10 candidates seek 3 open seats on Donna school board

Some of the most contested races for the November elections in Hidalgo County will be those of the Donna school district board of trustees, in which 10 candidates are vying for three open seats.

The most contested seats are Place 5 and 6. Four challengers make up the Place 5 race as incumbent Eloy Avila is not running for re-election; and Place 6 incumbent John Billman is facing three hopefuls.

Place 7 is also being sought by two candidates — Efren “Coach” Ceniceros and Marisela Valdez.

Ceniceros, the incumbent and current board president, is a retired educator with 28-years of tenure who has also served on the board for the last eight years.

Valdez is a former Donna school district administrator whose most recent position as chief financial officer, which came with a hefty pay raise, was questioned by an internal audit for lack of qualifications. The audit led to her suspension and later termination.

Ceniceros, Billman and newcomer Julian “Jay” Villarreal are running as a slate called United for Change.

With no incumbent in the race, the four new candidates running for Place 5 include Villarreal, Rigo Garza, Reynaldo Alegria and David de los Rios.

Villarreal worked in public education for the last 10 years as a high school registrar and as president of the local Band Boosters as well as Democratic chair of Precinct 157.

Garza is a former Donna school district employee and ex-transportation director for the Edinburg school district. Alegria stated his occupation as service manager in the board application, but couldn’t be contacted for details.

De los Rios, a local advertising agency owner, also has a history with the district as a former trustee who was appointed by the previous board majority, and was contested by board members as an illegal move.

In Place 6, the four candidates include incumbent Billman, Ramon Briseño, Petra “Betty” Castillo and Roberto Perez.

Billman is a local self-employed farmer who led the Donna Quarterback Club for many years and was elected to the board in 2016.

Briseño is an equipment operator for the oilfield company FESCO, according to his application.

Castillo is currently retired but worked as records manager for the school district, a position she held for 37 years.

Perez is a retired lieutenant colonel with 30 years of service and experience assisting government officials and organizations with multimillion-dollar projects.

Perez is running alongside Valdez as a slate. Briseño and Garza are also running together under the name, Team New Vision.

School district elections will be held Nov. 6, with early voting beginning Oct. 22.

This article was modified to reflect that candidate Julian “Jay”  Villarreal is running or Place 5 on the Donna ISD board of trustees.