This summer marked a milestone for Richardson ISD trustees. The change wasn’t only virtual board meetings over Zoom, but the composition of the board itself. Of seven board members, two now represent RISD’s growing minority communities.
On May 27, Debbie Rentería was sworn in as the district’s first ever Hispanic trustee. She now represents majority-minority District 3, which generally runs between Coit Road and Jupiter, between LBJ and Belt Line. Regina Harris was elected last November to represent single member District 4, including historic Hamilton Park.
“Today, I was officially sworn in to serve on the Richardson ISD School Board,” Rentería wrote on social media after the ceremony. “Thank you to my amazing family and community that has supported me on this great venture. I look forward to working for you and for our students as your Trustee, especially as we continue to take on the challenge of learning through COVID-19.”
“I have dedicated my time as an educator, a volunteer with the PTA serving on several committees, and have established a parent outreach program at Richardson High School, where I currently serve as the Padres Unidos Parent Liaison,” Rentería told Lake Highlands Advocate in January shortly after filing to run. “Whenever an opportunity presents itself where I could be of help, I don’t hesitate to roll up my sleeves and go to work.”
Of 38,985 total students during the 2018-19 school year, 37.8% were Hispanic, 29.8% were white, 22.1% were African American and 7% were Asian according to the Texas Tribune. More than 55% were economically disadvantaged, and more than 26% had limited English proficiency.
The two new “opportunity districts” were carved out during a settlement between RISD and former trustee David Tyson, who sued the district for violations of the Voting Rights Act. His goal, he said, was better representation at the top for students and parents of color.
“When I saw that Debbie Rentería didn’t draw an opponent – and I don’t mean this to sound biblical – I said, ‘It is finished. My part is finished. We’ve achieved what we sought,’” said Tyson. “What we wanted was opportunity for people of color to feel comfortable running.”
The May election was postponed until November 3 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. District officials opted to move forward with Rentería installation since she was unopposed and because she was replacing Dr. Kristin Kuhne, who no longer lives within district boundaries. Still on the ballot for at-large Place 6 to succeed Lake Highlands neighbor Justin Bono as he retires from service on the board are Eric Eager and Bridgett Hudson.