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It’s Time to Declare a State of Emergency at Fresno Unified



Fresno Unified chaos
Rafael Avitia, a supporter of trustee Veva Islas, speaks at Wednesday's Fresno Unified meeting that was shut down. (GV Wire/Albert Baker)
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Mayor Jerry Dyer and the Fresno City Council should jointly declare a state of emergency at Fresno Unified School District.

Portrait of GV Wire News Director Bill McEwen

Bill McEwen


Such a statement would only be symbolic, but perhaps it would focus voter attention in November on the fact the district board is beyond dysfunctional.

It might even get the notice of Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who have ample reason to be concerned about California’s third-largest public school district.

Slatic’s Goal Is Being Fresno’s Donald Trump

Twice since August the board president has had to abruptly end a trustees meeting because things got so out of control that continuing was pointless.

Trustee Terry Slatic’s inane “filibuster” aborted the August meeting. Slatic again had a hand in the early end of Wednesday night’s meeting. As did Trustee Veva Islas’ out-of-control supporters, as well as the controversy generated by Islas’ tweet celebrating the potential short-term infertility of COVID-19 infected “anti-vaxxers.”

Slatic won the election to represent the Bullard High area nearly four years ago by portraying himself as a reformer. While he has shown the most interest among the seven trustees in improving student achievement, he has embarrassed himself and the district too many times to count with his cartoonish behavior.

He might talk about helping students, but his actions show him to be most interested in becoming Fresno’s Donald Trump. All he has accomplished is being the most ineffective trustee in district history.

Meanwhile, right-wingers calling for Islas to resign need to get over themselves. Everyone is entitled to a mistake. Besides, the voters in the McLane High area will have the opportunity to bring Islas back or vote her out in November.

Islas Should Leave Jokes to Comics

As the executive director of Cultiva la Salud, Islas brings a much-needed perspective to the board. She is on the front lines of challenges facing district students, such as hunger, poverty, and homelessness.

In addition, Cultiva la Salud has helped promote the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and aided in farmworker vaccinations. So, naturally, you would expect her to share updates about vaccine safety on her social media accounts.

The problem with the tweet in question is that it was one sentence too long. By ending with “While short-term, any limitation on an anti-vaxers ability to reproduce is a win! ???? ” she trampled on the message she wanted to get out. The audience for the tweet should have been people who are vaccine-hesitant, assuring them that it’s safe to get the shots.

And, if she meant it as a joke, she should leave the attempted humor to stand-up comics.

As a trustee, she’s entrusted with the responsibility of lifting up one of California’s lowest-performing districts. Now, more than ever, Fresno Unified students need leadership that will help them overcome the doubts, trauma, and learning losses inflicted by the pandemic.

Teachers need a professionally functioning board, too. Can you imagine being led by a group that can’t even conduct a meeting?

Watch: Out of Control FSUD Meeting

If Agitators Cross the Line, Haul Them Out

Controlling the narcissistic agitators who regularly appear at Fresno Unified board meetings isn’t easily accomplished. They have a constitutional right to speak. But their mics should be turned off as soon as they cross the line of civility, and a police officer should immediately usher them out the door. Same for anyone shouting from the seats.

Moreover, the trustees should stop sniping at each other. Rigorous debate about policies and funding is essential to moving the district forward, but check the sarcasm, eye-rolling, and tit-for-tat at the door.

Would any company or investor want to come to Fresno after seeing a video of Wednesday’s meeting or Slatic’s August filibuster? In the least, they would be motivated to check out other Central Valley alternatives.

Fortunately, some trustees realize what is at stake.

“Accountability is accountability!!! Tonight was truly embarrassing and students were not the center of this board meeting!!!” Trustee Keshia Thomas told GV Wire’s Nancy Price in a text message. “No matter what we do in the community, if it is not backed up by our word and actions, are we abiding by our moral duties and standards as elected officials?”

Said Trustee Elizabeth Jonason Rosas: “If this is what we’re showing (students) it’s like to be a decision-maker, how can we hope for tomorrow when this is the example we’re setting?”

Good questions, indeed.

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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