Getting to Know the Bonita Unified School District Candidates

Nine candidates are vying for three seats on the Bonita Unified School District Governing Board in November. Photo: Rommel Alcantara. Artwork: Evan Solano

By Lauren Choi, Amanda Lee & Aaron Wang

The nine candidates running for three seats on the Bonita Unified School District Governing Board were interviewed by San Dimas Community Post writers by phone, Zoom and email.

Click on a candidate’s name below to read more from the candidate’s interview. Interviews were edited for clarity.

Brittany Allison
• Mother of two pre-school-age children
• Vice President of non-profit Social Justice Advocacy Project
brittanyforbusd.com

Greg Palatto
• Father of two BUSD students
• School Psychologist for Charter Oak Unified School District, specializing in autism
greg4bonita.com

Joe Otto
• Father of one BUSD student
• Owner of My Dad’s Plumbing
joeottoforbonitaschoolboard.org

Christopher Erik Mattson
• Father of two BUSD students
• Doctor of Education and Doctoral Support Specialist for the USC Rossier School of Education
sites.google.com/view/christopher-erik-mattson

Krista Chakmak
• Mother of two BUSD students
• Current BUSD School Board Member
kristachakmak.com

Glenn A. Creiman
• Father of two BUSD graduates
• 17-year BUSD School Board Member and retired Los Angeles Fire Department Captain
creiman4bonitausd.com

Afshin Kaivan-Mehr
• Father of two BUSD students
• Doctor of Chiropractics
drmehr4bonita.com

Tommy Lee Randle
• Father of two BUSD graduates
• Vietnam Era veteran
randleforbonitausd.com

Crystal Jones-Bacon
• Mother of two BUSD students
• Insurance professional
votebaconforbusd.com


Reason for running

Brittany Allison
Is a former teacher and has been passionate about education her whole life.
“I was a teacher until I decided to stay home and raise kids until they’re in school full time. I recognize the importance of getting varying perspectives on the board. I bring that.”

Greg Palatto
Is a career school psychologist whose priority is student mental health.
“Mental health is what I came to push for. When kids are happy and feel safe that is when they succeed.”

Joe Otto
Is an involved parent who wants to make a difference in the community.
“When [my daughter] started Kindergarten at Oak Mesa I immediately began looking for opportunities to become more involved…I have an opportunity and a duty to help and be involved as much as I can be.”

Christopher Erik Mattson
Believes now is the right time and opportunity to run.
“I appreciated the work [Matthew Lyons and Diane Koach] did, so all of a sudden seeing that they were not going to be part of the board anymore…that kind of inspired me to go for this. I now have the time to do it, and I have the knowledge, the experience, and the education.”

Krista Chakmak
Wants to balance academic and social/emotional learning.
“Our test scores continue to rise as our kids maintain high GPAs all while playing every sport under the sun, but are they HAPPY? Are they soulful, passionate, and fulfilled?”

Glenn A. Creiman
Sees his leadership as an asset for facing challenges.
“I first ran for the school board because I saw an opportunity to make a difference, to amplify the voices in our community, improve educational opportunities for all our students, and bring transparency back to the district. And those reasons still ring true today.”

Afshin Kaivan-Mehr
Cares about the community and brings a unique perspective.
“What inspired me is the devotion and the passion that I have for the community. As I said, I have a lot of ties in this community.”

Tommy Lee Randle
Has run in the past and has experience as a California State Parks Commissioner.
“I was inspired to run for the school board because I ran once before when my two children were students in the Bonita USD.”

Crystal Jones-Bacon
Believes students are the future and deserve a voice.
“I truly believe and understand that children are the change in the world and the future, and we need to invest in them a lot more and give them a voice.”


Technology

Brittany Allison
Wants to pool knowledge from experts to educate parents and students on topics like using filters on the internet. Believes it is important to teach digital knowledge, awareness, and intentionality to students.
“As much as we can have the conversation about restrictions, ultimately we need to provide students the tools to navigate what they would face [online].”

Greg Palatto
Has concerns about students feeling uncomfortable displaying their home environment during distance learning.
“I would love if all of the Chromebook Zoom accounts had automatic virtual backgrounds for the school logo or mascot, so people don’t see into students’ rooms, and that they all have the same thing.”

Joe Otto
Wants to see social media used as standard communication for informal meetings. Feels that students need to learn to be safe online.
“We teach our kids how to look both ways before crossing the street, but are they being taught how to protect their personal information online, like their full names, their birth dates, or passwords clues? Are we teaching our kids not to post their address or contact information on public sites?”

Christopher Erik Mattson
Says more emphasis is needed on improving online fluency in the school curriculum. Wants students to learn how to identify factual and responsible material online.
“Our students must learn how to identify trustworthy, fact-based, minimally-biased information.”
“Our students will need to learn how to manage their devices responsibly, while also understanding how to use them for learning, training, and retraining. Their adult lives will require these skills. If they do not learn how to control their technology, the technology will control them.”

Krista Chakmak
Acknowledges that technology is not her strong suit. Believes education around technology begins at home.
“Let [your kids] know if they see something that makes them feel uncomfortable that it’s ok to come to you. Also, set parental controls on all devices and check their history on devices they are using.”

Glenn A. Creiman
Says the district must ensure strong internet and security measures for all devices and servers.
“It’s equally important that we teach our students digital citizenship ensuring they keep themselves safe, conduct themselves professionally, and ensure they treat others with respect.”

Afshin Kaivan-Mehr
Believes in the importance of protecting students’ information and data.
“Unfortunately at this point social media apps and cyber bullying has been a problem, and will be more of an issue with this crisis that is going on.”

Tommy Lee Randle
Wants to ensure students have access to phone numbers of counselors, teachers and caregivers.
“The district can and will provide each child and their parents with telephone numbers for any situation that they feel is necessary to assist them through this environment.”

Crystal Jones-Bacon
Says parents need to be aware of what their students are doing with technology.
“We should offer trainings to parents and give advice about apps and trends so that they understand. A large number of students find themselves in unfortunate situations (ie: websites that aren’t appropriate for them, photos, predators). Schools need to be more proactive so students are aware and speaking up when things are not appropriate.”


Reopening schools

Brittany Allison
Believes schools should reopen when the rate of community spread is low, there are enough hospital beds and other medical gear to handle the number of patients, and contact tracing is possible.
“Having the school day program is helping us learn what we can do once we open.”
“Ironing out what [reopening] means from an administrative standpoint is important before we jump into doing that.”
“We’ve got to make sure we have equipment and safeguards to maintain social distance.”

Greg Palatto
Wants to get the OK from the county and to work with the associations to have the faculty, staff, and classrooms ready for students.
“Once we get the green light that we are allowed to open, then we can do so.  By then, many other districts in other counties [will have] been reopened for some time. We look at what works and what their mistakes were, and make sure our roll out is done where the mistakes are accounted for, and do so better and permanently.”

Joe Otto
Advocates for reopening schools only when it is safe to do so. Believes the District is correct in following state mandates for distance learning at this time.
“I want schools to reopen, but the health of every kid, friends, family, teacher, and staff member must come first. Any preventable loss of life to this district is unacceptable.”
“We can refine our own plans and technologies to ensure that, as soon as the law changes or offers alternatives we are ready to move on.”

Christopher Erik Mattson
Thinks reopening is dependent upon state and county guidelines and should be coupled with flexibility and choices for families and staff.
“Obviously our community benefits the most when [K-6] kids are at school, but those are also the kids that are most likely to struggle with mask-wearing and distancing requirements.”
“I believe in flexibility and a reasonable array of choices. I realize some families and teachers will prefer to continue with online schooling. Each teacher, class/subject, and grade level deserve individual consideration.”

Krista Chakmak
Believes schools should be open now, with guidelines and suggestions from the CDC.
“I believe that we can manage safely for those who want in person education.”

Glenn A. Creiman
Wants to have buy-in from parents, employees, and the community, in addition to approval from state and county guidelines, before schools can reopen.
“The district has prepared plans for all the various phases of reopening, from partial reopening to full, and those plans are adjusted as necessary due to the ever changing circumstances and requirements.”
“We know how to reopen schools. We do that every year. It’s just a matter of what it’s gonna look like this year.”

Afshin Kaivan-Mehr
Says schools can safely reopen when infection rates have lowered. Wants to make sure schools implement preventive measures, like hand-washing.
“Health, safety and [the] well being of students, teachers, and staff is the most important consideration in determining the schools reopening.”

Tommy Lee Randle
Needs assurance from scientists and doctors that it is safe for students to return to school.
“These scientists and doctors would have to give me the evidence as to why and how they reached their conclusion, and they would also have to give the district a written statement to be distributed to parents and guardians of the students explaining why they have made this decision.”

Crystal Jones-Bacon
Agrees with the state’s guidelines on reopening schools. Wants to ensure teachers and students have PPE and social distancing is possible upon reopening.
“One slight uptick with a school with thousands of students can be devastating.”
“We are not playing the stock market and risking money. We are risking the lives of students and family members so we need to remain trending down. I’d rather be safe than sorry. I’d rather maintain the course until we are 100% sure we are ready to open up again.”


Other priorities

Brittany Allison
• Safe and inclusive school environment
• Cultural celebration
• Equity
• Experiential learning and trade schools

Greg Palatto
• Mental health
• Education beyond the books
• Trade and career pathways
• Social emotional learning

Joe Otto
• Encourage trade schools in addition to college program

Christopher Erik Mattson
• Critical thinking
• Communication
• Collaboration
• Creativity
• Consideration

Krista Chakmak
• Mental health
• Arts & Music
• Trade
• Balance for our children

Glenn A. Creiman
• District finances due to budget cuts
• Maintaining current programs, staff and high quality education

Afshin Kaivan-Mehr
• Embracing health
• Empowering kids
• Strengthening kids

Tommy Lee Randle
• Reimbursement of teachers for educational materials
• Diversity education of different races, ethnicities and cultures

Crystal Jones-Bacon
• Reimagining success
• Encouraging students’ individual paths, like the arts and trade schools
• Allowing students to find balance


Fun fact

Brittany Allison
“I was a very involved student on campus, in ASB in 5th grade all the way through to college.”

Greg Palatto
“I’m in San Dimas masons and La Verne Rotary but my favorite work is all behind the scenes.” 
“I completed different marathons, triathlons, Ragnar Relays, and a Spartan Trifecta.”

Joe Otto
“I am that Dad who cries, and I am not ashamed!”

Christopher Erik Mattson
“I had multiple operations as a very young child to remove a cholesteatoma from my left ear. This left me essentially deaf in that ear….all of this helped me learn how people perceive and understand the world differently based on ability, experiences, biases, and everything else.”

Krista Chakmak
Her 6-year-old said, “You’re beautiful, smart, a good soccer player, that you cook good and that you’re a great mama!”

Glenn A. Creiman
“Before I became a firefighter I was studying to be a marine biologist.”
“When I was growing up, I got to see many of the iconic bands when they were just starting out: the Beach Boys, the Doors, Rolling Stones, Jimmy Hendrix, Led Zeppelin”

Afshin Kaivan-Mehr
“The most interesting thing about me is being a survivor, turning negatives to positives in every aspect of life.”

Tommy Lee Randle
“I worked with the Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census during the 2000 Decennial as well as the 2010 Decennial.”
“I have a nonprofit corporation with the State of California which is a disaster and solid waste remediation training and placement program. The name of the nonprofit is CALIFORNIA LEADING EDGE INC.”

Crystal Jones-Bacon
“I had a pet pig named Hamilton Bacon–no pun intended! He is currently living in a pig sanctuary and living the piggy dreams of his life with lots of space and other animals.”

Correction: In the graphic created for the print version of this article we incorrectly identified Joe Otto as Jon Otto.

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