Fresno Unified majority flips on Superintendent search after full-court press

The call for Fresno Unified to open up its search for the next superintendent nationwide is heating up.

A bipartisan group of community leaders and educators called on the Fresno Unified Board of Education to open up the search for the district’s next superintendent nationwide. 

The press conference, held in front of the district’s office in downtown Fresno Tuesday morning, came just one day ahead of a scheduled closed session meeting where the board is set to interview candidates. 


The backstory: Two weeks ago the Board of Education decided by a slim majority to keep the superintendent search limited to in-house candidates. 

The big picture: Tuesday, Board President Susan Wittrup was joined by Fresno City Council members Miguel Arias, Garry Bredefeld, Nelson Esparza, and Mike Karbassi, Fresno Teachers Association President Manuel Bonilla, Granville Homes CEO Darius Assemi and others to push the other board members to open the search up nationwide. 

  • The board is scheduled for a closed session meeting on Wednesday to interview candidates. 

What they’re saying: “There’s a culture that has been perpetuated over the last 25 years: The Fresno Unified administration is all-knowing, regardless of what the student achievement data reflects,” Wittrup said. 

  • She said the decision to keep interviews in-house neglected the community’s voice by pushing aside public discourse and transparency. 
  • Bonilla said the board is compromising the integrity of the process and creating an appearance that politics matter more than students by limiting the search. 
  • “That decision not only narrows the pull of potential leaders, but it underlines the trust from the community,” Bonilla said. “Choosing to limit the search in this way sends a message that our community voices are being sidelined, that decisions are being made behind closed doors without any input or consideration.” 

What we’re watching: Voices urging the board to reconsider limiting the search appear to have been heard, as Tuesday morning Trustee Claudia Cazares posted on Facebook that she now supports opening the search nationwide. 

  • Cazares said she requested that the board move in that direction several days ago. 
  • “Thank you for all the community members who have reached out to me to express their thoughts regarding the FUSD Superintendent search,” Cazares wrote. “Community feedback is an important part of the process and I internalize the recommendations in this decision and all other decisions I have made as your representative. Given the strong pull towards opening the search nationwide, I requested that we move in that direction as well several days ago.”
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