Paula Castadio, CEO of ValleyPBS until the end of July, wasn't looking to change jobs when she was approached by Fresno State President Joseph Castro about becoming vice president for university advancement. The idea was presented to her in February, but Castadio waited months before applying.
She says she decided to go for the job because "it was just the right time" — she is at a point in her life where she is ready to take on a new challenge, and she is comfortable turning over operation of KVPT (Channel 18.1) to others because it is in such good shape.
Castadio, 47, will replace Peter Smits overseeing Fresno State's fundraising, communications and alumni efforts.
The end of her ValleyPBS tenure comes with some mixed emotions. Castadio is excited about taking on the new job because it will be a chance for her to use the job skills she developed at KVPT to help her alma mater. She also gets very emotional when talking about leaving.
"One advantage to being here and loving what I do is that I've never been bored a single day," Castadio says. "It's always been so dynamic and I've always enjoyed going to work and being with my team as we've moved the station along."
Since Castadio took over 11 years ago, ValleyPBS has seen an increase in the number of channels it offers, an explosion of locally produced content and more donors than at any time in the station's history. And, there is a growing legion of people who give regularly, as opposed to one-time gifts.
She is particularly proud about the support the station has gotten from the community to help during tough times. Castadio rallied her troops — mostly volunteers — during the recession not only to stabilize the station but also to show growth.
"All through the recession, we tightened our belt all along the way so we never went into crisis," Castadio says. "We got really focused about where we wanted to go, what we wanted to do. We returned to our roots in education. We say that we are your preschool, classroom, stage for the arts and lens for exploration.
"The preschool and classroom piece is growing now. We just completed 150 ready-to-learn workshops in a four-month period through the Fresno Unified School District. We are going back to having education at the core of everything we do."
This education push comes from knowing how important public, over-the-air TV can be to local viewers. In the typical U.S. market, 9% of the population cannot afford to pay for cable. That number leaps to 14% in the Fresno market.
Children's programming remains the most-watched KVPT offerings, mostly on its flagship channel 18.1. The station also has a travel and do-it-yourself channel 18.2 and Spanish-language channel 18.3. The two additional channels launched under Castadio's watch.
Castadio started at ValleyPBS in 1994 after working four years at Valley Public Radio. She has served on the national Public Broadcasting Service board of directors for six years. Only 14 general managers from the 168 PBS stations nationwide are selected to serve in this role. The 27-member board also includes 12 members of the general public and the PBS president.
A search has started for a new KVPT CEO with Phyllis Brotherton, executive vice president and chief financial officer, acting as the interim until the board makes a selection, expected to come before the end of the year. The next hire will become KVPT's third-ever CEO. Castadio replaced Colin Dougherty as president and chief executive officer when he retired in September 2003. Dougherty ran the station for its first 27 years.
Castadio wants her legacy to be the work being done for the viewers.
"One of our mottos has been, 'Community first.' It's not about … what's easy for us. It's about what the community needs, and we make it happen," Castadio says. "I'm proud of everybody who has helped make that happen."
Looking to move
Valley Public Radio has received a six-figure donation from Bakersfield's Bernard and Bee Barmann for the construction of a new home for the local radio station. The signal by Fresno-based KVPR (FM 89.3) is simulcast on KPRX (FM 89.1) in Bakersfield.
Valley Public Radio president/general manager Mariam Stepanian would not reveal the exact amount of the donation but says it's big enough to create more confidence that the entire amount can be raised.
The donation brings the building fund to more than $400,000. It's a start toward the $1.2 million the station must raise before ground can be broken on a new facility in Clovis. The new location would give the radio station a more direct line to its transmitter at Meadow Lakes, in the Sierra below Shaver Lake.
Valley Public Radio bought land in December at Central Valley Research & Technology Business Park near Temperance Avenue and Highway 168. Work is scheduled to start in early 2015 with completion set for the following year.
After the initial cost, another $2 million will be needed to complete the construction and relocation.
KVPR has been at its current leased facility at 3437 W. Shaw Ave. for more than 25 years. The facility is limited in studio and production space, which is especially noticeable when trying to accommodate musical groups and civic meetings. Almost all of the expansion will be used for studio and production space.