Letter to the Editor

A New Direction for VUSD

To The Editor,

Regarding the recently announced dismissal of Visalia Unified Superintendent Todd Oto – results matter! Unfortunately the district fell woefully short last January when the California Department of Education released a list of the “Lowest Performing Schools” in the state. There were 182 elementary schools on the list and 5 of them are in Visalia. No doubt that set the alarm bells ringing for the School Board. Over the next few weeks a closer examination of results soon became an avalanche of bad news.

For example, the Department of Education rated 39% of VUSD 2018 graduates to be “College/Career Ready” – but they ranked 10th out of 15 major districts in the Central Valley. The superintendent’s monthly column also noted 42% of his 3nd and 4th grade students met or exceeded state expectations in “English Language Arts/Literacy” testing. They actually lagged behind Clovis, Kingsburg, Sanger, Exeter, Lemoore, Hanford, and Central Unified. Statewide, 48% passed.

About 100 teachers recently appeared before the Board to express concern over the apparent breakdown of classroom discipline and safety. No wonder state records show 22% of VUSD teachers are essentially “rookies” who are in just their 1st or 2nd year of teaching – versus just 12% statewide. Losing experienced teachers obviously affects academic results.

The VUSD Board had numerous closed sessions in recent months where the agenda included reviews of the Superintendent’s performance. They apparently made an intensive study of multiple data sources before announcing his dismissal.

Dr. Oto spent his entire 32 year career at Visalia Unified and he obviously has a significant number of supporters in the district. But assuming a position of high responsibility also carries the heavy burden of producing high results. Let us salute him for his many years of loyal service to the district but it is time to seek a new direction.

Jerrold Jensen

Visalia Resident

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