Terms for four of the seven Clovis Unified school board members will expire this fall, and already incumbents and community members are preparing to mount campaigns to claim the seats.
School board president Chris Casado, along with trustees Brian Heryford and Ginny Hovsepian, are running for re-election, while longtime member Richard Lake is undecided.
“I’m still contemplating,” Lake said. “I’m still thinking it all through.”
Those interested in running for the school board can file for candidacy beginning Monday. Declaration of candidacy will end Aug. 12.
If Lake, who has served on the school board for 20 years, decides to run again, he will face a familiar opponent.
Former school board member Scott Troescher plans to run for Lake’s spot. Troescher, who works for the city of Clovis as a fleet manager, served as a Clovis Unified trustee from 2008 to 2012, after Lake left the board. Lake unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2010, then returned to the school board, beating Troescher in the 2012 election.
“I feel like there’s some unfinished business,” Troescher said. “I was only there four years. There’s still work that needs to be done.”
Troescher said if elected his main goal would be to provide access to a quality education for all students in the district, pointing to the vision of founding superintendent Doc Buchanan, who died in 2015.
73 years The combined total of years the four trustees up for re-election have served on the Clovis Unified school board
“I want to see us get back to some of the things (Buchanan) did that made this school district great,” he said. “I want every kid to get a fair break and to make sure we treat every kid the same – that we’re inclusive and unified rather than divisive.”
The district made national headlines earlier this year when the school board refused to adopt a gender-neutral dress code for students, despite concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union that the policy broke state law protecting gender expression. In a later re-vote, the board complied with the ACLU’s demands.
Troescher says he would have voted to approve the changes the first time.
“Keeping in mind that it’s a state law, and we swear when we take the oath at the start of every term to uphold the state law, for no other reason than that for sure, I would’ve voted for the change,” he said. “Keeping my own personal feelings out of it. Schools boards are not supposed to be political.”
A new name also has emerged as a possible candidate for the school board.
Sandy Torosian, who worked as a special education aide for Clovis Unified for more than 20 years, is considering running for Hovsepian’s spot.
Torosian, who is a leader of United States Parents Involved in Education – a group that opposes the federal government’s involvement in school systems, says her main priority, if elected, would be to increase local control and break the district away from the Common Core state standards.
“I believe it’s an intentional dumbing-down of our children. Common Core, to me, is just a disguise … they’re using math and language to mold and shape our children both mentally and socially,” she said. “States are gaining control through it, and corporations are making a profit through it.”
We enjoy tremendous success, but there can always be improvement.
Clovis Unified Trustee Ginny Hovsepian
Unlike Troescher, Torosian said she would have fought the ACLU regarding the dress code.
Heryford, who has been serving on the school board since 1996, said Common Core is working – pointing out that at Clovis North High School this year, three students graduated with perfect ACT scores. He said one of his goals is to help parents better understand the standards.
“People want our district to drop Common Core. What people don’t realize is that it’s the state standard. So if the state wants to ban it, we could ban it, but we get funding from the state,” he said.
Hovsepian has been a school board member for 25 years and considers it a family business. Her father also served as a Clovis Unified trustee, and her grandfather and great-grandfather served on the board for Fort Washington – one of the school districts that merged to become Clovis Unified.
Hovsepian, who has operated a Fresno automotive business with her husband for nearly 30 years, says her focus this time around will be on career-technical education.
“We enjoy tremendous success, but there can always be improvement,” she said. “We’re always looking for ways we can better educate our students.”
Casado, whose four children graduated from the district, was elected to the board in 2008. Casado says he wants to do what he can to preserve “the Clovis way of life” – which, he says, means high standards and morals.
“I knew it was time to give back. I started looking to the future and asking myself how could I contribute to making sure that the same great school district (my wife) and I attended, and my children attended, was here for my grandchildren?” he wrote in an email.
“I believe I have the responsibility and the privilege to weigh my decisions as to how they will preserve our great history, while also helping navigate how we do this in a changing community and a changing society.”
Casado and Heryford also named the passage of Senate Bill 799 as a priority. That bill would give local districts more flexibility in their budgets and increase the cap on districts’ reserves.
“Prudent budgeting is needed now more than ever. If SB-799 is not passed, school districts statewide simply will not have the flexibility necessary to make funding decisions in the best interests of our students and our communities,” Casado said.