Karbassi, Bredefeld call on Fresno Unified to launch nationwide superintendent search

The duo fear that the district will only focus on in-house hires to replace the outgoing Bob Nelson.

Two Fresno City Councilman are calling on the Fresno Unified Board of Education to launch a statewide and national search for the next superintendent instead of only focusing on potential in-house hires. 

Councilmembers Mike Karbassi and Garry Bredefeld held a press conference at City Hall Tuesday morning ahead of a closed session meeting by the Fresno Unified Trustees on Wednesday. 


The backstory: Superintendent Bob Nelson announced earlier this year that he will leave the district for a teaching position at Fresno State at the end of July. 

  • He leaves Fresno Unified after seven years as its leader, and he was an in-house hire himself, having started his career in education as a teacher in the district. 

The big picture: The Fresno Unified Board is scheduled to hold a private discussion on whether or not to open the superintendent search up beyond current district employees. 

  • Board President Susan Wittrup and Trustee Veva Islas told GV Wire that they think the board should interview external candidates as well as internal ones, but others reportedly favor starting the search with in-house candidates before expanding. 

What they’re saying: “Even if you want to go through an internal candidate, you do not want to give the illusion to the applicants or to anybody that this is a predetermined process,” Karbassi said. “It is completely open, and I think needs to have an open perspective.” 

  • Bredefeld said he thinks the board has already decided on which direction to go, fearing that the district will continue along the same path that has resulted in poor test results and around only one third of students reading at grade level. 
  • “Rather than doing a comprehensive statewide and national search for a proven leader, with a record of results and success, this school board appears poised to double down on failing our kids in Fresno by wanting to make a quick decision and hire from within Bob Nelson’s administration, which will only continue the failures,” Bredefeld said. 
  • He urged the board to not focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in their choice. 
  • “The next superintendent must be a change agent, must have a record of results, must have the strength to stand up to the teachers union leadership, must have the cleared-eye focus on teaching children the basics of reading, math, science, English, and not critical race theory and a bunch of destructive woke crap,” Bredefeld said.
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