FONTANA - Kathy Binks prides herself on speaking her mind.

The 25-year veteran of the Fontana Unified school board retired from the post last week. It was a tenure marked by defending her community and leading a constituency through controversy and accomplishments.

The early 1960s was just one example.

That's when she followed a well-known Fontana Klansman home after he made disparaging remarks about African-American children in a community pool.

"I didn't want him to get away with it," said Binks, who stands 5 foot 2 inches tall.

For 44 years, Binks, 74, and her husband, Dean, ran a residential group home for at-risk boys, raising the children with their own.

The African-American children in the pool included some of her "boys," she said.

With the boys in a van, Binks drove to the Klansman's house, went to his front door and rang the doorbell.

When he answered, "I told him I didn't appreciate the way he talked to my boys.... He raised his cane and told me to get...off his property," she said.

"The boys in the van were afraid, but I needed to make a statement in front of my boys," she said.

As a continuation of her mission to help at-risk children, she was a founding board member of the Fontana Boys and Girls Club and, since 1987, a member of the Fontana Unified School District board.

In her early days on the school board, "there was plenty of money and we were about creating new programs," she said.

During her tenure on the board, Banks has seen significant - and controversial - events unfold in the educational realm, including Proposition 13, the issuance of condoms by a high school health clinic, the evolution of girls sports programs, and major changes in school bus operations with the addition of schools in Southridge. More recently she's seen the dwindling of revenue from the state and the collapse of longstanding school programs, such as music in elementary schools.

During an interview in her North Fontana home the day after her retirement, Binks said more parents need to become involved in their children's education and school district happenings.

Over the years, Binks has fielded more than a few complaints about the goings on at one of the state's 20th largest school districts.

"I will listen to them and say what committee are you on?" she said. More often than not, they will say, "`Oh, no, I'm too busy.'

"Complaining is a luxury you can't afford yourself unless you have done something to correct the problem...or at least take some time to find out what the problem really is.... Often people find out that the `problem' is just a misunderstanding."

People often say they are "just too busy," but they are not too busy to spend hours on Facebook, she said.

"Help make it a better place by getting involved and don't just complain," she said.

Binks regards herself as an "old-fashioned" school board member.

When a constituent alerts a board member about a problem, Binks said the board member should show respect for the school district staffer and check things out behind the scenes.

"We have competent people in the district," Binks said. "With budget cuts, they are severely overworked. Our job as a board is to be supportive and positive about good things that are happening in the district."

Binks said one reason for leaving the board now is she is tired of dealing with negative comments, many posted on websites.

"It seems like I'm always going around with a scoop shovel, trying to clean up and defend myself," she said.

Binks said she has many more chapters left in her book.

High among her priorities is to promote state legislation requiring all school board members to undergo background checks and fingerprinting.

"People who volunteer for schools pay for these checks out of their own pocket" she said. "School board members have access to schools and children. It's only right that they be checked out too."


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