Hundreds air concerns at Bullard High meeting

Participants complain about crowding, lack of gifted-student programs.

The Fresno BeeJanuary 23, 2013 

More than 500 parents, teachers and students gathered at a town hall meeting Tuesday night in the Bullard High School cafeteria to voice their frustration about promises they say have been broken by Fresno Unified School District.

In a meeting that lasted more than two hours, participants complained about the lack of GATE programs for gifted students in the Bullard High feeder schools and overcrowding at Bullard High, leading to bad test scores and increased violence on campus.

Both are problems they said they were promised would be addressed after they supported the passage of Measure Q, a bond measure for school improvements.

District Superintendent Michael Hanson, who did not attend Tuesday's meeting, has disputed some of those claims, such as overcrowding and the lack of programs for academically gifted students. But Hanson has said the district doesn't discount the parents' concerns.

Hanson said last week he would not be able to attend the meeting, but promised someone from district administration would.

No one spoke on behalf of district administrators during the meeting.

Fresno Unified trustee Michelle Asadoorian, who represents the Bullard High area and has been a critic of district administrators, did attend, welcoming participants and introducing another speaker.

When a panel of students, teachers and parents took the stage to share their stories about Bullard High, students focused on overcrowding.

"There's so many kids, I don't think teachers can teach effectively," said freshman Greg Weaver, 15. "They're having to spend more time disciplining kids."

Weaver said it's so crowded students can cheat with their phones in class, but teachers can't keep track of everyone.

Weaver said he has considered leaving Bullard High but thinks "there's a possibility it changes."

Parents and teachers who spoke touched on the overcrowding issue but tended to focus their displeasure on the lack of opportunities for gifted students in Bullard area schools.

Many said they've had to consider options outside the area for their children.

The idea to secede from Fresno Unified was discussed briefly when comparing Fresno Unified test scores with Central Unified and Sanger Unified.

Some participants said Fresno Unified had gotten too big.

Petitions being circulated by Bullard parents have a list of demands, including easing overcrowding at Bullard High, reducing violence and drugs at the high school, creating gifted and talented programs for third to 12th grades, allowing autonomy to establish a "high standard of dress," and giving parents a bigger and more independent voice in school decisions.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6279 or jrayburn@fresnobee.com.

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