Education

Slatic to Fresno Unified Staffer: Is the Air Cooler in NW Fresno?

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Fresno Unified Trustee Terry Slatic’s distinctive (some might call it obnoxious) style of eliciting information was on full display at Wednesday’s School Board meeting.

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

Karin Temple, the district’s chief operations officer, had wrapped up a presentation about which projects the $325 million Measure M bond issue will fund, and which projects (including a two-story cafeteria at Fresno High) it can’t afford because of rising labor and construction material costs, among other factors.

Slatic then launched into the following interrogation:

Slatic: “Ms. Temple, my question to you is specifically targeted at our seven major high schools. ‘K. So when all the stuff that’s been done and that is scheduled to be done, is done, which of those seven high schools will have a gymnasium that does not have air conditioning?”

Temple: “My guess is, you’re referring to the Bullard North Gym which has what we call make-up air, which is a form of evaporative — ”

Slatic: “I understand what’s called air conditioning. So my question is, my specific question is not for expansion, it is a specific question. So when all of the stuff that is scheduled to be done is done, as well as the stuff that’s already been done is done, which gymnasiums on the seven major high schools will not have what the reasonable man — me — will call air conditioning?”

Temple: “Bullard.”

Slatic: ” ‘K. So as far as you are aware in the years you’ve been doing this, is there by any chance north of Ashlan and west of (Highway) 41 a magical air curtain that keeps northwest Fresno cooler than the rest of Fresno? Did I miss that memo?”

Temple: “No, you didn’t miss that — ”

Slatic: “OK, so there isn’t.”


Also in School Zone: 

  • Fresno trustee is named a Fresno State Health and Human Services Hero.
  • Fresno State wins recognition on many fronts.
  • Fresno Pacific’s president is retiring.

 

Upgrading Facilities Standards

Temple kept trying to explain that the Bullard North Gym was modernized about a decade ago before air conditioning became the standard for the district’s school gyms, which put other gyms ahead of it on the project cycle list. She said she believed there would be enough funds in the deferred maintenance budget to cover the costs of the gym’s AC project, although she didn’t yet have information about potential costs.

Although there was no actual vote by the board to fund the gym AC project, chief of staff David Chavez said the project would get done and the superintendent was committed to getting it done “based on the direction of the majority of the board.”

Trustee Keshia Thomas, who seconded a motion by Trustee Claudia Cazares to add the gym AC project to the district’s list in the spirit of equity, chastised Temple for a lack of foresight and obliquely referred to Slatic’s prior Q&A when she said to Temple: “This is one of those things where we lean on you to tell us what’s needed because we have always been about equity across the board, and that’s the bottom line. So this is one of those things where I feel like … people trying to blindside us with B.S., and you should have told us that this was an inequity because we would all have been on board.”

But Trustee Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas cautioned the board against adding the project to a funding list before knowing its cost and also what other projects might have to be bumped to pay for it. She noted that while equity is a good goal, the district does not have enough resources to ensure that each high school campus is exactly equal.

“A lot of us don’t have a second gym, and not all of us are going to get a theater, not all of us are going to get a stadium,” said Jonasson Rosas, who represents the Roosevelt High area.

Although there was no actual vote by the board to fund the gym AC project, chief of staff David Chavez said the project would get done and the superintendent was committed to getting it done “based on the direction of the majority of the board.”

Trustee Is A Health Hero

Trustee Veva Islas has been at the forefront on the School Board in advocating for healthy meals and snacks to be served at Fresno Unified schools. Chocolate milk? Gone. Fruit juice? Better for kids to eat whole fruit instead.

So it should come as no surprise that Islas, who also is founder and director of Cultiva La Salud (formerly Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program) should be named a Health and Human Services Hero by Fresno State’s College of Health and Human Services.

Islas was one of 10 individuals recognized for making a difference in the community.

“A hero is often described as someone who is lauded for their courage, achievements or noble qualities,” said Dr. Denise Seabert, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “Although our 2021 heroes certainly deserve that praise, most of them will tell you that they are just simply doing what they love to do. Each of these individuals serve their profession, community, and our University in significant and meaningful ways — and we are so pleased to now honor them as outstanding alumni.”

Here’s why Islas was nominated: “Growing up with immigrant parents, Islas saw firsthand how health inequities impact underserved communities. As founder of Cultiva La Salud, she works to ensure other immigrant families have proper health care access. Her advocacy during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a testament to that.”

Speaking of Awards …

Fresno State almost can’t crank out the news releases fast enough to keep up with its various accolades.

This week the university reported that it had placed among the top five best universities for social mobility for the fifth year in a row.

Fresno State ranked No. 5 out of 1,549 schools in the 2021 Social Mobility Index developed by CollegeNET. Last year, the university ranked No. 3.

The Social Mobility Index measures the extent to which a college or university educates more economically disadvantaged students at lower tuition, so they can graduate and get good-paying jobs.

Researchers Rake in Cash

Earlier this month the university announced it had set a record for research grants for the third year in a row. Fresno State received 356 grants or contracts for a total of $48.2 million during the 2020-21 academic year, a 3% increase from the year before.

That puts Fresno State among the top four California State University campuses for grants received this past year.

The grants included:

  • $420,000 from the National Institutes of Health to chemistry professor Dr. Morgan Hawker, in the College of Science and Mathematics, who will lead research on “Controlling Naturally Derived Polymer Enzymatic Degradation: A Plasma-enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition Approach.”
  • $1.2 million from the National Institutes of Health to biology professor Dr. Karine Gousset, in the College of Science and Mathematics, to further support the fight against three major health problems plaguing society: persistent viral infections, neurological diseases, and cancer.
  • $1.25 million from the National Science Foundation to Drs. Lalita Oka, Kimberly Stillmaker, and Arezoo Sadrinezhad in the Civil and Geomatics Engineering Department, Lyles College of Engineering, to increase the representation of women faculty members — especially underrepresented minority women — in the field of engineering.

Fresno Pacific President Retiring

Fresno Pacific University recently announced that President Dr. Joseph Jones will retire after nearly five years helming the private Christian university in southeast Fresno.

“On behalf of the FPU Board of Trustees I want to thank Joe and Yvette for their faithful service to the university and to the communities the university serves. We wish them all the best in their future journey and pray for God’s blessing on them,” Board of Trustees Chair Joshua Wilson said in a statement.

President Dr. Joseph Jones will retire after nearly five years helming the private Christian university in southeast Fresno. (Fresno Pacific)

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