FORT WORTH -- Carlos Vasquez and Camille Rodriguez went head to head for a Fort Worth school board seat four years ago. Observers said the race was characterized by nastiness and backroom politics.This time, the race in District 1 on the city's north side has been decidedly quieter, with both candidates saying they're trying to stay focused on issues before the May 11 election.Only two of the five seats up for election this year are contested. They are District 1, which comprises the north side of Fort Worth and eastern part of Arlington Heights, and District 9, which includes parts of the city's north, northeast and near south sides. Early voting begins Monday.District 1In 2008, educator Vasquez, took 64 percent of the vote and unseated Rodriguez, a podiatrist, in her first term. This time, a third challenger, Jacinto A. Ramos Jr., has entered the race. Ramos, a political newcomer, is a juvenile probation officer.Vasquez, 45, said reducing student dropout rates and improving academic achievement are among his priorities.He criticized Rodriguez as ineffective during her term and said Ramos is inexperienced.Rodriguez, 45, said she will work to improve student achievement, encourage students to take advanced courses and graduate ready for college and careers. Several successful programs, such as Project Prevail, an anti-dropout measure, were launched during her tenure."I want to get back in there. I know what I'm doing. I understand the dynamics," she said.Rodriguez said that Vasquez is not always focused on children and that he can be argumentative with board and staff members."They might question my personality. They might think I'm a little too rough. But they can't question my effectiveness as a school board member. I have never shied away from offending anyone to do the right thing," Vasquez said.Ramos says he is seeking election to increase parent involvement and address the budget, which he calls "inefficient.""I don't believe there is any magic dust that will transform our schools overnight. But the one thing that comes close is having parents involved, working with their kids' teachers and talking about how we can improve our community by improving our kids' education," Ramos wrote in the League of Women Voters of Tarrant County voters guide.Questions have surfaced about whether Ramos has lived in the district for six months as required. He voted in Haslet in November's election, but he said he moved back to District 1 from north Fort Worth in July.District 9In his bid for a fourth term, Juan A. Rangel, 65, has touted his education and experience.Rangel, who is bilingual and holds a master's degree, was board president when the board hired Walter Dansby as superintendent.A marketing/management consultant first elected in 2000, Rangel said he is concerned about the dropout rate and school safety."I am running in order to continue my role as an accountable, fiscally-responsible voice for our children. I will continue my advocacy for safety in schools, whether from outside threats or from urban drilling sites," Rangel wrote in the voters guide.Ashley E. Paz, 30, an event planner, is also seeking the District 9 position. Paz is a former member of the Fairmount National Historic District's board and helped spearhead a group that held supply drives for students from low-income families at Daggett Middle School.Paz said she left college after her sophomore year to take a job. She has owned a business for 11 years.Her platform centers on improving neighborhood and underperforming schools and improving transparency on the board.Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326Twitter: @jessamybrown
Fort Worth school board
Nine trustees are elected to single-member districts and serve four-year terms. They are not paid. The board sets district policy and hires and supervises the superintendent.
Seats in Districts 1 and 9 are up for election May 11. In-person early voting is Monday through May 7.
To view district maps, visit the school district's website, www.fwisd.org/boe
Sources: Fort Worth school district, Tarrant County elections administration