Six candidates are vying for two seats on the Fontana Unified School District Board of Education during the Nov. 3 election.
Incumbent Jason Barrett O'Brien is one of the candidates, and others include Joe Armendarez, Shelley C-Bradford, Oliver B. Christian, Jennifer Quezada, and Oscar Ernesto Solis.
The Herald News sent all of the candidates a questionnaire, asking them to provide information about themselves and also to list their top three priorities for the coming year if they won the election.
Here are the responses by the candidates (listed in alphabetical order):
----- JOE ARMENDAREZ
• Occupation: Track supervisor, BNSF Railway
• Political or school-related experience: Concerned Grandparent
• Family information: I am the proud parent of three children, and nine wonderful grandchildren.
• Do you have any children attending schools in the Fontana Unified School District? I currently have six grandchildren attending school in the Fontana Unified School District.
• Educational background: Graduate of Fontana A.B. Miller High School Class of 1994
• Endorsed by these groups: Acquanetta Warren, Mayor; Fontana Chamber of Commerce; School Police Officers Association; Phil Cothran Sr., President of Chamber of Commerce; Phil Cothran Jr., Fontana City Councilmember; Jesse Armendarez, Fontana City Councilmember; Adam Perez, FUSD School Board; Peter Garcia, FUSD School Board.
• Community involvement: Elks Little League Baseball; Fontana Pop Warner Football, coached 10 years; Fontana High School ROTC Marksman Team, coached six years.
TOP THREE PRIORITIES:
1. Getting our kids back to school:
I will work diligently to ensure that our students and all our school district staff can safely return to in-classroom learning. I will also ensure that parents have options for their children to remain enrolled in a distanced learning program. As a member of the Board of Education, I would give parents the power to choose the best option for their child's education during the pandemic while adhering to federal, State and local public health guidelines. I will not stand in the way of your child's education. I am confident that by working closely with my fellow board members and our public health officials, and following best practices, we can get our children back to school in a healthy and safe school environment.
2. Safe Schools:
The safety of our children is my primary goal if I become elected. No parent or guardian should have to worry whether their children are safe when they are in school, and children should not have to worry about being bullied. I will work to keep our Fontana School Police Department fully funded so that our students are safe both on and off-campus.
3. Broaden vocational and skilled labor opportunities for graduates:
I believe in maintaining a strong academic pathway to college; however, many students desire an alternate career path. We need to offer students opportunities to be college or career ready. This is why I will be an advocate to have strong programs for both options. The manufacturing sector is growing and modernizing, creating a wealth of challenging, well-paying, highly skilled jobs for those with the skills to do them. The healthcare field will always need skilled workers, as will the automotive and trucking industry. I will bring local businesses, entrepreneurs and local unions together to help create training programs to bridge the gap between skilled job sectors and the school district's educational programs. I will help pave the road for students to be successful by giving them options to excel at what they do best.
----- SHELLEY C-BRADFORD
• Occupation: Ethnic social diversity and America government teacher
• Political or school-related experience: I was president of the Fontana District African American Parent Advisory Council 2015-2017. I am a classroom teacher currently in San Bernardino City Unified. I am the Youth Court coordinator on my campuses, helping students make better decisions with the help of peer interaction. I host restorative circles to mend relationships on my campus. I have been an active parent with the Ruble Middle School Band and Choir in Fontana.
• Family information: I am divorced with five children ages 32, 30, 28, 14, and 12.
• Do you have any children attending schools in the Fontana Unified School District? My 12-year-old daughter is in 7th grade at Ruble Middle School and my 14-year-old son is in 9th grade at Summit High School.
• Educational background: I have a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from the American College of Education.
• Endorsed by these groups: Steel Workers Union, Inland Empire Business Association, and the mayor of Fontana.
• Community involvement: Coach basketball for the Fontana city league for 10-12 year-olds. Active parent of the Wayne Ruble Band and Choir. Active parent with the African American Parent Advisory Committee at Summit High. Taught Praise dancing for the city of Fontana from 2013-2016. Member of the Fontana chapter of Christian Business Partner.
TOP THREE PRIORITIES:
1. Teacher support and resources -- My focus is to assure that the school budget is equitably aligned to the success of all students by providing teachers with the necessary instruction, intervention, and tools needed to support our children during and after school. Suggesting a task force of experts for any area found in the parent survey to help bring up student achievement.
2. College and career readiness -- Plan to host career days at each middle and high school no less than once a year, where local businesses, colleges (tech, community, and 4 year), and military recruiters can come and show our students possibilities after high school. Ensuring union and non-union jobs are represented to explain to the students the benefits of both sides.
3. Encourage parent and community involvement -- As a parent, I will work diligently to guarantee that parent voice is represented in the budget and plans. The parent perspective cannot be overlooked so encouraging parent groups for each school site throughout the district. Encourage engagement with the community to partner with local schools so parents and students understand their community better and become involved.
----- OLIVER CHRISTIAN
• Occupation: Probation officer, L.A. County Probation Department/ MSgt, U.S. Air National Guard
• Family information: Married; one son, four stepchildren, six step-grandchildren
• Do you have any children attending schools in the Fontana Unified School District? Three step-grandchildren, and a stepson who graduated in 2020.
• Educational background: Master degree: counseling (MFT)
• Community involvement: In the Air National Guard, I worked and volunteered to work several natural disasters and community related causes. Recently I assisted in the fires (Bobcat and El Dorado fires); civil unrest in Los Angeles; and food pantry for COVID-19 relief. I also volunteered as a victim advocate, supporting victims of sexual assault and abuse. In law enforcement, I volunteered for Shop with a Cop. Lastly, I completed 1000 hours as a marriage and family intern for the city of Chino.
TOP THREE PRIORITIES:
1. Due to COVID-19, my first priority is to ensure children and staff are able to return to school in a safe environment. This would be accomplished by connecting with state and local government and community leaders and determining the best course of actions and doing it.
2. Understanding that some students will not attend college right out of high school, I would like to connect with local businesses and start a work study program to allow those students needing skills to obtain a skill and a job that is more than minimum wage.
3. Lastly, I want to make sure teachers have what they need to accomplish their goals, whether that is supplies, staff such as a teacher’s aide, counselor, or nurse. I want to make sure teachers can concentrate on teaching and know they have support.
----- JASON O'BRIEN
• Occupation: Detective sergeant
• Political or school-related experience: I am currently the president of the Fontana School Board, and have served for four years. Prior to this, I was a delegate for the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
• Family information: I have been married to my college sweetheart, Shannon, for 28 years. We have a 24-year old adult son, Jason, Jr.
• Do you have any children attending schools in the Fontana Unified School District? My son attended Dorothy Grant, Hemlock Elementary and Summit High School.
• Educational background: B.A. degree in political science from Howard University
• Endorsed by these groups: Fontana Teachers Association, Neighbors United of the Inland Empire, San Bernardino County Democrats and Westside Action Group.
• Community involvement: Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Kappa League youth mentor, president of Children's Resources, Inc. (nonprofit organization), volunteer for University STEM Academy
TOP THREE PRIORITIES:
1. Mental health resources
It is important that we connect our students to the mental health resources they need to help with issues such as anxiety, depression and anger. Poor mental health can negatively impact a student's academic effort and achievement, as well as his or her behavior. Restorative justice efforts help students to develop proper social skills and boost emotional intelligence by ensuring that students have access to counselors, social workers and programs aimed at getting students on track both academically and emotionally.
2. Access to technology
It is especially important during these times of COVID-19 and distance learning that all students have online access and the technological hardware essential for learning and staying on track. Test scores for Fontana Unified District have steadily improved over the past four years, and we cannot afford to lose momentum. We have equipped every student with a laptop, and our teachers are prepared to deliver quality instruction online.
3. College and career readiness
Education and training provide choices, and our students need to have as many choices as possible. Our high schools offer career and technical training programs, as well as the A-G requirements for university admission. I am committed to promoting these training programs as well as continuing to raise money for scholarships and partnering with business and community leaders for the benefit of our students.
----- JENNIFER QUEZADA
• Occupation: supervisor of teacher education at the University of California, Riverside
• Political or school-related experience: Supervisor of Teacher Education - University of California, Riverside; California Department of Education – Tools for Teachers State Network Educator; Smarter Balanced English-Language Arts Test Item Reviewer; Instructional Coach for Secondary English-Language Arts - Fontana Unified School District; G.A.T.E. Site Coordinator - FUSD, Fontana A.B. Miller High School; English High School Teacher - FUSD, A.B. Miller High School; AVID Elective Teacher - FUSD, A.B. Miller High School; Induction Support Provider - FUSD; English-Language Arts Middle School Teacher - FUSD, Sequoia Middle School; English Language Development (ELD) Teacher - FUSD, Sequoia Middle School.
• Family information: Single, proud auntie -- three nieces, one nephew
• Do you have any children attending schools in the Fontana Unified School District? I do not currently have children, but I hope to someday raise a family in the city of Fontana.
• Educational background: Proud first-generation college graduate; University of Southern California - Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Emphasis: Leading Instructional Change); University of Redlands - Master of Arts in Educational Administration and Administrative Services Credential; California State University, San Bernardino - Bachelor of Arts in English Literature (Sigma Tau Delta), Minor in History, Single-Subject English Teaching Credential, and Multiple-Subject Teaching Credential; Proud Fontana K-12 student (Tokay Elementary, Sequoia Middle, and A.B. Miller High)
• Endorsed by these groups: I am proudly endorsed by the following: Fontana Teachers Association, United Steelworkers Legislative Education Committee (includes: Local 8599 -- represents classified and hourly members in the Fontana Unified School District, and Local 7600 -- represents members in Kaiser Permanente hospitals); Fontana School Police Officers Association; Fontana Unified families, current students, and alumni.
• Community involvement: Fontana A.B. Miller High School, FUSD – chaperoned an AVID Junior trip where we traveled up north to visit various colleges and universities; A.B. Miller High School, FUSD -- created an after-school club for identified Gifted and Talented students (G.A.T.E.) and hosted monthly parent/guardian meetings; Sequoia Middle School, FUSD -- created a free after-school dance club for students that performed during school rallies and events; Heritage Neighborhood Center, City of Fontana -- provided affordable dance classes for the city of Fontana for seven years, created a competition dance team, participated in Fontana parades, and hosted two yearly dance shows at Steelworkers’ Auditorium; Fontana High School, Fontana Unified School District -- coached dance classes and choreographed a musical.
TOP THREE PRIORITIES:
1. Safety: Our priority needs to be first and foremost to have a clear plan for what the reopening of our schools will look like, when it is deemed safe for schools to reopen. Discussions need to involve families, students, teachers, staff, and administrators to ensure all stakeholders share their concerns as we actively seek solutions. We need a clear plan of action of what specifically is being done to protect students, teachers, and staff at all school sites and district buildings when schools reopen following CDC guidelines.
2. Distance Learning: We need to ensure students and families are receiving daily support during Distance Learning. With built in Student Support time in our daily schedule, we need to continue to ensure all students are staying on track and making measurable progress throughout the school year. Open communication needs to be occurring with families and students through the continual development of bilingual resources. We need to continue to ensure students with specific learning needs are being provided their accommodations during Distance Learning. Also, it is imperative we check on students’ mental health and seek the continued support of our school site counselors and our Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) team.
3. High-Quality Instruction: As a former middle and high school English teacher, I have always valued high-quality, rigorous instruction. Students truly rise to the challenge. Especially our resilient Fontana students. A priority will be to ensure there is vertical alignment across our grade levels and to create more opportunities for our elementary and secondary education departments to engage in collaboration. Across our K-12 schools we need to ensure all students are receiving high-quality instruction that will prepare them for College and Career Readiness. Providing our students access to rigorous academic courses, arts programs, and Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways will expose them and prepare them for college and career opportunities.
----- OSCAR ERNESTO SOLIS
• Occupation: Entrepreneur/ advocate
• Political or school-related experience: Graduated Grand Terrace High School 2017
• Family information: Currently single; I currently have no children but I do have siblings within the Colton Joint Unified School District.
• Do you have any children attending schools in the Fontana Unified School District? No
• Educational background: High school graduate; attending San Bernardino Valley College
• Endorsed by these groups: California Latino Parents Association
• Community involvement (list organizations or activities): Advocating younger students for future careers
TOP THREE PRIORITIES:
My top three priorities would be bettering the help that achieving students and developing students require at all times, the relationship between the school board, teachers association and the parent awareness, and finally every and all safety protocols during this pandemic. It is essential that we stress progression and we must recognize all of the achievements as well as all of the negatives in order for us to properly become a better structured system for our current students and future. Not only will I serve as a voice of the community but as an advocate to this generation and future generations.