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Is Fresno State’s President the Bulldogs’ Lucky Football Charm?



Does X mark the university president's lucky stadium spot? (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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As Fresno State’s president, Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval has a presidential suite at Valley Children’s Stadium where he can entertain while watching the Bulldogs.

Want to check out earlier School Zone columns and other education news stories? You’ll find them at Nancy Price’s School Zone Facebook page.

So then why will the observant fan see him down on the field at least once, and possibly twice, during every home football game?

“I go to my lucky spot on the field,” Jiménez-Sandoval told School Zone Friday morning during an educational summit in downtown Fresno.

He was standing in the same spot last year on Oct. 29 when the Bulldogs engineered two touchdowns during the final 69 seconds for a come-from-behind victory over San Diego State. And in every home game since — the Bulldogs have won all of them — Jiménez-Sandoval has made sure to spend some time standing at the same spot near the stadium entrance.

And that lanyard around his neck? It was given to him by a local Native American man. Jiménez-Sandoval says the lanyard resembles a coral snake — and he’s aiming the snake’s imaginary venom right at the Bulldogs’ foes.

Does he have any superstitious traditions for away games? Jiménez-Sandoval says he does a lot of pacing and praying, and he and his 15-year-old son — who is an even bigger Bulldog fan with a treasure trove of stats locked into his teenage brain — will light a candle, if that will help get another W for the Dogs.

This Saturday, the Bulldogs (6-1, 2-1 Mountain West) host UNLV (6-1, 3-0) in their homecoming game. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Also in School Zone: 

  • Officials gathered Tuesday for the Terry Bradley Educational Center groundbreaking ceremony.
  • Clovis East teacher named a finalist for California Teacher of the Year
  • Two Fresno Unified schools are national award-winners.
  • Teachers union’s PR person works both sides of the aisle.

Clovis Unified’s Newest Big-Money Project Gets Its Official Groundbreaking

Golden shovels? Check. Hard hats? Check? Cheesy shoveling photo ops? Check, and check.

Shovels lined up in advance of Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony. (Clovis Unified School District)

Last week’s groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the future Terry Bradley Educational Center had all the usual accouterments that School Zone expects when public officials are celebrating a big new project. This one has been long awaited by folks in the eastern and southeastern part of the district, where new homes continue to shoot up like the mushrooms in School Zone’s backyard. Extra homes = extra kids enrolling in their neighborhood schools.

Clovis East isn’t quite bursting at the seams, but it’s getting kind of close, so the opening of the Clovis South High School in the fall of 2025 will come as a welcome relief. (And although Tuesday was the official groundbreaking ceremony, work on the site’s infrastructure started months ago.)

The honored guests at the ceremony included Bradley himself, who retired after a 34-year career at the district that included serving as superintendent from 2002 to 2009.


Clovis Unified officials put their backs into it at the Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, groundbreaking ceremony. (Clovis Unified School District)

Speaking of Clovis East …

Dr. Kelly Eichmann, a career technical education teacher at Clovis East who teaches medical careers and health and medical wellness, was one of five teachers named as 2024 California Teachers of the Year finalists.

Eichman was Fresno County’s nominee to the annual teacher-recognition program, which began in 1972 and is supported by the California Department of Education and the California Teachers of the Year Foundation.

Many of Eichmann’s students, who learn about basic medical procedures, go on to have careers in healthcare.

“That’s a huge accomplishment, we’re very proud of her work,” Superintendent Corrine Folmer told the School Board Wednesday evening.

Congratulations to These Blue-Ribbon Schools

Fresno Unified can claim some bragging rights after two of its magnet schools, Manchester GATE and Edison Computech, were named 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. The biggest brag? They were the only schools from the central San Joaquin Valley to win the honor.

To make the list, schools either have high academic performance or are making progress in closing academic gaps among student subgroups. The selected schools are among the state’s highest-performing based on several factors, including student scores.

Manchester and Edison Computech beat both the state and district average in the 2023 state standardized testing, the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments. Nearly 81% of Manchester’s kids and nearly 75% of Edison Computech’s tested as meeting or exceeding standards on the English language and mathematics tests combined, compared to the state average of 47% and district average of 33%.

Politics Is No Problem in PR World

A recent news media release sent out on behalf of the Fresno Teachers Association contained the name of a local political and communications operative, Alex Tavlian. It seemed at first glance to be an example of politics making for strange bedfellows — Tavlian, an attorney, is executive editor of the right-leaning online news site The San Joaquin Valley Sun and helped Trump ally and former Rep. Devin Nunes launch his short-lived website, “The California Republican.”

By contrast, the teachers union is perceived by many as progressive/left-leaning (the FTA’s 26-page list of contract proposals and interests included a proposal to open FUSD’s high school parking lots to homeless families, with the district ponying up $500,000 annually to cover security costs). Tavlian clearly is a gun for hire: His client list includes doing consulting work for the city of Fresno, whose City Council contains only one R among the Ds.

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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