Fresno Bee voter guide

Welcome to our guide for Election 2016 races. Compare candidates' views side by side, then create your own ballot, which you can print or email.

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Important note: Candidates' responses have not been edited except for clarity, language and libel. Candidates provide their own photographs and video. Candidates for non-partisan offices are listed as No Party Preference, regardless of party registration.

Fresno Unified School District Area 6

Fresno Bee stories about this raceFUSD superintendent a focus of school board election

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  • Candidate picture

    Claudia Cazares

  • Candidate picture

    Jack Jarvis

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Biographical Information

What is your position on Fresno Unified's use of lease-leaseback agreements for construction projects?

How are you preparing to enter the school district at a time when it is under federal investigation? How will you deal with the public's concern about these issues?

The achievement gap and truancy continue to vex Fresno Unified schools. How would you attempt to fix these issues?

Would you prioritize career technical education at Fresno Unified schools? How would you balance initiatives that promote college with programs that focus on vocational careers?

A group of business and education advocates are preparing a proposal to split Fresno Unified into two districts that they hope will get on the ballot in no more than three years. They argue Fresno Unified is too big and inefficient to make real progress on issues like improving graduation rates and closing the achievement gap. What is your position on this proposal?

Do you favor or oppose Proposition 55, which would extend by 12 years the temporary income tax increase enacted in 2012 to support schools and colleges?

Were you pleased with how district officials spent new Local Control Funding Formula dollars this past school year? How would you like to see the new dollars spent this year?

School districts across the state are adjusting to the new Common Core standards. Is the district doing enough to prepare teachers and students for the new standards? What, if anything, would you change about how schools transition to this new way of teaching?

In your opinion, what are the district's top three challenges? How would you address each of these issues?

Is technology in education important? Is the district doing enough to get devices into the hands of kids? If so, how would you help improve access to technology, especially for low-income or other at-risk students?

Why are you the best candidate to serve on the Fresno Unified school board? (Text or YouTube video.)

Age 40
Residence Fresno
Family Married, with one daughter and two sons
Education Bachelor's of Science in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley
Occupation Project manager
Public service experience Board Member of San Joaquin Valley Housing Collaborative, Member League of Mexican American Women, UC Berkeley Alumni Club of Fresno, San Joaquin Valley Cal Chicano Latino Alumni Association Chapter, Edison High School Band Booster/Parent, Previous: Member Fresno Housing Alliance, Member Fresno Madera Continuum of Care, Staff Representative Fresno Housing and Community Development Commission, Staff Representative Fresno County Community Development Citizen's Committee, Staff Representative Mayor Alan Autry's 10x10 Affordability Housing Committee, Volunteer Fresno/Madera Homelessness Point in Time Survey, Volunteer HOPE, Del Rio Community Clean Up,
Facebook/Social media Facebook
The Lease-leaseback model, as intended, benefits those districts that are financially disadvantaged and need additional time to repay the construction financing – and I support this use of the model. According to public information, Fresno Unified, either knowingly or not, did not utilize the lease-leaseback process as originally intended by the law. District Administrators should have ensured the strictest letter of the law was adhered to, and as such this entire situation could have been avoided. If the District lacked the capacity to provide day-to-day management of large projects, then a third-party construction/project manager could have been hired.

Being the only candidate for the Board that has direct experience in construction contracting in both the public and private sector, I am well versed in the need to control costs, completing projects in a timely manner, and ensuring construction is built without the need for repairs and/or substantial change orders. Voters should be able to trust their Board representatives, and the District, are spending the monies they have invested in our community in the most fiduciary and transparent process. To that end, I support a full independent investigation into the subject and will respect the results of that investigation.
I have been preparing to be elected as a Board Member since early 2015, when I first decided to start my candidacy. When news of the federal investigation was made public, it only renewed my passion to represent this City on the Board of Education. The Board should not shy away from the investigation, but should look towards the findings to encourage changes in the system that will move us forward and that guarantee similar contracts are not approved in the future. In preparation for entering the school board I have studied available reports, other publicly available subject matter resources, and most importantly I have discussed the issue with the residents of the district. I’ve handled the public’s concern by listening to their feedback and understanding their apprehension. It is clear that the public is not supportive of the lease-leaseback model that was employed by the District.

As a Board member, I pledge to ensure the District clearly operates within the confines of existing policies and legislation. If contracts start to become murky, then the public begins to question if the Administration is acting in the public’s best interest. If transparency and accountability is jeopardized, then the issue at hand should not be approved. Finally, if elected, as a new Board member, I plan on investigating the status of the federal investigation to the best of my ability, always having my door open to concerns and receiving feedback from the public.
The achievement gap is a direct consequence of the truancy conditions experienced throughout our schools. As our children fall further back in grade level achievement, truancy and classroom disruptiveness becomes the manner by which they call attention to their immediate needs. It will take a community coming together to create greater partnerships, with their available resources, to break the cycle of poverty and underachievement. As the only Area 6 Board candidate who has worked consistently with these agencies, who continues to have a relationship with their Boards and employees, who has forged strong working relationships with their staff, I confidently say that they are ready to participate along with the District in making the changes needed to provide these resources to our children, and I will make this a priority of mine.

Underachievement is also a consequence of limited resources. Can you foresee a future where the classroom teacher no longer has to pay out of pocket for classroom supplies? Where the low-income band student doesn’t have to pay nearly $400 to participate in band? Where a child who comes to school in sandals in December is immediately given a new pair of sneakers? Of course the Board can’t ensure this happens with its finite resources. But for every need in our society, there is a non-profit, a for-profit, a caring family, or a vested individual that is willing and able to provide that level of support.
Providing Career and Technical Education, is one of the top three issues I will address as a Board member. It is critically important, particularly in an economically depressed community such as Fresno, that CTE coursework be readily and fully available to our students. Learning a trade in secondary school can be the single most important turning point for a student teetering between dropping out and graduating with their peers. CTE classes have been proven to offer a clear and direct pathway for personal growth and prosperity.

Our trade partners in this community, both private groups and organized labor, have loudly voiced their need for skilled workers. The community support for CTE was evident in the 2012 report of FUSD’s Graduation Task Force. Area businesses advised FUSD that if they would prioritize CTE, businesses would provide apprenticeships and employment.

FUSD’s college track programs have been steadily building capacity. Career tracks such as nursing, medicine, law, engineering and biosciences are extremely valuable and successful and should not be cut-back. However, the District also needs to provide for those students that are not planning on a post-secondary education. Moreover, a focus on CTE allows FUSD to better meet the needs that the employer community has long been communicating to the district.
I fervently oppose dividing the District. There are many models of successful large districts around the state such as San Jose Unified School District. The issues afflicting our school district go beyond curriculum and district size, but are ingrained in the socio-economics of this city. Splitting the district will not solve those problem and will only exacerbate the dire situations faced by our disadvantaged children.

Yes, the district is one of the largest in the state, that is a given since we live in the fifth largest California city. Its inefficiencies can be solved with a strong Board that assists the administration with the policy guidance and governance that will take into account not only the setbacks but the opportunities available throughout the city. Curriculum policy cannot and will not alone solve the issues faced by the District, and our Board needs to be able to focus on community building to attend to the needs of our children that have long been neglected but are clamoring for a hand up.
Fresno Unified received over $91 million in Proposition 30 monies in the 2015-2016 year. It has strategically used the funds to hire additional teachers and counselors that have provided essential services and programs to our children. The funds, together with bond monies, Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funds and other revenues are vital in ensuring the district is addressing the programmatic and physical needs of our children. If voters approve extending the tax increase for an additional 12 years, the District plans to carry on with the implementation of these programs ensuring our student’s needs continue to be met.

The legislation that enacted Proposition 30, and that which will enact Proposition 55 if approved, smartly requires strict accounting for the outlaying and expenditure of these funds. Through the utilization of the Education Protection Account, the State Department of Finance is able to secure the funds from state take over, and ensure they are afforded to school districts and community colleges for its voter approved use. Additionally, annual audits required by the state will demand transparency and provide for another level of analysis to ensure tax payer dollars are adequately expended.

I fully support the provisions of Proposition 55 as the use of these funds will prevent future budget cuts and ensure Fresno’s children continue to receive a valuable public education.
The implementing guidelines for Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) are very straightforward – allow our local school districts to decide how best to use funding aimed at turning the tide of our most disadvantaged children. The LCFF program strategically involves the public in the development of the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) to ensure funds are distributed to our most underprivileged schools, in accordance with the guidance of the interested public. The 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 budgets increased the levels of funding for previously cut programs such as field trips, band, sports and extra-curricular activities. These investments to programmatic spending within the District, along with curriculum changes, staffing and curriculum support will bring about much needed educational achievement.

To further assist our most underprivileged students, I believe other programs should be added such as community mentorship programs, community-led leadership in school clubs, and introducing internships at the high school level that correspond to music, arts and business activities.

As a community development experienced professional, I would strongly advocate the District take the LCFF/LCAP meetings out to established and accepted community gathering places - example i.e. churches or community centers, similar to those held by the FTA.
As I’ve walked my district, one thing is very clear: the opinions, and varying degrees of knowledge, over the Common Core standards indicates that our parents do not know enough about Common Core. If parents, who are the key partners in the education of the District’s children, are unable to comprehend the Common Core Standards, how can we expect our students to succeed? Still, I believe the strategic implementation of Common Core will produce higher performing students as they are educated with higher standards.

As I discussed the issue with my neighbors, I distinctly remember my 6 year old telling me what he learned about photo-synthesis, metamorphosis, experimenting, hypothesis and the moons of Jupiter. Common Core, when implemented with the appropriate training will provide extensive levels of learning for our children and will be the most direct channel to ensure the educational and workplace competitiveness of our students. I believe as a society we have eagerly been waiting for our students to be put up to this challenge, and our students will show that, with the appropriate systems in place, they will excel under the Common Core standards. How can we ensure that there are appropriate systems in place? We should listen our teachers. If teachers request additional training on any specific standard, or material such as journals, technology, manipulatives, etc. to properly teach to the standards, then those materials and training should be readily provided.
Fiscal Responsibility

With any large entity greater efforts can always be made to combat waste and create greater efficiency. I will work to trim bloated bureaucracy and to ensure the greatest amount of tax dollars reach the classroom. In addition, I will ensure we operate a transparent system. If elected, I will ensure these policies and procedures are enacted by the Administration through a collaborative and open process.

Campus Safety/Security

Our children cannot learn and our teachers cannot teach if they do not feel safe. We need to ensure that every school has adequate support staff to ensure security. We need to work with the Fresno City Police and County Probation Department to create greater community relationships and collaboration so students feel comfortable reporting security risks. As a Board member I will make a direct effort to reach out to our community support network to increase the availability of resources already found in this community to support school safety.

Vocational Education

Vocational education is the great equalizer, the difference between an inconsequential low wage job and a middle class income. I will use my experience in both the public and private sector to create greater partnerships with the community college system, Fresno State University, businesses, and trade organizations, to ensure our students have the greatest amount of access to a diverse range of possibilities, and skills learning they need to get a good job.
Technology use in education is an always evolving and growing issue. While in the past, most of our impoverished children by and large did not have access to technological devices - that is not the case anymore. With the advent of readily available phones, internet access and even computers for low income families, our typical child in school is much more technologically knowledgeable than we give them credit for. It is critical then that our educational system keep up with the technological needs and expectations of our students.

Our teachers should be provided the most updated programs and technological resources as part of their curriculum. I am glad to see that the District will be looking to provide change out in computer systems now every 3 years, instead of the standard 5 year turn around. If our teachers are not provided the tools needed in this day of ever evolving technology, it will only obstruct the educational achievement the District has been aiming for. Along with this, the District needs to ensure device usage is also made available to our students to the greatest extent possible and integrate such into the curriculum.
I have a broad range of experience in the public and private sector, I know the strengths and weaknesses of both. I will bring this knowledge to the Fresno Unified School Board to improve our district. Most of all though, I am a Mom with kids in the Fresno Unified. I see the successes and failures of Fresno Unified daily, I talk to the teachers and parents, and I will continue to have my finger on the pulse of the most current issues facing our students. I want all of our children to be safe and successful, just like what you want for your children and grandchildren. It is this ethic I will bring to the Fresno Unified School Board, not that of a politician, bureaucrat or long time administrator. It is this genuine driving credo that has earned me the support of a broad cross section of our community including Fresno City Councilman Paul Caprioglio, Community College Trustee Richard Caglia, and Fresno Unified School Board President Luis Chavez. I hope to earn your vote.
Age 62
Residence Fresno
Family Wife of 34 years Dianne, daughters Emily, Jacqueline, and Bethany.
Education Bachelors Degree, Music Composition CSUFresno Master's Degree Educational Administration, CSUFresno
Occupation Retired Teacher, Principal
Public service experience 26 years in Fresno Unified, Teacher at King and Aynesworth Elementary Schools, Fort Miller Middle School Vice Principal at Lane Elementary, Principal at Hidalgo and Del Mar Elementary schools. I also worked as a per-diem group supervisor in Tulare County and Kings County Juvenile Hall and Camp facilities.
Facebook/Social media
I recently retired from FUSD in June after 26 years. Having served as an administrator for 14 years in the district, I was regularly involved in school facilities issues, including bond measures. Having followed the decision from the appellate court in Davis vs. Fresno Unified and subsequent events (including the passage of AB 2316 awaiting Gov. Brown's signature), I believe I understand the issue very clearly.

The leaseback process was put in place to help school districts finance the building of new schools. If implemented properly, and all criteria met, competitive bidding requirements for the projects could be avoided. Fresno Unified never came close to meeting the criteria for a legal leaseback, which anybody reading the original legislation could clearly have seen.

If AB2316 is signed, it will strengthen the competitive bidding requirements within the leaseback process, which will go a long way towards preventing this controversy from re-occurring. It also will compensate contractors who entered into these arrangements prior to July of 2015. As this process was apparently wide-spread, this legislation seems reasonable to me at this time.

I would support the use of this process again in FUSD if it became necessary and proper due diligence was undertaken. In other words, as a Board member, I understand the issue and would be able to competently monitor any actions related to it.
Having been a principal for 10 years, I am familiar with all the involved staff and their positions and functions. Were the investigation to uncover criminal wrongdoing, I would be ready to proceed with necessary steps to address the situation in a rapid, yet fair manner. There is obviously a due process for those accused of a crime. If it becomes necessary to place certain staff on administrative leave, I am familiar with that process as it pertains to our system.

What will be important in that event is to maintain the business of Fresno Unified, which is educating our children. One advantage I have will be my ability to monitor who is moved in to take over for the staff involved and whether or not they are the right fit, as I have worked with all of the upper administration.

As a Board member, I will follow all events carefully as they unfold and keep my constituents informed through my use of social media and my website blog. I will do my own research as to the legal ramifications and impact of previous or similar case law, such as the recent affirmation of the leaseback process in McGee v. Balfour Beatty Construction by the Second Appellate District. I will set up informational meetings in my area so constituents can ask questions while also encouraging the same through my website.

Most importantly, I will continue my efforts to repair our instructional and behavioral systems because that work WILL NOT WAIT. This whole situation has been enough of a distraction.
First of all, fixing the achievement gap starts with recognizing our current reality and reasons for it. Despite the superintendent highlighting improvement in all grades on the SBAC test, the fact is we made little growth as a result of improved instruction or training, especially in the middle schools. Scores rising in the second year of a test following an extremely low "baseline" of first year scores are always expected due to test "familiarity". Gains of 3 or 4 % in a district where more than 70% of all students didn't succeed are not enough.

We need to go back and provide remediation to the vast numbers of students who did not meet standards. The only way this is remotely possible is through technology access for all students on a daily basis. There are extensive free resources available if we provide the means to access them. I will provide more on this in answering other questions on this document.

As far as truancy, for YEARS our system has failed to intervene early and rapidly enough to identify students with attendance issues and respond.The SARB process, which is suppose to hold parents accountable is terribly underused. Students can miss 120 class periods in middle school and only get a letter home.

As a Board member I would push for an immediate review of the current system as to functionality and efficiency and use my expertise in data base applications to speed up the process. As a site principal for ten years, I can help fix this broken system.
I strongly believe CTE is the job of our entire K-12 system, not just high schools. In my the classroom, I always used a hands-on constructivist approach and always had high levels of student engagement, especially among at-risk students. For example, my sixth graders made Geo Boards for math, using a hammer, nails, and needle-nose pliers. Many so called "at-risk" kids thrive in constructivist environments. I would use the site plan process to encourage this type of teaching and learning.

I would work to have each school devote funding to supplies and training to support constructivist approaches to learning, of which there are great models springing up all over the country. We need to use technology in this area also, Just by training ALL teachers in tech integration opens up instruction in graphic design, coding and other needed skills. For example, last year I taught a middle school computer-skills class where students designed a t-shirt using drawing tools; many student did not believe this was actually a marketable skill!

As for vocational programs, I believe anything students learn when they are out of high school at for-profit institutions should be examined for feasibility as a high school offering. Auto repair, electronics, fashion design and building construction are just a few of the more obvious choice. I don't believe this is an "either-or" situation. I do not see college vs CTE as an issue IF we fix our instruction and blend the two paths early on.
I understand the frustration and motivations behind the initiative, especially given some colossal blunders FUSD has made in their treatment of some school communities. For example, allowing students from outside a school attendance zone to disrupt a specialty high school program is something we never tolerated in the past. We only let disruptive behavior go unpunished now to simply lower our suspension rates, which has led to chaos in previously orderly schools. And we have not responded to valid parent complaints about this.

In addition, the district is promoting itself as "On the right track" when it has not been for the last four years. In response to this split proposal by Reform Fresno Unified, one FUSD board member stated, "As we’re fixing the ship, getting it off the rocks and in the right direction, we had folks on the outside taking pot shots at us........" (Fresno Bee, 2/11/15). That was almost two years ago. And we have 70% of our students not meeting standards less than two years later? That is NOT the right direction.

I find myself asking this question. How long will this take? And what will happen to the students in the meantime? Many of my initial questions about this have been answered by RFU's FAQ. ( If the district wants to avoid this, they need to make some very immediate changes and stop all the PR. On my website I discuss some of these changes. Unless this happens soon, I will support this proposal.
I support Proposition 55. California remains in the bottom ten of the fifty states in K12 education. We need to do better. But at some point, we need to find other sources of funding that does not depend on the economy. For example, it's way past time to adjust Prop. 13 to reflect commercial property values that have never adjusted after sales because of transaction manipulation, something homeowners are unable to do.

But I also believe we are not spending our current funding prudently. FUSD currently spends almost $500,000 per middle school on two programs which produce very questionable results. That is enough to buy every student their own ASUS tablet every year and train every teacher how to effectively utilize them. In addition, few administrators at school sites have been trained in Excel, which would improve their budgeting and efficiency. Having helped many colleagues with their budgets, I know many schools have tens of thousands of dollars unspent by March simply because of lack of training.

Lastly, the district has collected ever larger portions of categorical dollars that are supposed to go to school sites. They dictate to schools what they will get, like it or not. This stifles creativity and autonomy in favor of the ideas of a small group of downtown administrators. Increasing funding is a necessity, but we also need to evaluate how the money is spent. When I am on the Board my experience in this area will be an asset to the students and teachers in FUSD.
No, I haven't been and this years plan is more of the same. One of the largest subgroup populations in Fresno Unified is English Language Learners, or EL's. A large percentage of the LCFF funding was specifically targeted at them from the inception of the new funding, but there was little or nothing specific done for them in many districts, including FUSD.

Yes, they may have benefited indirectly through smaller class sizes, but the EL Services department, despite delivering some of the best training in the district, was marginalized into presenting the district "plan" for El students and so understaffed and unsupported by district leadership that professional learning in this area was limited to one training session per school.

Only now, when a lawsuit brought on behalf of California EL students resulted in a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, are we seeing FUSD act to meet this crucial need. The district added five positions to EL services, that is not enough. In order to serve the 40,000 EL's we have, that is not enough. We need many more EL trainers and they should be given multiple opportunities to train teachers at schools with large numbers of EL's

In addition, we CONTINUE to underfund technology training and equipment. We are receiving enough funding to equip every school with a 2-1 student to computer ratio. This would improve instruction, make Common Core remediation possible and improve student participation and engagement, and classroom behavior.
Well, we already let the Common Core transition "horse" out of the barn and our current scores reflect it. Our transition was so poorly designed in such a hurry that many students learned half as much during the so called "full implementation year" of 2013-14 than they had before. In addition, district instructional leadership promoted vague and confusing direction that myself and many other veteran teachers questioned. The Common Core standards differ substantially from previous California learning guides in that Common Core is a progression with specific skills MASTERED at each grade level that student are expected to apply in the next grade. Students do NOT receive recurring instruction in each grade; there is less to teach but it is expected there will be MASTERY of those skills. Instead of spending time trying to identify which standards kids may have missed out on during the transition, FUSD assumed kids knew them. As a result they have huge gaps in their progression through Commom Core. We need a panel of educators independent of central office leadership to review the standards and the district training materials. We need to assume the almost 75% of the students who did not meet standards need remedial instruction. Teachers from each grade level should quickly identify areas of need and share that information with the district. Each school should spend much of their meeting time doing this; if not the students who are behind will STAY there. They will be LOST.
1. Closing the achievement gap. More than 50% of our students scored "DID NOT MEET" on CC state standards. We need to recognize instruction and learning as our main priority and operate with the idea that individual grade level mastery is THE expectation throughout the district, especially as students begin their K-6 program. Each grade level needs to teach their crucial skills. Smaller class sizes must be maintained as this will be essential in meeting the needs of all students. .

2. Student discipline must be examined and adjustments made. Just having a "don't suspend "policy without changing behaviors is a disaster. School principals need to be restored to a position of authority at their sites where they are free to make decisions that are necessary to keep order in classrooms. School "transition" classrooms, that are well intended and staffed by hard working teachers, need to be re-examined for efficacy and legality. More coherent instruction integrated with more access to technology would decrease disruptive behaviors.

3. Lack of qualified teachers and support for those that are new to the profession.

We need to reconnect with CSUFresno. We barely have a relationship with them anymore. We need to be nurturing instead of punitive with all teachers and provide useful and relevant training. We need to give them better equipment and supplies as needed. We MUST recruit more African-Americans into our teaching force by reaching out to them as early as high school.
As a twenty-year technology leader at both the district and state level, I can tell you technology access is the essential lynchpin of future student success in FUSD and we are missing a huge opportunity to be the best in the state at this.

The district maintains a world class Wide Area Network (WAN) but many teachers still do not utilize available online instructional resources. We should have AT LEAST a 2-1 computer to student ratio in every school but do not.

Some schools expend site funds on technology, while others do not. This an equity issue.

Worst of all, teachers are seldom trained in technology integration unless they seek it themselves. There are too few instructional technology trainers in Fresno Unified to serve the number of teachers and students. ​ Some solutions: Tech Training should be given priority equivalent with other initiatives for teacher development. Site Administrators should be trained to lead their schools in this area All sites should be directed to supplement district expenditures to establish a 2-1 student-to-computer ratio. FUSD needs to have at least as many Instructional Technology trainers as it does public relations staff. Effective online resources should be identified and used to remediate areas of student need in Common Core. ​ Having been a trainer in technology integration for more than 20 years, I would provide expertise in overseeing district technology budgets and expenditures during budget hearings.
Having served as classroom teacher, site administrator, technology grant coordinator, and site instructional coach, I am the only person on or running for the board who is an experienced administrator as well as a teacher. In this day and age, we must have educational expertise on the Board. My skills and varied experiences have given me a wide body of knowledge I can draw upon to help improve Fresno Unified in every area. I have extensive understanding of state/national education trends/issues and regularly interact on social media with a large network of educators around the country. My expertise in student discipline, quality teaching, technology usage, and fiscal management will bring new perspective to the Board, and provide real solutions to the crucial mission of preparing FUSD students for the future. I am a known as a proven leader and believe I can me a difference. Thank you for the opportunity. Please visit my website at