Fresno Bee voter guide

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Fresno County Board of Education - 3

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    Nelson Esparza

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    Barbara Thomas

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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 28
Residence Fresno, CA
Family Single
Education Master of Public Policy (UCLA). BA, Economics (UC Riverside). Public Policy & International Affairs Cert. (UC Berkeley).
Occupation Economics Instructor at Fresno City College
Public service experience Public Educator going on 5 years, have conducted public policy/budget analysis in both state and local government, dedicate my summers to youth leadership programming for Central Valley students, and have served Fresno County in the Department of Social Services.
Facebook/Social media
Vocational education is particularly important, especially with respect to smaller school districts that do not have the resources needed to provide adequate opportunities. The Office of Education needs to work to create greater inter-district cooperatives and community partnerships to address these needs. I will continue to support Career Technical Education because the Board has a responsibility to ensure that we are meeting the mutual needs of students and the job market. The Office of Education is also responsible for expulsion appeals from the school districts, and should be a responsible entity in adequately hearing an appeal. Districts should have to prove that they have exhausted all other options available before an expulsion is approved. However, the single most important task of the Fresno County Board of Education each fiscal year is voting on a budget. In addition to providing fiscal oversight to school districts in Fresno County, the Office of Education provides supplemental support services to districts as well. In County Board District #3, up to 84% of students are in one or more disadvantaged categories of low-income, special education, foster youth, or English learners. The question I will ask myself everyday as a Trustee on the County Board of Education is: Are we serving our students, particularly the most disadvantaged, to the best of our ability? If the answer is no, I look forward to exploring creative ways to maximize the effect of dollars spent.
Technology is critical in our modern age and requisite for success in the 21st Century economy. The most recent development reflecting this reality is that standardized testing is now largely conducted electronically. Again, as the sole educational entity that covers all of Fresno County, the Office of Education is in a unique position to create inter-district partnerships to bring technological resources to all students. Our smaller school districts that may not have the resources on their own are especially in critical need of building larger networks. It is unfortunately not in the purview of a County Board of Education Trustee to directly legislate new programs. The role is rather one of accountability and namely yes/no votes. But I believe strongly in expanding access to technology for our students, given the role that it plays in our economy, and I will be proactive in supporting those efforts in any way that I can in my capacity as a Trustee and as a member of our community.
Most residents of the Fresno community, at least in my County Board District #3 that encompasses Central/Southern Fresno, are surprised to learn that they even have elected regional representation at the County Office of Education. As such, residents have not played as active of a role in guiding Fresno County Office of Education policy when it comes to crafting an LCAP to spend LCFF funds. I am ultimately committed to having the priorities of students and families in my district reflected in the spending/allocation of any budgetary items that I am granted a vote on as a County Board of Education Trustee. As a Trustee, residents will know that I represent them, that I am a resource to them, and will rest assured that their voice is being heard through mine on the Board.
I have made clear to the residents of my district that I will be transparent about what I do or do not have influence over in my capacity as a Trustee on the Fresno County Board of Education. This is an area that I believe I would only have influence over insofar as it may or may not be tied to my vote on the budget. However, I am committed to being a voice on those issues where I am not allowed the opportunity to be a tangible vote. Like many functions at the County Office of Education, this is one I believe is carried out by the County Superintendent. Whether one agrees with the state standards established by Common Core, we must put our students first by ensuring that teachers can maximize their effectiveness in the classroom under the new standards. I commend Superintendent Yovino for his successful efforts in providing services/guidance/expertise to our 32 Fresno County districts on all fronts, and look forward to the opportunity as a Trustee to explore with his office if there is any further opportunity for the Office of Education to play a more a constructive role in this area.
I am an educator in my district that is running to provide our students with the opportunity & fundamental skills to succeed in the 21st century economy. I am the best choice to serve my district on the Fresno County Board of Education because I am a fresh voice that will inject proactive energy into a Board that many consider to be plagued by complacence, for those who know of it at all. As an economist who teaches at Fresno City College, I have both the privilege and misfortune of experiencing the educational outcomes produced by our K-12 system on a daily basis. There is no question that we as a community can do better for our students- whether that means getting more of them into college or ensuring that they have the technical skills to be competitive in the job market once they graduate high school. Not only does my position as an educator in the district provide me insight into the needs of our students, but I also possess the appropriate knowledge in education policy and budgetary analysis to effectively serve my district on the County Board of Education. I am someone who thinks globally, acts locally. and has a comprehensive understanding of our educational system and what needs to be done to ensure that we are putting the needs of our students first. Feel free to reach out to me on my personal cell phone at (559) 395-2394 or learn more about me at
Residence Fresno
Family 5 children, 10 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren. Most of them attended or are attending Fresno schools. Husband deceased
Education M.A. in Psychology from California State University, Fresno
Occupation Former Special Education Administrator for Fresno County and Consultant for Fiscal and Crisis Management Assistance Team.
Public service experience 34 years in education and serve on the Fresno County Board of Education
Facebook/Social media Facebook
The county superintendent is responsible for serving the most medically fragile and the at risk students who are assigned to the Court and Community schools. The biggest challenge for his staff is to provide an educational environment which best meets the needs of these students. I address this issue by supporting the superintendent’s programs. If I learn of areas which may be ineffective, I inform the superintendent so he can investigate the matter to insure the quality of service.

Another challenge is that counties are funded differently than school districts. Under the Local Control Funding Formula, the county is flat funded- meaning there is no new money including for growth or Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA). As a County board member, I can inform the community of the problems for the county under LCFF. I also can (and do) advocate at the state level for increased funding. I support funding issues such as Proposition 55.

The third challenge for the county is the high percentage of students served by the superintendent who are low income, poverty level, and who are English learners. The staff addresses these needs through extensive training and professional development. The superintendent runs after school programs; collaborates with other community agencies such as Reading and Beyond; and recently has embarked on creating a school devoted to vocational education. I support the county superintendent’s programs and funding for these innovative efforts.
Technology in education is vital to an adequate 21st century education. Ensuring that ALL students are proficient in the use of technology will help in closing the achievement gap. It is particularly important for the at risk students to gain competency in the use of technology, thus providing them a pathway to gainful employment.

All the students of Court and Community Schools have been provided one to one computers, which includes the low income and at risk students.

Improving access to technology in Court and Community Schools will involve the continuing the high quality of teacher training to ensure each student's individual needs are met.
The county did not receive “new” dollars under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). However, some of the county’s funding was reassigned as a base amount to serve the targeted populations. The superintendent used the funding for technology in the classrooms for the Court and Community Schools and for needed teacher training. Since the county office is flat funded there will be no new dollars. The superintendent should continue assigning funds for the targeted population.
The staff have engaged in training teachers to know the Common Core standards for each grade level. The curriculum is delivered to meet the new grade level standards, adjusting for students’ individual needs. Since all of the students being served by the superintendent have specific and individual needs which must be considered in implementing the new standards, I could not make recommendations for changes.
As the incumbent I understand the role of a County School Board. County boards are significantly different from school district boards. They have no students, no programs, no staff, and no funding. The county superintendent who is elected is responsible for and administers all county office functioning. The primary function of a county Board is to be a watchdog of the county superintendent’s budget. It also serves as an appeals board for parents, students, and charter schools. My background as the Fresno County Administrator of Special Education and the Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) gives me the advantage of knowing our districts and the student population well. Based on my 34 years in education, I can provide the superintendent with suggestions and advice regarding the programs he runs. My knowledge and expertise in school funding comes from being responsible for a large special education budget and having been a Fiscal and Crisis Management Assistance Team Consultant. During my tenure on the county board I have formed relationships at the state level and am able to advocate for needed resources (such as funding). I am the elected county representative to the California School Boards Association (CSBA). There I have the opportunity to voice the needs of Fresno County families and students. In order to improve the status of our schools it is necessary to work through coalitions. I can and do carry our message where it can do the most good.