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Time for Change or Status Quo? FUSD Trustee Candidates Weigh in on Issues

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Thirteen people are running for four seats on the Fresno Unified School Board. (GV Wire composite/David Rodriguez)
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Voters in four of Fresno Unified School District’s seven trustee areas will decide in the Nov. 7 election who will be at the political helm of the state’s third-largest school district.

The candidates include four incumbents — longtime Trustee Valerie Davis, with nearly two decades on the School Board, and Trustees Keshia Thomas, Veva Islas, and Terry Slatic, who are vying for their second terms on the board.

The challengers include several current and retired educators, a marketing representative, a retired correctional officer, a chemist, and a campus safety assistant. Two have run for the School Board previously — Karl Diaz, who challenged Davis in the 2018 election, and Jim Barr, who ran in 2006 against a similarly named incumbent, Pat Barr, in the election won by Michelle Asadoorian.

There’s a wide range in their campaigns and fundraising efforts. In three of the four races, the incumbents have a significant lead in campaign fundraising over their challengers. The following campaign reports are as of Friday.

Big Money in Bullard Area 7

The clear campaign fundraising leader is retired school psychologist Susan Wittrup, who is seeking to unseat Slatic in the Bullard area election. Wittrup’s campaign reported raising $117,547, including a $3,000 self loan, last year and $48,170 so far this year. The campaign reports list 86 contributors, with donations ranging from $100 to $15,000. Although candidates are not required to report donations less than $100 by contributor, Wittrup says she has received donations as small as $25. Wittrup’s biggest contributors are Granville Homes ($15,000), Farshid Assemi, ($12,000), the Fresno Teachers Association PAC for Education ($10,000), the Russell G Smith and Sherri Gibson Living Trust ($9,700), and builder Richard Spencer ($7,500). The campaign also received $5,000 from each of the following: attorney DeWayne Zinkin, Farid Assemi, Malakan Diamond Co., and Chris Roggenstein, CEO of Forward Advantage. In addition, Chris Pacheco, owner of Mega-Prints, provided an in-kind contribution of campaign signs valued at $9,800.

Darius Assemi, the publisher of GV Wire, is president and CEO of Granville Homes and brother of Farshid and Farid Assemi.

Wittrup has a wide fundraising lead over Slatic, who reported $18,850 in contributions, including a $2,000 self-loan. His reports list 11 contributors and donations ranging from $100 to $5,500. Slatic’s biggest donors are insurance business owner James Parker III ($5,500), insurance brokers Michael Der Manouel ($5,000) and Clifford Dunbar ($2,500), and Terra Linda Farms ($2,500).

The other two challengers, Barr, a math teacher at J.E. Young Academic Center, and campus safety assistant Michael Haynes, have not created a campaign committee and have no donations to report.

Sunnyside Area 3

Davis, who was elected to the board in 2004 on a two-year term, has won election to four four-year terms since then. Her campaign reported $4,771 in campaign contributions last year and $45,800 so far this year. Her campaign reports list 20 contributors with donations ranging from $100 to $10,000. The biggest donors are Richard Spencer and Fresno Teachers Association PAC for Education ($10,000 each), Granville Homes ($5,000), and Fresno Concrete, Howe Electric, Karsyn Construction, Strategic Mechanical, Tarlton and Son, and Wild Electric ($2,000 each). Davis also has contributed $4,171 to her own campaign

Two of the three challengers, retired teacher Tammy McMahon-Gorans and marketing representative Michael Osmer, have campaign committees. McMahon-Gorans reported $2,846 in contributions from 11 contributors ranging from $100 to $800 and including $700 in self-loans. Osmer’s sole campaign contribution is $1,000 from his wife, Sonia, a Fresno Unified office assistant. The third challenger, Madera County teacher Diaz, has no campaign committee.

McLane Area 4

Islas, who represents the McLane area, is the frontrunner in campaign contributions in the McLane area race. Her campaign reported raising $1,830 in 2021 and $45,447 so far this year, including a $1,000 self-loan and $2,300 in contributions from herself. Her campaign received donations ranging from $25 to $10,000 from 93 contributors. Islas’ largest donations are from the Fresno Teachers Association PAC for Education ($10,000), the California Teachers Association, Association for Better Citizenship ($3,500), and the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council Small Contribution Committee ($2,500). The Levine for FUSD and Dr. Juan Arambula for Assembly campaigns contributed $2,000 apiece, as did the Fresno Laborers Local 294 PAC. In addition, Islas has contributed $2,300 to her own campaign.

Her opponents are retired Karen Steed, who has created a campaign committee but reported no donations, and chemist Michelle Scire, who has no campaign committee.

Edison Area 1

Compared to the other incumbents, Thomas is running a relatively low-budget campaign. Her campaign reports raising $15,300 from eight contributors, with the contributions ranging from $100 to $10,000. Her biggest donors are the Fresno Teachers Association PAC ($10,000), $1,500 from the Central Valley NMTC Fund, and $1,000 donations from School Yard Rap, the Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and the UA Local Plumbers and Pipefitters. Her challenger, retired correctional officer Wayne Horton, has no campaign committee on file.

Questions and Answers

GV Wire sent a brief questionnaire to the 13 candidates, of whom seven had provided written responses by Wednesday morning. Thomas, Horton, Islas, Slatic, and Haynes did not respond to multiple email requests. Barr said he would provide his answers “live” but declined to provide them in writing.

Here are the questions and their answers:

Sunnyside Area 3

Q: As an incumbent, what have been your biggest accomplishments in your past four years on the School Board?

Valerie Davis

Davis: As an incumbent, the biggest accomplishments in the last four years have been going through COVID and coming out of the two-year shutdown.  People in the community think that it was our (FUSD BOE/Superintendent) decision to shut down schools. The Governor called for the shutdown.  We were doing things for our students and families that NO OTHER SCHOOL DISTRICT in our community did.  What our teachers, staff, and entire FUSD did day after day, hour by hour in an uncharted area was heroic.  If we had to do it again, we will be really good at it. With what we knew at the time (and that was always changing) we did what we had to do.

Q: If re-elected/elected, what can families and taxpayers expect you to lead your fellow trustees in getting done to improve Fresno Unified? What will be your top priorities that you will want to accomplish?

Davis: I would like to lead us in an area of total academic excellence! Where interventions are put in place K-6, and parents take a hard look at possible retention if their student have a deficit in any and all areas of the curriculum in language arts and mathematics. Not a “drill and kill” but mastery of skills and understanding. Making teaching and learning the top priority and focus of everyone in the organization.

Karl Diaz

Diaz: I will work with all trustees to consider new approaches to improving low performing students with targeted individual instruction and Social Emotional Learning techniques. I am the only parent of a student in the area, I am the only credentialed teacher currently still teaching core subjects that students are tested at the end of the year, and I understand that we need to help students that are struggling academically and/or emotionally by increasing the adult/student ratio as is done with other at-risk students. This includes not only academically but emotionally too. We need to have more help with the social and emotional realities of our children. We need to have more counselors and psychologists to help our children cope with school, home, and problems that exist in the poorest areas of Fresno. My experience of teaching court/community school and at the Madera County Juvenile Detention Facility, has helped me realize anecdotally how smaller class sizes contribute to the success of at-risk youth, including foster youth. I have also seen small class sizes increase math and reading scores of low performing groups such as English language learners. I will ask the other members of the board team to consider how we can fund smaller class sizes in order to realize truly significant gains.

Another very important reason is that students and their community are my priority. Trustee Davis still won’t stop taking thousands of dollars from construction companies that later receive million-dollar contracts from FUSD. According to the Fresno County Elections official reports, her committee accepted $10,000 from just one person connected to a large construction company and thousands from other subcontractors. This looks like a giant conflict of interest. I can see it, why doesn’t she? Contracts should be awarded for the best proposal. A trustee should be trusted to make decisions that put the interest of students and taxpayers first, not special interest. Literally, at all costs, a trustee should avoid such dealings and avoid any potential conflicts of interest. Accepting $100 donations from a liquor store cattycorner to Sunnyside High is another bad decision she has made. Students complain that on the way to and from school that they must step down from the sidewalk and onto Peach Avenue to avoid people with addictions who openly drink alcohol at the bus stop on the corner of Kings Canyon and Peach right next to Ms. Davis’s supporter. I support working with local agencies to restrict the time of days these liquor stores can sell alcohol. An ordinance restricting the hours of the sale of alcohol at these liquor stores so close to schools should be enacted. No sales before, during, or two hours after school should be the rule. The convenience store on Kings Canyon and Willow that does not sell Alcohol and plays classical music for its patrons of gas and goodies, is an example of a vendor being a positive part of the community. I think we all have noticed that there are no people hanging out drinking in public. Simple solutions. We must support and promote a safe environment for our students and our community.

Tammy McMahon-Gorans

McMahon-Gorans: The single most important issue the district is facing currently is catering to political ideology that divides us all and not focusing on the most important crisis which is student achievement. I would treat student achievement and academic mastery as if it were the emergency that it truly is. Students lost extreme amounts of academic growth due to COVID while other districts who did not cater to special interest groups did not suffer to the same degree. I taught in person full time during the 2020/2021 COVID year beginning November 1st of that year. We offered one distance learning teacher to every six in-person teachers, giving our parents the freedom to choose what was best for them during that time. We strictly followed all CDC protocols keeping our staff and students safe while giving them the education they deserve. The parents in our district had equality of opportunity while Fresno Unified did not. I taught one of my special needs students how to throw a Frisbee and we released butterflies out into nature while I drove past all the Fresno Unified schools whose doors were slammed shut. Fresno Unified cheated their students with no accountability for their choices to deny kids the most ideal education they deserve. I promise to go to any lengths for kids, period.

Six weeks ago I attended a CFER California For Equal Rights Conference in San Diego and I learned so many things that will help me be the best board member. In 2019 Gavin Newsom rejected the Ethnic Studies curriculum because it was very clear it has antisemitic themes throughout and he stated this ethnic studies curriculum would never see the light of day. After two different edits of the curriculum, Gavin did finally sign off on Ethnic Studies and it became law as well as a requirement for graduation. However, at this CFER conference, I learned that big districts in California were adopting Liberated Ethnic Studies, the first edition that is antisemitic in its teachings. This is unacceptable. I have knowledge of an excellent ethnic studies curriculum to offer as a solution. I would fight to make certain all programs in our district rally around the fundamental principle of equality for us all. I would make certain parents know their rights and the right to transparency as to what is in their schools, what their kids are being taught. and the opportunity to opt out of programs that go against their 1st Amendment right of religious freedom.

Another goal is to actually take action to keep our kids safe! There are two ways to do this. One way is that not only do we need SRO officers on the Junior High and High schools but we need them on each elementary school campus. Currently, our board members have SRO protection in their own meetings and if protection is good enough for them then give our students equality of access to the same protections. Secondly, students need to be in safe environments where they are safe from physical harm that occurs on our campuses each and every day through violence when it occurs. Restorative practices work when appropriate, however, there are times when consequences need to be appropriate for serious offenses that keep our teachers and students in unsafe environments.

Lastly, I would fully represent all parents and the public in my community with equality and diversity of thought, embracing our differences and gifts and yet at the same time not dividing us by our differences. There is too much division and the time for politics and division must be over. I have witnessed firsthand as a board meeting attendee, we can do better, we can model better, and we can act with integrity.

Michael Osmer

Osmer: Families and taxpayers can count on me being an advocate for their concerns. The students’ needs should come first. Every decision that is made should be made with the underlying question at the forefront, how does this improve the educational outcomes for our students. Today, the results coming out of Fresno Unified School District are abysmal and show a lack of leadership and direction. The families and taxpayers should first understand that I want to know what they think and what is important to them. I will be an advocate for fiscal responsibility.

The top priorities for my Campaign are as follows:
BACK TO THE BASICS

“I WILL WORK TO RESTORE OUR BROKEN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM BY FOCUSING ON THE BASICS OF READING, WRITING & ARITHMETIC.”

CAMPUS SAFETY

“I WILL WORK TO ENSURE OUR CAMPUSES PROVIDE A SAFE LEARNING & WORKING ENVIRONMENT FOR OUR STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND STAFF ON ALL OF OUR SITES.”

PARENT ADVOCATE

“I WILL FIGHT TO ENSURE THAT FUSD IS TRANSPARENT WITH YOU THE PARENT, PARENTS HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW WHAT THEIR CHILDREN ARE BEING TAUGHT & WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE CLASSROOM.”

Q: What is the No. 1 reason why you are running for the School Board?

Davis: I want to see and will see students reaching THEIR POTENTIAL, THEIR DREAMS, THEIR LIFELONG AMBITION!

Diaz: The number one reason that I am running is that the incumbent has not been successful in representing our Area 3 students. After 16 years there has been no significant student learning growth, nor has there been any improvement in student safety. More and more on-campus fights are finding their way to social media outlets almost every day. Since the incumbent is not a parent of a student in the area, she has not seen what gives students angst in and around the schools. Students need to feel safe and more importantly be safe in order to learn. As a parent and as an educator of at-risk students I understand this and can create and with the help of other board members, help implement the needed change of culture on our campuses.

McMahon-Gorans: I chose to run for school board because I am desperately unhappy with the system currently in place, the academic needs of the students not being placed as the top priority, and witnessing firsthand the behavior of the current board fight for their own political aspirations and personalities rather than focusing on what is truly best for all of our students. Fresno Unified Board members can tout they have an 86% graduation rate but if the students are graduating but not equipped with the “tools” necessary to lead successful lives, Fresno Unified is cheating their kids. Recent data shows only 9% of our students are proficient in English Language Arts, which is an atrocity. Math is a bit higher but still dismal and this data is from the Fresno Unified website.

Osmer: The number one reason I am running for school board is to help improve the educational system for our children, they deserve to have a quality education that produces quality results that will give them the opportunity and hope for a great future. As it stands now, FUSD is not providing a quality education for our children, they are robbing them of any hope for a successful future. If they cannot read they cannot succeed. I have a 3-year-old daughter who will be entering FUSD soon, she and all of the other children deserve a quality education. I believe that God has called me to run and stand up for my daughter and all of the other children who will be subjected to the FUSD educational system.

Q: What is the No. 1 reason why voters should re-elect/elect you?

Davis: Educating a child is not done overnight, or just K-6, or 7-12. It is building a system, culture, foundation, so students can think for themselves, and be the type of people they want to be. I have seen my own children grow up in Fresno Unified, and now my grandchildren have way more opportunity and (are) exposed to more academic experiences that their own parents had in FUSD, and that is progress.

Diaz: The voters should elect me because I have experience. I was born in Fresno and have lived in the area since being brought home in 1965. After an 8-year stay in Monterey County my family and I moved back to South/East Fresno in 2004 because it is where I feel I am truly at home. I want to do what will make our community its best, and I will always work to do just that. I listen to students, parents and colleagues in order to help as a member of a team to work on the success of students. I will do the same with fellow members of the FUSD board team.

McMahon-Gorans: You cannot leave those who currently are in power who created these problems and expect them to come up with the solutions. The number one reason voters should elect me is that I am the positive change Fresno Unified so desperately needs. I promise to make the needs of students first and bring a much needed breath of fresh air to Fresno Unified. I promise to bring the message that we will go to any lengths to make kids first rather than using our kids as pawns for political gain. It’s Time for Positive Change, and that change starts by electing me. I promise to be of service to our students, staff, and parents with great humility and respect for all.

Osmer: People should elect me because I have the courage and conviction to stand up for our children, parents and staff. I went through FUSD 40 years ago and at that time i received a quality education that helped me to become the man I am today. I went on to Fresno State to earn a business degree with my major in accounting. I have worked successfully in the insurance industry for 23 years meeting the needs of insurance brokers, business owners, and injured workers. I have helped business owners improve their bottom line. I will do the same thing for FUSD.

The system is broken, we don’t need more insiders who continually kowtow to special interests or become a part of the “favored” crowd. We need a leader like me who will fight for a better future for our children and to hold the district accountable for the BILLIONS OF DOLLARS in our budget. I will fight for fiscal responsibility and accountability. As I mentioned earlier, we should be able to show the teturn on investment of every dollar spent in our district. To be clear, by ROI, I mean, how does the money being spent improve the educational outcomes for our children. If we are giving money out to groups or organizations and our educational results are not improving, we should stop the flow of money.

Q: Should Bob Nelson be retained as Fresno Unified’s superintendent?

Davis: Yes.

Diaz: I would work with the current superintendent, but I would be remiss to say that I am concerned with the current culture of administration in their handling of students. The child (at Wolters Elementary) that was seen being struck and earlier reported being provoked by his school site principal was criminal. The superintendent is the head administrator and should be held responsible for the behavior of those under his supervision. That being said, school board members are responsible for who they have doing the job of superintendent and should be held accountable as well.

McMahon-Gorans: It is not fair to ask me if Bob Nelson deserves to be retained when I do not work with him personally and do not have an inside view of how he operates. When elected, I will be in a position to make a judgment on Bob Nelson that is fair and just.

Osmer: As far as Bob Nelson is concerned, evaluating his performance will be one of my top priorities and should have been for the current board. I will need to evaluate him a bit more to make a determination on his employment status. If the academic results of the students do not improve dramatically, he should not retain his position.

Q: You appear to be a perennial candidate but with low-budget/no-budget campaigns. As of Friday you have not established a campaign committee. Given your lack of campaign funding, how are you getting your message out to voters and raising your name recognition?

Diaz: This is my second time running for this office, and I was only a few hundred votes from winning coming in second in a three-way race, so I don’t think that qualifies me as a perennial candidate. I am a serious candidate, or I would not have run. We formed our committee last week and so far, we are getting out our message with volunteer canvassers who are parents and students in the area. We have campaign literature being mailed this week and have many yard and larger signs within the area. I am the first candidate in any race in Fresno to include a QR code on my signs that gives the residents of the area a direct link to my website. Sometimes all of us need to think outside the box because of budget issues, why not bring that same thinking to Fresno Unified? Again, I am serious because this is about our kids and our community.

Q: As of Friday you had reported only $1,000 in campaign contributions from Sonia Osmer (is Sonia a relative, your wife?) Given your limited amount of campaign funding, how are you getting your message out to voters and raising your name recognition?

Osmer: Sonia Osmer is my wife and believes in the calling I have to fight for our children, parents, and the staff on our campuses. She knows that I will help to turn the tide in a positive direction. I am working with many grassroots organizations, walking the district, visiting schools, organizations and utilizing various media to get the word out about my passion and concern for our children’s futures. In addition, I have produced my campaign materials in both English and Spanish to help reach the parents of our students and concerned voters.

Q: Are you running on a slate of candidates or have a connection with candidates in other School Board areas?

McMahon-Gorans: Absolutely not. I am very innocent in putting my hat in the race for this trustee position. The point of me running is to make kids first and get politics out of our schools. In the process of running for office, however, I have attended many events where those campaigning publicly speak and in doing so, those whose values match with mine, I support. So, on social media if you see me saying something favorable about another candidate, it is because I’ve gotten to know them along this campaign journey and I agree with their goals for our students to be put first.

McLane Area 4

Q: If elected, what can families and taxpayers expect you to lead your fellow trustees in getting done to improve Fresno Unified? What will be your top priorities that you will want to accomplish?

Michelle Scire

Scire: I am a servant to my constituents first and foremost. I will advocate for their unique needs. They should expect transparency about what my role is as trustee, what I am trying to get done on their behalf, and why or why not things were achieved. In addition to this, families and taxpayers should expect me to work with my fellow trustees to amplify the academic rigor at FUSD by first researching within the FUSD system to better understand why our reading, writing, and math proficiency levels are in the bottom 5% of urban school performance. They should expect a standard operating procedure to be used to ensure we treat all new program propositions equally and under the same scrutiny to make sure we only fund proven programs. Meaning, only fund programs that have evidence they improve student performance in a significant way. Families and taxpayers should expect me to use the ample data FUSD is gathering on students and their families and communicate it to them and use it to inform better decision making within the district. I will always put kids before politics, because when you put kids first there is no room for politics. I will empower teachers to invest in their students by figuring out why they are never given enough prep time for teaching. And lastly, when this is all accomplished, we will restore community pride in our school district. We will be the district parents will be desperately trying to get their kids into. Families will lie about where they live just to qualify to attend our public schools when we are done on the Trustee board I plan to lead. Watch out Clovis Unified!

Part 2 (What will be your top priorities that you will want to accomplish?):

1. Prioritize reading, writing, and math.

2. Only fund proven programs.

3. Stop deceiving parents with bad data or no data at all.

4. Put kids before politics, because when you put kids first there is no room for politics.

5. Empower teachers to invest in their students.

6. Restore community pride in our school district.

Karen Steed

Steed: FUSD failing to educate students (bottom 5% nationally for academic skills.

o Use of provable academic curriculum focused on basics that enable students to build on furthering their academic success and so they become confident, self-sufficient young adults in our community.

· Lack of swift and effective discipline to support meaningful educational environment.

o Outline of classroom and school site expectations and processes to provide positive and proactive learning/working atmosphere

· Obstruction of Parental Authority and informed consent of student contact and curriculum.

Parents are the leaders of their children/family units and must be respected and involved.

· Food services must be addressed and resolved — current system broken as students will not eat the tragically disgusting food currently being served. Moldy, expired, questionable processed/maintained, unappealing and generally rejected food served to children. Food insecurity is real. FUSD-provided “nutrition” to students who often go 10 hours without food as breakfast and lunch provided are immediately trashed after being “required” to take from food services. Overwhelming waste with product packaging filling our landfills and contrary to environmental responsibility. We can and MUST fix this immediately!

Q: What is the No. 1 reason why you are running for the School Board?

Scire: In 2019 I read an article by Bill McEwen titled “Job One for Fresno Unified Bureaucracy? Self-Preservation,” published in GVWire. I was flabbergasted reading about FUSD’s abysmal National Report Card performance. Because I come from humble beginnings, I was aware very young that education was my way out of the cycle of poverty. I believe every FUSD child deserves a quality education and opportunity to thrive just as I was given. As time ticks on, FUSD leadership has failed to rectify this educational performance, which is their number one job.

Steed: Our children and community deserve better than they have now, and I believe I can be a voice for the region and community at large that has gone unheard and underserved.

Q: What is the No. 1 reason why voters should re-elect/elect you?

Scire: Voters should elect me if they are tired of the status quo they are getting from their current board. They should elect me if when they assess their kid’s performance at home, it doesn’t match the narrative the schools are feeding them about their child, which is a common occurrence due to grade inflation and programs like the Edgenuity program at Fresno Unified, where kids can recover 40% of a grade in 3 hours on a credit recovery software program.

They should elect me if they are tired of the FUSD budget going up while the student performance declines or remains stagnant. If you are a former FUSD student and entered the world after school stunned at how ill prepared you were after getting that diploma, you should vote for people that did not create that problem. If you are a college professor, you should reflect on how underprepared your new cohorts have been and vote for someone that wants to restore academic rigor, so you are not relegated to the next generation high school teachers because high schools are currently not doing their jobs. If you are a teacher, you should vote for someone that wants to help you get back to why you entered this field, to teach. If you are a community member, you should want to vote for someone that wants to restore education to its prior performance glory so the future of our community looks bright!

Steed: I have 25 years as a teacher for FUSD (retired June 2022). I’m a FUSD graduate, mom of a FUSD graduate and I believe I know a thing or two about academics and student/parent concerns. The current trustee has not demonstrated the least amount of concern for academics, rather issues like school site name changes, removal of school resource officers (endangering our student safety) seem to be more important than the mission of building college and career ready students (which FUSD has failed at achieving for years).

Q: Should Bob Nelson be retained as Fresno Unified’s superintendent?

Scire: A leader should always be evaluated on their performance and ability to lead. The superintendent is no different. However, I would be presumptive if I answered this now, as I am not familiar with the inner workings of this institutional system and the impact Mr. Nelson has. First and foremost, this is a constituent matter, and I will do whatever my constituents desire, these are their schools. If after I assume the seat, it becomes clear he is of great fault for FUSD failing our students and my constituents are unhappy, I would be open to this idea.

Steed: Continuing with the same trajectory that he has followed and allowed to happen on his watch regarding student achievement….There is always an opportunity to change and grow, or, it might be for the best that he find a new prospect outside of FUSD.

Q: As of Friday you have established a campaign committee but have no reported campaign contributions. Given your lack of campaign funding so far, how are you getting your message out to voters and raising your name recognition?

Steed: Money is a marvelous tool, but it’s the sweat equity that is meaningful and measurable. There are signs around my region, small but mighty. I am out with parents at school sites, walking precincts and speaking at various events. Just because I don’t have money, doesn’t mean that my name isn’t getting around and increasing among those that matter the most — the families in the McLane region. This also means that using my own personal funding leaves me free to make decisions that are based on constituent needs and concerns and not influenced by donors.

Q: As of Friday you have not established a campaign committee. Given your lack of campaign funding, how are you getting your message out to voters and raising your name recognition?

Scire: I am a firm believer of getting money out of politics and following my morals and values. Therefore, I am self-funding this campaign which means I really have “skin in the game.” I cannot imagine asking any families for money during this period of national hyperinflation. People should be focused on taking care of their families not funding someone to get their district to do the job they should have been doing the whole time. I have done everything myself from designing my logo and branding, materials like flyers, signs, website, and social media. I have been doing the work as all candidates should, walking the streets, knocking on doors, and talking to constituents about their woes and my ideas. I have also been utilizing the power of social media to be edu-taining for my future constituents. I have been posting a lot, so my constituents get to know me as a person and not a cookie cutter candidate I designed. I have been communicating FUSD and national education issues, how I see the problems, and solutions to these issues. I am a multidimensional candidate. I have great family and friends helping me through word of mouth. I have been given wonderful opportunities at KXEX 1550 talk radio as well as opportunities with friends with big social media platforms to do interviews and to reach more people.

Q: Are you running on a slate of candidates or have a connection with candidates in other School Board areas?

Steed: I’m working as a team with my community, my constituents, everyone and anyone that wants to restore FUSD to a high achieving academic school program for which we used to be known.

Bullard Area 7

Q: If elected, what can families and taxpayers expect you to lead your fellow trustees in getting done to improve Fresno Unified? What will be your top priorities that you will want to accomplish?

Susan Wittrup

Wittrup: Improving academic achievement and addressing student learning loss that occurred due to COVID shutdowns.

(What will be your top priorities that you will want to accomplish?)

  • Put an end to the culture of failure that is hurting our children, and hold the administration accountable.
  • Accelerate the academic achievement of our students so that they graduate college and career ready.

Q: What is the No. 1 reason why you are running for the School Board?

Wittrup: My experience as a school psychologist and special education teacher over the past 37 years has given me a birds-eye view of what is broken. I cannot walk away from the district in the shape it is in, and I know how to fix it. Because I’ve already been successful with getting results at the board level while I was working full time as a school psychologist at Starr, I am determined to continue my mission full steam ahead as a board trustee. I am proud and extremely grateful to have more than 100 contributors to my campaign and to date, I have raised $163,000. Clearly, the community is calling for change and a fresh voice on the school board.

Q: What is the No. 1 reason why voters should re-elect/elect you?

Wittrup: I will fight and deliver for the Bullard Area and move the whole school district forward as opposed to my opponent who turns nearly every board meeting into an episode of the “Jerry Springer” show. I have the experience, persistence, know-how and temperament to get the job done. We need sanity on the FUSD school board.

I will give parents and teachers a voice in the decisions that affect our kids. I am the best and only qualified candidate in this race.

I have a long track record of getting results in the district. Over the last 37 years, I have worked as a school psychologist, special education teacher, crisis-response team leader, literacy coach, and mentor teacher at nearly every school in the district at one time or another. I started watching board meetings and meeting with superintendents and trustees more than six years ago. I have already gotten results, including an audit of the special education department from the Council of Great City Schools, a $10 million ongoing, annual budget increase for special education which was terribly underfunded, saving school psychologist interns from being hired away by Clovis, and fully staffing our school psychologists at school sites.

Q: Should Bob Nelson be retained as Fresno Unified’s superintendent?

Wittrup: All top FUSD administrators should absolutely be worried about their jobs. District leaders are clearly asleep at the wheel and our children are paying the price. When ranked against other urban school districts nationwide, FUSD is consistently at the bottom in reading and math.

At this altitude, what FUSD is doing can accurately be described as educational trafficking. There are a lot of people at the top levels with big salaries who are not taking care of our children, are not even qualified for their jobs and have no sense of urgency about the damage being done to students, families and the entire community. They are benefitting at the expense of Fresno’s children. One of my top priorities is to put an end to the culture of failure that is hurting our children, and hold the administration accountable.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email