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Committed to Politics or Committed to Fresno's Children?
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By Bill McEwen, News Director
Published 3 weeks ago on
March 22, 2024

Left to right: Fresno Unified Trustees Valerie Davis, Keisha Thomas, Claudia Cazares, and Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas want to keep the district's search for its next superintendent in-house. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Misty Her can tell the community that she believes she’s the best candidate to lead Fresno Unified with one bold move.

Bill McEwen Portrait

Bill McEwen

Opinion

On Monday, Her should call a news conference or issue a statement saying she wants the district to conduct a statewide search for a superintendent.

In other words, bring it on. I’m not afraid of competition. I’m really good at what I do and if Fresno Unified finds someone better, our students benefit.

Not only would Fresno Unified’s deputy superintendent do the right thing, but she’d also clean up the mess of the four trustees who want to only look in-house for Bob Nelson’s successor.

There’s a reason we haven’t heard a word from Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas, Claudia Cazares, Valerie Davis, and Keisha Thomas about scuttling a far-ranging hunt for the top job in California’s third-largest school district.

Politics Trumps What’s Best for Kids

Their position is indefensible and smacks of Fresno Unified’s trademark corrosive politics. While trustees talk of doing what’s best “for kids,” the No. 1 goal for some is protecting their seats.

Jonasson Rosas, for example, often talks about best practices, performance-based decisions, and the district’s return on investment. But she has jettisoned the best practice of a statewide — if not nationwide — search in favor of pandering to the Hmong community for votes in a November reelection bid.

Elevating Her to the top after a window-dressing search also could conceivably boost Jonasson Rosas’s husband, Luis Chavez, in his bid to unseat Sal Quintero from the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

The trustees who want a search thinner than the lead in a No. 2 pencil likely imagine themselves astute political players. They are, in fact, amateurs clueless to the trouble heading their way.

With the exception of then-Mayor Alan Autry, who unsuccessfully sought authority over Fresno Unified more than 20 years ago, mayors and councilmembers largely have tried to influence district decisions behind the scenes.

However, this ridiculous move with the superintendent’s search has rightfully sent several local leaders into apoplexy.

Instead of cruising to re-election in November, Jonasson Rosas and Cazares can expect to be mercilessly pounded by challenger Garry Bredefeld and incumbent Steve Brandau as they battle for a Board of Supervisors seat. When Bredefeld and Brandau get a hold of a political enemy, they never let go.

In addition to Bredefeld, at least two other councilmembers — Miguel Arias and Mike Karbassi — will direct lasers at the four trustees who engineered this window-dressing search at last Wednesday’s board meeting.

It doesn’t stop there, either. The powerful Fresno Teachers Association wants a statewide search and transparency in the selection process. The question is, can Jonasson Rosas and Cazares mount visible campaigns absent FTA’s financial backing? Probably not.

Fixing the Four Trustees’ Unforced Error

By any objective measure, the Rush to Judgment Four — Jonasson Rosas, Cazares, Davis, and Thomas — have boxed themselves in with an unforced error.

I suspect that Her knows the many reasons why large public and private agencies conduct expansive searches for executive positions.

She also knows that cream rises to the top. Her husband, Phong Yang, was appointed associate vice president for strategic enrollment management at Fresno State two months ago. To get that position, Yang competed against other top-flight candidates from California and throughout the nation.

The choice is Her’s. She can gamble on the four trustees holding firm and anointing her superintendent.

If that’s the case, she’ll be beholden to them — just as former Rep. Kevin McCarthy was owned by a handful of Freedom Caucus members who unceremoniously ushered him out of the Speaker’s chair the first time he didn’t kiss their rings.

Or, Her can undo the damage wrought by these trustees by telling the world she’s ready to compete for Fresno’s most important job.

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Bill McEwen,
News Director
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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