For HISD, part 2
Sue Deigaard and Holly Flynn Vilaseca are uniquely qualified to make a difference.
Houston ISD, Trustee, District V: Sue Deigaard
Four qualified candidates are running for an open seat in this southwest Houston district, which covers West University, Bellaire and Meyerland. Yet Sue Deigaard stands above them all. Her knowledge of this district is so deep and broad that she talks with the authority of a trustee, even though this is her first run for office.
For Deigaard, 48, it is all about HISD, and she said during her meeting with the editorial board that if we found another candidate more qualified, we should support that person. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone more prepared for any election.
The daughter of a high-school dropout, Deigaard was the first member of her family to graduate from college. After receiving a degree from Rice University, she worked in alumni affairs at her alma mater for more than five years. But volunteer experience sets her apart.
For more than a decade, Deigaard has been an advocate for public education. In addition to being a near fixture at board meetings and other district functions, she serves as a parent representative on HISD’s district advisory committee and chairs the communication committee for the Arts Access Initiative, which has a goal of expanding arts education opportunities to all K-12 students at HISD. She has also organized and facilitated community finance and engagement meetings for education advocacy groups and school districts.
Each of Deigaard’s opponents would also bring a needed skill or approach to the board. Kara DeRocha, an environmental engineer, would make a strong advocate for families with special education needs. Susan Shafer, a teacher and librarian, would offer valuable insights as to student learning.
We were particularly impressed by Sean Cheben, a chemical engineer, who would focus on sound budgeting and has what it takes to make an outstanding board member someday.
Houston ISD, Trustee, District VI: Holly Flynn Vilaseca
Holly Flynn Vilaseca was appointed to the board in January when long-time trustee Greg Meyers resigned, and she deserves to serve a full term. Vilaseca has gained a reputation for being a steady hand and reasoned voice on the board representing her west Houston district, which includes the Energy Corridor and Sharpstown.
Vilaseca, 36, is the daughter of immigrants and was the first in her family to attend college. She began her career in education as a Teach for America Corp. member and went on to teach bilingual and dual language early childhood classes for six years. She earned a master’s degree from Columbia University in social and organizational psychology and currently works for a nonprofit in the education space.
Her opponent, Robert Lundin, has an outstanding resume as well. He has served as long-time educator and former HISD employee who resigned to run in this race. Not only does he hold a doctorate from Vanderbilt University in educational leadership, but he also serves as a faculty member at Rice University. In addition, Lundin has an impressive list of endorsements, including former U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Rod Paige. Lundin and Vilaseca are fluent in both English and Spanish.
The two candidates, who see eye to eye on policy, differ on Superintendent Richard Carranza’s program for turning around historically low-performing schools, “Achieve 180.” While Vilaseca is supportive of the new model, Lundin worries that the superintendent’s plan to move high-performing teachers out of existing campuses into these schools will fail to build long-term capacity.
Our concern about Lundin’s candidacy mirrors his concern about the Achieve 180 plan. Vilaseca is doing a good job. Voting her out after less than a full year on the job is not the way to build the capacity of the board.
Attorney Daniel Albert, who served as chief of staff for District F Council Member Steve Le, is also running but faces a steep learning curve on district issues.
Lundin should cast his hat in the ring again, but this election should go to Vilaseca.