Let’s Talk Clovis: Legendary CUSD Superintendent Dr. Floyd Buchanan, 1924-2015

CUSD Superintendent Dr. Floyd Buchanan, 1924-2015. (Clovis Museum)

We call him Doc.

Dr. Floyd B. Buchanan (1924-2015) became the first Superintendent of Clovis Unified School District in 1960. With the guidance of this renowned educator the District became nationally recognized for their educational excellence. It is recognized that as the Clovis Unified School District goes so goes the town of Clovis.

Two basic standards guided his decisions: “Is it good for the kids?” and “Every kid deserves a good education.” He is a brilliant visionary with a tenacious focus on goals. He believes that all students deserve an education which will prepare them for future opportunities in life.

“Doc-ism”: “We’re too poor to buy cheap.” He was quick to assure our rural-conservative population that it was best to buy an expensive “Cadillac” over a cheaper model since it would last twice as long. The taxpayers were converted and historically have supported school bonds for new schools and upgrading of older schools. Inner city schools in Clovis have not been neglected. It is standard procedure to maintain quality teachers, resources and equipment at all schools.

“Doc-ism”: “Document the facts, minimize the variables and 90 percent of your goals will be achieved.” Doc believed that variables are excuses for not accomplishing a task.

“Doc-ism”: “Value people above programs.” Doc interviewed every new teacher and staff member. He was very perceptive and hired those who were intelligent and had a passion for excellence. Doc believed everyone was accountable for their professional performance. He was quick to remove barriers, establish factual goals, and give his employees professional freedom. He stated, “Make sure there aren’t too many people in charge, give teachers the best materials and then stand back and cheer them on.”

“Doc-ism”: “Competition is a good motivator.” Doc believes everyone wants to be a winner and competition builds strength and endurance. Six months into his new position, disgruntled “Clovis Boosters” met with him with major concerns. He convinced them that change was good. At the close of the meeting he was invited to join the club.

Some of the early changes: Coaches would serve as referees at games and were not above bias. Doc opened a concession stand and proceeds were used to hire CIF referees. The girl’s basketball teams were challenged to play full court as their male counterparts did.

He got a “bargain” on the first tackle football uniforms that were all white. He placed different colors of tape on helmets to identify the teams. There were no funds to support the first girls’ volleyball team and players used balloons. A parent club was formed to support the teams.

“Doc-ism”: “4-3 vote of the Board of Trustees is a majority decision.” Doc respected the “loyal opposition.” He honored tradition and values but was a visible, strong, determined leader of educational change. The 1960 unification of seven independent districts created open antagonism. Doc and the dress code were key issues in a 1964 recall that failed. He still admires the dedication and support of four trustees that remained loyal to his vision. He understood that they were lifelong members of this community and would not relocate as he would if the recall prevailed.

Former Board member Ralph Lynn recorded “Platitudinous Preachments of Doc”:
”A school district without accountability is like a car without breaks.” “There is nothing worse than a fired up untrained gladiator.” “Success is not final and failure need not be permanent.” “Win with class, lose with dignity.” “What do you think would happen if we let the kids in on what we are doing?” “Don’t get on your educational horse and ride off without the kids.” “If you are being burned at the stake, you may have carried too much wood.”

After leaving the District in 1991, Doc served as Distinguished Professor of Exemplary Practices, CSU, Fresno and as a consultant at numerous school districts.

Behind every great man is a greater woman. Doc’s wife of 61 years Molly died in 2006. She was his tower of strength. She taught fourth grade at Viking School for twenty years. Her peers recognized her as, “Marvelous, marvelous person, level-headed and unbelievably cool. Nothing fazed her.” Her final letter to Doc: “You are my hero. You are kind, loving and so handsome.”

The legendary Doc is part of our rich heritage.

Peg Bos
Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.