In this year's school board elections, let’s write a whole new script.

We don’t want a B-rated district, or even an A-rated district; we want a district that embraces education built by the visions of our community.



By Alejo Peña Soto


San Antonio loves politics, especially when it has the moral clarity of a telenovela. How could anyone forget the season that gave us Henry Cisneros, Ed Garza, or any of the other heroes riding in on their white stallions as the telenovela reaches its climax (only to dust themselves off after a clumsy, off-camera fall)?


The problem is, looking at politics this way casts San Antonians in the role of hapless victims in need of salvation from certain doom. This made-for-TV version of San Antonio politics requires our people to play bit roles. But some of us don’t care for the script, which calls for students to eke out a barely audible “Gracias.”


We can’t help it.

Maybe it’s difficult for us to wrap our F-rated brains around why it’s not acceptable to indulge our vision for the future of San Antonio. Why we can’t rewrite the telenovela script on the literal bottom of the ballot:


Our school board elections.


Those with power to protect will of course tell you that they’ve done an incredible job. They will say that our school district has come a long way and it will get even better. They will say that the TEA is thrilled we’re a B-rated district, that we deserve kudos for opening our doors (and our taxpayer wallets) to New York-based charter school operators.


But if you walk into any one of our schools and ask a student what it means to be a B-rated district, we’d politely decline to comment. One more tardy to class and it’s a trip to In-School- Suspension. That’s what’s happening in our schools when this telenovela’s horse-trotting heroes leave the scene.


SAISD students, teachers, staff, and parents are exhausted by the performative narrative of progress that our board has been rehearsing for the past few years.

As a former SAISD poster child--I’m literally on the 2010 bond campaign fliers--I can tell you that the way our schools treat students is far from perfect. When a drug-sniffing dog walks through my calculus class at 10 in the morning, I know that we haven’t come far enough. When non-white students are suspended at twice the rate of their white classmates, I know that we haven’t come far enough.


Our district seems to have adopted a mindset that looks at students as problems waiting to be fixed by a standardized approach. Where being able to say our schools are “B-rated” is more important than listening to students say time and time again not enough is done to support their socio-emotional health. Community schools are turning into competitive magnets that place barriers on quality education for the students they were meant to serve. Barriers like inadequate support for ESL students, lack of professional mental health support, and more.


SAISD students, teachers, staff, and parents are exhausted by the performative narrative of progress that our board has been rehearsing for the past few years. Just look at the decades-old campaign slogans: rich in white stallions, short on results. We’re ready to see real change.


But it looks like the board members have grown fond of the telenovela’s same, stale lines.


As a student--and as a first-time voter this May--I urge you to cast your ballot for Sarah Sorensen in District 1. Judit Vega in District 3. Luke Amphlett in District 4. Yasmín Parra Codina in District 7.

They’re not ready to let a new group of candidates have a turn at the script, even though these newcomers have lived the experience of our district as teachers, mothers, and students. Robert Rivard and Rick Casey, as expressed in recent opinion pieces, would prefer it if we stuck with the developers, lawyers, and businessmen because the people’s candidates are “grounded in politics.” Really? More “politically grounded” than former city council members? than a former mayor?


Sarah Sorensen, Judit Vega, Yasmín Parra Codina, and Luke Amphlett have earned our trust because they pledge to work with students when it comes to our fight for mental health support, inclusive sex education, and for a diverse curriculum; in fact, they started working with us many months before any of them decided to enter the race. They stood with us when our Student Coalition demanded that the board actually implement our Student Bill of Rights. They helped us build a blueprint for what safe schools in a global pandemic look like.



These candidates practice community-based democracy to nurture our schools and revitalize our neighborhoods, not gentrify them. So when it was time to start a campaign, all four candidates grounded their campaign’s in the soil of our community. Oh and it’s not that we don’t want to work with the current board; in early 2020, the Student Coalition and allies like MOVE scheduled a meeting with our school board members to discuss how we might work together. None of the trustees showed up. Their horses must’ve run out of gas.


Sarah Sorensen, Judit Vega, Yasmín Parra Codina, and Luke Amphlett have earned our trust

I grew up around politics, block walking before I could tie my shoes. My curly hair has been blessed by pats from Choco Meza, Blanca Vela, and the countless others who taught us that you have to make some real noise or they won’t hear you over the white stallion’s whine.


Some longtime observers may tell you our current board is inspiring. As a longtime SAISD student, I say, respectfully, that our district is ready for change. We don’t want a B-rated district, or even an A-rated district; we want a district that embraces education built by the visions of our community. Embracing it without calling us wolves in sheep’s clothing.


As a student--and as a first-time voter this May--I urge you to cast your ballot for Sarah Sorensen in District 1. Judit Vega in District 3. Luke Amphlett in District 4. Yasmín Parra Codina in District 7.


Let’s write a whole new script.


Alejo Peña Soto is a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School and a founding member of the SAISD Student Coalition.