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Is Fresno Superintendent Hire an Inside Job? Trustees to Look Only at In-House Candidates
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 3 weeks ago on
March 21, 2024

Fresno Unified trustees are not unified on whether the superintendent candidate pool should be shallow or deep. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Fresno Unified School Board will consider only current employees initially in their search for a new superintendent, despite calls from the teachers union president, city councilmembers, and a local developer for a wider and more transparent search to make sure that trustees hire the best-qualified person to lead the state’s third-largest school district.

At the start of the School Board’s open meeting Wednesday evening, Board President Susan Wittrup announced in a “status update” of the superintendent search that the board has decided to consider internal candidates only.

“The various community meetings have been completed and an additional update will be provided at the next regular board meeting regarding the next phase of the search, which will be interviews of internal applicants,” she said.

Reportedly some trustees are considering Deputy Superintendent Misty Her for the top job.

The trustees did not respond when Granville Homes CEO Darius Assemi pressed them at the meeting to announce who had supported the in-house search and who wanted to search more widely.

The board’s attorney, Bryan Martin, said they were not required under the Brown Act to discuss what had transpired in the closed session that preceded Wednesday’s public session because they had taken no final action that is reportable.

(Disclosure: Assemi is GV Wire’s publisher.)

4-3 Split on Board

It appears that the board’s decision was not unanimous, however. At least three trustees — Wittrup, Veva Islas, and Andy Levine — told GV Wire this week that they wanted to give candidates from outside the district the opportunity to be considered for the superintendent job. Wittrup, Islas, and Board Clerk Valerie Davis serve on the board’s superintendent search subcommittee.

“I would just encourage this board that, the public, our students, we all deserve a fair and transparent process. … So that way, the best leader, a leader that is going to be bold, dynamic, and be able to change the culture of this district, could emerge.” — Manuel Bonilla, president, FTA

The four other School Board members are Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas, Claudia Cazares, Valerie Davis, and Keisha Thomas.

Superintendent Bob Nelson announced in January that he is leaving by the end of July to take a faculty job at Fresno State.

Since his announcement, there has been a flurry of interest in who will be Nelson’s replacement. Two top leaders of the Fresno Teachers Association, executive director Louis Jamerson and president Manuel Bonilla, had lobbied with trustees and local community groups to be considered for the superintendent and deputy superintendent jobs.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, Bonilla urged the board to make its search fully “transparent.”

“I would just encourage this board that, the public, our students, we all deserve a fair and transparent process,” he said. “And I hope that that process plays out. So that way, the best leader, a leader that is going to be bold, dynamic, and be able to change the culture of this district, could emerge.

“And so I would encourage you in your roles to be able to do that, and make sure that that process plays out for our entire community, as opposed to a simple hearing session and a selection.”

Councilmembers Weigh In

On Tuesday, City Councilmembers Mike Karbassi and Garry Bredefeld took the somewhat unusual step of holding a news conference to urge the trustees not to limit the candidate pool.

“When you have a rigged game, which is what I think is going to happen, then you do them a disservice when they’re selected and they haven’t competed, and you do the kids and the parents a disservice.” — Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld

Bredefeld, who took specific aim at Nelson for what he called more than six years of failures, said that the district’s nearly 70,000 students and staffers would be best served if trustees search for and hire a candidate who has competed with other candidates and comes out on top.

“When you have a rigged game, which is what I think is going to happen (at Wednesday’s board meeting), then you do them a disservice when they’re selected and they haven’t competed, and you do the kids and the parents a disservice,” Bredefeld said Tuesday.

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
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

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