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High School Students to Get a $5M ‘Home’ at Fresno City College



Design Science Middle College High School chemistry students at work. (Design Science Facebook photo)
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Check out my other School Zone columns at Nancy Price’s School Zone Facebook page.

After more than a decade of using “borrowed” classroom space at Fresno City College, Design Science Middle College High School will soon have a home of its own.

Fresno Unified is shelling out $5 million to help build Fresno City’s new $88 million Science Building, which will include 5,855 square feet of classroom space and 535 square feet of office space specifically for Design Science students and staffers.

Design Science is a dual enrollment magnet school where students spend their first two years on high school and some college classes and their junior and senior years taking college-level courses, enabling them to graduate with their associate degree the same month they collect their high school diploma.

When the school was opened in 2005 classes were held on the Fresno City campus near the Police Academy. Classes were subsequently moved into spaces in the Business Education Division building next door to the Old Administration Building. The current enrollment is 290 students.

Also in School Zone: 

  • Fresno Unified administrators, newcomers take new jobs.
  • Want to study nursing? Check out Fresno Pacific’s new program.
  • Fresno City offers a free online job skills course.
  • Pritzker Foundation gets kudos for its philanthropy.

The new Science Building is one of several new buildings at Fresno City, including a parking garage, being built on the east end of the campus near Blackstone Avenue. Construction of the Science Building, which will include new laboratories for Fresno City science students, is expected to be completed in early 2024.

The School Board voted unanimously last week to approve an addendum to the agreement the district has with State Center Community College District to use its facilities for the Design Science classrooms and office space in the Science Building.

Design Science was recognized in 2019 as a California Distinguished School for narrowing achievement gaps and raising students’ academic performance. The majority of its student body are low-income but head to a four-year college after graduation.

FUSD Names New Administrators

The mid-year shake-up of Fresno Unified’s administration continues with the vote last week by the School Board to appoint a new chief of staff, chief academic officer, and head of transportation.

The board had previously voted to move the former head of human resources, Paul Idsvoog, to his new job as chief operating officer, with chief of staff David Chavez taking his place. At the same time, the district announced the retirement of COO Karin Temple and chief academic officer Kim Mecum later this year.

Last week the board voted unanimously to promote Ambra O’Connor, executive director of the Prevention and Intervention Department, to chief of staff, and hired Dr. Natasha Baker as the new chief academic officer. Baker has been superintendent of Banning Unified School District in Southern California for the past two years.

The board also voted to appoint Ralph Meza III as director of transportation. He previously worked as director of administrative services at Visalia Unified School District, according to his LinkedIn profile.

It’s a family tradition — Meza’s father served as Fresno Unified’s transportation director for 38 years before his retirement in 2012.

Fresno Pacific Unveils New Nursing Program

Valley residents who want to earn a nursing degree now have another option. Fresno Pacific University is accepting applications for its initial group of 24 students to enroll in August.

The university received final approval of its program in February from the California Board of Registered Nurses Education and Licensing Committee.

Fresno Pacific will hire four new faculty members for the program.

Students in the bachelor of science in nursing program can be right out of high school or already be a registered nurse who is seeking further education.

Having more nursing training slots is good for the Valley, a local healthcare official said in the university’s news release.

“For decades, the nursing shortage has been critical in the Central Valley — and even more so with the onset of the pandemic,” said Daniel Davis, vice president and chief nursing officer at Community Medical Centers. “Community constantly looks for ways to provide more access for local students who want to join the frontlines caring for our region’s patients. We are excited about the new opportunities that will come with the growth of Fresno Pacific University’s program.”

To learn more about the program, click here.

City@Work Program Helps Job Seekers

Need to brush up on your essential job skills? Fresno City College has a new free online course with topics such as career planning, personal finance, working with others, communication, and leadership.

City@Work consists of six modules and a total of 47 videos that were created by Fresno City faculty and staffers. It’s designed for several audiences: instructors augmenting curriculum, students viewing the videos independently, local employers augmenting staff training, and community members who are already employed or getting ready to find a job.

Access City@Work at www.fresnocitycollege.edu/cityatwork.

Philanthropist of the Year

This award might seem like a no-brainer: The Jay Pritzker Foundation was selected by the Network of California Community College Foundations as the 2021 Bernard Osher Philanthropist of the Year.

The foundation pledged $100 million in support of California Community Colleges in October 2020, to be given in $5 million increments over 20 years.

The funding supports the “Finish Line Scholars Program,” which delivers scholarships and emergency financial aid for students at specified colleges in the three regions of California with the lowest percentage of adults who have college degrees. Those regions are the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, and the Far North.

Eligible Valley colleges are Fresno City College, Clovis Community College, Madera Community College, Reedley College, College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Porterville College, West Hills College Coalinga, and West Hills College Lemoore.

In the program’s first eight months, $4.6M in emergency financial aid was distributed to 8,262 students.

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