“Spotlight” Interview with Rialto Unified School Board Member Edgar Montes

Member: Edgar Montes
email: emontes@rialto.k12.ca.us

We would like to introduce Mr. Edgar Montes to those of you in Rialto that may not know him. Mr. Montes is one of our School Board Members here in Rialto. I have had the privilege of speaking and interacting with Mr. Montes over the last 2 years and have found him to be someone that cares for the children and the community. Mr. Montes has made it his job to stand in the GAP for our schools and children. Something else less involved people may not know is the riff that exists between the City Government and the Rialto Unified School Board and no one knows why this is, it’s like the Hatfield’s and Mac Coys. Mr. Montes has begun slowly interacting in various city functions and answering questions in reference to Rialto Unified School District when he can. You can find Mr. Montes attending Coffee With The Chief, Area Command Meetings, Rialto’s Farmers Market & the occasional City Council meeting.

He is an honest and open Board Member and works as a peace maker when the situation allows. One thing with Mr. Montes that I have come to experience is you wont ever agree 100% on everything but with Mr. Montes you know where he stands, and in the end its on the side of our kids and schools. Don’t be afraid of disagreeing with Mr. Montes because that won’t hurt or hinder the relationship but make it stronger and give it a solid foundation on where everyone stands.

I would like to thank Mr. Montes for his time answering our questions:

 

 

RIALTO NOW – Tell us a little about yourself were you raised here in Rialto? What’s your story?

EDGAR MONTES – I was born in the summer of 1979 in Upland, CA. I have lived in Rialto since 1988. At that time I attended Maple Elementary in Fontana, my parent’s house although it was within Rialto city limits was actually within the FUSD boundaries. Much like today were Rialto Unified School District boundaries cut into parts of Fontana, Colton, San Bernardino and Lytle Creek. I attended Alder Middle School and A.B. Miller High School also in Fontana. So although I attended public school in Fontana, I was indeed raised in Rialto.

RIALTO NOW – What was the driving force behind your desire to run for School Board for RUSD?

EDGAR MONTES – My wife and I bought our home in Rialto in 2002. With 20 years left on our 30 year mortgage we have no plans of leaving Rialto anytime soon. I love my community. I grew up here and have seen first-hand the ups and downs and all the good and bad about our tiny 4 miles wide 8 miles long city.

Going to school in Fontana and having friends and family all through-out the Inland Empire I saw many similarities in some of our public schools. For example; the loss of public school funding over the years, and how that loss of funding and mismanagement of public tax-payer’s dollars affects kids from “socially-economically-challenged” backgrounds. The switch from Junior High Schools to Middle Schools and with that the loss of Junior High Sports teams. Arts and music programs cut or reduced. Increased focus on test scores. Decreased focus on the development of “the basics”like reading and writing, math and science. Above all as a parent and a product of our public schools, I understand the many challenges parents, students, and schools face in these tough economic times.

RIALTO NOW – Have you ever run for any elected office in the past?

EDGAR MONTES – No. I was elected in November of 2010. It was my first time running for elected office, but not the first time I ran for something. In High School at Fontana A.B. Miller High, I ran for A.S.B. President my senior year and won. I also ran for school site council at A.B. Miller after graduating from there and was also elected.

RIALTO NOW – What is your background in regards to education?

EDGAR MONTES – As far as my college education goes, I have put that on hold for now. With 11 year old twin boys, a 3 month old baby boy, a small family-owned business to run, and a democratically elected position as a Rialto school board member, I want to wait a little before going back to school. I am the kind of person that if I will not be able to commit myself 100% to something, than I won’t even bother wasting anybody’s time. I was attending San Bernardino Valley College and the University of Phoenix Ontario Campus before that at the time I ran and got elected to the school board.

It’s important for me to point out that I have been criticized by some as a college student on the public school board for not being a college graduate. Some people have even gone as far to criticize me for the community college I was attending. For example at a time when our school district was laying-off many teachers and cutting programs for students because of the loss of funding, I took a stand against the wasteful spending of $70,000 (public tax-dollars) to send 30 school district employees and two school board members to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for a supposed “one week leadership training.”My fellow school board colleague Michael Ridgway said “there is nothing like this locally. If you want a Harvard education, you go to Harvard. You don’t go to (San Bernardino) Valley College. These are world-class presenters. Education is expensive. The only thing I have found more expensive than education is ignorance.” My response to him was this “I have also met my share of “educated fools” and that I don’t undermine anyone or judge anyone by their level of education or where they went to school.”

The San Bernardino Sun Newspaper wrote an article about the issue of the Gettysburg trip and even wrote an editorial supporting my stance on the issue. What matters most to me on a school board or any elected office is “common sense.”

RIALTO NOW – With school district budgets getting slashed every year what are your ideas on still offering a quality education?

EDGAR MONTES – I believe that even with the loss of revenue for public schools it is still possible to give a quality education to ALL students. I am a strong supporter of grant writing, I asked for grant writers for our school district on a contingency contract, meaning they would only get paid a percentage if they got us grants. Unfortunately, at the recommendation of our superintendent the board opted to go with a grant writing company that charged $5,000 per month for six months that did not produce any grants. I also am a strong supporter of partnering with local businesses in the community. If we reach-out to the local businesses in our school district, they can help us by donating to our schools, sponsoring our students, and working with us to build bridges not burn them. I also believe the city of Rialto would be a great partner in the education of our students. There was a time when our school district and city worked together on many things and you and I both know that is no longer the case. But I remain optimistic and will continue to push for rebuilding that relationship, because what is good for our city is good for our parents and students and what is good for our parents and students is good for our communities.

RIALTO NOW – How important are sports programs and the arts to you within the confines of public education?

EDGAR MONTES – I am a strong supporter of sports programs and arts, and I can say that because you can find me and my sons at school games, art competitions, and at school district talent shows. Many children don’t know they have a gift or special talent for something and it’s important that we help all students find what interests them, what drives them and tie that into their education. Some kids are great leaders, others make awesome drawings. I saw a student from Rialto High School free-style spoken word poetry, powerful and moving.

RIALTO NOW – The current school of thought is to prepare every student to enter college. Do you agree with the thought that every student should and can go to college?

EDGAR MONTES – I believe that every child should be given support, guidance, and encouragement to go to college. The sad reality is that only about 15% of high school graduates actually go. Many people know that if you constantly, repeatedly tell a child that they will “never amount to anything” most likely, not always, but most likely they won’t. And vice versa, if you constantly and repeatedly tell a child that “they can and will be successful in life and do something great”, most likely they will.

RIALTO NOW – As someone who studied education, I know that not every student is college bound, yet through our Regional Occupational Programs we can prepare those students to be successful in the work force. What value do you place on RUSD and its Regional Occupational Program?

EDGAR MONTES – I place a very high value on any ROP at any school district. Preparing students for the workforce is critical to any family and community as a whole. ROP is a great way to give students the resources and skills needed for many vocational careers. Aside from the ROP offered to students at the high schools like ROP Jr. Navy and ROP Jr. Marines, etc., through our Adult ROP high school graduates and adults can enroll in our Adult Education Program. Through our Adult School we offer Career Technical Courses like Word Processing/Keyboarding, and Intro to Computers. In adult ROP students can take specialized courses like Office Operations and Technology, Business Technology Lab, Pharmacy Technician, and Pharmacy Clerk. I not only want to continue these much needed programs, but would to like secure funding to expand them.

RIALTO NOW – What is the biggest factor that can help ensure quality teaching? Is certification a measure of quality?

EDGAR MONTES – I think certification is good, but I don’t think it’s the best way to measure quality teaching. I think quality teaching can be measured by pro-activeness, the ability to adapt to new technology and the ever changing times. Most Hispanics/Latinos/Chicanos have native-indigenous roots, and we use many metaphors when speaking. There is a saying in Spanish I would like to share with you. Here it goes “La vaca que da leche, de lejos se ve” which is difficult to translate but I will try, “the cow that gives milk, you can see from far away.” School principals, parents, and students know quality teaching when they see it.

RIALTO NOW – One of the jobs you have listed on Face book is an education advocate, can you explain what this is.

EDGAR MONTES – An Education Advocate is anyone involved in advocating for student’s education in any way. I have advocated for students education since my sophomore year in high school when me and a group of students organized a student walk-out to protest awful treatment of students, unfair discipline practices, and a hostile learning environment to name a few. Regardless of what anyone says, that walk-out brought many changes to Fontana A.B. Miller High School that by my senior year our high school was award the “California Distinguished School Award.” Did I mention I was elected A.S.B. President that year? As an education advocate I have advocated for students and parents all across the Inland Empire from Big Bear to Perris, and for everything from unfair suspensions/expulsions to speaking at public board meetings. As an education advocate I also attend rallies organized by activist, school employee unions, and community organizations against the state budget cuts to education. Now I am an education advocate for parents, students, and employees as a member of the Rialto school board.

RIALTO NOW – I have had many friends in the city of Rialto remark on the state of your special education programs here in Rialto Unified School District. The biggest complaints are that this department seems to miss the mark more and more frequently. Are you aware of this issue, and if so what are some steps to fixing this?

EDGAR MONTES – The problems of Special Ed in our district are something I became aware of when I was running for school board in 2010. I witnessed parents and students along with Special Education advocates speak at school board meetings many times. Their complaints and their concerns regarding Special Ed were never responded to or addressed. After I got elected I took on the problems head on, I’ve been fighting for the children of Special Ed and their Parents ever since.

For the record let me first say that there are many good-hearted employees working in Special Ed. Many employees of Special Ed give 110% of themselves to the students and need full support of the RUSD leadership starting with the board of education first, and the superintendent second. Without the full support of RUSD leadership how is Special Ed staff supposed to help the students and parents. Recently a group of about 40 parents and members of the community held a protest in front of the school district office; it came out in the Sun Newspaper back in May I believe. I am only 1 vote on a board of 5. I can only keep speaking up and hope that we get some new board members that will “truly” listen to parents, staff and the community, otherwise nothing is going to change.

One of the arguments made by Dr. James Wallace former Assistant Superintendent Deputy Chief of Staff, then Assistant Superintendent of Student Services which oversaw Special Education, now Assistant Superintendent Deputy Chief of Staff again, is that RUSD spends the most amount of money compared to neighboring school districts. Whether or not that is true, the question is how much of the revenue spent by RUSD for Special Ed has actually trickled down to students and the classrooms? For example, how much money has RUSD spent on attorney’s fees for fighting parents and Special Ed advocates instead of giving the students the services they deserve. I believe in accountability, where is it? We can’t blame the Special Ed teachers, Speech Therapist, Psychologist, or any one from our Special Ed department. We need to hold accountable those at the top.

RIALTO NOW – How can our readers reach you to get more information?

EDGAR MONTES – I can be reached anytime 909-202-2485 or emontes@rialto.k12.ca.us

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