EDITORIAL: Hanson, Fresno Unified trustees need to 'buy local'

January 9, 2014 

Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Michael Hanson repeatedly has turned a blind eye to local talent when hiring people to serve the district's communications needs.

JOHN WALKER/THE FRESNO BEE — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

What part of "buy local" does Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Michael Hanson not understand?

During his tenure, Hanson repeatedly has turned a blind eye to local talent when hiring people to serve the district's communications needs. In 2007, for example, he hired Peri Lynn Turnbull of San Diego as the district's chief information officer. Turnbull never moved to Fresno. Instead, she would come into town on Sunday nights and work for much of the week before going back home.

Included in Turnbull's six-figure contract was a $2,075 monthly allowance for meals and travel. Turnbull lasted just two years — hardly a surprise given the demands of her commute.

Now the district has signed off on a $95,000 public relations contract with two former Fresno Unified employees — both of whom have full-time jobs in New York.

This new contract with former chief information officer Jamilah Fraser and former communications analyst Shana Kemp is troubling in many ways.

For starters, Fraser and Kemp will be paid $100 an hour to do written and video communications and help plan the district's convocation in August to kick off the 2014-15 school year.

There are plenty of people and companies here in the central San Joaquin Valley that are skilled in video production and putting together big conferences. The district needn't rely on folks flying back and forth from New York.

In addition, five months ago Hanson appointed Amy Idsvoog, who had been working in Wisconsin, as a communications analyst with an annual salary of $100,304.

After Idsvoog was hired, Kim Mecum, associate superintendent for human resources, said that Idsvoog would be responsible for creating a communications plan for district initiatives, which could include anything from writing news releases to event planning. As Idsvoog came to the district with 15 years' experience in the hotel industry, she would appear perfectly capable of planning the convocation.

Under the terms of their contract, Fraser and Kemp are to perform 13 specific duties for the district. Most curious is this one: "Training/onboarding of new Chief Information Officer."

Fresno Unified doesn't have a chief information officer because Fraser's announced replacement, Natalia Powers of Palm Beach, Fla., backed out and decided to stay with her school district. But when Hanson and the trustees do settle on one, Fraser will be in charge of training him or her.

This is troubling because the chief information officer of a district as large as Fresno Unified — someone who will be paid well over $100,000 annually — shouldn't need on-the-job training. That person should be organized, talented, dynamic and able to run the operation from day one.

Apparently, the four trustees — Valerie Davis, Cal Johnson, Carol Mills and Janet Ryan — who approved Fraser's and Kemp's consulting gig on Wednesday night don't have high expectations for the next hire.

Perhaps if Hanson looked locally for a new chief information officer, the district could find someone capable of staying upright without a set of $95,000 training wheels.


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