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Edison High Murals Will Stay After Student Survey Says 'Keep Them'
gvw_nancy_price
By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 1 month ago on
June 12, 2024

Murals such as this image of poet Maya Angelou that were painted on the exterior of Edison High in 2020 will remain in place, to the consternation of some community members. (GV Wire/David Rodriguez)

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Murals on the front of Edison High School that included images of labor activist Cesar Chavez and poet Maya Angelou will remain in place due to student support, despite calls from members of the southwest Fresno community to remove them.

That was the conclusion in a staff report sent last week to the Fresno Unified School Board by chief of staff Ambra O’Connor.

Leaders of the Golden Westside Planning Committee told GV Wire that they were blindsided by the news that the murals, which they believe are inappropriate for an outward-facing wall at the high school, will remain in place.

Debbie Darden and Bob Mitchell, the committee’s chair and vice chair, said they had urged the district to include them in any discussions with Edison students about the murals.

Not only did that not happen, but Darden and Mitchell said they didn’t know about the district’s decision until they were contacted by GV Wire.

“This whole process to me has been one of deception, dishonesty, fabrications, misleading information and an attempt to reach and support that which they want to have supported,” Mitchell said Tuesday.

Fighting for Positive Change

Mitchell and Darden said the role of the Golden Westside Planning Committee includes advocating for changes that will improve the community, starting with their work years ago to bring a middle school back to southwest Fresno. The result was Rutherford P. Gaston Middle School, which opened in 2014.

They were longtime supporters of bringing college classes to the area, which now is home to the West Fresno campus of Fresno City College.

And they lobbied for a paint job in lighter, brighter hues for Edison High, which had been covered in a shade of gray that they said made the school look like a prison. They also weren’t fans of the murals that a student project had added to the exterior of the school facing California Avenue.

The murals were painted by students in 2020 with the assistance of artist Jason Esquivel.

A year ago when the School Board agreed to repaint the school, supporters and opponents of the murals showed up at board meetings to lobby for and against keeping them in place.

No other high school in the city or in Clovis has exterior murals, and the artwork detracts from the school’s outward-facing appearance, opponents said.

One of the murals at Edison High School. (GV Wire/David Rodriguez)

Petition Drive Started

That sparked an effort by Edison students, staffers, and other community members to protect the school’s “original” colors of black and gold and the murals. The outreach included posting an online petition on change.org that as of Tuesday had 1,732 signatures.

The campus repainting was completed in the fall 2023, and the district made sure to protect the artwork while determining whether it should stay or go.

Mitchell said he and Darden met with district officials during the school year to discuss their concerns about the murals, and that they made it clear that they welcomed the opportunity to have conversations with Edison students.

In the meantime, Mitchell also filed a complaint about librarian Stefani Williams’ comments last summer about how the school was being repainted and her efforts to build support by hanging posters at the school with a QR code linking to the change.org petition online. A subsequent investigation by the principal found that Williams had not violated district policies.

Signs like this were posted last summer at Edison High. (GV Wire/Nancy Price)

District Surveys Some Edison Students

According to O’Connor’s report, toward the end of the school year the Analytics, Measurement and Accountability and Communications departments partnered to develop and administer a one-question survey, “What is your preference for the murals currently painted on campus?”

Less than one-fifth of the school’s 2,532 students participated in the survey. Eighty-seven percent said to keep the murals “as is,” 9% said to paint over them and repaint them somewhere inside the campus, and 4% said to paint over them and not repaint them, according to the report.

“In alignment with the survey results, the murals will remain in their current locations,” O’Connor’s report said.

Williams said Tuesday that she and others were thrilled by the decision to keep the murals intact.

“We are very excited that the Board honored student voice and will leave the murals where they are!” Williams said in a text message. “Our students want more of these murals that reflect their cultures — more than one student has told me how it makes them feel like our school is a place for all people.”

Edison area Trustee Keshia Thomas declined to comment on the decision to keep the murals in place, saying she is no longer doing interviews with GV Wire.

No Opportunity for Students to Hear from Community

Mitchell said he and Darden wonder whether the small portion of the high school’s students who participated in the survey were swayed by their teachers or administrators, and whether they might also have considered other points of view if they had they been made aware of them.

“We don’t know who presented the survey to the students. We don’t know how it was conducted in the classrooms. We don’t know who spoke before they handed out the survey and in what tone or what statements they made before they handed out the survey,” Mitchell said.

Failing to give Golden Westside leaders the opportunity to address students about the issue, or even extend the courtesy of notifying Mitchell and Darden about the district’s decision, sends a message that they and the committee are not respected or valued, Mitchell said.

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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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