Interview with Fontana School Board Candidate Kareem Gongora

Here at Rialto Now our Moto is “Informing the public one post at a time”. Campaign signs can’t tell you about a persons character really it is only an indicator of how much money they have because signs are EXPENSIVE!!!!!!

With that being said each candidate has been given opportunities to have an interview published with our informational blog/website. Please read the questions and answers below and get more informed about this school board race.

Full disclosure this is a Special Election for a seat that will be up for grabs again in November 2018.

Give us some background on the history behind this school board election?

  • Late last year a serving Board Member was elected to Fontana City Council leaving a vacancy on Fontana Unified School District’s School Board. The four remaining Board Members implemented a thorough interview process to fill the vacancy and I was one of the finalist. However, at the end of this process the Board was deadlocked and chose to fill the vacant seat by holding a special election. While it has been a journey filled with many obstacles I promised my children – all students at FUSD schools – that I wouldn’t stop until I was in a position to help lead the District and ensure that they and their classmates are receiving the quality education they so richly deserve.

What do you think makes you the best choice for voters in November?

  • I’m a life-long Fontana resident and a product of FUSD. My wife and I chose to raise our children in Fontana and send them to the same FUSD schools I attended when I was their age. However, I’m running for School Board in order to ensure that the education our students receive is better than the one I did and that they have more opportunities than I did. As a member of the Fontana Planning Commission and Chairman of the San Bernardino County Committee on School District Organization, I have experienced leading deliberative bodies through building consensus among my peers. That is the leadership that FUSD’s Board needs now, more than ever, in order to craft excellent public policy that enhances educational equity, improves special education programming, and keeps our students safe.

Many believe that school board seats should be more about what is good for the school and not ties to a particular political agenda. What are your thoughts on this.

  • Politics must begin to take a back seat to education in our community. Too often representatives elected by the people to do what is best for them and our students end-up placing their own interests – including the potential trajectory of their political careers first. Earlier this year, I drove to Sacramento twice to testify in front of Senate Education and Public Safety committees about legislation our community desperately needed to safeguard our children from child predators — the legislation earned bipartisan support in both committees. I also joined a local non-profit to testify in front of the State Board of Education to advocate for equity and stronger accountability measures for our school districts – specifically low-income students, English learners, students with disabilities, and other racial and ethnic groups.

A lot of attention has been given to this election should be about the kids. What are your thoughts on this.

  • As a parent, all I think about is creating better opportunities for children within my community– I grew up here, I live here, and want all of our children to be successful. This is why one of my priorities is advocating for social and emotional learning programs, to effectively help our children apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. This was my focus when I helped establish the WATCH DOGS program at my son’s middle school.

With most budgets at max capacity how vital are public/private partnerships to provide more for Fontana students?

  • As a school district, public and private partnerships are critical to improving learning conditions and environments for students. In fact, this is something I was able to accomplish when I was in charge of federal and state grants that provided financial literacy, nutrition education, and healthcare access to families.
What can you bring to the table for parents that a skeptical that anyone on the school board or in district office are being wise stewards of Fontana tax fillers?
  • I want students, parents, community members, and business owners to be more involved in the decision-making process. As a Board Member, I will be fully accessible and open to new ideas to not only engage, but include recommendations to how we can operate more efficiently and be better accountable.

How vital is it to you that local business owners step out and help train tomorrow’s innovators and business owners? How have you stepped up and put words into actions?

  • I think it is incredibly important that we expose our youth, at an earlier age, to the idea of attending college, seeking a trade, or business ownership to help create a plan for them. This is vital to economic development in our community and I want our children to help drive that. Too often, we have only exposed our children to certain industries, but the jobs of tomorrow have yet to be created. Our children need exposure, which is why when I developed after-school programs, I placed an emphasis on bringing different careers and backgrounds to inspire students. In fact, one of my biggest accomplishments is organizing Fontana graduates to come back and mentor students in the school district through Fontana Foundation of Hope, Big Brothers Big Sisters Inland Empire, and the Fontana Unified School District. My next project will be providing access to high school juniors and seniors with internships at local businesses. I work in human resources for the tenth largest county in the United States and I want students to be prepared to fill these positions.

Reporters side Note:

Whoever you pick in November as your person for Fontana School Board I can tell you that when it comes to political ideals Kareem and I are miles apart. Yet he is approachable, willing to sit down and hash out ideas and even come under harsh digital attack and scrutiny. Yet this man remains willing to help and listen. Every year both Kareem and I go to a local continuation school to talk to kids that struggle with life choices and their education about the opportunities before them. School board elections should not be about political affiliation they should be about people that are ready to get their hands dirty and work hard for students and parents.

Rialto School Board Q&A with Don Olinger

Don Olinger was the second candidate to respond to our Q&A opportunity for the School Board, well kind of! Instead of answering our questions he choose to send us a prepared candidate statement. One of the communities biggest issues with the current board and the district is they don’t listen to the community. In our opinion Mr. Olinger clearly has that problem as well. With that being said we are posting his statement because their are some interesting nuggets inside.

Donald D. Olinger
Birthplace………Wabash County Indiana
Rialto resident since 1957
BA ……..Manchester University
MA………Indiana University
Post Graduate….Univ. of Redlands
Career: Rialto teacher and principal
Political:  Two terms (8 years) on Rialto School Board
Three terms on West Valley Water District Board of Directors
Church:   Administrative Council Chairperson & Board of Trustees
Military:  U.S. Navy veteran
RIALTO SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE STATEMENT by DON OLINGER

1.  My major focus is to restore the luster of the RUSD, once the envy of surrounding
districts.  This can be done by first identifying systemic problems which cause major
distractions from the core purpose of public education.  Shoring up the deficits can best
be accomplished with meaningful stakeholder involvement in a trust relationship setting.
This begins in the boardroom, which currently is not a happy place.

2.  What goes on in the boardroom affects what takes place in the classroom and vice versa.
Electing competent, knowledgeable board members is essential to implementing recent
school reforms enacted in Sacramento.  Common Core State Standards and a landmark
Local Control Funding Formula will start moving schools in the right direction.  The LC Action
Plan must include increased funding for early childhood education, class size reductions,
more instructional aides, counsellors, and staff development.  Chronic absenteeism, lack
of interest in school and a slowing of API scores will require new strategies.

Measure Y funds are modernizing aging schools. How the remaining $61 million author-
ization is spent will require close monitoring and perhaps reassessing priorities
along the way.  Garnering public support for a possible parcel tax hike is essential to
providing our students with a safe, healthy school environment.

3.  Despite some excellent programs like Parent University, community forums, staff
development, student services, etc.  there is a “lack of confidence” perception by many
parents.  What some consider poor decisions and inaction at the top echelon foster
even more discontent.  Board meetings at times are contentious which give confusing
signals to staff in implementing policy decisions.  I am pleased that the Board is trying
to ease tensions in a more emotionally satisfying climate.

4.  The RUSD where my children received a good education and where I enjoyed a wonderful
career has the elements of a great district but lacks a the spirit and synergy which release
the best efforts of staff, parents and students.  This requires a collaborative plan of action.

5.  School districts compete for the best qualified employees including the superintendent.
The reciprocal is that applicants search for the best district.  Attracting the most qualified
applicants require more than a good compensation package.  They want to be in a place
where employees feel appreciated, free of petty conflict and where visionary goals can
be realized.  One of the most salient roles of the Board is selecting the right superintendent.
This should be a serious assignment in tandem with a professional search team and
and all stakeholders.  Excessive contract perks should be avoided.

6.  Sometimes new leadership on the Board is necessary to make a desirable change.
Many parents and community leaders have urged me to return to the Boardroom.  They
feel that my experience on school, water and church boards, a teaching career, commitment
to high standards, personal attributes and a fondness of the RUSD make me a unique
candidate for the November 4, 2014 school board election.

Rialto School Board Q&A with Lillie Houston

Welcome to the Rialto Unified School Board Q&A interviews. We asked all of the candidates the same questions and emailed them out Mrs. Houston was the first one to respond so she will be the first one you see. Our questions are highlighted Lillie Houston’s answers are not.

Where did you grow up?

Seattle, Washington

What High School did you graduate from?

Garfield High School

Did you attend College? If so where did you attend and what was your major?

I attended Los Angeles City College, LACC, I was studying to become an architect. At my age at that time I was required to take courses such as English, Math, Reading, Gym, Archery, etc.

How has your education prepared you for the Rialto Unified School Board?

I attended a trade school where I learn to operate the keypunch and reading machines. Mount San Antonio College, MTSAC, Walnut, CA. Associate in Science Degree in Industrial Supervision. University of Redlands; Redlands, CA Bachelor of Arts Degree in Management.

What is your current career field? How did you find yourself picking that career?

My interest was to effectively manage industrial resources which include Money, People and Things.

How has your work life prepared you for the Rialto Unified School Board?

For more than 25 years, I was a small business owner, where I had to generate my own business, manage my own contracts, stay within budget, deal with negative and positive customers to keep a harmonious relationships between the customers, staff and vendors.

What do you see as the top three issues at Rialto Unified School District?

• Lack of Financial Transparency, I will request the new Superintendent to post financial information on-line, in a downloadable format, for free public access, which includes funding awarded through Measure Y Bond.

• Lack of Ability to Improve Special Education Services, test scores and graduation rates

• Inability to develop relationship with the business community to expand job and technical training programs which provide students with good job opportunities

What are your thoughts on Common Core?

Parents and Students have many questions as it relates to will Common Core be a step forward. Teachers are supporting it, though I am not a Teachers Union Candidate, I am running to Put Students First and hold all District Administrators and Teachers accountable for meeting our mission statement. I believe Test are important for evaluating the effectiveness of the curriculum being taught and how the instruction is being given and a good way for students to measure how they are learning. With the new funding program, programs like ROP are now in jeopardy of being lost.

What are your thoughts on eliminating categorical funding and putting these programs in jeopardy?

California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) the new form of spending government dollars within School District already eliminated most categorical programs and places decision making for spending at the local Board level. ROP in my opinion is a great instrument for serving our students and shall be protected. The city of Rialto is moving forward with their rails to trails program.

Some at city hall are pushing the school district to create additional access points at schools like Rialto Middle and Werner Elementary so students can access the school from the trail. What are your thoughts on this as it creates another access point for people that don’t belong on campus?

• I believe the presentations made regarding the rails to trails program have left many unanswered questions as it relates to safety of children, how premises will be secured to protect from potential sex offenders and other criminal elements from entering campuses, I would be unable to support any project that does not have written policies and procedures in place to safeguard our students, staff and have more questions as it relates to this program I am awaiting a response.

Would you support working with people in the community to help Offer College and employment support to our young people as they enter the 21st century job market?

Yes, I owned and operated my own Small Business for 25 years and understand job creation, and developing entrepreneurs and would partner with the local business community and San Bernardino Community College District and/or interested partners of the School District, to provide our students with the technical training needed to be contributors to the economy.

One big problem with our school board now is the pattern of abstaining from voting on issues leaving issues unresolved, what are your thoughts on this practice?

Many agenda items are rushed before the School Board to vote yay or nae, while at the same time Board Members have failed to study what comes before them, until an hour before the meeting starts and doing meetings show disrespect for those speaking doing public comment by texting on there cellphones. I believe Public Comment should be moved to the start of the meeting. If and when elected, I will suggest to our Superintendents Office the Board of Education be provided with answers to priority questions pertaining to any agenda item so that we can move forward with new business, instead of dragging items unto future agendas, as long as I have all the information I need to make the best decisions that Put Students First, I will vote yes or no, an abstain vote from me will only be provided if there is a conflict of interest with an item.

Please list any websites or social media links and/or contact information so the voters can contact your campaign.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lillie-Houston-4-Rialto-School-Board/345005485652229

Home: (909) 874-1410

www.LillieHouston.com

houstoninsur@aol.com