State schools superintendent candidate tours Fresno schools

Marshall Tuck brought his campaign for state superintendent of public instruction to Fresno on Wednesday, rolling into town in a black bus sporting slogans like "it's time for change" painted along its side -- a mantra Tuck has been pushing for months as he goes head-to-head with incumbent Tom Torlakson for the state's top education seat in November.

During the campaign stop, Tuck visited several local schools like Rutherford B. Gaston Middle School, University High School and the Center for Advanced Research and Technology.

The 41-year-old from Los Angeles is barnstorming the state this week, making appearances in Sacramento, Stockton, Oakland, San Jose and Los Angeles. Tuck said he met with Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson during his visit to Fresno, noting he was "really inspired" by what he saw and heard.

"We actually dug deep into some of the improvements they've made across the schools and how they're better supporting their teachers, how they are making sure there's really strong data so we can see how students are achieving," he said during an interview Wednesday.

Tuck, a Democrat, is still working to gain name recognition and support among central San Joaquin Valley voters. The political newcomer who's known for turning around several struggling Los Angeles schools earned about 30% of Fresno County voters' ballots during the June primary.

On Wednesday, Tuck drew parallels between the challenges he witnessed in Los Angeles and those of other high-poverty school districts, like Fresno Unified.

"There are a lot of similarities actually. High rates of poverty, a lot of great kids, but real challenging circumstances," he said. "As a state, when you take a look at the macro level, we have so much work to do."

Tuck reaffirmed his pro-local platform, saying school districts are often constricted by state-level red tape that prevents innovation. He said he was pleased to see new ideas emerging at Gaston Middle, like the full-service health clinic on campus.

The visit marks Tuck's second trip to Fresno since the primary election. Torlakson has also made stops in the Central Valley in recent months, including a visit to a Central Unified school this summer.

Key election dates

Oct. 6: Vote-by-mail ballots and sample ballots mailed to voters.

Oct. 20: Last day to register to vote.

Oct. 28: Last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot by mail.

Nov. 4: General Election Day.