Breaking down Fresno Co.’s school board races

The Sun’s look at the contenders vying for Fresno County school board seats.

Clovis Unified School District

Fresno County’s highest profile school board race arguably comes in Clovis Unified School District, where two seats are open. 

Former Area 1 trustee Susan Hatmaker resigned earlier this year due to a move out of the area. 

Vying to replace her are insurance broker Chuck Der Manouel, communications consultant Samantha Bauer, realtor Joanne Burton and former Fresno City Councilman Clint Olivier.  

With schools shutting down for much of the COVID-19 pandemic, masks and school closures have found a place among the candidates in the race. 

Der Manouel states on his campaign website that schools had to enforce “ridiculous mask mandates,” and some schools are choosing to embrace certain agendas that he says stray from the core subjects. 

He states that such an agenda is creeping into schools as “public education morphs into government indoctrination,” and promises to minimize state intrusion on CUSD. 

Bauer is the former top communications aide to controversial former Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Michael Hanson and Elk Grove Unified School District.

Bauer has touted her work in Elk Grove to guide the district’s PR strategy during a Supreme Court battle over the district’s use of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Bauer has earned the backing of former Clovis Unified Superintendent Terry Bradley, among others.

In a candidate forum earlier this month, realtor Burton promoted her endorsement from No Left Turn in Education. 

No Left Turn is an organization that is largely focused on pushing back against radical indoctrination and the injection of political agendas in schools. 

Olivier, meanwhile, served on the Fresno City Council from 2010-2018 and boasts endorsements from Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, Rep. Connie Conway (R–Tulare) and Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau, among others. 

On his campaign website, Olivier states that he is running to keep Sacramento out of Clovis Unified and will fight for local control. 

While the Area 1 race is packed, only two candidates are running for the open Area 6 seat. 

They are Deena Combs-Flores, a teacher, and Bill Whitmore, a retired business owner. 

At the candidate forum, Combs-Flores positioned herself as a conservative educator and conservative Christian who has concerns about outside mandates being placed on the district. 

On his campaign website, Whitmore states that his goal is to preserve CUSD’s standards of excellence. 

Fresno Unified School District

While the CUSD board races are all for open seats, Fresno Unified’s board races all feature incumbents trying to retain their seats. 

In Area 1, Trustee Keshia Thomas is seeking reelection to her second term on the board. 

Her lone challenger is Wayne Horton, a retired employee of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 

Trustee Valerie Davis was first elected in 2004 and faces three challengers for the Sunnyside-based seat: retired teacher Tammy McMahon-Gorans, marketing representative Michael Osmer and Madera County teacher Karl Diaz. 

For Area 4, which represents the McLane area, Trustee Veva Islas is running against chemist Michelle Scire and retired teacher Karen Steed. 

Neither of her opponents have reported any donations while she has raised over $45,000 so far this year. 

The most high-profile race comes in Area 7, the Bullard region. 

Embattled Trustee Terry Slatic has been censured twice by his colleagues on the board and is facing a major challenge from Republican retired school psychologist Susan Wittrup. 

Wittrup has outraised Slatic by about $100,000 and has promoted herself as the reliable representative that the Bullard area needs. 

Central Unified School District

Area 1

  • Joshua Sellers, firefighter/parent
  • Michelle Sweeney, realtor

Area 2

  • Kelvin Ashford, accountant
  • Yesenia Carrillo, incumbent
  • Erik “Danny” Salas, radio announcer/parent

Area 4

  • Shawn Brooks, incumbent
  • Nabil Kherfan, district director/father

Coalinga-Huron Unified School District

Area H2

  • Jose Diaz, maintenance technician
  • Maria Zavala, incumbent

Dinuba Unified School District

Area 3

  • Sharon Davidian
  • Beverly Keel-Worrell, incumbent

Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District

Area 1

  • Oscar Sablan, physician
  • Eliseo Gamino, incumbent

Area 2

  • Gustavo Alvarez, maintenance lead
  • Deanne Crockett, retired teacher

Golden Plains

Area 2

  • Alvaro Puentes, businessman
  • Leticia Fernandez, incumbent

Area 3

  • Betty Vallejo, retired administrative secretary
  • Jeanette Flores, healthcare provider/parent

Area 4

  • Joann Minnite
  • Thomas Fairless, incumbent

Kerman Unified School District

  • Vicki Blair, business owner
  • Miguel Naranjo, school principal
  • Kindra Melgoza, incumbent

Kings Canyon Joint Unified School District

Area 3

  • Monica Benner, educator
  • Matthew Casarez, small business owner
  • Azalea Sandoval

Mendota Unified School District

Vote for three: 

  • Kevin Arias-Romero, college student
  • Sergio Valdez, incumbent
  • Sherry Charles, librarian
  • Jose Zavala, incumbent 

Parlier Unified School District

Area 1

  • Joe Vasquez, incumbent
  • Nathaniel Cid, paraeducator

Area 2

  • Enrique David Maldonado, investor
  • Eric Molina, correctional lieutenant

Area 3

  • Roxanne Trujillo, business analyst
  • Mary “Dee Dee” Sanchez, retired administrative secretary

Selma Unified School District

Area 3

  • Joel Fedor, parent
  • Isaiah Lopez
  • Lucy Gallardo, parent

Area 4

  • Mathew “Mateo” Rodriguez, business owner
  • Estella Kessler, retired school secretary

Sierra Unified

Vote for three: 

  • Vanessa Rakis-Garabedian, licensed family therapist
  • Ginger Cardoza, parent
  • Carolyn Capps, educator
  • Jessica “Kyle” Smart, construction manager
  • Wes Qualls
  • Sun-Shuri Littlebuck-Naylor, retired fire dispatcher

Pine Ridge Elementary School District

Vote for three: 

  • Kimberly Briggs, incumbent
  • Lynnette Gayle Thompson, mail clerk
  • Julie Falk, incumbent
  • Seth Wood, electrician

Vote for two: 

  • Melanie Banton, appointed incumbent
  • Kirk Schram, parent
  • Gail Hart, retired business manager

Raisin City Elementary School District

Vote for two: 

  • Evangelina Urias, homemaker
  • Anthony Monreal, incumbent
  • Tina Medina, incumbent
  • Mayra Mendoza, homemaker

Washington Colony Elementary School District 

Area 1

  • Sue Ruiz, community development specialist
  • Stephanie Morris, incumbent

Area 3

  • James Dack, incumbent
  • Hector Sicairos, realtor

West park Elementary School District 

Vote for three: 

  • Maria Duarte
  • Fernando Alvarez, college student
  • Anna Benavidez, appointed incumbent
  • Ezekiel Rodriguez, college student/father
  • Kimberly Vivenzi, incumbent
  • Araceli Lopez, parent

Washington Unified School District

Area 7

  • Steven Barra, incumbent
  • Melvin Whittle, pastor
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