School board candidates answer student and community questions

IECN Photo/Anthony Victoria: Fontana Unified School District Board of Education candidate Mars Serna speaking to member of the public during a candidate forum held at San Bernardino Valley College on October 24, 2017.
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San Bernardino City Unified School District candidates Dr. Barbara Flores, Anthony Jones, and Abigail Medina were joined by Fontana Unified School District candidate Mars Serna for a forum held at San Bernardino Valley College on Tuesday evening. 

The four school board candidates answered questions from both students and parents during the event organized by community leaders and faith based organizations.

In a Q & A format, the candidates were given 2-3 minutes on average to answer questions from the public relating to school curriculum, student achievement, health and safety, suspension rates, and learning supplies to name a few.

When asked about how she will advocate for student voices, Dr. Flores confirmed she’s tried to push the board to conduct surveys to receive input from students. She also explained to students of the Board of Education’s role in approving funding for resources and services.

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“It’s the board that directs the money and the funds,” Flores said. “And it needs to be spent on you–for supplies and field trips. I would do that, and I am doing it.”

Medina affirmed Dr. Flores’ point by explaining that SBCUSD already has several student representatives on the Board of Education that help give input on student needs.

Jones believes SBCUSD could save money by providing students better learning material, such as tablets and E-Readers instead of books.

“Our school district has already implemented a chrome book program,” Jones said. “We’d be able to focus on other supplies and resources.”

In regards to campus safety and school policing, Medina said it’s important to hold law enforcement accountable but also solidify a partnership that will benefit the community.

“Family engagement centers are prime one-stop centers,” Medina explained. “They can use those spaces to sign up [for magnet programs] immediately. Parents can get the support they need right then and there.”

On suspensions and eradicating the school-to-prison pipeline, Flores said the district has begun changing the way they discipline students. However, she did admit the district still has a lot of work to do.

“I would like to eliminate any citation. Period,” Flores said. “We’re implementing a procedure where students cannot get a citation unless the parent is there. We have to develop a culture of kindness and of mutual respect.”

Jones believes the district needs to implement better strategies to improve academic achievement.

“We’re only getting 50 or 60 percent of our students to be proficient in English and Math, but we have all time high graduation rates,” Jones exclaimed. “It doesn’t sound like an accomplishment for me. We need more instructional service and support staff.”

On the issue of domestic violence, which was at the forefront of the North Park Elementary School shooting, Flores believes the district should work with crisis counselors and social workers to direct women and men to receive help.

“Many of the people–students and teachers–have not recovered,” Flores said. “We need to all work with all the entities in our community. It is an elephant in the room.” 

Medina was asked if she would remain on the Board of Education for another four-year term if re-elected. Medina said she’s committed to the students and her campaign, but did confirm residents have urged her to run for state Assembly again.

“Right now my focus is the school board,” Medina said.

Meanwhile, Serna spoke on the importance of providing a multi-tier system to help students of color. He said it’s vital for the Fontana Unified School District to have professional development for teachers to learn the essence of working with at-risk youth.

“Our teachers and staff need to have coaches…so they can be better servants of our students,” expressed Serna.

Despite receiving $40,000 of campaign contributions from the Academic Arts and Action Charter of Costa Mesa, as listed on a state Fair Political Practices Commission Independent Expenditure form filed by the Inland Empire Business Alliance, Serna admitted he was not a pro-charter school advocate and said he would need to further investigate charter schools.

“I’ve seen charter schools’ tremendous work,” said Serna. “At the end of the day, I would have to evaluate who to bring into our community to serve our schools.”

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