Fresno Bee voter guide

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Fresno County Board of Education - 2

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  • Candidate picture

    Deborah Harkness

  • Candidate picture

    Mike Robinson

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Biographical Information

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

Is technology in education important? Is the county office of education 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?

Were you pleased with how county office of education 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 county office of education 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?

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

Age 57
Residence Fresno
Family Daughter/Granddaughter
Education Master's, Marriage and Family Therapy
The Office of Education is the only educational entity that represents all of Fresno County, it must do more to build collaborative partnerships that will benefit all students in Fresno County.

The Fresno County Board of Education is directly in charge of charter school renewals. We have read in the newspaper in the past of poor charter schools in Fresno County, where the board was not doing its job to ensure quality. The board must do a more complete vetting.

The Fresno County Board of Education also reviews expulsions. These need to be vigorously reviewed, not just rubber stamped, and school districts need to show they have exhausted all other options.
We can always do more to bring technology into the classrooms. The Fresno County Office of Education can and should do more to build partnerships with the various interested public and private groups to ensure our students get the tools they need.
Very few people know the Office of Education exists, so they have certainly not been engaging the community on how to spend these funds. The Office of Education needs to do more to educate the public on what it does and invite public input.
Again, most people do not know the Office of Education exists. It needs to do much more to ensure the teachers understand the standards which the entire county must meet. The Office of Education because of its role is especially poised to build more inter-district cooperation on this topic.
The Fresno County Office of Education has failed to be relevant. I am a fresh new voice who will pump new blood into the organization, and push for greater outreach to the community. I am a businesswoman who understands finances and my survival is based on the private sector. I will bring this instinct to the board. I will most of all be a voice of reason. I hope to earn your vote.
Age 68
Residence Fresno
Family Married for 31 years (Sally)
Education B.A. Psychology (Fresno State); M.A. Pupil Counseling (Fresno State); School Psychologist Credential; School Administration Credential.
Occupation Current member of the Fresno County Board of Education; Retired School Psychologist and Administrator at the Fresno County Office of Education.
Public service experience I worked at the Fresno County Office of Education (FCOE) for over 35 years as a School Psychologist and as an administrator. During that time, I helped supervise the School Psychologist staff at FCOE. I also oversaw Child Welfare and Attendance (CWA). CWA focuses on truancy, student discipline and at-risk youth. I have been a member of the County Board of Education since 2012. I served as President of the Board in 2015 and as Vice President in 2014. I am a member of the Fresno State Kreman School of Education Community Council. I am affiliated with the California School Boards Association and the California County Boards of Education.
Facebook/Social media

Career technical education (CTE) can help students choose a vocational career path & keep them engaged in school.

Truancy intervention is needed. Districts should have a School Attendance Review Board.

The Truancy Intervention Program (TIP) serves 10 schools districts in our county. More districts need to be included.

Mentoring at-risk youth by providing adult role models.

Restorative justice practices help keep kids engaged in school.

Servant leadership helps students become positive leaders.


FCOE offers courses in the areas of agriculture, business, health, home economics & trades/industry. More CTE opportunities are needed.

For example, FCOE is developing a new CTE charter school. The County Board of Education has approved an advisory committee to help the process. A charter petition will then be given to the County Board for authorization. The development of a CTE charter school will be a challenge but it will be successful.


The children of Fresno County need qualified teachers.

School districts need to partner with local universities (CSUF, FPU, National) to provide support to non credentialed interns while they pursue their credential.

The FCOE Teacher Induction Program provides support for intern teachers seeking credentials. This needs to continue.

School CTE programs should offer "Education Pathways" to introduce students to career education.
Technology is a very important component to help ensure that our students become “21st Century Learners.” It is imperative that students served by FCOE have access to the most up to date technology.

FCOE provides educational programs for Court/Community School students as well as Special Education children with significant learning needs. Both populations need to have the technology that can best enhance their learning. FCOE is doing a very good job providing appropriate devices to these children.

The students who attend Court/Community School programs are expelled, incarcerated or probation referred. Most of these youth are "at-risk" and are often from low income families. FCOE provides every student at these schools with a tablet and will continue to do so in the future. FCOE also has staff available to assist students in utilizing technology to help with their academics as well as their career technical education programs.

Students with special needs also often require special technology devices to assist them. All classrooms at the FCOE special education sites have Smart Boards that enhance the learning process for these children. The FCOE special education programs also have a variety of devices for children who are hard of hearing or have visual impairments.

FCOE offers workshops to school districts throughout Fresno County. The workshops are not only available at the Fresno County Office of Education but also at local school district sites.
The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) was implemented to simplify school funding & give districts more local control. It also emphasizes meeting the needs of low income students, English learners & foster youth.

I am pleased with the way FCOE allocates its LCFF funds. The primary focus of the LCFF monies is for Court/Community Schools, which are managed by FCOE. These schools educate probation referred, incarcerated & expelled students. The emphasis for the use of these funds is to improve student engagement, increase attendance & reduce discipline issues. Some funded interventions include: increased career technical education courses, improved technology in classrooms, the Truancy Intervention Program (TIP) to improve attendance, restorative justice programs, mentoring programs, substance abuse & mental health counseling.

In the future, I believe new monies should continue to be used to build on these programs but I would also like to see more funds used to expand career technical education course options.

Responsible fiscal practices should be one of the priorities of any school board member. The use of LCFF funds at a local school district is the responsibility of that district's school board. One of the hallmarks of LCFF is more local control. The County Board of Education has no legal fiscal oversight over the budget & the use of LCFF funds in a local school district. The County Board is only responsible for approving the budget for programs operated by FCOE.
Common Core is a set of standards in the areas of language arts and math. It is a significant change in education & quality professional development is needed for teachers as we move forward with these standards.

I believe FCOE has done a good job preparing teachers & students for these standards. FCOE has facilitated workshops for approximately 30 different school districts. These training sessions are not only conducted at the Fresno County Office of Education but “teams” from FCOE are available to go to districts to ensure that the trainings are specific to the needs of the school district.

The Common Core aligned assessment system (Smarter Balanced) requires critical thinking skills & are more analytical than previous assessment methods. Thus far two sets of test results have been completed (2014-15 & 2015-16). The first year was considered a baseline year.

Common Core is a set of standards, but the methods used to teach these standards is what I call the "art of teaching." I believe it is important that workshops not only focus on the standards but also on the most effective strategies to teach various student populations. Each of the school districts in our county is unique & students have different needs. Workshops should help teachers use their skills to help them reach their particular group of students.

The implementation of Common Core is in its infancy. Patience is needed as teachers & students become more familiar with something that is very new.
I believe I am the best candidate for the Fresno County Board of Education because I have a wealth of experience as well as a vision for the future. I'm am currently a member of the Fresno County Board of Education & I have served on the Board since 2012. I have been honored to preside as Board President in 2015 & Vice President in 2014. Prior to becoming a Board Member, I worked at the Fresno County Office of Education (FCOE) for over 35 years as a school psychologist & an administrator providing services to school districts throughout our county. I had the opportunity to help at-risk youth, children with special needs, parents & teachers. During my career I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Superintendents Dr. Pete Mehas, Larry Powell and Jim Yovino. My experiences have given me a deep understanding of the school districts in Fresno County as well as the needs of students. Ensuring the future success of a child should begin as early as possible. This is why I believe in programs such as Cradle 2 Career and Early Care in Education. After enrolling in school, some children may begin to fail or lose interest in education. We must keep them engaged in the learning process with program opportunities such as: career technical education (CTE), mentoring, and access to technology. A quality education is one of the greatest gifts we can give the children of Fresno County. As a Board Member I will help FCOE continue to provide quality programs to students.