Connect with us

Local Education

Here’s How Fresno Unified Kids Are Becoming Better Readers



Charlotte Chang, a first grader at Greenberg Elementary, talks Monday about why reading is important to her. (Fresno Unified/VimeoScreenCap)
Share with friends

Fresno Unified knows that one of the best ways to improve literacy among students is to get books into their hands. To that end, the district is again partnering with Scholastic this year to distribute more than 100,000 books to students in preschool through eighth grade.

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

On Monday, five-book packs were handed out to youngsters at Greenberg Elementary school. The packs come with a student literacy skills journal and a “Family Guide to Literacy” to help parents aid their children with reading. The books and materials are available in English or Spanish.

The current book drive is the fourth for Scholastic, which has put more than 730,000 books in students’ home libraries.

Charlotte Chang may only be in the first grade, but she already knows why it’s important for her to be a good reader now. “Reading is important to me, because if you read all the time, I will be able to read harder books when I’m older,” she said Monday during the book presentation.

Scholastic regional director Jennifer Watterson said the company recognizes the importance of students having books to read at home as well as at school.

“We partner with schools to get books in libraries and classrooms,” she said. “But we can’t forget the homes, because the students spend the majority of time at their homes, so we have developed all kinds of book packs and ways for school districts to get books into the homes of students.”

Greenberg Principal Linda Ramirez said younger siblings also benefit from hand-me-down books “which creates a family library.”

Also in School Zone: 

  • Here’s a professional development exercise that encourages collaboration through gaming.
  • Central Unified amends contract with superintendent after six months.
  • “Meet and Treat” merges public service with class credit for these Fresno State students.
  • A lesson in how “off the record” works, as opposed to how this trustee used it.

Fun and Games at Fresno Unified

A professional development contract on last week’s Fresno Unified School Board agenda caught School Zone’s eye.

The $19,000 contract with ProSolve, a company headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia pays for a three-part leadership series that is designed to improve “collaboration and community” among three departments: career technical education, extended learning, and counseling services.

The description of activities sounds a lot like one of those reality TV shows (think “Survivor”).

During the three three-hour sessions, staffers will be involved in a number of activities, including breaking into teams, developing tribe names, creating team chants, earning points, and gaining reputation status through customized gameplay.

The third session promises to be exciting: “This final session takes collaboration to the next level as the Mobile Escape Room experience is brought to Fresno Unified. Tribes will unite and put their collaborative skills to the test, solving a series of challenges while ‘trapped’ aboard the ProSolve Airship. Will what they’ve learned and gained across the series support their escape? Only time will tell!”

Contract Extension Approved

Central Unified Superintendent Ketti Davis got an early Christmas present from the Board of Trustees last week — a one-year contract extension to June 30, 2026.

Davis was hired in May 22 to replace former Superintendent Andy Alvarado at an annual salary of $215,373, plus the usual benefits and perks. The original contract specified that any contract extensions would start with an “evaluation cycle related to October 23, 2023” and would be contingent on a positive evaluation.

The board, which gave Davis a positive evaluation, decided to revise the contract to enable contract extensions to begin this year instead of next.

Because of that positive evaluation, Davis will advance to the next step on the salary schedule as of July 1, when her annual salary will climb to $220,757.

Going to the Dogs

When COVID-19 forced us all to hunker down and isolate in 2020, lots of us figured that was a good time to get a dog. (School Zone is no exception, and Mr. Q just celebrated his third birthday as a member of the household.)

The isolation is over, even if the pandemic isn’t, but there are still plenty of dogs out there looking for “furever” homes. So advertising and public relations students in the Fresno State Department of Media, Communications and Journalism are collaborating with the Labrador Retriever Rescue of Fresno on a campaign to benefit dogs as well as the rescue organization.

Students and the lab rescue will hold a “Meet and Treat” event from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday in front of the Kennel Bookstore on campus. And yes, Fresno State’s beloved bulldog mascot Victor E. Bulldog III will be making a special appearance from noon to 12:30 p.m.

The collaboration is part of a service-learning course that works with different organizations each semester to create, implement, and evaluate a public relations and advertising campaign. In addition to the event, students have created radio public service announcements in English and Spanish and a video in partnership with the Community Media Access Collaborative.

“I think this class is an ideal bridge between college and the workplace,” student Lorena Montañes said. “I enjoyed being able to apply all the skills learned in a campaign that actually is helping these dogs.”

What’s That You Say?

Outgoing Fresno Unified Trustee Terry Slatic had little to say after last week’s School Board meeting when School Zone approached to talk about his second-place showing in the Nov. 8 election. Slatic, who was censured twice by his fellow trustees during his first term in office, was seeking a second term in the Bullard Area 7 seat.

Asked if he had thoughts to share about the election results or whether he was planning to concede to the apparent winner, retired school psychologist Susan Wittrup, Slatic said this repeatedly: “Off the record, I have no thoughts to share with you.”

So, not quite the same thing as saying “no comment,” but pretty darned close.

As a public service to current and elected officials — and the public at large — who may be unaware of how off-the-record works, let School Zone enlighten you: All information that a source provides to a reporter is considered on the record UNLESS reporter and source agree otherwise, and that agreement needs to come prior to the conveyance of the information. For example, a source can’t tell a reporter something and then say, “Oh, and that’s off the record.” That’s not how it works. (And if you don’t believe School Zone, check out this September 2021 article from the esteemed Poynter Institute for Media Studies.)

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