2015 El Communicador DSM School Board Endorsements

By Al Perez

I had the wonderful privilege of spending two full days with very respected colleagues in our community. Our task was to interview and endorse candidates running for school board seats here in Des Moines and the metro. As the rookie to this endorsement panel, it certainly gave me an up close and personal perspective into each candidate running for a seat. Every candidate was given a rigorous and thorough questionnaire of 24 questions in advance. No aspect was left out of question. From personal vision to knowledge of budgets and issues such as Iowa Core. As a Latino and leader in the community, I had the humble task of putting questions that focus on the growing diverse cultures coming into our school system. I focused much of my questioning on the growing needs of the Latino population and what each candidate had in mind for meeting a large booming population.

As a member of the Latino Forum and founder of my own community development organization, I listened attentively and probed several candidates on how Latinos fit in their vision. I am giving my knowledge from my Latino colleague’s perspectives and my nearly 30 years of community work to give my strong endorsement. I am very confident in my selections. I watched for body language and the typical token answers one gets when asked questions that may be relevant to the needs of community. Particularly in this case for Latinos.

So let’s get this off my chest and move on to the real hard working candidates who took the time and effort to go through this endorsement process. I will say this very strongly. Just because a Latino is running for a seat doesn’t mean they will get my endorsement. I asked almost all of the candidates their vision for Latino’s and what they would do for that growing population. So a Latino like Edgar Ortiz wouldn’t get my endorsement. He seems to think that blowing off this interview process and other forums in community was acceptable. He appears as a political wannabe and is not known amongst Latino leaders other than trying to get their endorsement. I don’t have patience for individuals like this, and his lack of discretion just voted him off this reality show.

Edgar your fired!

Now on to those who took this process seriously. I endorse Cindy Elsbernd for the DM seat At-large. Although I didn’t feel she was strong when it came to issues around Latinos, her experience with this school board and its budget workings was her saving grace. I also endorse Shane Schulte. His strong interview and knowledge of community and the issues brought up in the pre-interview questionnaire process. He was familiar with key Latino community stakeholders and seems qualified with his nonprofit board experience. His overall interview made his opponent Heather look totally incompetent. I like Heather. I think there could be a conflict of interest for her being a teacher in Waukee School District and her presentation to her vision was her demise. A Latina as well but couldn’t interview well. This seems to be a reoccurring theme for many Latinos when they interview for high profile positions.

This next endorsement was contrary to those of my colleagues of the Bystander. I endorse Dionna Langford for the District 2 seat over her opponent Ed Linebach. I like Ed. He knows his game. And he could do a fantastic job as a board member. He has the relationships, experience and the time put it to community. I’m a futurist. I look long term and project what the community will need. Dionna has that boots on the ground attitude. Not that Ed doesn’t, but she has that “IT” factor. I love the courage and community savvy this young emerging leadership has in Des Moines. Dionna has it. My colleagues feel the voices around her may be a liability, but they may also be the best experienced voices she needs. She has energy and she is a “voice of color” that is articulate. She could be a tremendous asset to the board and bring a next generation perspective which is needed. I hope she does win but we will see.

I’ll save the best and last Des Moines endorsement but briefly mention that although I endorsed the candidates for Waukee, West Des Moines, Ankeny and Johnston as part of the Bystander panel, I’ll bypass those to focus on the Des Moines contests.

The Bystander endorsements for the suburban races reflect my selections for El Comunicador.

I’m strongly endorsing this final candidate.

We’ve been looking for this “Golden Child” in this community that represents what Des Moines can really produce. She is the perfect story of overcoming cultural and language barriers and has achieved what it means for Latinos to succeed here.

She is a walking inspiration.

Having experienced the challenges that many Mexican immigrants face and yet a true success story. She was our youngest candidate but she more than held her own. Sharp, articulate and passionate. Rocio Hermosillo is the now and future face of the up and coming Latino leadership of Des Moines. When you first meet her, you think she’s too young to run but this young lady has board experience!

My colleagues on the panel were impressed with her knowledge of government, finance and community pulse. She carries humility too! I thought her age could be her greatest liability but she interviewed in the top five of all the candidates. She is a product of LLI (Latina Leadership Institute). Her opponent can’t be completely shunned. Natasha Newcomb is a great candidate as well. Her experience and advocacy is infectious. I think she would also be a great board member.

Rocio will be best in terms of meeting and serving a large Latino demographic in her district. It’s greatly needed. I endorse Rocio Hermisillo, who has shown that no system or setback can keep her from changing her world. She will definitely appeal to the Latino millennial but also has the respect of her Latino predecessors. So if we just jettison the notion that she’s being endorsed simply because she’s a Latina then you miss the fact that the substance and hard questioning she went through in this endorsement process was easy. Not so.  For a twenty something to go through articulately and raise eyebrows, makes you wonder where this young lady is going in the future.

Al Perez is founder and director of the Transformations Group. A community development group that partners faith based and nonprofit entities with community and civic organizations. Al is an ordained minister and chaplain with the DM Police Dept. Alfonso Perez is a member of the Latino Forum and sits on several county boards and commissions. He has received several community recognitions such as Who’s Who Among Executives and Professionals and 2014 Iowa Character Awards by Former Governor Robert Ray’s Character Counts.