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Sergio Lira Interview

courtesy of houstonisd.org

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Seth Rock: Hello Mr. Lira. When did you decide to run for trustee position?

Assistant Principal Sergio Lira: I decided to run at the start of September. The former trustee had passed away and I was thinking of a career move. And I talked it over with my principal and my family members and I decided to run for the position.

SR: Why specifically an HISD trustee position?

SL: Because I have always wanted to serve the public in some form of capacity as a school board member, or a city council member. I’ve always been involved in the community for over 30 years, I felt this was an opportunity to serve the public.

SR: You wanted to become an HISD trustee member so you could serve the public in a very large role?

SL: Yes.

SR: What steps were required for you to run a campaign? What paperwork did you have to do?

SL: You have to fill out a document to apply to run through board services. And you have to establish a treasurer for your campaign. It has to be notarized before you even start to campaign.

SR: What specifically did you have to do in the campaign?

SL: That’s a good question. You have to attend a lot of organizational meetings to try to get an endorsement. They have a screening process where you fill out a lot of questions and you answer them. You are invited to what was an interview. So I had to attend about 20 of those the first three or four weeks of the campaign.

SR: Who interviewed you?

SL: Different forms of educational organizations: CVPE / Community Voices for Public Education, the AFLCIO, the Federation of Teachers, the Communication Workers of America, and a lot of different types of community organizations.

SR: Then you were talking about fundraising?

SL: Yes, you have to have fundraising. You have to raise money by seeking donations from your friends, from your family or also from some folks who own businesses or restaurants, or that may contribute to your campaign.

SR: How did you conduct that?

SL: We had two big fundraising events where we invited a lot of people to make a donation. Also we had a GoFundMe account on social media so people could make individual donations.

SR: Can you tell me about the two events you had?

SL: The first one was called “The Meet and Greet The Candidate for District 3 HISD.” It was very successful. It was a local restaurant, Doneraki Mexican Restaurant. And we had over 100 folks come, and most of them made a donation.

SR: And the second fundraiser?

SL: The second fundraiser was a little bit smaller. It had about half the folks show up. There were folks because this was for raising funds for the runoff election, which was Dec. 9.

SR: How did the GoFundMe go? Did you get a decent amount of contributions through that?

SL: Early on I did get quite a bit of, about a third of my fundraising campaign amount came through the GoFundMe.

SR: How many speeches did you have to give?

SL: I attended four public forums. One was on the radio. It was on a radio blog, called Off The Cuff, for one of the interviews. And then I had one on One Nation public forum where all the candidates spoke. And I went to four civic clubs that I had to give a presentation of why I’m running for office and I also attended three Catholic church bazaars.

SR: What do you believe made you specifically a good candidate for a trustee position?

SL: I was the only candidate that had experience in education. The other candidates had never even been in the classroom as a certified teacher. I have experience in education as a classroom teacher and as a school administrator.

SR: What did you teach?

SI taught fifth grade math.

SR: For how many years?

SL: Eight years. I have been at Bellaire as an administrator for nine years.

SR: What specific issues at HISD do you want to act on or change as a trustee?

SL: My main focus is to focus on the students and making sure they’re receiving a well rounded education. There are some schools in District 3 that are low performing. One was affected by Harvey. I want to make sure that they have adequate resources, and that those students are well prepared for college or a career. And now since HISD is giving back a lot of money to the state because of this concept called ReCapture. Actually we have more needs in terms of our campuses affected by Harvey and the schools that are low performing. What makes ReCapture a problem is that we are trying to do more to help our schools but with less money.

SR: Are there any other specific issues that you plan on focusing on as a trustee?

SL: What I also want to focus on is to visit all the schools in District 3 and listen to the concerns and needs of each school because they are different when you have elementary, middle and high schools. For example, a middle school may need fine arts equipment  and some other schools may need more math books or technology. If we have less money, then we have to develop business partnerships to perhaps bring in some resources through the private sector and business community.

SR: What impact do you believe you’ll make on the HISD trustee board?

SL: I think my impact will be very positive as I have worked in a lot of leadership capacities in a very collegial, respectful manner with my colleagues to make some tough decisions. I think I’ll be focused on students and not on business contracts or other ancillary issues. I think my main focus, based on my experience, background, and training is student achievement and outcome.

SR: Are there any problems currently in HISD that you see that you want to take a particular focus on?

SL: I think that the biggest concern is that the district is under the threat of being taken over by the State of Texas Board of Education if 10 of the schools are chronically underperforming. If they don’t improve by the end of this year, there is a threat of closing these schools or the state taking over the HISD school board with a State Board of Commissioners. So what I want to do is make sure  to contribute positively that looks at alternatives and different solutions instead of closing schools, and see what we can do to help the schools that are chronically underperforming.

SR: Are any of the schools in your District 3?

SL: No they are not.

SR: One more question. How well do you know the other candidates that have been elected?

SL: I know one fairly well, and  Elizabeth Santos. Sue Diergaard is from this area. Elizabeth Santos is a former teacher.

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