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Big Check Boosts Internship Program + Where Fresno Ranks in New Education Survey



Career Nexus got a big check Tuesday from Bank of America. (GV Wire/Nancy Price)
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Career Nexus, a regional program designed to help young adults get paid for job training and move into the workforce, got a big shot in the arm on Tuesday morning.

Check out my other School Zone columns at Nancy Price’s School Zone Facebook page.

Business, education, and civic officials gathered in east-central Fresno to hear that Bank of America has written a $300,000 check to Career Nexus, one of 19 initiatives in Fresno DRIVE, a 10-year community investment plan.

It’s the largest gift ever from Bank of America in its Fresno-Madera market.

“That’s a lot of zeroes,” joked Ashley Swearengin, CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation, as she posed for the obligatory big-check photo with Bank of America Fresno-Visalia market president Mark Riley, Career Nexus CEO Kurt Madden, and Marissa Moore, senior vice president of BofA’s Fresno-Visalia market.

The bank is committed to help the Valley improve its economic prospects by bankrolling much-needed job training to prepare workers for companies in need of a trained workforce, Riley said.

“In this case the challenge is we have a high unemployment rate and we have people that need jobs, and we have people that need to hire people, so how do we make this work?” he said. “In this particular case, it’s plain and simple, let’s train people that can be hired by the people who need to fill those roles. That takes time and effort and money.”

The bank’s donation is an investment in that effort, he said.

Size Matters

Madden said the gift not only will help expand the number of paid internships, but will signal other potential donors that Career Nexus is the real deal and worthy of their support.

“This is a leadership investment,” he said. “When you have somebody like Bank of America come in first with this kind of a statement, it allows us to go talk to others about similar types of investment.

“Something like this really makes a statement. Bank of America is a huge corporation, we all know the name, and when somebody like that invests this kind of money, it says it’s a worthy investment, and that helps us a lot.”

The event took place at PNM Company, a precision machine shop that had another reason to celebrate Tuesday — some of its components were part of New Shepard, the rocket that carried multibillionaire Jeff Bezos into a brief orbit earlier Tuesday.

Also in School Zone: 

  • Mo’ money for Clovis Unified superintendent?
  • Get to know Fresno State’s new president in this magazine’s Q&A.
  • Fresno is near the bottom in a national ranking for its number of grads.

Board Considers Plumper Paycheck for Clovis Schools Chief

Clovis Unified Superintendent Eimear O’Farrell might be finally getting a pay raise. The board of trustees will consider a recommendation to boost O’Farrell’s annual salary from $248,975 to $268,000, her first raise since 2017.

The board commissioned a study of superintendent salaries from the Central Valley (both Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys) and the Inland Empire, and determined that while Clovis Unified was the sixth largest among the 15 districts surveyed, O’Farrell’s salary ranked at No. 13 on the list — not exactly a lucky number.

By comparison, Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson collects an annual salary of $317,660, putting him third on the list behind the superintendents of Elk Grove Unified in Sacramento County and Corona-Norco Unified in Riverside County, according to the report by the Reward Strategy Group of San Diego.

Reward Strategy Group might want to recheck their numbers, however. The School District reported in February that Nelson’s annual pay was raised from $336,438 to $341,484.

If the board approves O’Farrell’s raise Wednesday, it will be retroactive to July 1.

But as the board giveth, it also taketh away: The contract revision will reduce the district-paid life insurance policy for O’Farrell from $1 million to $100,000.

Q&A Includes Fun Facts About Fresno State’s New Boss

A recent question-and-answer article in the Fresno State Magazine puts the spotlight on new president Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, who talks about his passion and priorities for the university.

But the article also shows that in many ways, Jiménez-Sandoval is just like the rest of us. I don’t want to steal the magazine’s thunder by revealing too much, but let’s just say that if you are in need of help with installing double-pane windows or cooking crepes, he’s the guy to call.

Here’s a link to the Q&A: Read More →

And Speaking of the Need for More Education …

According to Wallet Hub, the Fresno area ranked near the bottom among the nation’s 150 largest metro areas for educational attainment, although it’s doing a better job than other parts of the country in closing the racial and gender gap among college students.

Wallet Hub reports in an online ranking that Fresno comes in 140th on the list overall, and appears at No. 144 for educational attainment (high school diplomas and college degrees).

But we’re much closer to the top of the list in another measure: Fresno ranks 34th out of 150 in the quality of college and university education and for closing the racial and gender gaps in education availability.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email