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No Security Fence for Bullard High. Why Did Fresno Trustees Table Bid Award?
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 3 weeks ago on
April 25, 2024
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Bullard High's new security fence remains in limbo after the Fresno Unified School Board voted to table awarding the construction contract. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Bullard High School’s plans for a new security fence were put on hold Wednesday when the School Board voted to table the $2 million bid award on a 4-3 vote.

“I was hoping to wait on any big projects until our board workshop on facilities that’s happening next Monday.” — Trustee Claudia Cazares, who nonetheless joined the six other trustees to approve a $12 million auxiliary gym at Fresno High.

Voting to table were board clerk Valerie Davis and trustees Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas, Keshia Thomas, and Claudia Cazares after questions were raised about the project’s cost nearly doubling since February 2021, when it was considered — and rejected — by trustees on a 4-2 vote.

Since then inflation and market forces have caused the price of steel to skyrocket, district officials told the board. Paul Idsvoog, the district’s chief operations officer, said the bid amounts will remain valid for 90 days.

The school’s fence, which dates back to its original construction in 1955, is a 4-foot-high chain link and does not wrap completely around the school.

Trustees said they wanted to postpone the decision until after a workshop Monday to talk about facility needs and a potential new bond measure to pay for them. The workshop is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and will be in the Education Center at M and Tulare streets in downtown Fresno.

“I was hoping to wait on any big projects until our board workshop on facilities that’s happening next Monday,” Cazares said.

However, Cazares and other trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a $12 million bid award for a new auxiliary gym at Fresno High School that is part of the district’s efforts to improve equity in athletic facilities. Funding will come from Measure M and the Measure Q “savings budget.”

Fence Project Rejected 3 Years Ago

Wednesday’s vote to table was not the first time the board has targeted a proposal for improved fencing at Bullard High. At the Feb. 3, 2021 board meeting, Jonasson Rosas questioned spending $1.2 million on a new security fence for the northwest Fresno high school, asking whether the district might need to spend facilities money on improvements to make classrooms safe from the COVID virus for students and staff.

The discussion turned angry, as then-Bullard region Trustee Terry Slatic accused Trustee Veva Islas of being anti-police, Islas accused Slatic of making racist remarks because of his claim that Bullard’s student diversity translated to more gangs and associated dangers, and Slatic countered that Islas’ remarks were “full of hatred.”

After that exchange the board voted 4-2, with Slatic and Cazares voting no, to remove the Bullard fence project from the Measure X project list. District voters approved the $225 million bond measure in November 2016.

Staff subsequently moved the Bullard fence project to the Measure M project list. District voters approved the $325 million Measure M in March 2020. No bond measures have been put forward by the district since then.

Photo of a Fresno Police officer at Bullard High School in Fresno, Ca.
Superintendent Bob Nelson says the lack of a secured perimeter at Bullard High makes managing security threats “more complex.” (Nancy Price/GV Wire)

Top Priority Now

Fencing prices were much lower 10 years ago when Bullard High was being “refreshed,” but the school’s Site Council then advocated to keep the school’s existing fence and character.

But a subsequent series of incidents at and near the school caused officials and the Site Council to rethink that decision, sparking an urgency on the part of the Bullard community to put the fence at the top of its priority list.

Emily Dye, a Bullard senior who is the school’s ASB president, spoke at Wednesday’s board meeting about the importance of a new security fence.

“This fencing is much needed to protect students and staff on campus and we greatly appreciate the board for putting this back on the agenda to be voted on,” she said. “Again, thank you so much for your consideration and we hope to see it go forward.”

Campus resource officers have been unable to chase down students who can easily jump fences to escape apprehension, said Alex Belanger, chief executive of facilities planning.

When the school was the target of a “swatting” incident — when a caller threatens violence that results in a large police response — school officials were hard-pressed to keep worried parents from hopping across the shorter fence while police were on the scene, going from classroom to classroom with guns drawn, Superintendent Bob Nelson told the board.

“We were able to manage it, but it did make that a lot more complex,” he said.

Link to Superintendent Search?

Was there perhaps a reason other than shepherding the district’s facilities finances for tabling the Bullard fence bid award? Wittrup, who represents the Bullard region, may have alienated other trustees when she publicly condemned plans to limit interviews of superintendent candidates to current district employees.

Wittrup was joined in her opposition to that plan by trustees Islas and Levine — who joined with her Wednesday in opposing the motion to table the fencing bid award.

At the start of the public session, Wittrup provided the following status update on the superintendent search: “The board has engaged in discussion regarding available options for the superintendent search and will provide additional information regarding the search plan at a subsequent board meeting.”

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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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