Marcos Alaniz, a challenger for the Place 7 Robstown Board of Trustees seat, hopes to change the district priorities, by emphasizing support for local teachers.

Alaniz is a 1991 graduate of Robstown High School who has been employed with Valero Refinery since 2001.

He and his wife, Belinda Rosas Alaniz, have three young children, and Belinda works as an assistant principal at Lotspeich Elementary School.

Alaniz said he had considered running for office in November, but finally made the decision to throw his hat in the ring after his wife was confronted by Superintendent Roberto Garcia for remarks she made during a school board meeting.

Alaniz said the biggest issue facing the district right now is low staff morale.

"First and foremost, I want to support the teachers out there," Alaniz said. "If you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of you and everything else will fall into line.

"These teachers are hurting."

Alaniz faulted decisions to spend money on new schools instead of for increasing teacher pay, and politically motivated hiring decisions as two reasons for the problems in recruiting teachers to the district.

"A lot of teachers aren't happy. A lot of teachers stay here because they don't have a choice. I don't believe in that," Alaniz said. "At one time we were at the top of the list of teachers who wanted to come to this district. The quality of teachers has dropped dramatically in just the past 10 years."

Another issue he hopes to address, Alaniz said, is the dropout rate in the district.

"The dropout rate is outrageous here in Robstown," Alaniz said. "Why is the dropout rate here worse than any other district within 50 miles?"

Alaniz also criticized a decision by the board to lay off 42 employees in the fall of last year, right before the holidays.

"Fine, the layouts might have had to happen," Alaniz said. "But I would have addressed it a little different. I would have told them that they have a job through the rest of the year, and prepared them for this."