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Misty Her Is Looking Forward to Tackling FUSD's Challenges. Even if It Means Visiting Absentee Kids at Their Homes.
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 3 weeks ago on
May 9, 2024
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Fresno Unified's new interim superintendent Misty Her met Thursday with GV Wire for a one-on-one interview. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

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Misty Her doesn’t know how long she’ll have as Fresno Unified’s interim superintendent, so she’s forging ahead with developing a 100-Day Plan that will include keeping a sharp focus on improving students’ academic proficiency.

As she has done for decades, Her said she plans to keep a close watch on schools and even some individual students while taking deep dives into data.

Over her 30-year career, Her said, she has visited every school and overseen every region as an instructional superintendent.

“People are approaching me differently and they’re reacting to me differently.”Misty Her

“So I think in that way there’s a comfort in that, me going into this role, I really know our community and our district well,” she told GV Wire Thursday during a one-on-one interview at the district’s downtown headquarters.

Her, who was the district’s deputy superintendent for three years up until Wednesday evening when the board approved her revised contract, was quickly discovering Thursday that her new role as the district’s top administrator is already changing her interactions with staffers.

“People are approaching me differently and they’re reacting to me differently,” she said. “And I said something this morning and I realize all of a sudden, three people decided to go try figure it out. And I’m like, no, no, I was just thinking out loud, so hold on. I was saying it out loud. Whereas before I would do that and I really was just thinking out loud, you know?”

“Bob (former Superintendent Bob Nelson, now serving as a special advisor to her and the School Board) had told me, ‘you know, people are going to react to you differently.’ … it takes some getting used to.”

Her Brings New Perspectives to Job

Her’s appointment is noteworthy for many reasons: She is the first woman to hold the top job in the district’s long history. She is a graduate of Fresno Unified schools. Her children have been or are Fresno Unified students, including her youngest, Gabriel. And her whole career has been with the district, starting as a bilingual instructional aide at Ewing Elementary right out of school and then moving up the ladder from teaching to being a principal, assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent and now interim superintendent.

Misty Her is the first woman to hold Fresno Unified’s top job in the district’s history. Her photo is already on display in a long line of superintendent photos at the district’s headquarters. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

She’s made it no secret that she wants to keep the top job as a result of the School Board’s national search, and she looks forward to competing against other candidates. Will serving as interim superintendent give her a leg up over them?

“I don’t know, because honestly, it gives me a good chance to see, do I really want to do this? Is this the right fit? And it also gives our trustees a chance to see, is this the right fit?” she said. “And I stand by what I said yesterday (at a news conference), if it isn’t, then you know what? Let’s just all make it a win for kids.”

“How do we look at our children holistically, so that we can maximize what they come to us with and really build them and get them there?”Misty Her

Some critics of the district’s failure to boost test scores are calling for trustees to find someone from outside of the district to lead it in new directions. Her said she can see value in both continuity as well as outsiders’ perspectives.

“I just don’t orient in that way. I orient in … what is it that we really need to do for our district? And, I don’t know if the person coming in that’s an inside person or whether it be an outside person, what matters to me is we look at what are the issues and the problems that we need to fix, and then we go about fixing it,” she said.

And that means at times drilling to the level of individual students. Her said she was studying data at one school and noticed an eighth grader had two weeks of absences. So she went to the boy’s home and knocked on the door to find out why he was missing school.

It turned out he’d been working in his father’s garage and was already quite expert at fixing cars. But he told Her he wasn’t going to school, where he was already two grade levels behind, because he felt like he didn’t belong.

“And so how do we leverage what he already knows that’s self-taught to help him get caught up? … And how do we look at our children holistically, so that we can maximize what they come to us with and really build them and get them there?”

Getting Students the Supports They Need

Providing the proper supports for students can give them the boost they need. Her said she neither spoke nor wrote English when she started school at Jefferson Elementary, but with the assistance of teachers and her own determination she was able to improve her academic skills and move beyond the remedial level.

A younger brother who went through the same schools and had many of the same teachers didn’t get the same assistance, and Her said she has always wondered why not.

“And I think that that’s one thing that I really look at, especially now in this role, is how do we ensure that every child gets what they need so that they we can get them there (to proficiency)?” she said. “I completely understand that we’re not all going to get there at the same time. The biggest thing for me is, how do we get them there?”

That’s where her 100-Day Plan will come into play. Her said she’s working with trustees, students, and staff to develop the plan’s goals and the metrics to measure whether those goals are being met. She intends for it to be in place by June so school staff can have time to absorb it and prepare for the new school year in August.

Her said she’s heard concerns that a number of her relatives are on the FUSD payroll. In a tight-knit Hmong community like Fresno’s, pretty much everyone is related to everyone else through marriage, Her said. She said she has no close relatives working for the district: Her parents are retired FUSD custodians, her siblings are educators who work for different districts.

Will she return to her role as deputy superintendent if the School Board selects another candidate? Her said she loves working for the district and loved being deputy superintendent, and could return to that job — her contract gives her the right of return.

“I don’t know, I don’t know what the future holds. But I do know that in the time that I’m going to be here (as interim superintendent), I’m going to give it all for our kids and for our staff.”

Misty Her’s Revised Contract

To listen to the full extended version of the interview, click here.

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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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