SW Fresno residents upset over hiring of cultural studies teacher

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Some Southwest Fresno residents are upset with Fresno Unified School District, over the teacher hired to teach African-American and Latino studies classes.

"What we wanted was this new curriculum and for someone of our descent to teach this class," said Rev. Dr. Karen Crozier, community advocate.

At a press conference held Monday outside Gaston Middle School, angry community members gathered. They say after years of campaigning for a new school, and African-American and Latino studies courses for teenagers, their fight for the right teacher was denied.

"She said (referring to the school principal of Gaston) they had an African-American candidate, but the white candidate had a master's degree and so in their mind that made him more qualified for this particular position: African-American studies and Latino studies," Crozier said.

The group says the teacher was chosen, even after they made their voices heard.

However, the district stands by its hire.

"We choose the teacher with the best experience, the best certification and the best fit for each position. The teacher that was hired to teach cultural studies at Gaston has spent four years teaching African-American studies, the last 10 years teaching Latino studies," said Micheline Golden, Fresno Unified School District Chief Information Officer.

Golden adds the educator will lead the Men's Alliance, a program to help at-risk-youth. The community members say the district should have chosen someone who can identify with students in this diverse and tough neighborhood.

Community advocate and teacher Mai Summer Vue said in regards to choosing a teacher that can culturally identify with students, "it goes beyond the textbook. In order for one to convey the messages and teach the real lessons, the authentic lesson. It has to be someone who lives it and has been there."

Advocates say while they're not happy over the hiring, they hope the district will be more transparent in the future.

Students head to class at Gaston Middle School August 18.When the school opens, Gaston will be the only secondary school in Fresno Unified to offer African-American and Latino studies.

Fresno Unified says the new instructor is one of four teachers in the district, qualified to teach all three cultural studies courses. The district has not named the teacher, other than to say he has more than 10 years of teaching experience.

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