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Sanger Trustee Injects Race Into Fresno Unified Superintendent Search
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 2 weeks ago on
April 3, 2024

Sanger Unified Trustee Va Her, left, is making unsubstantiated claims about Fresno Unified Board President Susan Wittrup and the search for Bob Nelson's successor as superintendent. (GV Wire)

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Sanger Unified School District Trustee Va Her has accused Fresno Unified Board President Susan Wittrup of being racist by talking about Deputy Superintendent Misty Her’s candidacy to become the district’s new superintendent and also about whether Misty Her’s relatives are on the district payroll.

Wittrup vehemently denied Va Her’s unsubstantiated allegations on Wednesday. Va Her did not respond Wednesday to phone calls or an email from GV Wire.

Meanwhile, former FUSD Trustee Dr. Tony Vang said the district should have convened an open search from the start rather than wanting to hire a new superintendent solely from an internal pool.

Va Her’s claims were posted on Facebook and came as Wittrup and others in the community have been speaking out about opening the superintendent search to more than internal candidates. Deputy Superintendent Misty Her reportedly had the inside track for the job as an internal candidate.

“The board president of Fresno Unified is making racist and insensitive comments, also unsubstantiate accusations about one of our Hmong Sister,” Va Her posted, using the Facebook moniker Vam Pov Hawj.

In a separate post on the Facebook page of Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula, who came out Tuesday in favor of widening the Fresno Unified superintendent search and not limiting the search to internal candidates, Va Her wrote the following:

“Dr. Arambula, base on your statement you support: The unsubstantiated allegations of nepotism levied against Ms. Misty Her by Ms. Susan Wittrup, communicated via correspondence to KMJ, constitutes a defamatory attack not only on Ms. Her’s individual qualifications for candidacy, but potentially on the entire Hmong community. These accusations, absent any factual basis, suggest a discriminatory animus and a disregard for principles of cultural competency within the workplace. Furthermore, Ms. Wittrup’s potential breach of confidentiality regarding the district’s hiring practices raises concerns about her adherence to Human Resources protocols. Such actions may warrant further investigation.”

Cary Catalano, spokesman for Sanger Unified, said that Va Her’s posts were from his private Facebook account, not a school district account, and they do not reflect an official position by the Sanger Unified School District or the district’s governing board.

Wittrup: Goal Is to Hire Best Qualified Candidate

Wittrup denied Va Her’s allegations that she is racist or that she has spoken about Misty Her as a candidate. Wittrup said she didn’t appear on KMJ radio or correspond with the station.

Moreover, a review of an audio recording of Tuesday’s news conference confirms that Wittrup did not talk about Misty Her or nepotism.

“My sole focus is to expand the search for the superintendent so that we can interview external and internal applicants all together for two reasons,” Wittrup said. “I believe … we should be looking at every qualified, interested applicant for this huge job and this important position in Fresno. And I believe that that process also validates an internal candidate if they’re ultimately selected because it forces them to compete with other strong candidates.

“That is the only thing that I have been saying in the media. I have never mentioned our internal applicants. I have never mentioned Misty Her by name.”

Former Trustee Tony Vang Says Open Search Is Best

Former FUSD Trustee Dr. Tony Vang

Vang, who served on the Fresno Unified School Board for 10 years but retired in 2012 in the face of a recall over his residency, told GV Wire on Wednesday afternoon that the School Board should not have agreed to limit the superintendent search to consider only internal candidates.

Vang, an associate professor at the Kremen School of Education at Fresno State, said ethnicity, race, and gender should not be the determining factors in choosing a new superintendent.

Instead, he said, the next superintendent should have classroom as well as management experience, should be able to work well with parents and the community, and should have a strong track record of leadership and the competency to lead the state’s third-largest school district.

 Board Meeting Tonight

The School Board decided last month to only interview internal candidates and is scheduled to conduct one or more interviews in a closed session portion of tonight’s special board meeting, which will begin at 5 p.m. in the downtown Education Center at M and Tulare streets.

But on Tuesday, Trustee Claudia Cazares posted a comment on Facebook that makes it appear she may have changed her mind about limiting the search to internal candidates.

That could mean a majority of the School Board now favors widening the search for the successor to outgoing Superintendent Bob Nelson, who is leaving after July 31 to take a faculty job at Fresno State.

Cazares’ Facebook post came shortly before a news conference in downtown Fresno at which a coalition of local lawmakers, labor and business representatives, the teachers union, and a retired judge joined Wittrup in urging the School Board to take the time to conduct a thorough search for the best-qualified candidate to lead Fresno Unified, the state’s third largest school district.

Facebook Posts by Va Her

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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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