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Board Will Discuss Filling Fresno High Area Trustee Seat Tuesday



Trustee Carol Mills, who represented FUSD Area 5 for almost 20 years, died July 21. (GV Wire File)
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The Fresno Unified School Board has scheduled a special meeting for 5 p.m. Tuesday to figure out how to fill the Fresno High Area 5 seat formerly held by Carol Mills, who died July 21 after battling ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Check out my other School Zone columns at Nancy Price’s School Zone Facebook page.

The board has two choices: Make an appointment to fill the seat or hold a special election. Making an appointment would cost less than holding a special election — estimated at more than $100,000 — but it would deprive Fresno High area voters of choosing their own representative.

If the board decides to hold an election, the Area 5 seat apparently would remain empty until April 12, based on election law deadlines and the state schedule for elections.

If trustees make an appointment — their deadline would be Sept. 19 — the person appointed would be in office only a little over a year because the seat would be up for election on the November 2022 ballot as a special election.

If voters challenge the appointment and collect enough petition signatures to force a special election, it might be held as early as mid-February. Whether it’s a board-ordered election or citizen-ordered, the winner would serve the remainder of Mills’ term through 2024.

Also in School Zone: 

  • Clovis Unified’s superintendent gets a new nickname.
  • These yellow buses are environmentally green.

Tuesday’s meeting will be in the board room of the Education Center at M Street and Tulare Avenue in downtown Fresno, the first time the board will meet there since before the pandemic’s arrival in March 2020. Unlike recent board meetings at area junior high and high schools, this one will be televised live.

Given the controversy over the board’s vote to change the Fresno High Warrior mascot from the image of a Native American man to a line drawing of Royce Hall, there could be a fair amount of interest in who is selected — or elected — to take Mills’ place.

By the way, Royce Hall will be the site of an Aug. 28 memorial service for Mills.

Candidates Are Starting to Line up

Four other trustee seats will be up for election in 2022, and so far three people have filed campaign organization paperwork, signaling their intention to run.

Board president Valerie Davis was the first — barely two months after she was re-elected in November 2018, the Sunnyside High Area 3 trustee had filed her statement of organization to run again in 2022. About two months later newly elected Bullard High Area 7 Trustee Terry Slatic did the same.

It appears that Slatic may have a challenger. On July 20 Susan Wittrup, a longtime Fresno Unified school psychologist, filed her candidate intention statement and campaign organization statement, which allows her to start fundraising for her campaign.

The candidates will need to wait until 113 days before the election to file their candidacy paperwork with the Fresno County Office of Elections.

‘Paging Dr. Femur’

Clovis Unified board President Dr. Steven Fogg interjected a bit of unintended levity into Thursday evening’s special School Board meeting during which trustees heard from advocates and opponents of changing mask use requirements for students in school.

After some tense moments and hearing from angry parents fed up with the mask rules, the board voted unanimously to let parents opt out for their kids if they self-attest that their child has a medical or mental health issue or a disability for which wearing a face mask would interfere with their education.

After the vote, Fogg, a Clovis ophthalmologist, was asking Superintendent Dr. Eimear O’Farrell about how the district will communicate the changes to the community when he conflated her first and last names.

“Dr. Femur … now you know the desire of the board, can you tell us now what’s going to happen with this thing?” he asked.

After a brief pause, O’Farrell asked with a chuckle, “OK, sorry, is it a medical term, Dr. Femur?” as laughter broke out across the board room.

“Oh my God … that’s what caffeine does to you,” Fogg responded good-naturedly.

Clovis Bus Fleet Going Green

Clovis Unified kids who ride school buses now have a better chance of boarding an electric-powered one. The district recently announced that it has purchased six additional EV buses, which now total nine out of the fleet of 166 buses.

With the new buses the district will save money and also improve the environment, because EV buses have lower fuel and maintenance costs and emit way fewer pollutants into the air.

About 90% of the cost to buy the buses, $3.17 million, was funded with grants from San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, VW Mitigation Trust Fund and Pacific Gas and Electric, transportation director Sheryl Boe said.

The district also got more than $450,000 in grants from the air district and PG&E to build the electrical infrastructure and charging stations. Each bus can travel about 90 miles when fully charged.

How will kids know they are on an EV bus? Look for a green-painted bird flying over the entrance door.

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