Alexander Brought In To End SBCUSD Board’s 13-Month Span At 6/7s Strength

After more than a year, the San Bernardino City Unified School Board will return to its seven-member strength on February 7.
At that time, Felicia Alexander, who was appointed to fill the most recently vacated position on board, will be sworn in.
She is to fill the gap left by the departure of Gwen Dowdy-Rodgers, who was first elected to the San Bernardino City Unified School Board in 2015 and reelected in 2020 when the district changed to even-year elections, and who was elected to a position on the San Bernardino County School Board in November 2022, necessitating her resignation from that previous post. To remain on the school board beyond 2024, Alexander will need to run for election on the 2024 ballot.
A series of developments and intrigues along with contention that existed internally in the district that was for the most part kept below the surface but which occasionally broke out into the open has meant that since December 2021 there have only been six members of the school board.
On December 19, 2021, Board Member Margaret Hill died. Hill had been a solid backer of then-Superintendent Harry “Doc” Ervin, along with board members Rogers, Scott Wyatt and Mayra Ceballos. Ervin, who was formerly the superintendent with the Bakersfield City School District, had been hired to shepherd the San Bernardino City School District in March 2021, a year after the city had essentially gone rudderless with the departure of former Superintendent Dale Marsden with his resignation effective in March 2020.
Though he was slated to begin with the 2021-22 school year/fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021, Ervin came in a month early and went to work at once in an effort to get the district prepared to return to in-class instruction after the district had functioned on a remote learning model the entirety of the 2020-21 school year after classrooms throughout the state were shuttered in the spring of 2020 in accordance with COVID-19 safety sequestering mandates.
Ervin forthrightly and, in the view of some, too aggressively undertook a thorough examination of the efficiency of the programs and contracts the district had involved itself in with regard to how those contracts met the district’s educational mission and fulfilled identifiable goals. As he was not previously familiar with the lay of the land politically in San Bernardino, Ervin did not fully appreciate that many of those with school district contracts had connections with the district’s board members, either familial, associational or in terms of providing political donations and support for certain board members electoral efforts. When Ervin either recommended to the board that it not renew some of those contracts or used his own authority as superintendent to suspend or discontinue the contracts, Board Member Danny Tillman and then-Board Member Barbara Flores by September 2021 became upset over their family members, friends, associates or political supporters losing the revenue those contracts represented. By October 2021, Tillman and Flores had recruited Board Member Abigail Rosales-Medina to join with them in firing a shot across Ervin’s bow by engaging with the consultants and service vendors who were seeing their contracts canceled, those contractors’ employees, family members and associated to have them turn out at a school board meeting during which an evaluation of Ervin’s performance as superintndent was to take place and his future employment prospect with the district – including possible termination – was on the table.
In the face of the criticism Ervin was being subjected to, Hill, Rogers, Wyatt and Ceballos stood by him, such that Tillman, Flores and Rosales-Medina were one vote short of being able to actually fire Ervin.
Confident he had backing for the reforms he was undertaking in concert with an initiative he had dubbed the “Framework for Excellence,” which was intended to enhance student performance and achievement through an emphasis on reading, mathematics and language development, Ervin pressed on, continuing to antagonize, most notably, Tillman and Flores.
With Hill’s death in December 2021, Ervin’s margin of survivability as superintendent was eroded. At that point, Tillman, Flores and Rosales-Medina were in a 3-to-3 deadlock with Rogers, Wyatt and Ceballos with regard to Ervin’s continuation with the district. Tillman, Flores and Rosales-Medina did not have sufficient political muscle on the board to fire Ervin, yet needing a fourt vote to cashier him. In January and February the district made an effort to find a replacement for Hill through soliciting applicants to fill out her term.
Toward that end, the board interviewed Joshua Augustus, Roland Horsh, Robert Nowosielski, Robert Silva, Alex Avila, Travon Martin, Tawnya Rhoades-Hensley, Elsa Valdez, Tressy Capps, Guillermina Mirelez, Viviana Romero, Francesca Villarreal, Leticia Garcia, Pamela Montana, Michael Santos, Teran Zappia, Rachel Garvin, Henry Nickel, Tracie Scherzer and Leticia Garcia, all of whom applied for the appointment. The board gave serious consideration to Martin, Valdez, Avila, Montana and Garcia, but none was able to obtain a crucial fourth vote for the appointment because, ultimately, either Tillman, Rosales-Medina and Flores were not convinced the addition would agree to terminate Erwin or the other three board members – Wyatt, Ceballos and Dowdy-Rodgers – were unconvinced that the person to be appointed would be willing to keep Erwin in place.
At the May 3 board meeting, Erwin announced he was departing from the district as of July 1, 2022.
In the November 2022 election, Tillman, Flores and Rosales-Medina were up for reelection. In addition, the district had the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters put on the ballot a special election, one that would allow the district’s voters to choose someone to fill out the final two years of the term on the board that Hill had been elected to in 2020.
After all of the tallying was completed, according to the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters, Medina, with 11,278 or 14.92 percent of the 75,607 votes cast in the 11-person race, captured first place, extending her tenure by another four years. Tillman, with 11,186 or 14.79 percent, claimed second place and a continuing berth on the board. Flores, however, with 8,994 or 11.9 percent, came up short, finishing in fourth place behind Mary Ellen Abilez Grande, who polled 9,628 votes or 12.73 percent for third place. The other seven candidates – Patricia Dezan, Alex Avila, Francisco Ramirez, Tressy Capps, Veronica Saiz, Sonia Fernandez, and Rose Ward – collected 45.66 percent of the vote among them.
Meanwhile, in the contest to replace Hill over the next two years, five candidates competed: Francesca Villarreal, Mikki Cichocki, Esmeralda Negrete, Michael Santos and Travon Martin.
As it turned out, Cichocki, a former teacher and activist with the California Teachers Association, prevailed with 9,483 votes or 32.74 percent.
It would have thus seemed the district board would have been filled out to its standard seven members. However, in the same November 8, 2022 election, Rogers vied for a position on the San Bernardino County Board of Education in Area D. Competing against two others, Rogers captured 33,244 or 60.71 percent of the 54,760 votes cast, easily outdistancing former board member Gil Navarro, who had 18,343 votes or 33.5 percent, and Oscar Hinojosa, who garnered 3,173 or 5.79 percent. In assuming the county board of education position, Rogers resigned as a board member with the school district.
The school board has now gotten around to redressing that gap.
Alexander is currently employed as a sector director, handling global supply chain logistics with Northrop Grumman. She was previously employed as the Western Region head of sales with Damco and prior to that she worked as a regional consumer, fashion and retail manager with Panalpina, as the director of global accounts with DB Schenker, as the director of global business development with Ocean Product Services as well as the marketing and business development manager with the Port of Oakland.
She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from the University of California at San Barbara and a master’s degree in management and organization development from John F. Kennedy University.
She is married to San Bernardino City Councilman Damon Alexander. They have three grandchildren attending school in the district.
Both of her parents were schoolteachers. She is the president-elect of the Assistance League of San Bernardino and presently has three grandchildren in city schools.
The six current members of the school board considered nine applicants for the post. The degree to which the previous divide on the council was in evidence as both Tillman and Rosales-Medina opposed appointing Alexander.
In a vote taken on January 24, trustees Wyatt, Ceballos, Abilez Grande and Cichocki appointed her to Rogers’ now-unfilled seat.

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