CUSD Board Discusses Diversification

Clovis Unified held a board meeting on Wednesday, Sept 23 to discuss diversification and the reopening of schools. (CUSD)

The Clovis Unified School District (CUSD) held their governing board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 23 and one of the topics discussed were diversification after a recent complaint from the ALCU alleging racism.

Superintendent Eimear O’Farrell began the meeting by congratulating Buchanan high school’s wrestling coach Troy Tirapelle for becoming the 2019-2020 National Wrestling Coaches Association Coach of the Year. O’Farrell mentioned that this is the second year Tirapelle has been recognized, because last year he was also named the USA Today National Coach of the Year. 

After O’Farrell’s comments and the student representative report the board moved to another topic for discussion which was the Cultural Proficiency Report.

Several phone calls were heard from different students on behalf of Diversify our Narrative. These calls told stories of how CUSD has had a culture of racism and how these students were affected because of it.

One call in specifically, called out District Administrator Debbie Parra for dismissing and downplaying the demands made by the Clovis chapter of Diversify our Narrative.

The caller Diana Perez said that they felt that Parra was not taking them seriously and that she didn’t seem interested in true change.

After the public comments O’Farrell introduced Deputy Superintendent Norm Anderson who talked about three areas the Intercultural Diversity Advisory Council (IDAC) are working on. These areas are Racial Bias and Discrimination, Staff Traning Promoting Understanding of Cultural Differences and Multicultural Education.

“Even with Covid, the two topics that are still talked about are teen suicide and cultural appropriation,” Anderson said. “Those topics don’t go away as an important topic in our district because we are learning virtually.”

Anderson then went on to present the Coordinator of Community Relations, Saul Salinas, who talked about how the staff is working to become more diverse. Salinas mentioned how the advisory board is planning to expand and include more Latino, Asian and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

He also talked about the Student Relations Liaison and the training they are providing to the staff. Salinas said that there will be Student Responsibility Centers, this is where students will report concerns that they may have on harassment, discrimination or conflict.

After his presentation, Parra who talked about what CUSD is doing to diversify their curriculum and instruction. Parra said that they are also training teachers to have more culturally relevant teachings.

“Around professional development we are doing a lot in our district,” Parra said. “We are learning everyday and we are getting better everyday at having conversations with our students.”

Parra also mentioned American Cultures, a class taught at Clovis North high school that would explore how culture has shaped America in history and will also deepen the understanding of various American culture groups.

Board member Susan K. Hatmaker asked what kind of training the teachers, who have been called out by students for discriminatory behavior, have had.

Parra said that they go through a training that doesn’t just address their issue, but it also helps empower the student. She also mentioned that it is not just one training, that is various training sessions that they have to attend and that is not just them but also for every teacher.

Board member Steven G. Fogg asked what the district is doing to address the racism that comes from home. Fogg said that most of the kids learn their biases and racism from home so what is the district doing to address that.

“We will not solve racism and intolerance until we solve it in the home,” Fogg said. “I believe that’s where it starts. So we have to address that.”

Salinas said that there could be a workshop for parents so they could learn more about diversity.

However, Salinas said that was a “fine line” and that he personally didn’t have any workshop that could teach parents how to stop being racist.

Jorge Rodriguez has a passion for journalism and wants to bring the community information and great stories. After high school Jorge joined the U.S. Army and while in active duty he was deployed twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While in college he worked for the Fresno City College Rampage and the Fresno State Collegian newspapers. He graduated from Fresno State in 2019 with a degree in print journalism.