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Clovis School Psychologists Say Contract Talks Are at Impasse

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More than a year has passed since Clovis Unified’s school psychologists voted to be represented as a bargaining unit by the Association of Clovis Educators, but the district and union have not been able to reach agreement on ACE’s first-ever contract.

 

Want to check out earlier School Zone columns and other education news stories? You’ll find them at Nancy Price’s School Zone Facebook page.

On Tuesday, ACE announced that the union and district have jointly agreed that they are at an impasse and are filing with the California Public Employees Relations Board for an official declaration of impasse (which means the two sides don’t foresee making more progress).

Clovis Unified did not immediately respond Tuesday to a query seeking confirmation that the district agrees that talks are at an impasse.

Jade Edwards, a member of the ACE bargaining team, says that the two sides are only a percentage point apart in the salary talks — ACE is seeking a boost of 14.5%, while the district is offering 13.5%. Even that big a jump would leave beginning school psychologists at the low end of the pay scale across the region, she said.

Because both sides defined the pay proposals as their “best and final” offers, the next step is to declare impasse, Edwards said.


Also in School Zone: 

  • Jenny Eller Field dedication scheduled for May 13.
  • Federal grant will help Fresno State prepare more math teachers.
  • Selma Unified’s new superintendent comes from nearby district.
  • This alumni gift will benefit Roosevelt teacher chosen by students.
  • Other Awards, scholarships

ACE negotiators are somewhat frustrated at the slow pace of the contract talks, which started with the district offering a 2% increase— even though the district told the employment compensation committee, which represents nonunion teachers and other employees, that it had been prepared to provide the school psychologists with a 13% pay boost this year, she said.

“They didn’t even get to 13% until recently” in the contract talks, Edwards said.

The union’s proposals are focusing on three main areas, she said: Raising pay for school psychologists, whose starting salary is the lowest in comparison to 14 other regional school districts; giving school psychologists a say in assignments and staffing decisions; and agreeing to use independent mediators trained in understanding contracts and the grievance process instead of designating the School Board to review and make decisions on grievances. Edwards said the union believes that the School Board is too closely tied to the administration and also lacks the training to be fair and impartial in such decisions.

School psychologists have been working this year without a contract as the negotiations have continued. Meanwhile, the union will need to prepare updated numbers for next year’s contract to reflect the changes in pay that other districts have already agreed to, Edwards said.

Bullard High Softball Field Dedication

Jenny Eller in her Bullard softball uniform

The Central California Blood Center’s donor center on Herndon Avenue in northwest Fresno already bears the name of Jenny Eller, who lobbied the community to make blood donations even as she fought leukemia, a battle she lost in 1995 when she was 21.

Jenny Eller’s claim to fame before her illness had been as a star catcher on Bullard High School’s softball team. And now the new softball field at Bullard will bear her name. Her dad, Dean Eller, is asking all her former teammates, friends, and family to celebrate the opening of the new field and meet the current team of softball players at a tri-tip dinner on May 13.

Tickets are $20 per person. For more information, go to the Facebook page.

Can’t attend? You can still support the softball team’s silent auction fundraiser to make bids on a variety of items, including Fresno Grizzlies, Big Fresno Fair, and Oakland A’s packages.

NSF Grant Provides Scholarships for Math Teachers

Math teachers seem to always be in woefully short supply, but a new $1.42 million National Science Foundation grant to Fresno State’s mathematics department could help close the gap.

The grant will fund 18 Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships to 18 master teacher fellows through the Mathematics Master Teacher Leadership Project, which will build on the 34-year partnership between the mathematics department and the San Joaquin Valley Mathematics Project.

The M²TLP (somehow it’s not surprising to School Zone that mathematicians would square an M in an acronym instead of repeating it) will bring together nine partners — the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium; Fresno County Superintendent of Schools; San Joaquin Valley Mathematics Project; Fresno State’s Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative; and five high-need school districts (Central, Fresno, Mendota, Reef-Sunset, and Sanger) — to create a Valleywide alliance with the goal of expanding the pipeline of math teacher-leaders.

Selma Unified Names New Superintendent

The new superintendent for Selma Unified School District will be Ed Gomes, the district announced last week.

Gomes’ name might be somewhat familiar, especially to those who track the goings-on at neighboring Fresno Unified. He is the lead instructional superintendent, after previously serving the district as administrator of leadership development and principal of several elementary schools and a middle school. Gomes will start his new job on July 1. He replaces Dr. Marilyn Shepherd, who is retiring.

He’s not the first Fresno Unified administrator to take superintendent jobs at area school districts: Brian Beck was an assistant superintendent for instruction at FUSD before being hired in 2022 by Yosemite Unified School District, and Lindsay Sanders was Fresno’s chief of equity and access and a longtime district employee before she was hired by the Fowler Unified School Board, also in 2022.

Roosevelt Students Picking Teacher Award Winner

Roosevelt High’s graduating seniors have been voting for the teacher who will be the first-ever winner of the $5,000 Joy A. and Gayland P. Smith Teaching Award.

Gayland Smith created the award in honor of his wife and their 46-year marriage that ended with her death in 2012 following a stroke. They met in the second grade but did not start dating until they were students at Fresno State.

The gift, which was made through the district’s new Foundation for Fresno Unified Schools, is an example of an alumni donation that foundation executive director Wendy McCullough said is much needed, and much appreciated.

“We know that there are so many Fresno Unified alumni ready to make a difference in the lives of our teachers and students. The Foundation for Fresno Unified Schools looks forward to helping our community make an impact on our region’s future leaders,” McCulley said in a news release.

The Smith Teaching Award winner will be announced on May 30 at a Roosevelt awards assembly.

Other Awards, Scholarships

  • Fresno State’s Water, Energy and Technology Center announced the winners of the first-ever Destination Decarbonization Challenge. The top prize of $6,000 went to Team Project Zero, which created a low-cost device to measure the carbon content of soils so farmers can maximize land efficiency. The prize money came through the U.S. Department of Energy, and the challenge was open to teams of two to four undergraduate students.
  • The Office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools is scheduled to host its Young Authors’ Faire from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Fresno Fairgrounds Junior Exhibits Building. The event is free and open to the public. Students in grades K-8 created works of fiction, nonfiction, poems, works, narratives, and illustrations for the exhibition. School Zone is fascinated by some of the titles, including “Do Frogs Drink Chocolate Milk?” by Mrs. Hong’s second-grade class in Central Unified, which won an honorable mention in the Exemplary Class Book K-5 category. (And here’s a syllogistic point to ponder: If School Zone drinks chocolate milk, does that make School Zone a frog?)
  • Eight Valley high school students are winners of UnitedAg’s Agribusiness Educational Foundation 2023 scholarships. They are among 42 students from agricultural communities across California and Arizona who won awards ranging from $500 to $6,000. The Valley scholarship winners are America Huipio-Piedra and Isabella Argueta of Visalia and Venissia Garcia of Fresno (Nichols Farms); Caleb Peltzer and Noah Peltzer of Visalia (Peltzer Enterprises); Carson Wallace of Springville (Lindsay-Strathmore Irrigation District); Jackie Madrigal of Lindsay and Lindsey Kennel Kisling of Porterville (Setton Pistachio). UnitedAg is a member-owned, agricultural trade association.

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