It’s how you drive the road that counts
After close to 33 years of heading down Herndon Avenue to the District Office early in the morning in order to beat the traffic (even though this route has grown from a two-lane country road to a three-lane expressway), my routine is about to undergo a huge change toward the end of June as my wife and I embark on a new phase of our lives.
My first journey down Herndon Avenue was taken with my wife and 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son as we arrived in Clovis from Wisconsin in our Chevrolet station wagon. It was the day after then-President Ford lost his bid for election to Jimmy Carter in November 1976. The only buildings I remember from that drive along Herndon Avenue that are still here today were a much smaller St. Agnes Hospital, and our District Office and Maintenance/Transportation facility. Little did I think that almost 33 years later I would be retiring as the Superintendent of this outstanding school district.
Like Herndon Avenue, Clovis Unified has a totally different look today than in 1976. There certainly isn’t enough space to list all the events and fellow employees of Clovis Unified that have transformed our district from, as former Superintendent Dr. Floyd “Doc” Buchanan used to jokingly say, a “small country district just trying to survive,” to the Clovis Unified we know today. However, I think it is important that we continue to remember the following events that have made Clovis Unified a place where our close to 38,000 students receive an outstanding education in “mind, body and spirit” and that will continue to serve us well into the future:
â€¢ Teachers and Business Support Employees Vote NO to Union Representation – There have been many defining events during our 49-year history but nothing has been more defining than in 1977 and in several subsequent elections through the early 1980s when our teachers and business support employees overwhelmingly voted against union representation and placed their trust in our Governing Board and administration to work with our employees to maintain competitive compensation programs and, at the same time, provide an outstanding education for our students.
â€¢ CUSD’S Response to Proposition 13 in 1978 – Not too many of us remember Proposition 13, but for those of us who do, it wasn’t the election to reduce property taxes which, at that time, were the major funding source for school districts; but it was the way our district responded to Proposition 13. When school boards and superintendents throughout our State were dropping programs and threatening lay-offs, Dr. Buchanan with the support of our Governing Board, called a meeting in the Clovis High School gymnasium that should never be forgotten. At that meeting, Doc reassured our employees and community that no program or employee would be saved at the expense of another employee or program. This event established a philosophy that remains in place today in which we have never issued layoff notices nor actually had to lay off any employee or eliminate a program that benefits our students.
â€¢ Voters Support Bonds for Quality School Facilities – From 1978 through mid-1986, voters in California were not allowed to vote on bond measures for school facilities. When bond elections were once again authorized in 1986, our citizens were the first in our State to approve a bond measure in November 1986 and we are the only district in California where our citizens have approved five bond measures since 1986. The confidence of our community has allowed our district to invest more than $1.2 billion in our school facilities resulting in facilities that are second to none in the country. Quality school facilities have become the expectation rather than the exception in Clovis Unified. I am confident that our district will maintain the confidence of our voters because we have a workforce that is committed to providing quality education programs in well-maintained facilities.
â€¢ CUSD Employees “Stepping up to the Plate” During a Period of Change – Because of the tremendous growth that took place and a change in some political agendas, 1987 through 1995 were the most difficult of my 33 years in Clovis Unified. After 31 years of stable leadership with one Superintendent accompanied by a stable School Board, there were multiple changes in School Board members as well as numerous changes in our Superintendent. It was during this time of leadership changes and political turmoil that the employees of CUSD took it upon themselves to disregard the politics that were taking place at the District level and continue to provide a quality education to our students by refusing to let our traditions, culture and core values go by the wayside. Clovis Unified is a stronger and better place today because of lessons learned during those tough years.
â€¢ Stability and Commitment Returns to CUSD – After eight years of constant change, the last 14 years have seen a return to stability and a renewed commitment from the Governing Board, our employees and the community. This has resulted in unsurpassed academic and co-curricular accomplishments by our outstanding student population. The last 14 years are a prime example of what can be accomplished when the Governing Board, administration, teachers, support employees and the community are willing to work together to resolve budget, compensation, curriculum, facility, and a multitude of other issues for the good of children. For the continued growth and success of our students and school district, this level of trust, shared decision making and commitment needs to continue long into the future.
As I wind up my career after close to 33 years in Clovis Unified, and seven years as your Superintendent, it would take way too much time and space to recognize the many School Board members who have, combined, devoted hundreds of years to Clovis Unified, and the thousands of teachers, administrators, support staff and members of our community that have been so important to me, my wife and our family. That being said, I need to thank Dr. Buchanan, Dave Cook and George Kastner for hiring a young kid from Wisconsin in 1976 and for the role they played in teaching me how to survive in the “big league” of Clovis Unified. I also need to thank School Board members Sandy Bengel, Ginny Hovsepian, Dr. Jim VanVolkinburg, Richard Lake, Betsy Sandoval, Brian Heryford and Dr. Susan Walker for appointing me as the Superintendent of this great place seven years ago. Finally, I need to thank all of our employees for their acceptance of a “business guy” as their Superintendent. Believe me, it has been much more of an honor than a job to represent you as your Superintendent.