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Enough With the Excuses. Are You Part of the Problem With Fresno's Public Education?
Darius-Assemi
By Darius Assemi
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 1, 2024

Leaving high school with solid reading, writing, and math skills can be the difference between a good-paying job or instead being pushed toward a life of crime. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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A quality public education shouldn’t be reserved for deadweight political talk — it’s a civil rights matter that is everyone’s business. If you don’t see that, you are part of the problem.

Darius Assemi

Opinion

Look at the statistics: our Black and Hispanic children in Fresno Unified are lagging far behind their peers. How do we expect them to shape the future of our community when they’re struggling to grasp basic reading and math skills? How do we expect them to get jobs — good paying jobs that will help their economic mobility? Or are we pushing them into a life of crime so they can put food on the table?

Enough with the excuses. Transformation needs to start the moment these kids step foot in the classroom, with a solid, results-driven curriculum. And it’s not an option — it’s our obligation to make sure Fresno Unified delivers on that promise, without any justification.

We can’t settle for lip service or half-hearted attempts. We should be demanding a thorough nationwide search for a transformative superintendent who can truly make a difference. This isn’t just about checking boxes; it’s about finding someone who can inspire real change — someone who can turn the above chart upside down for students so that over 80% pass math and over 70% pass English.

Every Community Leader Must Step Up

We need every community leader to step up and throw their weight behind this crucial effort. No more excuses, no more shortcuts. We should not rest until we find the leader our community deserves. And, if you are part of the executive team that has produced the dismal results for our minority and marginalized youth, I don’t see how you can be deemed qualified to lead the district as a transformative leader.

There is a unique opportunity for the district to shift course and do right by students. Board President Wittrup, Assemblymember Arambula, Councilmembers Arias, Karbassi, Esparza, and Bredefeld, business leader Brooke Ashjian, as well as various labor leaders and community activists, have publicly acknowledged this. I know Mayor Dyer, District Attorney Smittcamp, Fresno County Sheriff Zanoni, and Fresno Police Chief Balderrama want what’s best for Fresno. I urge them, along with the rest of Fresno City councilmembers and the entire Fresno County Board of Supervisors, to join in support of this unique opportunity.

If we sit on the sidelines and allow a few members of the board to protect the bureaucracy, then we deserve the kind of dismal outcomes Fresno Unified produces.

Compare the Wide Gap Between ‘Peer Districts’ Fresno and Long Beach

Understand: Bureaucracies do not change voluntarily. They must be dragged kicking and screaming to transformation. In Fresno Unified’s case, some of its trustees and top-ranking executives don’t want “outsiders” questioning or exposing their miserable performance.

These same individuals at Fresno Unified don’t want you to put those puzzle pieces together. When stacked against districts of similar size and diversity, like longtime designated “peer” Long Beach Unified, our gap is disgraceful. We shamefully trail behind them in college and career readiness through English and math standards by 42.8 and 33.3 points, respectively. See the chart below.

Everyone should be involved and not waste this opportunity to transform California’s third-largest school district and worst performing into a top-tier educational powerhouse, much like the remarkable turnaround achieved in Miami-Dade under the leadership of superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who now spearheads the Los Angeles Unified School District.

I support the Board President’s leadership in trying to ensure that we do an open nationwide search and hire the most transformative executive to lead the charge. And so should you!

About the Author

Darius Assemi of Fresno is a builder, farmer, and philanthropist. He is the president and CEO of Granville Homes and publisher of the award-winning GV Wire.

Make Your Voice Heard

GV Wire encourages vigorous debate from people and organizations on local, state, and national issues. Submit your op-ed to bmcewen@gvwire.com for consideration.

 

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