Three seats are being contested in the Fontana Unified School District's Board of Education election on Nov. 6.

Three seats are being contested in the Fontana School Board election on Nov. 6.

Incumbents Mary B. Sandoval, Matt Slowik, and Mars Serna are seeking re-election and are being opposed by these three challengers:

• Anahi Ahumada, a police aide

• Adam Perez, a police officer

• Kareem Gongora, an HR communications specialist

The Fontana Herald News sent questionnaires to all of the above candidates, asking them to provide information about their qualifications, as well as their three top priorities if they were to be elected. Their responses are printed below, in the order that they appear on the Voter Information Guide issued by the San Bernardino County Elections Office (some candidates did not return the questionnaires):


• Occupation: Retired (academic programs administrator for Inland Empire Job Corps)

• Political and school leadership experience: I was elected in 2014 to the Fontana Unified School Board of Education as a governing board member. I have held the positions of board president, vice president and delegate assembly member. I have served on the San Bernardino committee’s executive board and the governmental board representing our region 16.

• Family information: I am married to Jesus Sandoval for 36 years and we have three adult children and five grandchildren.

• Educational background: Graduated in 1980 from Fontana Adult School. Attended Chaffey and Valley College.

• Endorsed by these groups: Family, friends, Congresswoman Norma Torres, State Sen. Connie Leyva, Assembly Member Eloise Reyes, Fontana City Council Member Michael Tahan, Rialto School Board Member Edgar Montes, Colton Joint Unified School District Board Member Randall Ceniceros, Fontana Teachers Association, United Steelworkers 8599, United Steelworkers District 12, AFL/CIO Union, Carpenters Union 944, Planned Parenthood, Inland Empire United, Fontana Democratic Club, Young Democratic Club of San Bernardino, San Bernardino County Democratic Club.

Community involvement: I have always been active in my community as a volunteer with PTA, the Youth Accountability Board, Fontana Police Citizens Patrol program, and coaching Fontana Girls Softball. I’m a member of the Fontana Community Senior Center, where I play softball as a member of the Fontana Flashbacks.

• Top three priorities:

My top three priorities are to work on expanding universal preschool into Fontana Unified School District, by lobbying state legislators to find funding for a program that will benefit all working families. Increase technology for every student, by ensuring tools are available students will meet state standards. Instructional aides will be able to assist the teachers and the students to meet the academic goals. Increase resources and accountability for our special needs programs that include streamlined time frames for students to receive the help they need. To achieve this, we must start by hiring and training our own staff instead of outsourcing these services. By providing these services, we will be able to better serve our students, parents and teachers.


• Occupation: Fontana Unified School District Board Member

• Political and school leadership experience: I am the current vice president of the Fontana Unified School District Board of Education. I have been a FUSD Board Member for four years. I am the FUSD delegate to the California School Board Association. I was a leader for several years of the Fontana Unified School District Bond Oversight Committee. I was a Fontana City Council Member for two years. As a City Council Member, I represented the City on various sub-committees. I was a Fontana City Planning Commissioner for 10 years. I was also a Fontana City Parks and Recreation Commissioner for eight years.

• Family information: I am single, and a lifetime resident of the City of Fontana; and the Fontana Unified School District.

• Educational background: I have credentials in four professions. I have a (1st) Master's Degree in City Planning/Development. I have a (2nd) Master's Degree in Public Administration. I have a Bachelor's Degree in City Planning/Development. I have an AA Degree in Architecture. And, I am a State of California Registered Environmental Health Specialist (Retired). I am also a two-time graduate of the Management Leadership Academy. I attended K-12 in the Fontana Unified School District; and graduated from Fontana High School.

• Endorsed by these groups: I am endorsed by various elected officials including President of the Fontana Unified School District, Peter Garcia; Mayor of the City of Fontana, Acquanetta Warren; City Council members John Roberts and Jesse Armendarez; and City Treasurer Janet Koehler-Brooks.

• Community involvement: I have been involved with no less than 40 Fontana community organizations over the past 40 years. These include, and are not limited to the following: In addition to the Fontana School Board, I am a Past-President (and still current member) of the Fontana Rotary Club. I am a Board Member of the Fontana Historical Society. I am a Board Member of the Fontana Art Association. I am a member of the Friends of the Library. I am a delegate to the California School Board Association. I am a supporter of the Fontana Boys and Girls Club. I am a supporter of the Fontana Unified School District's PTAs and PTOs. I am a past member of the FUSD Bond Oversight Committee. I am also a member of the Sons of Italy-JoAnne Coccia Lodge.

• Top three priorities:

-- My first (and, always top priority) is student safety. I will address student and school safety through any and all means available, including; 1) seeking funding for additional officers assigned to school sites, 2) implementing additional safety measures such as limiting access to campuses, pursuing an enhanced District-wide "lock-down" system, and, implementing state-of-the-art door locks. Recruiting more counselors. Implementing more training/cross-training of our School Police with adjacent police jurisdictions for greater coordination. Expand training of all School District staff on how to respond during critical incidents. And, any and all ideas that the parents, staff, and students have to share.

-- My second priority is lessening the number of disturbance/conflict/bullying/poor behavior incidents. We can address this by expanding the PBIS and MTSS training and programming throughout the District. Increase the number of counselors in the District. And, enhancing parent involvement in all aspects of their students' education.

-- My third priority is focusing on Career Technical Education. We can identify, establish, and implement a broader variety of career technical pathways at all of our high schools (including the continuation high schools).


• Occupation: Educator (Family and Community Engagement, program specialist with San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools); Adjunct professor at San Bernardino Community College and current board member for Fontana Unified School District.

• Political and school leadership experience: I was recently elected in 2017 to the Fontana Unified School District Governing Board in a special election. I have currently served just 10 months.

I have over 32 years of experience working in the fields of education, recreation and human services. Currently employed at San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools (SBCSS) as the family and community engagement project manager, where I support the 33 school districts throughout the county in training, coaching, and mentoring on best practices to engage families and stakeholders in education. Prior to joining SBCSS, I spent a little over a year at Fontana Unified School District as the family and community engagement coordinator and nine years at San Bernardino City Unified School District as the family involvement officer working with parents to be engaged and active in the education of their children.

I am also an adjunct professor in the Human Services Department where I teach cultural proficiency and cross cultural communication to students who are looking into careers in education, health care, law enforcement, human services and other related fields.

• Family information: Married with four children (one in Fontana USD) and two grandchildren.

• Educational background: Masters of arts in management from University of Redlands; Bachelors in public administration from California State University, San Bernardino

• Endorsed by these groups:

-- Labor Organizations:

-- Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties

-- Police Officers Research Association of California (Inland Chapter)

-- Fontana Teachers Association

-- Fontana School Police Officers Association

-- United Steel Workers 8599 and 7600

-- Elected Officials:

-- Tom Torlakson, CA State Superintendent

-- Cheryl Brown, Former CA State Assemblymember

-- Janice Rutherford, 2nd District San Bernardino County Supervisor

-- Michael Tahan, Councilmember, City of Fontana

-- Sherman Garnett, Trustee, San Bernardino County Board of Education

-- Gwendolyn Dowdy-Rodgers, Board Member, San Bernardino City Unified School District

-- Scott Wyatt, Board Member, San Bernardino City Unified School District

-- Dina Walker, Board Member, Rialto Unified School District

-- Joanne Thoring-Ojeda, Board Member, Colton Joint Union School District

-- Jesus Holguin, Board Member, Moreno Valley Unified School District

-- Joseph Williams, Vice President of the Board of Trustees for the San Bernardino Community College District

-- Dr. Anne Viricel, Board of Trustees for the San Bernardino Community College District

-- Gabriel Orosco, Board Member, El Rancho Unified School District

-- Lynne B. Kennedy, Councilmember, City of Rancho Cucamonga

-- Rita Rogers, Councilwoman, City of Perris

-- Edward Agundez, Retired Superintendent, Perris Elementary and Former Board Member, Perris Union High School District

-- Community Leaders:

-- Christian Campos, Fontana American Little League Coach

-- Wil Greer, Education Consultant

-- Edwin Gomez, Superintendent, Coachella Valley Unified School District

-- Dr. Gordon Amerson, Associate Superintendent, Capistrano Unified School District

-- Terry Boykins, Street Positive

-- Joseph Paulino, Chief of School Police, San Bernardino City USD

-- Dr. April Clay, Clay Counseling Solutions, Inc.

-- Janie Garcia, Teacher at Fontana Unified School District

-- Lesford H. Duncan, Board Member, Inland Empire Fatherhood Involvement Coalition

-- Phalos Haire, Board Member, Inland Empire Fatherhood Involvement Coalition

-- Mel Albiso, Retired Assistant Superintendent and Former Board Member, Colton Joint Union School District

-- Community Organizations:

-- Evolve-A Community Organization

-- San Bernardino County Young Democrats

-- Fontana Democratic Club

-- I.E. United https://ieunited.org/

• Community involvement: Ruble Band Booster treasurer, Former PTA treasurer (Sierra Lakes Elementary); Youth coach with City of Fontana (basketball, soccer and Fontana Community Little League; served as chair and co-founder of the Inland Empire Family Resource Coalition, and currently serve on the boards of the Inland Empire Fatherhood Involvement Coalition, San Bernardino County Mentoring Task Force and the San Bernardino County Gang and Drugs Task Force.

• Top three priorities:

Now that I have been in the seat for 10 months, I have been able to evaluate areas of growth needed in Fontana USD. Here are my three areas of focus:

1. Transforming the Learning Environment (Future Ready Schools)

Our schools currently operate in ways that directly oppose the world in which our students are growing up. There is huge disconnect when our students walk into schools, due to the lack of engagement, relevance, meaning, and authentic learning opportunities available in many schools. Our education system has become effective at sustaining an old model because this model is easy and safe. The resulting conformity has created a learning epidemic among our students, as they see little value in the current model of learning environments they are forced to go through each day. Our students are bored and it is time that we create schools that work for our students, as opposed to models that have traditionally worked well only for us adults. With the advent of automation, it is imperative that we prepare our kids for the jobs they don’t even know will exist ten years from now.

2. Creating a safe and affirming school environments by ensuring that program spaces are welcoming, inspiring, and physically and emotionally safe for participants.

FUSD is currently implementing Multi Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) that encompasses fully integrating learning supports (e.g. behavioral, mental health, and social services), instruction, school management within a comprehensive, cohesive approach that facilitates multidisciplinary collaboration between education professionals, non-profit organizations, public agencies and other education stakeholders. This collaboration allows for prevention/intervention and wellness promotion that increases academic achievement through meeting the needs of students. A few areas of focus are:

• Employing effective and positive school discipline strategies.

• Improving access to school-based mental health supports.

• Providing relevant and ongoing professional development for all staff.

• Engaging families and community providers as meaningful partners.

3. Financial Transparency

Enacted in 2013, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), made a significant and historic shift toward a simpler, more rational and equitable school finance system. Along with LCFF, the federal government has implemented through the new Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) that states are required to annually report per-pupil spending along with disaggregating all expenditures. Our school board and administration will need to work collectively and collaboratively to make sure we are spending our resources as equitable as possible to fix any inequities that exist. Particularly in areas of supplemental and concentration funds generated by low-income, English Language Learners, and Foster Youth students. Our stakeholders will need to be informed and be true partners on advocating and informing us on how we are doing to raise the academic achievement of our underserved students. We will need to evaluate data better to see how our investments are working best with different student groups along with educational programs that are working towards getting the most for the dollars invested.


• Occupation: County of Riverside Human Resources, HR communications specialist

• Political and school leadership experience:

-- Member, California State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners (2018-present)

-- Member, City of Fontana Planning Commission (2016-2017)

-- Vice President, Dolores Huerta International Academy School Site Council (2016-present)

-- Chairman, San Bernardino Superintendent County Committee on School District Organization (2015-present)

-- School 45 Naming Committee (2015)

• Family information: Married to wife Christina Gongora and raising our three children in Fontana, Jhené, Raymond and Preston.

• Educational background:

-- Doctorate Public Administration, California Baptist University (expected completion 2021)

-- Community Leadership Certificate, University of La Verne (2017)

-- MA Management, University of Redlands (2015)

-- BA English, University of California, Riverside (2009)

-- Fontana A.B. Miller High School (2005)

• Endorsed by these groups:

-- Fontana Teachers Association

-- United Steelworkers 8599

-- United Steelworkers Legislative Education Committee (Represents Locals 8599, 8065, 5632 and 7600)

-- San Bernardino – Riverside Construction and Building Trades Council

-- Teamsters Joint Council 42

-- Teamsters Local 1932

-- Ironworkers Local 433

-- Operating Engineers Local 12

-- IBEW Local 47 and 440

-- United Auto Workers

-- SEIU 121RN

-- Carpenters Local 909

-- UFCW 1167

-- Communications Workers of America 9400 & 9588

-- IE United

-- California State Treasurer John Chiang

-- Assemblymembers Eloise Gomez Reyes, Tony Thurmond and Freddie Rodriguez

-- Congressman Pete Aguilar

-- State Senators Connie Leyva and Kevin de Leon

-- San Bernardino County Supervisor, District 2, Janice Rutherford

-- San Bernardino Community College Trustees Joseph Williams, Dr. Anne Viricel and Frank Reyes

-- San Bernardino County Board of Education, Area C, Laura Abernathy Mancha

-- Fontana School Board Members Jason O’Brien and Mary Sandoval

-- Fontana City Council Members Jesse Sandoval and Michael Tahan

-- Redlands City Council Member Eddie Tejeda

-- Chino Valley School Board Member Irene Hernandez Blair

-- Colton Joint School Board Member Randall Ceniceros

-- Etiwanda School Board Member Robert Garcia

-- Rialto City Council Member Andy Carrizales

-- Rialto School Board Members Edgar Montes and Nancy O’Kelley

-- San Bernardino City School Board Members Dr. Barbara Flores and Abigal Medina

-- Riverside School Board Member Dr. Angelov Farooq

-- California Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon

-- San Bernardino City School Board Member Gwen Dowdy Rodgers

• Community involvement:

-- Board of Director, Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (2018-present)

-- Dorothy Grant PTA (2017)

-- Big Brothers Big Sisters Inland Empire mentorship program (2016)

-- Wayne Ruble Middle School, WATCH Dogs (2015)

-- Board of Director, Operation New Hope (2015-present)

-- Kick’n for Charity Celebrity Kickball benefiting Symphonic Love and Best Buddies International (2014)

-- Charity Flag Football Game benefiting Symphonic Love and Best Buddies International (2014)

-- Mango Elementary PTA (2014)

-- Coach, Fontana Recreation T-Ball (2014)

-- Hoops 4 Homeless benefitting homeless children in San Bernardino County (2011)

-- Coach, Fontana Recreation Pee-Wee Soccer (2011)

-- Fontana Santas (2009-present)

-- Coach, Fontana Recreation Pee-Wee Basketball (2010)

-- Coach, Fontana Recreation Pee-Wee Flag Football (2009)

-- “Something's Gotta Change” benefit (2009)

• Top three priorities:

-- KEEP OUR KIDS SAFE by investing in student intervention programs to prevent bullying and address mental health issues on our campuses.

-- SUPPORT OUR TEACHERS by keeping tax dollars in the classroom through ensuring fiscal responsibility and transparent oversight. In addition, we need to implement smaller classroom sizes and 1-to-1 technology in order to support our teachers and ensure they have the resources to be effective.

-- ENSURE OUR STUDENTS ARE CAREER-READY UPON GRADUATION through bringing back life skills courses and apprenticeship as well as trade programs. We need to make sure our graduates are prepared for success through understanding how to balance a budget, apply for a good job or start their own business.

(1) comment


Do your homework residents of the city of Fontana. In my opinion any candidate lacking educational degrees and/or experience running a business is lacking the credentials to hold important positions in the city of Fontana. In particular I question the duo of Jesse and Mary Sandoval. Nice people and all but don't really possess the education, training, skills or experience in one of southern California's most dynamic and growing cities. Further public records would indicate poor personal financial management in their case with real estate default and short sales on their record. This doesn't necessarily disqualify a person from public office but could be an indicator of a lack of sound personal financial management.

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