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This Is the Most Dangerous Threat Fresno Students Have Ever Faced

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Would trustees be dumb enough or intimidated enough to hire teacher union bosses Manuel Bonilla, left, and Louis Jamerson as Fresno Unified's top two leaders? (GV Wire/Paul Marshall)
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Arrogance is the fentanyl of self-deceit, and two Fresno Teachers Association leaders have overdosed on it.

Portrait of GV Wire News Director Bill McEwen

Bill McEwen

Opinion

Louis Jamerson, FTA’s executive director, has made it known to Fresno Unified trustees and others that he wants to be the district’s next superintendent.

In addition, he’s pitching FTA President Manuel Bonilla as the right candidate for deputy superintendent.

The idea of Jamerson and Bonilla leading California’s third-largest school district is laughable. Neither is even remotely qualified for these important positions.

However, their attempted takeover of one of the state’s worst-performing districts is no laughing matter. It’s the most dangerous idea and the biggest threat Fresno Unified has ever faced.

Would you hire a police chief who has never been a cop? No. So why, in Jamerson’s case, would you hire a superintendent who doesn’t even have a teaching credential?

Jamerson Wouldn’t Be a Credible Applicant at 300-Student District

Truth is, he wouldn’t be a credible candidate to be a superintendent/superintendent at a 300-student district.

Meanwhile, the district is launching a literacy effort that is critical to bringing students up to speed. It also faces $38 million in budget cuts in the second and third years of its three-year FTA contract. Those cuts figure to grow because of the financial fiction spread throughout Gov. Gavin Newsom’s annual budgets.

There’s nothing on Jamerson’s resume to suggest that he could adroitly navigate tough financial situations; he’s spent his entire career asking for more money from taxpayers.

Fresno Unified needs a superintendent who is a proven leader, understands the challenges facing a large urban district, and most importantly, can implement solutions to help more students graduate ready to succeed in college or a career.

This requires someone who will hold district administrators accountable for student achievement, negotiate shrewdly but fairly with FTA, successfully network with city political, business, and nonprofit leaders, and be willing to make tough decisions — even if they are unpopular.

The last thing Fresno Unified students and their families need is Jamerson and Bonilla at the helm. These guys are 20,000 miles out of their league compared to the other applicants who are sure to apply.

Will Fresno Leaders Speak Out or Duck and Cover?

Unfortunately, they could conceivably force their way to the top because of FTA’s power and enormous financial war chest. They might even badger, sweet talk, and utilize veiled threats to convince four trustees to vote to hire Jamerson.

This clear and present danger is why outgoing superintendent Bob Nelson mustn’t shrug his shoulders and issue nonsensical statements about staying above the fray. He’s done good work positioning Fresno Unified for future success and that would be negated if Jamerson becomes superintendent.

Nelson must stand front and center and tell the entire community the damage that would ensue if trustees were dumb enough — or intimidated enough — to fall for this preposterous idea.

In addition, every elected official who cares about Fresno’s future must call out Jamerson and Bonilla for what they are: union bosses coming off a big contract victory looking to amass more power and bigger paychecks without a second thought about the damage they could inflict on thousands of children and their families through their tainted loyalties and lack of academic chops.

Hiring the team of Jamerson and Bonilla is a ridiculous, dangerous idea that must be stamped out now.

Sad to say, but I don’t expect many leaders to stand in Jamerson’s way.

The majority are going to look at this mess and do what they always do — duck and cover.

 

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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