Local residents are mourning the death of Kathy Binks, a longtime Fontana resident who went from being an outsider and dissident at the Fontana Unified School District, transforming from one of the most vociferous critics of its operations and the status quo and politics embodied by its governing board, to becoming herself a member of the establishment that ran the district and controlled its direction for approaching two-and-a-half decades. She passed away on May 3.
Binks with her husband, Dean Binks, took at-risk children into their family-owned Ettie Lee Home for Boys in north Fontana, assuming the responsibility of being guardians to hundreds of school-age charges over a succession of decades. As a consequence, she became actively involved in educational issues within the school district, and in time came to loggerheads with several then-members of the school board, in particular Bill Tunney, John Piazza, and Timon Covert, and occasionally with then-superintendent Elton Etheridge, against whom allegations of nepotism were sounded because his wife Patsy had risen to the position of a school principal. Over the course of several years, Binks and her sidekick, Linda Scialdone, established themselves as persona non grata with board’s ruling coalition. In 1987, Binks garnered support from enough of the parents in the district to get elected to the board herself, and she remained as a board member for nearly a quarter century, serving multiple stints as board president.
In time, she grew into an institution with the district, as much or more of an establishment and status quo figure than those she had railed against in the 1980s. So invested in and identified with the district had she become that when a succeeding generation of dissidents who like her two and three decades previously had differences with how the district was being managed and its students educated, she became their target. Ironically, she suffered the arrow wounds from the same types of charges, including nepotism, that she had once slung at Etheridge, over some of her family members as well as some of the foster children she had raised achieving positions of responsibility with the district. She took those shots with grace.
She was so highly thought of among her peers that in 2007, the district named Kathy Binks Elementary School after her.
Linda Scialdone, her sister dissident from the 1980s, said, “I feel blessed to have known Kathy for more than 40 years. Her giant personality attracted me to her immediately. She had the ability to relate to almost everyone and work with them to accomplish positive things for the school district and city. Kathy had the knack of being able to have people see her vision and become part of it. Even if you disagreed about something with her, she had the type of personality where you could never be mad at her. Our families grew up together and it saddens our hearts to know that Kathy is no longer with us. While I am saddened at the loss of Kathy, I am happy to know that the values and knowledge that Kathy and Dean instilled in their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will have a long lasting positive effect on our community.”
Linda’s husband, Frank, another Fontana establishment figure whose tenure as a police officer, police captain, police chief, city councilman and mayor overlapped with Binks’ activism and later presence on the school board, said, “Kathy was one of a kind, loving, caring, passionate, giving and most of all committed to the children of our community. She and Dean spent more than 40 years operating a group home for boys in Fontana. The positive effects of this can be seen in the many cases of boys who were in her home going on to become well-rounded adults. Their love for Kathy and Dean did not go away when they left their home. Every holiday they were either visited or called by former boys who just want to check in and say thanks.”
Frank Scialdone continued, “Kathy gave more than 40 years of her life to the Fontana Unified School District as a parent volunteer, PTA president and 24 years as a school board member. Kathy knew kids better than anyone I have known. That is why in my opinion she was the best school board member the Fontana Unified School District has ever had. Her love for all kids was always her driving principle.”
Binks’ service to the community went beyond her efforts with the school district, Frank Scialdone said.
“She was co-founder of the Fontana Boys and Girls Club with former Fontana Police Chief Ed Stout,” he said. “She was a lifelong member of the board of directors for the club. She loved the Fontana community. She helped raise money for the American Red Cross and had been involved in the Fontana Days Parade as an announcer for decades. She was a volunteer and advocate for the annual Black History Parade. She never forgot her friends and each Christmas would gather a group to go from house to house to sing Christmas carols. This really meant a lot to those who had no family.”
Frank Scialdone said, “I will miss Kathy for her advice, love and most of all for what she has done for the children of our community. She was truly one of a kind. There is no doubt in my mind that she is in Heaven giving God an earful about what needs to be done in this world to help our kids.”
Visitation for her is to be held on Friday, May 18, 2018 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Ingold Funeral Home 8277 Juniper Avenue in Fontana. Her funeral service is to take place on Saturday, May 19, 2018 at 12:30 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 7526 Alder Avenue in Fontana. She is to be interred at Green Acres Memorial Park at 11715 Cedar Avenue in Bloomington.