August 25, 2023 – Sixteen public speakers came to the Clovis Unified School Board meeting with one issue on their mind- The existence of Hmong language classes in CUSD, more specifically at Clovis and Buchanan High Schools.
As the CUSD school year is just getting set to begin, many students wondered why they weren’t able to register for Hmong language classes at Clovis and Buchanan High Schools.
What they came to find out was, past Hmong teacher Dr. Vicky Xiong-Lor, who taught Hmong at both Clovis and Buchanan, had recently accepted a job at Fresno State after a 25 year career with Clovis Unified.
With this transfer, Clovis Unified was unable to replace the veteran Hmong teacher, and therefore were going to be unable to offer Hmong classes at both Clovis and Buchanan High Schools.
Upon this discovery, Hmong students, parents, and community came in high demand to the latest board meeting, asking the school district not to take away a piece of their education.
“..I forgot how to communicate in my own native language for a time. The pinnacle of that devastation came when I couldn’t hold a decent conversation with my maternal grandmother at the end of my high school senior year.”
“This action to eliminate Hmong classes is a step forward into erasing Hmong language from our students’ Body, Mind, and Spirits.”
One parent of a prior Clovis Unified Hmong student relayed his son’s ability to read and write in the Hmong language to Hmong patients, as his son now works as a pharmacist in a greatly Hmong populated community. “Had he not been taking those Hmong classes, he would probably have needed interpreters for his own parents at the pharmacist.”
Students described how Hmong classes are not only able to help them with their specific language, but help to provide information into their background and culture, further providing confidence and self-esteem.
Dr. Vicky Xiong-Lor, the now Fresno State professor, spoke at the school board meeting, and stated her wishes that Clovis Unified hire two full-time teaching positions for Hmong classes at both Clovis and Buchanan High Schools. “It has been very challenging running two schools on very different bell schedules and that took me six years to grow a very successful program. We can’t do this to the next teacher.”
Clovis Unified Superintendent Dr. Corinne Folmer assured the lively and energetic crowd that there will be Hmong classes offered for the 2023 Fall semester at both Clovis and Buchanan High Schools, but hoped that in terms of enrollment, CUSD would not have to come to a breaking point on whether or not they should keep the classes.
“Any time there are changes late in a summer to any elective courses or language courses, we always have to look at enrollment. And when I say enrollment it’s not students that are actually enrolled in the class, we look at the number of requests for a course. That is what took us time to look at.”
Folmer then explained her wishes for the Hmong communities of Clovis and Buchanan High Schools to match the enrollment status and “robust” Hmong pathway of Clovis East High School.
“I’m asking if you can also help us [grow numbers] when that registration time comes.”
With this proclamation from Dr. Folmer, Clovis and Buchanan High Schools look to host Hmong 1, 2, and 3 classes for the upcoming future, a reality that was in danger of not occurring before a community stepped up.