Five Candidates Look to Fill Vacant CUSD Board Seat

Candidates looking to fill empty CUSD Board seat after Brian Heryford retired earlier this year. From left to right: Ryan Walker, Robert Fox, Jonathan Holt, Hugh Awtrey, and Jacob Belemjian. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

The Clovis Unified School District held interviews Thursday night for five candidates vying for the position left vacant by the retirement of longtime board member Brian Heryford. The appointed candidate will complete the term which expires in December 2020. The election for the regular four year term will be held in November 2020.

Each of the candidates have extensive volunteer experience with the schools. One candidate, Benjamin Belemjian, ran for the board position previously in 2016, losing to Heryford 60% to 40%.

Johnathan Holt is a 28-year-old financial planner with two bonus daughters currently attending a Clovis Unified school. He is a Clovis Unified alum and received recommendations from current Clovis Councilmembers Bob Whelan and Lynne Ashbeck.

He says the reason he desires to be on the board is because, “We are a growing district that has students and families with evolving needs, and it is critical we are addressing that head on to ensure we are doing everything to maximize the success of students and their families.”

Holt is currently a member of the Parent-Teacher Club at Liberty Elementary School and a lead mentor of United for the Future, a non-profit mentorship program that reaches out to at risk youth in Fresno Unified.

Hugh Awtrey, III is a 54-year-old insurance broker and serves on the Foundation for Clovis School’s executive board. He attended Clovis Unified, as did his four children.

Awtrey is endorsed by Former Clovis Unified Superintendent Janet Young, and Jerry Cook and Todd Cook of Cook Land Company.

He says, “I have a true commitment to seeing the tradition of excellence continue and am interested in serving on the Governing Board to represent the community interest in maintaining the high quality and outstanding academic and fiscal reputation of our local schools.”

Awtrey has much experience volunteering and serving Clovis Unified since 2006.

A 70-year-old retired administrator with State Center Community College District, Robert Fox, has recommendations from SCCCD Trustee Deborah Ikeda and former SCCCD Administrator Doris Griffin. He has years of experience as far back as 1980 serving various school committees, as well as sitting on the board of the Big Picture Academy charter school.

Fox says he wishes to be a member of the CUSD board, “In order to demonstrate my deep appreciation of how the lives of our five children were impacted by the quality of the education they received. Therefore, I would like to lend my support as a governing board member to ensure that all children in our community, now and in the future, will be afforded the same excellent opportunities our children received.”

Fox and his wife moved to Clovis when their daughter was in kindergarten because they were convinced Clovis Unified would provide a high quality education. Their five children attended Clovis schools.

Ryan Walker is a 36-year-old IT administrator with Snowflake Designs, a local gymnastics wear company, whose children attend Clovis Unified schools.

Walker says, “I would seek out ways to be involved in the technology and business vehicles within the district. I am also interested in making sure the arts and athletics are adequately funded and represented. As important as general education is, students need to be able to express themselves, find out who they are in the world.”

Walker has experience in the governance and implementation of the Clovis Youth Soccer League and hosts MFG Day, in which he gives tours of his company’s manufacturing facility to visiting students. He received recommendations from former CUSD Administrator Donald Shroyer and his wife Nancy and VP of Snowflake Designs (and his father-in-law) Richard Snow.

Jacob Belemjian is the owner of The Firing Lane, an indoor shooting range in Clovis, and is 47 years old. His two sons have attended Clovis Unified schools since kindergarten and he originally ran for the CUSD Board position in 2016. Retired educator Mark Ford and Clovis Veterans Memorial District Board member Don Watnick provided recommendations.

“As a board member,” Belemjian says, “I would use my years of business experience to assist the board and superintendent with maintaining the rigorous standards that have led Clovis Unified to decades of high achievement by our students and graduates while continuing to strengthen the ties our school district has with the community at large.”

The board will announce its appointment at their board meeting on October 23.

Heather Jamieson-Brown studied journalism at Fresno City College where she acted as a reporter for the award winning Fresno City Rampage, but took a break to be a caregiver for her ailing father who had Parkinson’s disease. She has three grown children and has lived in Clovis for 16 years. Heather has always loved reading books set in the American Old West, but rarely found any with strong female protagonists, thus, she wrote one. She is currently working as a reporter/journalist for the Clovis Roundup.