Fresno Unified’s Superintendent Search Ignites Firestorm

The search for Fresno Unified’s next superintendent has turned into a nightmare for the district, with dueling accusations of opacity and racial bias, followed by the withdrawal of the district’s headhunting firm.

The controversy began shortly after Superintendent Bob Nelson announced his retirement. District officials said they were limiting the search for his replacement to internal candidates only. That decision was backed up last month, with a vote to keep the search inside the district.

A number of parents, students, and community members decried the move. Even the city council had stepped in to voice its opinion that the recruitment effort should be expanded. 

Under pressure, the district announced that it was canceling interviews with internal candidates and pausing the search. On April 3, the board of trustees reversed its previous decision and voted to take its recruitment effort nationwide.

But that reversal opened its own Pandora’s box. The three internal candidates FUSD had been considering were all non-white. Was racial bias behind the decision to look elsewhere? 

“I’m kind of concerned about the internal candidates are considered minorities and people of color but they are not being given an opportunity to interview at this point as was scheduled,” FUSD’s own Assistant Superintendent of Labor Relations Annarita Howell told the school board.

The situation got even messier when the district’s headhunter, Leadership Associates, announced it would no longer be involved in the search for FUSD’s superintendent. The firm cited “misrepresentations of facts surrounding the parameters laid out at the commencement of the search.”

How this ultimately shapes up is anyone’s guess. Right now, district officials are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Nelson steps down on July 31. 



Thursday, March 28, 2024 - 09:07

School construction bonds faced some headwinds during the March 5 primary, with a passage rate of around 60% compared with the 73% seen in typical past primaries.