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.

Candidates: Don't see yourself here? Missed our invitations to participate? Contact dbeeman@fresnobee.com to be added.

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.

Clovis Unified School District Area 4

Trustees are elected district-wide but the winner in this race will represent Trustee Area 4.Fresno Bee stories about this raceAfter controversial year, Clovis Unified board to see rare competition in election

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  • Jacob Belemjian
    (N)

  • Brian Heryford
    (N)

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Biographical Information

Earlier this year, the district made national headlines for its strict dress code. How would you have voted? How do you feel about gender expression and inclusion?

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?

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?

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 school board? (Text or YouTube video.)

Age 46
Residence Clovis
Family Married 18 years Two boys 12 and 15
Education Graduated Bullard High School Graduated CSU Fresno B.S. Ag Business
Occupation Owner of The Firing Line, Indoor Shooting Range. CCW instructor
Public service experience Never held a political position
Facebook/Social media Jacob Belemjian For Clovis School Board 2016
It is important for people to remember that AB 1266 was passed in 2013. I feel that the district did a poor job of notifying parents about the law and how they would implement it. Both of my children attend CUSD and I didn't hear anything about this until the public outcry at a board meeting two and a half years after the law went into effect. I believe that discrimination is unacceptable, and with that said, we have to be careful about how we implement these new policies. I think in our rush to try to accommodate everyone we are violating other peoples rights. There was no discussion, no notification and no parental input. This is not how it is supposed to be. The Board and Administration have access to information and legal counsel that I, and other parents, do not have. Based on the information that is publicly available, I can't say how I would have voted. I can say that I would have handled the process differently. The way that parents found out about this is unbelievable. It is amazing to me how quickly and effectively the district is able to notify parents about potential exposure to head lice, but we can't let parents know that there could potentially be a boy in their daughter's P.E. class.
Common Core is just the latest and greatest education program. The government powers that make education policy seem to come up with a re-invented wheel every 10-15 years. CC is just the latest version. I do not agree with the Federal or State government dictating anything that has to do with education policy. I think it is arrogant for them to think that they can apply a one-size-fits-all policy to kids all across the country and expect good results. There is so much money in the education industry, we have to be careful how much power we relinquish to outsiders. Companies that write curriculum and publish textbooks make a lot of money on the taxpayers back. I am not a fan of CC, but I do think the District has done a reasonable job of implementing it. It is important to remember that this was a very heavy lift, I have to acknowledge that.
I am not in favor of extending the tax increases. I do not think the answer to our problems is more money, it's quite the opposite, too much money causes problems. I think no matter how much we spend on education there will be people who will say it's not enough. Government uses spending to gauge success, instead of results. Governor Brown used this tax money to balance his budget without making substantial cuts. I refuse to believe that there aren't better ways to spend tax dollars. People, like politicians who spend other peoples money, have a hard time doing it wisely; after all, they didn't earn it and does not come out of their account. There should be a comprehensive review of every public agencies budget to look for wasteful spending, every year. I have been involved in private business my whole life. I do not believe it when they say there is nothing to cut. I am tired of being told we need to do this "for the kids." They never spend the money wisely or on what they are supposed to. I cannot support giving them more.
There is a lack of communication/transparency: We are living in the age of technology. We have the ability to reach a limitless number of people with the click of a mouse, yet CUSD claims that the district newspaper is a great way to communicate with parents. There needs to be an efficient and effective electronic method of getting information to parents, and it must be used. I personally wouldn't mind the district filling my inbox with information about my kids education. Parents finding out about an incident only after it becomes public is not how affected parents should be notified. Legislation(Federal and State): Every district in the country is facing an onslaught of legislation that violates their beliefs in some way or another. I do not think that the District or the Board should intentionally violate the law. If I am elected I will uphold the law, period. This does not mean that we cannot fight this assault on our values. If parents had been informed about AB 1266 when it was proposed the parents could have fought it, if they chose to, but they were not informed of it, and the opportunity to fight passed and now we stuck with it, at least for now. There are other Districts and organizations that have similar values to CUSD who are willing to help as well. I am not advocating spending District funds to fight legislation! I am saying that I will fight to find solutions that serve all students and parents.
Technology is very important, and we must ensure that we are teaching all of our kids to use it effectively and appropriately. I think the district has done a good job with this. The laptop program is very successful and I know my kids learned from it and also enjoyed it. I do think that we need to be careful about the amount of technology that is used. It is very easy to overdo it. Kids need to learn ways of accomplishing their goals in multiple ways. Relying totally on technology is not acceptable. I believe that all students should be treated equally, if the curriculum dictates that a computer is used for assignments then we must provide that opportunity to students who may not be able to afford one.
CUSD is not the small rural school district it once was. We have 42,000 students and thousands of employees, we have all the problems and challenges of a large corporation. We must hire and retain quality personnel. We must provide them with the tools they need to be successful. We must have competitive compensation and we must keep our teachers happy. I have 25 years of business management experience and I will work tirelessly to improve and strengthen our District. The environment we are living in is getting more and more difficult to navigate and we must have leaders that are not afraid to be bold and find innovative ways of addressing our challenges. I am one of these people. I hope that you will support me for District 4 on November 8th.

Sincerely, Jacob Belemjian
Age 66
Occupation Incumbent
I would vote as I did, according to laws that require a school district to have policies that do not make a distinction between students of one sex or another. I took an oath to uphold the laws of the State and the United States. I feel it is important to do so with sensitivity for each of our students, which is an attitude I have carried with me during my tenure on the Clovis Unified School Board, I believe that every child deserves the right to a great education, a safe school environment, and to be treated with respect. I am also a proponent of local control because I believe local citizens know the needs and expectations of our community best. I have advocated for local control in my work as a delegate to the California School Boards Association legislative assembly, as well as through my work with our elected representatives in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Some have criticized the Governing Board's decision to modify our dress code to be neutral in regard to expectations for boys that girls, but I believe as a Board member it is also important that we are responsible with our financial resources. Those individuals who advocated for the District to battle this issue in court, when the law clearly supports a gender neutral dress code, were advocating for financial irresponsibility. Common Core is the State Standards. To not follow the State Standards, the District would risk not only losing funding, you also risk the state taking over the District.
I have spent time studying California's updated State Standards, which include, in part, the Common Core standards, and believe that in general they are positive. The administration and teachers in Clovis Unified are doing an outstanding job of implementing the State Standards. Standards are "what" our teachers teach, but as a district we get to decide "how" and our local teachers and administrators in Clovis Unified have worked for the past several years to develop local curriculum for our classrooms and local assessments, and to train teachers in how to best pace their teaching to cover grade level standards over the course of a year. Our Clovis Unified test results show that their efforts are paying off. Student scores in English Language Arts and Mathematics rose in every grade level this year. Test scores are a good sign that student achievement is rising. I believe that keeping parents informed of how their students are dong in school and inviting them to be partners in their child's education is the key to success. I have always encouraged our teachers in their efforts to reach out to parents, and I support the administration's efforts to keep parents informed.
As a rule, I do not like additional taxes, but I do see firsthand how the money benefits education. I was on the Clovis Unified School Board during the significant budget cuts of the Great Recession, and know first-hand how we dealt with more that $29 million in budget cuts by cutting some administrative areas to the bone in order to avoid losing our arts and athletics programs for our students, and without laying off a single employee. I would support continuing the tax since K-12 and colleges both benefit, and because of my belief in the value of public education as a way to build a strong future for our country.
I believe our three biggest challenges are adequate funding of our schools, ensuring that we have high quality, caring teachers, and providing students with real-world learning opportunities like those found in Career Technical Education (CTE). 1. Adequate funding - Under California's new funding formula, school districts receive very different funding levels. Clovis Unified receives thousands of dollars per student less than surrounding districts, and this difference is increasing. I supported the District's creation of a coalition of districts working to equalize funding, and to do away with the State's cap on the ability to save for a rainy day. I would continue to support Clovis Unified's efforts. 2. Hiring and retaining the very best teachers - Education boils down to the quality of the teacher, the school leaders, and the classified employees who support education because they work directly with our students every day. I would continue to support the creation of an outstanding work environment so we can attract the best employees. 3. Engaging students in learning - I am an advocate for Career Technical Education (CTE) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). I would continue to support resources for CTE pathways, like the banking and finance pathway at Clovis West High School, the nationally recognized Ag program at Clovis East High School, and the Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART). We need to expand these pathways for students.
Technology is just as important today at it was 20 years ago. I have been a part of a special subcommittee of the School Board focused on increasing access to technology. I have, and would continue, to devote resources, pursue grants, and look for partnerships to boost access to technology in our classrooms. Our Laptops for Learners program promotes access to technology by intermediate students across the District. We have an ongoing program to refresh computers for teachers as well as students and cycle approximately 1,000 computers a year back into the classroom and into the hands of students who may not have access to technology at home. Finally, I have supported the exploration of new technology-rich learning environments through our new Virginia Boris Elementary School that opened in August. I have started to see the integration of textbook resources online, and believe that in the next few years hard copy textbooks will be replaced by online resources (which I've supported piloting in our schools during my time on the school board).
My wife of 43 years and I have lived in and contributed to this community and believe in it. We are both small business owners, and have volunteered in many different capacities to see our community thrive and be successful. My kids have benefited from a Clovis Unified education, and now I am actively involved in my grandkids' education in Clovis Unified. I have served on the Clovis Veterans Memorial District Board, the City of Clovis Planning Commission, the Clovis Rodeo Association, and the Old Town Clovis Kiwanis. I am also still active as the Sequoia Council of Boy Scouts Risk Manager. I moved to Clovis 41 years ago, and 20 years ago I was elected to the Clovis School Board. I serve on several State Committees, the California School Board Association (CSBA) Delegate Assembly, the CSBA legal alliance, the CSBA nominating committee, and the CSBA legislative committee. I am also current member of the County of Fresno School District Committee on Redistricting where we work in ensure all students in Fresno County are served well. Most importantly, I always make decisions based on what is right for kids and I put the interest of every student in our schools first. I have a vested interest in keeping our Clovis Unified schools great, and in keeping our community great.