Education

Fresno Unified trustee Brooke Ashjian will not seek re-election

School trustee Brooke Ashjian, saying he ‘never backed down from a fight,’ won’t seek re-election

Brooke Ashjian, the combative and sometimes controversial member of the Fresno Unified School District board of trustees, announces Wednesday, April 11, 2018, that he won't run for re-election.
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Brooke Ashjian, the combative and sometimes controversial member of the Fresno Unified School District board of trustees, announces Wednesday, April 11, 2018, that he won't run for re-election.

Fresno Unified School District trustee Brooke Ashjian will not seek re-election to the board in November, he announced Wednesday.

Ashjian said he's not running for any other office this year either and will instead focus on his family, which includes his wife, four children and one grandchild.

"If I ran again, I would win," Ashjian said.

He plans to remain in his district through the end of his term.

Ashjian was first elected to represent the Bullard High area in 2014, before becoming president of the Fresno Unified board in 2016. Property records indicate Ashjian purchased a $1.8 million home in the Clovis West area of northeast Fresno last year.

At his Wednesday news conference , Ashjian listed what he felt were his accomplishments during his tenure , including augmented school security measures like additional police officers on campuses and implementation of the gunfire detection system ShotSpotter.

In introducing Ashjian at the event, Bishop Jerrold Westbrook voiced his support. "Brooke has really given us an idea on how to get in here and fight for our children," Westbrook said.

Ashjian also cited expansion of Fresno Unified's career technical education programs as a point of pride.

However, Ashjian's term was also marked by backlash for his comments regarding LGBTQ youth and sex education. He faced additional criticism for comparing those outraged by his comments to perpetrators of the Armenian genocide. He was replaced as board president by Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas in December.

Jason Scott, president of LGBT Fresno, said his organization is happy that Ashjian has decided not to run again.

"The community is fortunate he's not seeking re-election," Scott said. "It's important to remember that he has not apologized for his remarks."

Scott also said he worries Ashjian will seek a higher political office, one that would impact more people than the school board.

At the end of the Fresno Unified board meeting Aug. 24, 2017, board president Brooke Ashjian read a statement about the ongoing controversy about remarks he made about LGBT-inclusive sex education. Here is the full statement.

Ashjian on Wednesday said he "never backed down from a fight," and his decision was not made due to the criticism he faced.

"All of the things that we've been able to accomplish here at Fresno Unified, all the curriculum, all of the advancements, have come among the objections, the noise, the protesters," he said. "I don't apologize for any of these accomplishments."

Ashjian did not endorse a candidate for his seat, but so far at least one has announced her intention to run.

Nasreen Johnson, spokeswoman for the Fresno Economic Opportunities commission, is running for the open spot. Three other board seats will also be open in the November election.

Church officials say Ashjian's comments were 'reprehensible' and say he should step down.

Aleksandra Appleton, 559-341-3747, @aleksappleton

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