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Wittrup: Vote to Table Bullard Fence Contract Was 'Retaliatory'
gvw_nancy_price
By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 1 month ago on
April 25, 2024

FUSD Board President Susan Wittrup says a vote to table awarding a bid for a fence at Bullard High was retaliation for her efforts to open up the superintendent search. (GV Wire Composite)

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Fresno Unified Board President Susan Wittrup is accusing the four Fresno Unified trustees who voted to delay consideration of a new security fence at Bullard High School of “shameful” retaliation after she publicly called for the district to widen its search for a new superintendent.

Although the board tabled consideration of the fencing bid award at Wednesday night’s meeting, it approved several others, including $12 million to build a new auxiliary gym at Fresno High.

Wittrup told GV Wire on Thursday afternoon that it’s clear to her that the vote to table a $2 million bid award for the new fence, board clerk Valerie Davis and trustees Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas, Claudia Cazares, and Keshia Thomas voting in the majority, was a revenge move.

“It was obviously intended to be retaliatory, which is shameful on two levels,” she said. “The first being that it was a decision that flies in the face of our highest obligation to provide a safe, secure learning environment for students and staff.

“And the second is that as a district, we’ve been accused of having a culture of retaliation. How do you change a culture of retaliation when it exists at the board level, and it continues to exist at the board level?”

Davis, Jonasson Rosas, Cazares, and Thomas had constituted a board majority that was in favor of limiting the initial interviews for a new superintendent to internal candidates. The district is seeking a replacement for outgoing Superintendent Bob Nelson, who is leaving on July 31 for a faculty job at Fresno State.

After political heat over that decision intensified, Cazares posted on social media that she was in support of widening the search, and the board at a special meeting on April 3 opted to call off scheduled interviews that night.

Trustees’ Comment

Cazares and Thomas could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

“… as a district, we’ve been accused of having a culture of retaliation. How do you change a culture of retaliation when it exists at the board level, and it continues to exist at the board level?” — Fresno Unified School Board President Susan Wittrup

Davis declined to respond to the accusation of retaliation.

“I’m not going to talk about anything but student achievement at this time, OK?” she said. “Call me up when you want to talk about student achievement, OK? I’m not going to get into any, she said-she felt, or something, we’ll have those conversations privately, she and I. OK, thank you for calling.”

Jonasson Rosas denied that her motion to table the bid award was retaliatory. She emphasized that Wednesday’s vote to table was not an outright rejection of the project, which she said the board needs to weigh against other facilities needs when setting up a priority list.

If the fence is Bullard’s top priority, it may come at the expense of other Bullard region projects, such as confidential spaces at schools for students and staff, Jonasson Rosas said.

“It shouldn’t come at the expense of projects in other regions,” she said.

Jonasson Rosas said she’s not certain how the Bullard fence project, which has undergone a new design based on school and community input and been vetted by the State Architect’s Office, even wound up back on a project list without board discussion. Such discussions typically happen at workshops such as Monday’s, she said.

“You’re honestly going to have to ask the board president and staff why they bypassed not only the regular process but put in a project that had already been voted down,” she said.

Old Fence Too Short

The Bullard community has been advocating for a new fence for a number of years after initially declining to replace the original, 4-foot-high chain link fence that was built in 1955.

In 2021 the board considered the project, then estimated to cost $1.2 million, but removed it from the facilities project list after a clash between then-Bullard area Trustee Terry Slatic and other trustees and questions raised about its cost and scope. District administrators said at the time that the bids had come in about $100,000 lower than the estimates.

The only person to side in 2021 with Slatic was Cazares, who said then that she supported improving school security by limiting access to single points of entry, which was the case with the Bullard project.

Although the board tabled consideration of the fencing bid award at Wednesday night’s meeting, it approved several others, including $12 million to build a new auxiliary gym at Fresno High.

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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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