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Someone Will Need to Proofread the Work of Fresno Unified’s High-Priced Copy Editors

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Fresno Unified has an array of thoroughly competent English teachers who could easily proofread the district's 300-page literacy plan, opines Steven Roesch. (Shutterstock)
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In early December, GV Wire published an article with the eye-catching headline “Will Fresno Unified Pay a SoCal Firm $55 a Page to Proofread Literacy Plan?”

Steven Roesch Portrait

Steven Roesch

Opinion

A few days later, the answer to that question became clear. Yes, indeed it would.

The Fresno Unified Board of Trustees on Dec. 6 voted to let VMA Communications, a company based in Claremont, proofread the district’s 300-page literacy plan.

According to the meeting’s agenda, the firm will “provide a complete and thorough review of the Fresno Unified 300-page Literacy Plan. … These services will enhance the quality and readability of the Literacy Plan.”

The price tag for the project is a hefty $16,500, or $185 per hour — which comes out to $55 per page.

Puzzling is why this firm has been given this task at all. Clearly, Fresno Unified has an array of high-power, thoroughly competent English teachers who could easily accomplish a proofreading task like this one. One or more of them could have been offered substantial remuneration for the project — though something far short of such an exorbitant figure.

Hiring an outside group was hardly necessary. The district leadership could have done this with the talent they have on hand.

And they would have been satisfied with the outcome.

Company’s Website Doesn’t Inspire Copy-Editing Confidence

So what sort of company is VMA Communications, anyway? Does it have the right stuff to handle Fresno Unified’s project? Does its staff have stellar talents when it comes to tweaking and polishing prose?

Alas, a glance at the VMA Communications website doesn’t inspire much confidence about that.

Consider this example. On its website, the company boasts that it’s “evolved…to a communications juggernaut with staff and projects all over the State.”

In this sentence the word “state” acts as a common noun — as opposed to, for example, a proper noun like “Fresno State.” As such it requires no capitalization.

Here’s another blooper: “WMA was founded by a Latina, who grew up bilingual in a proud working-class family … .”

In this case, the relative clause beginning with “who” is restrictive, meaning that no comma should precede it. (A nonrestrictive clause would be something like “Uncle Joe, who plays baseball, lives here.”)

Given style errors like these that are hiding in plain sight on VMA’s website, it’s hard to believe that the district conducted much in the way of due diligence before awarding a contract to the company.

Taxpayers Deserve Better

VMA Communications, GV Wire points out, has for its part stated that it “cannot guarantee that the final document will be completely error-free.”

It’s perplexing that this particular firm was selected when other choices could have been made.

Also perplexing is the amount of money being spent here. Taxpayers deserve a much bigger bang for their buck.

About the Author

Before his retirement, Steven Roesch taught English and German for 30 years in Fresno Unified School District.

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