McAllen trustees split in selecting new board president

McALLEN — After a swearing-in ceremony to welcome the newly elected trustees to the McAllen school board, it was down to the business of reorganizing the board.

Succeeding former board President Sam Saldivar is Tony Forina, the former board secretary who finished the second year of his first term.

“This is a task of love, and contrary of the words that are out there about a divided board, about a division,” said Forina after taking the center spot at the board table. “I don’t see that, because our mission is strictly putting the students, the teachers and McAllen ISD first.”

Forina was nominated by trustee Conrado Alvarado and backed by the votes of Saldivar, Marco Suarez and himself. Sitting by his side will be Larry Esparza as vice president and Debbie Crane Aliseda as secretary.

“Mr. Forina was an officer,” Alvarado said. “I think at this time because Mr. Forina was an officer, I’ll give him the opportunity to serve as president.”

The selection of Forina was questioned by those who nominated incumbent Esparza as president, saying he is less experienced. Esparza has served on the board for the last four years and was nominated for the post by trustee Danny Vela and seconded by Debbie Crane Aliseda.

“I truly believe that the most qualified candidate is Mr. Larry Esparza,” Vela said. “In terms of educational qualifications, he is a teacher, he went on to get his masters, he’s served both in the classroom and in administration. … He went on and got his degree in law and became a successful attorney… that also brings something to this board that I think it’s invaluable.”

Voters re-elected the two incumbents Saldivar and Esparza earlier this month, also re-electing Crane Aliseda after a few years off the board.

Trustees Forina and Marco Suarez will continue to be the newest board members on the board or those with the least seniority.

“There are three people on this board that have not been president — Larry Esparza, Marco Suarez and Tony Forina … seniority goes to Larry Esparza,” Crane Aliseda said. “I would implore this board to put politics and friendships aside and vote based on logic.”

But the main argument of those supporting Forina was that he was next in line as Suarez did not want the nomination as former board president and the secretary was next. Trustee Esparza declined to comment on his nomination for board president.

The board lost incumbent John Ball after he chose not to seek re-election. On Monday he was recognized and gave his final words as trustee.

“It’s been a whirlwind and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Ball said Monday, after thanking his family for putting up with the demands of the position. “There are people who I relied on to make the best decisions that I could and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with them.”

This story was modified to reflect Trustee Tony Forina finished the second year of his term and Trustee Larry Esparza has served for four years.