Six candidates vying for spots on Waco ISD school board

Photos courtesy of Waco City Council candidates Vidaña (top left), Sabido (top middle), Balfa-Mustakim (top right), DuPuy (bottom left), Houston (bottom middle), Guillory (bottom right).

By Rachel Harsley | Contributor

Three positions on the Waco Independent School District Board of Trustees hang in the balance as the Nov. 3 election arrives.

McLennan County voters will not only select their ideal presidential candidate Tuesday, but two at-large seats and a representative for the 3rd district on the Waco ISD school board. The election, originally scheduled for May of this year, was postponed due to COVID-19.

The District 3 contenders include Jose Vidaña and Ilda Sabido. Both have a desire to create equal opportunity for all Waco ISD students.

Vidaña, father of six children who have attended Waco ISD schools, was voted in unanimously by the Waco ISD Board of Trustees last year to replace Larry Perez. Tiffany, Vidaña’s second-oldest child, believes her father is the right man for the job.

“He tries to attend all the schools’ functions, whether that be in our district or Waco High because he wants to know what’s going on,” Tiffany Vidaña.

His opponent, Sabido, a community volunteer and Waco ISD graduate, is primarily focused on teacher retention, with equity and inclusion for every student being a close second.

“I want [students] to see leaders that look like them and have backgrounds like them,” Sabido said. “It’s not always just about race, it’s sometimes also about economic background, you know?”

Hope Balfa-Mustakim, running against Cary DuPuy for one of the at-large seats up for grabs, also prioritizes granting every student an equal chance at success.

Before serving as the executive director for the Waco Immigrants Alliance, Balfa-Mustakim was a social work intern and substitute teacher for the school district. In order to bolster Waco ISD’s mental health resources, Balfa-Mustakim is set on bringing social workers into schools to work with students.

“It will make the classroom better because if this kid is dealing with PTSD, paranoia, schizophrenia, bipolar, and a therapist can visit with them for 30 minutes and impact the rest of their day, why wouldn’t you bring them in?” said Balfa-Mustakim.

Incumbent Cary DuPuy owns DuPuy Oxygen and Supply Co. and has served on the board for 11 years. While he admires Balfa-Mustakim’s vision, DuPuy finds it difficult to attain.

“Although it’d be nice to be able to snap your fingers and have these folks appear to work with kids and help them with whatever problems they’re facing at home, that’s an extremely tall order,” DuPuy said.

In order to keep his position on the board, DuPuy is set on bypassing obstacles created by COVID-19.

Similarly, attorney and other at-large incumbent Robin Houston wants to maintain a steady path forward in the midst of COVID-19. Like Vidaña, Houston was voted in unanimously last year and replaced Pat Atkins. She is running against Waco Fire Department Lt. Keith Guillory.

“I’m very in favor of anything we’re doing to kind of shore up and keep our experienced teachers, encourage teachers – especially people that are going into a teaching career who are from this district,” Houston said.

Guillory, Houston’s opponent, firmly believes that low literacy rates are the top issue plaguing the district.

According to the Texas Education Agency’s 2018-2019 report card for Waco ISD, 28% of third grade students test at or above grade level. Guillory gave fire safety presentations and read to Waco ISD children as a volunteer and has a passion to improve literacy as a result. Guillory’s wife of 20 years, Tracy, fully supports her husband’s endeavors.

“If they’re not learning at that third-grade level and they’re falling behind going forward, how are we expecting them to do learning remotely at home?” said Tracy Guillory. “We need to be more of a proactive district instead of a reactive district.”