The federal grant application came down to the wire for Fresno Unified. But after hours of intense, late night negotiations with the Fresno Teachers Association (FTA), amid mounting community pressure, the application was submitted.
On Monday, the district was informed it was not selected as a finalist.
"We're not thrilled obviously. We put in a lot of work and effort to get across the finish line and we weren't successful," said Michael Hanson, Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) superintendent.
Initially, the teacher's union would not sign off on the grant over concerns of tying teacher evaluations to student performance. But in the end, both sides reached an agreement to apply for $37-million in early education funds.
"Do I think it was all wasted time?"
"No because I think we're now in a better place with both of our leadership teams to be able to move forward," said Eva Ruiz, FTA president.
"The last minute drama I don't think had anything to do with it at all because there's drama all across America that had people not even submit," said Hanson.
Central Unified, Clovis Unified, and Sanger Unified also submitted applications but were not on the short list. Nationwide, 372 districts applied, but only 61 made it to the next level.
The only Central Valley district to make the it on the list was Lindsay Unified. "We're excited for our community. We're excited for our learners. But it doesn't mean anything yet," said Thomas Rooney, Lindsay Unified Superintendent.
The South Valley district has a little more than 4,000 students. District officials feel confident about its chances of being awarded the grant money because of its digital-based learning program.
"This is the type of program and innovation and systems that they are wanting to fund, the work we're doing in Lindsay is very much in alignment with that," said Rooney.
District officials will find out if their application was strong enough to cross the finish line by the end of the year.