Photo courtesy of Dallas College.

When election time rolls around next month, one race in the field of education is once again strongly contested. Dr. Catalina Garcia won a runoff two years ago to earn her first term on the board of trustees at Dallas College (formerly the Dallas County Community College District). Dr. Edwin Flores has served 16 years on the Dallas ISD school board, and he endorsed Garcia in the 2022 runoff. This time, he’s determined to take her place on the Dallas College board.

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Each of the seven districts in the Dallas College system is vast, and District 1 includes portions of Lake Highlands, Richardson, Lakewood, Preston Hollow and North Dallas.

Garcia is a retired anesthesiologist and the first Latina to earn a medical degree from UT Southwestern. Her grandparents fled Mexico during the Revolution, and she attended public schools in El Paso. She served on the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Board, and she’s co-founder of the Texas Women’s Foundation. She received the Latina Living Legend Award from DFW Hispanic 100, the Susan B. Anthony Award from the League of Women Voters and Volunteer of the Year from Dallas ISD.

Flores is managing partner of Chalker Flores LLP, where he focuses on biotechnology patent law. Born and raised in Mexico City, he earned a Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis at age 26 and a law degree from the University of Texas at 30. As a DISD trustee, he has served as 2nd vice president and chaired committees on employment practices and mediation, board ethics, policy, business and other issues. He and wife Jesica, also an attorney, have two children in DISD schools.

Garcia has seen the challenges faced by Dallas College students and said she’s determined to expand programs which make it easier to continue pursuing an education.

“Most Dallas College students must work while attending college. Finding a job during off-school hours is always a challenge. I will work to enlarge the college’s paid apprenticeship programs as well as work to increase the number of students working part time in fields related to their training. In addition to finding jobs, 11% of the students attending Dallas College have children under the age of 5 who need child care. I will work with my colleagues to continue to expand child care services,” she said.

Flores hasn’t served as a Dallas College trustee but said he can slip seamlessly into the role due to DISD’s many partnerships with the college district.

“It’s a natural extension of the work I’ve already been doing,” he said, touting DISD’s P-Tech (Pathways in Technology) and Early College High School programs and the district’s new Career Institutes.

“By the time our career institutes are built, we will have about 16,000 students in every conceivable trade and profession you can think of — cybersecurity, aerospace work, building trades, construction, cars, plumbing, HVAC, medical trades. It’s a robust program, and the kiddoes in them are pretty remarkable.”

Garcia believes taxpayers should know what they are paying for, so she hosted a town hall on the Richland Campus and invited representatives from the city council, county commissioner’s court and Parkland Hospital.

“Information was presented on the partnerships with Dallas College benefitting the students,” she said, “and the new Parkland Day Clinic to be built on the Richland Campus was highlighted. It will serve the students and surrounding neighborhoods and be available as a teaching site for Dallas College allied health and nursing students.”

“It is very important to me that the students, faculty and staff all know their trustee,” she continued. “I attended all six campus graduations last spring, marching in the processionals alongside the students, I have attended art gallery shows, music productions and a prize-winning play, all in support of the student and faculty activities.”

Flores intends to focus on three areas once elected: accountability, innovation and alignment between Dallas College and the county school districts.

“Right now, our links with DISD are very strong, but I’m concerned that other districts like Mesquite, Garland and Richardson aren’t getting the love.”

His experience with multiple DISD bonds and construction projects gives him an edge, he said.

“For the last 16 years, DISD has done a remarkable job of being good stewards of our money. Dallas County is currently doing their first bond program in decades, whereas I’ve been on the DISD board while we’ve done $5 billion in construction using bond funds on time and on budget. That’s a lot of knowledge.”

Flores has served as a Dallas College educator — teaching an advanced physiology course at Brookhaven — and as a student at Richland — enrolling in two Chinese classes. Those experiences give him a unique perspective, he said.

“I went through the process of signing up back in the day, and it was a royal pain. I shared my experience with the chancellor, and it’s much easier now.”

During her first term Garcia served on the board’s finance committee, which gives her helpful insight into the workings of the district’s budget, she said.

“I have advocated for holding employees accountable to the all the criteria set forth for their position including that of the chancellor,” she added. “Changes to the El Centro campus are being planned which will present many monetary opportunities for Dallas College. I have no close relationships with developers or business owners, and I am beholden only to the taxpayer who voted me into office as their trustee.”

Flores works as a biotechnology patent attorney, and he’s excited about future opportunities for students from the world of artificial intelligence and semiconductor technology.

“This is a really exciting time to be in Dallas. Our school districts are making investments to align our P-techs and our career institutes with businesses and employers. It’s a good economic environment to be in — the sky’s the limit.”

Early voting runs April 22-30. Election Day is May 4.