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Teenage Plano ISD graduate is running for school board trustee

Salinas Photo.jpg
Simon Salinas for Plano ISD
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Simon Salinas is running for Plano ISD's school board. He's an 18-year-old recent graduate of Plano East Senior High School.

Simon Salinas already graduated high school, but he may not be done with Plano ISD — the 18-year-old is running for a seat on the district’s school board.

Salinas said he was inspired to run for school board trustee while he was still a student at Plano East Senior High School. His grandparents died during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, a couple months later — when COVID was still a serious threat — the Plano ISD board lifted the district’s mask mandate.

“That's really when it clicked that these issues have a big effect on students,” he said.

COVID-19 had an impact on Salinas’ education. He said he was in a class of 100 students with two substitute teachers. He said students would roam in and out of the room with no regard for their education.

That recent and firsthand experience is why Salinas said his youth is an asset, not barrier, to being a trustee.

“Being young means you have a fresher perspective,” Salinas said.

Salinas, a first-year student at Southern Methodist University, is running for place 7. He said the current board doesn’t represent the district’s diverse student body.

As a member of the LGBTQ community and Latino, Salinas said he has intimate knowledge of those groups concerns.

“When there's someone who is a part of that community on the school board, then they can understand what is important to that community,” he said.

Cody Weaver, a Plano Realtor, is the incumbent. He said he values the district’s diversity, where hearing conversations in different languages on the street is “Plano normal.” He said he learned a lot during his term about the power structures in place that impact what the school board can influence.

Weaver said trustee candidates are often unaware of the limits of the school board’s power while running for office.

“You don't understand how limited the district is by the state and the Texas Education Agency on how to make those goals possible and which goals are actually outside of your authority,” he said.

Having less experience isn’t the only challenge Salinas will have to overcome. Caleb Milne, the vice chair of the Collin County Democratic Party, said young political candidates face obstacles. He said they don’t always have the finances to run a successful campaign and lack the experience to build relationships with PACs, which pushes them out of the power structure.

But young politicians are overcoming those obstacles. Maxwell Frost became the first member of Generation Z to be elected to Congress in 2022.

Milne said that’s a tribute to Generation Z’s determination. It’s also why he said not to rule Salinas out.

I would not be surprised to see him outperform expectations,” Milne said.

The Plano ISD school board election is scheduled for May 6 for places 4,5 and 7. Candidates have until Feb. 17 to file for a place on the ballot.

Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at clove@kera.org.

Caroline Love is a Report For America corps member for KERA News.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Caroline Love covers Collin County for KERA and is a member of the Report for America corps. Previously, Caroline covered daily news at Houston Public Media. She has a master's degree from Northwestern University with an emphasis on investigative social justice journalism. During grad school, she reported three feature stories for KERA. She also has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas Christian University and interned with KERA's Think in 2019.