Early voting has started for school board and city council elections across the state. March On! Texas has found 20 progressive candidates in 100 races. Today we are interviewing Holly Flynn Vilaseca who is running for the Houston Independent School District Board of Trustees.
Name: Holly Flynn Vilaseca
Position: HISD District 6
Early Voting: October 23 – November 3
Election Day: November 7
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I was appointed to the board in January, when the previous trustee retired, so I’ve been on the job 10 months. I’m seeking a four-year term. I grew up in rural Ohio, was the youngest of six in my family and the first to go to college. My father was a Korean War vet, and my mom is from Colombia, and public education has been very important in my own life. I began my career as a teacher for Teach America in 2004, taught for several years, and have since worked for several education-related organizations.
My husband and I have a 22 month old son, named Nicolas.
What prompted you to run for office?
Public service has always been important to me, so when the trustee appointment became available I decided to pursue it. The board is doing very important work right now, and I want to continue the service I began 10 months. We have a new superintendent who started in October. HISD is the 7th largest school district in the U.S. and the largest in Texas, and we face some challenges. There are structural budget concerns, which have now been exacerbated by the massive damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. We are working to reform curriculum and special education, and to improve a group of chronically under-performing schools. I believe my background and experience have prepared me well to do this important work, and I want to continue to serve.
What sets you apart from your opponents?
Both of my opponents are conservative and male, and while HISD races are non-partisan, I am the only Democrat running. As the daughter of an immigrant and former bilingual teacher, I share a perspective with many of the students and families I serve. I’m an organizational psychologist and I’ve supported nonprofits and schools. I have a very unique skillset to understand group dynamics. I am also a District VI homeowner, who has been active in my neighborhood.
What is the main thing you want to accomplish if elected?
I want to make sure governance framework is followed and that we have meaningful discussions around student outcomes. I also want to continue to implement the community school framework to meet every student’s needs. Our goal to get this framework implemented by 2022, and it is based on the goal of all our students meeting and exceeding expectations, feeling safe, getting challenging learning experiences, and closing the achievement gap. The board rewrote our mission, simplifying it and making equity one of its cornerstones.
What relevant experience makes you best qualified for this position?
I’ve been in education for the past 13 years. I was a classroom teacher. I know how to manage a budget. I have my master’s degree from Columbia in social organizational psychology, which taught me how to work well with different dynamics. I was also an implementation researcher, so I know how to ask the right data driven questions, and how to ask the hard questions and following up to hold the superintendent accountable while aligning with our mission and vision.
Why do you feel local elections are important for progressives?
Right now local politics and government offer an opportunity to have an immediate impact on our community. Unfortunately we are facing state and national rhetoric that seeks to divide us. I am the daughter of an immigrant. We need to build on what united us as a country. And if we want to change the dialogue and focus of state and national politics and government, we need to start locally and build for the future.
What do you want to tell voters in your district?
I’m running for the right reasons, politics aside.
I’ve been on the front lines in Title 1 schools; I’m a mother who wants all students to have great options and their needs met, not just in the magnet programs, but in all schools. Good schools impact the quality of life for everyone. If a kid has to get up at 5 am to take two buses to get to the school that meets his or her needs, I don’t know if that’s the best option for families.
I want to be elected for a full term to continue working on the important issues facing HISD. As a mom, home owner, executive and former teacher who is working hard as the current trustee, I hope I earn that opportunity.
For more information you can go to: Hollyforhisd.com