Islas: ‘I wanted to create a greater educational equity for students’

Health advocate Genoveva Islas was elected to the Fresno Unified School District board of trustees five months after a losing bid for the Fresno City Council.
Health advocate Genoveva Islas was elected to the Fresno Unified School District board of trustees five months after a losing bid for the Fresno City Council.

Five months ago after losing her bid for a Fresno City Council seat, Genoveva Islas went back on the campaign trail to solicit votes up until the polls closed at 8 p.m. on Election Day.

That effort paid off when she unseated Fresno Unified School District Area 4 incumbent Christopher De La Cerda.

Islas and her team were calling people, letting them know that as long as they were in line by 8 p.m. they would be still able to cast their vote on Nov. 6.

“So we got done around 8 p.m.,” said Islas.

And you can say her hard work paid off.

Islas received 3,333 votes or 58.98 percent of the total votes (through the Nov. 7 count) while De La Cerda received 2,291 votes or 40.54 percent, according to Fresno County Election results.

Fresno Unified School District board member Chrstopher De La Cerda lost his re-election bid to represent the McLane High School area. He was appointed to the seat in 2012 and was elected in 2014. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

“I am very happy that the voters of Area 4 had confidence in me and voted to support me to represent them on the school board,” said Islas.

Besides being excited to be done with campaign work, Islas said one of her immediate plans is “to have several meeting with folks to begin to establish relationships and dialogue about some of the needs and issues” and at some point would plan a celebration event.

After she was done campaigning on Election Day, Islas, the executive director for Cultiva la Salud, said she started to get ready to head out to a candidates party in downtown Fresno when she was scrolling through the county’s election website and saw the preliminary election results – she had 58 percent of the votes while the incumbent had 40 percent.

“I was like, ‘Wow, that is a huge leadI” Islas said of the very first results of election night.

She thought “great, we are ahead.”

Then Islas started getting call from friends who were congratulating her but she was still cautious to claim victory since the night was not over and ballots still needed to be counted.

“I let it sink in for a little bit and I just kept getting ready,” she said, adding that later that night she and some of her friends looked at the results again and “we started jumping up and down.”

“I was very happy to be celebrating with people like Melissa Hurtado who also unseated an incumbent,” Islas said.

While she was not surprises with the results, she was definitely not expecting that big of a margin between the two candidates.

“I wasn’t expecting anything, certainly not that large of a margin. I was very hopeful. we had a lot of very positive conversations,” Islas said. adding that she was lucky to have the endorsement and support of many groups who provided volunteer time to help with walking precincts.

From the day she submitted her filing papers for the district seat that serves McLane High School, Islas said she started walking the precincts.

“Every day except for Sundays and walked for or five hours every day,” she said. “At the end of August through Nov. 6, we were literally walking and calling.”

“I knew we have done a lot of really hard work,” Islas said. “I was still very hopeful but I wasn’t over confident. I didn’t go into (election) night thinking that we won or that we had this.”

But seeing that margin, Islas said she was “surprise and very excited and thankful to all the people who supported me.”

De la Cerda was appointed to the position in 2012 and then in 2014 run for election unopposed when no one filed to run against him.

Islas said she is ready to “learn more about how I can influence change and begin to work for Fresno unified school district’s families and students.”

“I think that students and family of Fresno deserve to have an exceptional education system and I really want to work for them to help create that,” Islas said, adding that teachers, administrators, and other people are working very hard to try to create a good system. “But we need increase partnerships and in creating those partnerships we need to bring parents and community members to the table as well to help inform our design and organization system.”

“I wanted to create a greater educational equity for students,” said Islas of getting into the FUSD trustee race.

“I want all students to have an exceptional education,” Islas said. “I want those students who have been marginalized previously to know that whether is their immigration status, or their sexual orientation or gender identification, I want them to know that there is a place for them and that we care about them and that we are all working to create a brighter future for them.”

Islas will be sworn in at the Dec. 12 school board meeting. She will join five other women – including two other Latinas: Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas and Claudia Cázares – on the seven-member board that oversees California’s fourth-largest school district with 74,000 students.

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud