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Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition we get an update on the situation at Oroville Dam, a progress report on plans for a new freeway in Bakersfield, and take a look at how county budgets could take a hit with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Here's this week's show:
 

Brooke Ashjian

For the first time in a decade, the Fresno Unified School District is searching for a new superintendent. School board president Brooke Ashjian told Valley Public Radio in an interview on Valley Edition that he believes morale in the district is the "highest I've ever seen it" following the departure of longtime superintendent Michael Hanson on February 1st. Ashjian, who was one of Hanson's strongest critics reiterated his claims that the FBI investigation into district school construction practices is still active, contrary to statements made by the former superintendent.

City of Fresno

The City of Fresno has reached an agreement with two local school districts to keep a handful of campuses open on weekends for community recreation.

The deal which was announced Monday involves both the Fresno Unified and Central Unified school districts.

The agreement aims to open seven high school campuses by March, with an additional seven to open by May. The campus grounds will be open between 9am and 5pm on weekends.

Fresno Unified School Board President Luis Chavez says the effort is a partnership between the districts and the city. 

File Photo

The head of the Fresno Unified School District is coming under fire after claims that he instructed his staff use a cell phone app that sends messages without leaving any trace. That practice could raise ethical and legal problems for district superintendent Michael Hanson.

Journalist Mark Arax was the first to report that Hanson allegedly used the Cyber Dust app which claims it leaves no record of any of the messages sent or received.

Eric Paul Zamora / The Fresno Bee

There’s a controversy brewing in Fresno that has school districts up and down the state watching very closely. It all has to do with how districts spend taxpayer money when they build a new school. Traditionally districts would build up reserves or bond money for a new school, and then put the project out to bid for design and construction. The lowest bidder typically would get the job.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

School districts across the valley are trying to figure out what to do with new money intended to help their most vulnerable students. But a letter from the State Department of Education raises questions about whether some of their spending on things like teacher raises is allowed. The interpretations of the new funding formula vary, based on who you ask.

The special funding, known as supplemental and concentration funds, is a big funding boost for schools to help the neediest kids, such as poor students, non-English speakers, and foster kids.

Brooke Ashjian

Local schools have a lot on their plate, preparing students for life, a job and the possibility of a college education. But what about students who likely won't attend college? The answer used to be in vocational education classes, things like auto shop and wood shop. But increasingly those classes have disappeared from schools with the emphasis on standardized testing and college readiness.

FUSD

A day after the U.S. Department of Education gave eight of California's largest school districts a waiver from provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson praised the decision, saying it will improve accountability and student performance, and "allows us to do work very differently." 

The districts, which include Sanger Unified and Fresno Unified, are all members of a coalition called the California Office to Reform Education or CORE.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Two Valley school districts – Fresno Unified and Sanger Unified – were granted a one-year waiver from requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act today by the U.S. Department of Education. The move will allow school officials to introduce their own plans for a new statewide curriculum and avoid costly penalties under the law.

The districts were among eight in California to receive the waiver, and are all members of a coalition called the California Office to Reform Education, or CORE.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

Pao Saephan crouches down in his sun-drenched field. He cups a red jewel in his hand.

In a few more days, his strawberries will be fully ripe. He’ll pick them once they are garnet-colored from stem to tip.

“We want all the strawberries, to be full ripe, full flavor, with 100 percent sugar in them,” says Saephan.

In the past, he would sell the fresh berries at his roadside stand - called Sam’s Strawberry Patch. It’s located at the intersection of Manning Avenue and I Street in Reedley.

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