tex-Mex restaurants and is a partner in a small business law firm. He went to Austin public schools and his two daughters attend Barton Hills Elementary, where his son is also headed there next year. Quintanilla says equity is the biggest issue for him.

“Making sure that every kid that goes to an AISD school has the doors opened to him or her. That’s an obligation we have as a community," he said.

Quintanilla says he’s very supportive of any program or plan that creates more equity, like dual-language or efforts to diversify schools, many of which are largely segregated along ethnic and socioeconomic lines.

“I think we have to make those things a priority," he said. "The people that say, 'I pay my taxes. I’ve done my part, that’s their problem.' I’m going to say right now, if that’s your belief, I’m not your candidate.”

Cindy Anderson is also no stranger to Austin ISD. She started volunteering for AISD a decade ago as a PTA member, and has worked her way up through various committees – budget and finance, boundaries, strategic planning, technology planning. She also served on the Austin Council of PTAs.

She also worked with the AISD School Health Advisory Council to get the school board to require all elementary students get 30 minutes of unstructured recess daily. Her son currently attends Travis High School and her daughter graduated from LASA. Anderson says she’s focused on smart, transparent budgeting.

“Who is getting what, and is it what they need and is it enough," Anderson says. "And is what we’re investing in really producing the right academic outcomes."

She also believes the district should increase access to pre-K.

“Really, it’s our biggest opportunity to eliminate achievement gaps by getting children in to very high quality pre-K programs with our certified teachers," she said.

Both Anderson and Quintanilla support dual-language programs, especially for English Language Learners, and both believe Austin ISD could be better at telling its own story as a way to boost enrollment and change stigmas around historically struggling campuses.

Anderson says she’d like to expand the districts policies regarding LGBTQ students and teachers. 

“Our anti-discrimination policies are currently pretty generic and there are unique issues when you have single-gender schools, or gender- segregated PE classes or locker rooms and restrooms and staff," Anderson said. "How do you support a transgender staff member? Those kinds of things I think we should be more of a leader of in that regard.”

Quintanilla is concerned about giving a voice to the voiceless.

“Quite frankly, the status quo benefits some people and it doesn’t benefit others. And I’m not okay with that. I’m not okay saying to people who have been victimized and left out and saying, ‘Well, we’re at least doing good enough in some areas,'" he said. "That’s not okay.”

Quintanilla has a multitude of endorsements, including Education Austin, the teacher's union, some current trustees and Gina Hinajosa, who currently serves in the at-large seat. 

“It’s one thing to understand the issues in AISD. It’s all together another thing to understand the people in AISD, and that’s why I we need somebody who understands our community and all the people in our great city and give all of them a voice on our school board," he said.

Anderson has the endorsement of The Austin Chronicle, various former school board trustees and others. Anderson says her strength is that she doesn’t come with a learning curve.

“I’ve worked on budget priorities for the district. I’ve worked on implementing policy changes. I’ve helped district rewrite policies. I’ve done this work and I feel like this experience is far more valuable for the job we’re talking about," she said.

There are four other Austin school board races-but those are in specific districts. Three current trustees are running for re-election unopposed. Trustee Jayme Mathias is running against Andy Anderson in District 2.