Fresno Unified announces superintendent’s departure in July. Here’s where he’s going next

Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Bob Nelson is stepping down from the job July 30 for a tenure-track faculty position at Fresno State.

The district announced the move in a news release Monday.

“The Fresno Unified Board of Education is taking this opportunity to plan and implement a careful and stable transition over the next six months,” the district’s press release said.

“Serving as the Superintendent in the District where I initially taught elementary school and first served as a leader has been the pinnacle of my career thus far,” Nelson said in the press release. “I have appreciated so very much getting to know our Fresno Unified family and having the daily opportunity to serve our amazing city and its children. I am thankful to have the opportunity to land in a future position where I can continue serving Valley educators as well.”

Upon Nelson’s departure, Deputy Superintendent Misty Her, who has been serving the role since early 2021, is expected to be named interim superintendent if a permanent one has yet to be appointed.

“This commitment to stability and excellence by the Fresno Unified Board of Education is a strength our Fresno Unified family will continue to benefit from,” the district said in the news release.

Board President Susan Wittrup told The Bee she’s grateful for Nelson’s leadership and the stability he brought to the district, especially the foundation he built for financial health and the strong support he set for students.

The qualities of our next superintendent are very important,” Wittrup said. “They need to be ready to infuse innovation, urgency, and accountability, to improve the academic outcomes, and also keep up the momentum on what we’ve accomplished so far, and keeping our financial health when going into a possible recession.”

“We need to take it to the next level, such as in test scores, our children could be doing much better academically, so I’ve got my eye on this Literacy Initiative, and how that’s going to be able to soar through this transition,” Wittrup added.

Wittrup said a timeline and plans for the selection of the next superintendent would be discussed Wednesday during the board meeting’s closed session.

In addition to launching the Literacy Initiative, which aims for kids to read at their grade level, Nelson’s accomplishments over the past seven years include improving the district’s budget in the face of declining student enrollment; working to boost student academic performances and ratings in the wake of the pandemic; averting two teachers’ strikes; establishing the Foundation for Fresno Unified Schools; partnering with the Fresno State to develop the Bulldog Bound guaranteed admissions program; and administering bond measures to improve school facilities.

Nelson pioneered an innovative dual enrollment program with a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), a first of its kind for Fresno Unified and likely the state of California. He was also committed to promoting occupational training, including expanding the heavy-truck maintenance facility and setting up an aviation school.

Nelson will be joining the Educational Leadership Division at the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at California State University, Fresno.