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Clovis Unified School District (CUSD) is the 16th largest school district in the state of California with an enrollment of 42,400 students this academic year. And it continues to grow by an average of 500 to 800 students per year as more and more people choose to make the Central Valley their home.

Even though the CUSD is a mammoth district that covers 198 square miles, it still manages to take a personal approach with each student and to win accolades for excellence in a wide cross section of its 50 school sites.

In fact, this past summer California released student achievement numbers from annual tests in math and English/language arts and once again Clovis Unified students outperformed their peers around the state and Fresno County by as much as 25 percent, according to Chief Communication Officer Kelly Avants.

In English/language arts, 67 percent of Clovis Unified students met or exceeded grade level standards, which is a 7 percent increase over last year’s results. Statewide, on the other hand, 49 percent of students met or exceeded these standards and in Fresno County that number slumped to 42 percent.

In math, Clovis Unified’s percent of students meeting or exceeding standards grew four points from 50 percent in 2015 to 54 percent in 2016. By contrast, across the state, 37 percent of students achieving at or above grade level in math. In Fresno County 30 percent of students met or exceeded math standards.

“Our teachers have come together from every school to closely study grade-level standards and develop local curriculum that is best-suited to our teachers and students in Clovis Unified,” said Dr. Debbie Parra, CUSD’s assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and accountability. “They have been united in their efforts to guide our instructional strategies, the pacing of lessons, and the design of curriculum maps that support the success of every teacher in every grade level.”

“Our standard of excellence is not isolated to one part or segment of the community. All of our schools are held to the same standards and we know that our students are capable of great things,” Avants added.

“Every day the future sits in our classrooms and, as educators, it is our job to unleash the future’s potential,” said Superintendent Janet Young in her website welcome.

“In Clovis Unified, we hold tightly to this understanding and to the responsibility that comes along with it. At its heart, our job as educators is all about unlocking the potential in our students to become the best that they can be as adults,” she added. “Our work is about inspiring and equipping tomorrow’s inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists and leaders. If we do that job effectively, then in the future you will share the world with better employees, bigger thinkers and more responsible neighbors and colleagues.”
CUSD is known for its faculty’s use of cutting edge educational methods and its state-of-the-art facilities.

Just one example of the opportunities CUSD provides was the free, six-day program called “Dive Into Space,” offered to CUSD high school students last summer. Co-sponsored by NASA and Fresno State University’s Aerospace Academy, the program allowed students to wear scuba gear so they could perform tasks underwater that simulated working in space with zero gravity.
They also learned skills relating to building resilience, learning leadership skills and working as a team. When not in the water, the student crews designed, engineered, built and tested robots that could meet certain underwater challenges.

As far as facilities go, CUSD’s are second-to-none. In fact, the track and field facilities in the Veterans Memorial Stadium at the Buchanan Educational Center are so incredible that the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) has chosen to hold their state track and field championships there for the past eight years and last year the United States Track and Field Federation held their Junior Nationals competitions there, too.

The CIF has also held the state cross country championships in nearby Woodward Park since 1987 and for the past two years has been holding the state swim and dive championships in the Olympic pool complex at Clovis West High School.

“These events are great for Clovis. People travel here from all over the state and country and totally fill our hotels and restaurants,” said Steve Ward, legislative analyst for the District.
Capital improvements around the District are ongoing. The new Ginny Boris Elementary School opened this fall to accommodate ongoing increases in enrollment. Over 600 students are enrolled at the new school. In addition, Ward said they had about 20 modernization and improvement projects happening around the District this summer as work continues to ensure every school (whether old or new) is a great place for children to learn.
An exciting District-wide program is the solar project, which is now in its second phase. Shade structures with solar panels on top are being constructed over parking lots all over the District in order to simultaneously generate electricity for the schools and create shade over cars and buses. Ward expects almost all CUSD schools to have such structures in place by the end of 2017.
“We are annually saving $2.8 million from the first phase of this project and the second phase will add an additional $1 million in cost avoidance for the District,” Ward said. “We paid for these structures through a bond issue, an investment that will pay for itself within 10 years. It has been a great project.”

Clovis Community College
Clovis Community College is the state’s 113th – and newest -- community college and it already serves nearly 10,000 students in the Central Valley, joining Fresno City College and Reedley College to comprise the State Center Community College District. They hold true to their goal and mission statement of “Creating Opportunities – One Student At A Time.” This goal is achieved with a highly qualified staff of educators and support personnel who reflect the diversity of the Central Valley, embrace a flexible attitude toward change and encourage the spirit of innovation.

“We are thankful to have the opportunity to serve students in the Central Valley,” said Dr. Lori Bennett, president of Clovis Community College. “We offer state-of-the-art technology and facilities, along with a variety of courses and programs to fit the needs of our diverse student population.” ›
There are a variety of programs for everyone. New high school graduates, workforce students, veterans and community members can benefit in the areas of basic skills development, associate degrees, career technical education certificates, transfers to four-year institutions, and lifelong learning. All of these opportunities are all available.

Clovis Community College offers many beneficial programs and services including:
• Over 500 classes.
• 29 associate degree programs
• Certificate of achievement programs
• 12 associate degree for transfer programs to CSU and UC campuses at a fraction of their tuition prices
• Counseling services, career and transfer resources and a tutorial center.
• Athletics, campus clubs, campus events, organizations, student activities, student government and volunteer opportunities.

Visit Clovis Community College at or at 10309 N. Willow Ave., Fresno, or call (559) 325-5200.

San Joaquin College of Law
Three dozen of the judges and commissioners working in California today are graduates of the San Joaquin College of Law (SJCL), located in Clovis. California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley is also an alumna.

SJCL has an outstanding reputation in the legal community. While a bachelor’s degree in any major qualifies an individual to apply, the law school also attracts MBAs, medical doctors and others who choose to earn a law degree to supplement their qualifications.
“Because we are the only law school in a 150-mile radius, our students have many opportunities for externships which become pipelines into a first job,” said SJCL Public Information Officer Missy Mckai Cartier. “There are always jobs available for attorneys in the Valley. Since most of our students have roots here, they are more likely to stay and practice here which makes them very attractive employees.”

SJCL is a private, nonprofit law school that was founded in 1969 and began instruction in 1970. It is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and approved by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.
Since 1996 the law school has been located in an historic Clovis building, dating back to 1920. Thanks to a multi-million dollar renovation there is even a courtroom where students practice their skills. Many students work full time and take evening classes to complete their degree in four years. Students can complete their Juris Doctor degree in three, four or five years, depending upon their work commitments.

SJCL is well known for the San Joaquin Agricultural Law Review, which it has published annually since 1991. Circulating nationwide, it is the oldest of only three law reviews in the United States that focuses on agricultural law. Articles in the annual journal have covered such topics as agro-terrorism, sexual violence among undocumented immigrant farm workers and whether a farmer can still be considered an “organic grower” if he or she sprays for the Asian Citrus psyllid insect that is threatening the state’s citrus industry.

The law school is also renowned for its New American Legal Clinic where students work with legal immigrants to help them gain citizenship and seeks legal status for victims of violent crimes, while training future attorneys in the area of immigration law.
For more information, visit

California Health Sciences University

t isn’t very often that you get to see a university built from the ground up. Most universities seem to have been in place forever, boasting legions of alumni.

But the people of Clovis have had a unique opportunity to watch a brand-new, innovative university, dedicated to the education of health care professionals, be born, grow and thrive.

California Health Sciences University (CHSU) was founded in 2012 as a private, proprietary university. It was the brainchild and dream of the Assemi family, owners of Granville Homes, which has built over 5,000 homes in the Central Valley since 1977.

“The Assemis are long-time residents who are really plugged-in, generous and civic-minded. They are wonderful about supporting causes they believe in,” said Shawn Miller, business development manager for the City of Clovis.

“The Assemi family has a heart for this community and it was their dream to establish a university in the San Joaquin Valley which could train masters and doctoral level healthcare practitioners in many different disciplines. They made the investment of capital, time and effort,” said Richele Kleiser, CHSU vice president of marketing and communications.

“Farid Assemi and his family understood that there is an extremely large need for medical professionals in the Valley now. Then they projected out several decades and realized that the shortages will become even more severe if someone didn’t step in right now and do something about it.”

“Our students leave the valley and don’t come back. Most medical programs link their students to residencies and on-the-job training close to the school. So students who leave establish their lives close to where they were trained and that has become a huge issue for us,” she added.

CHSU’s leaders hope that the university will provide close-to-home opportunities to local students seeking careers in medicine and might even attract outside students who will fall in love with the area and decide to stay and start their medical careers in the valley.

Since they are developing CHSU to address very real health provider shortage issues, Founding President Florence Dunn and her colleagues are working closely with local hospitals, pharmacies, schools and health agencies to gauge need and then are proceeding to develop medical colleges within the university in the order in which “needs” seem to be most pressing, Kleiser said.
They are also being careful to ensure their graduates will have strong career and job opportunities and that they not to compete with existing health care-related programs in the area, most of which are partnering with CHSU.

The College of Pharmacy opened first – in the fall of 2014 – because the need seemed to be the greatest.

“Representatives of the pharmacy industry – CVS, Walgreen’s, independents and even the hospitals – approached us when they heard we were planning to open a university to train health care practitioners and literally said, ‘we need your students.’ They struggle with hiring pharmacists in the valley and the turnover is very high. They don’t want this issue to impact the level of care,” she said.

The College of Pharmacy has been holding classes at an interim campus at 120 N. Clovis Ave. It features a 32,000-square-foot building and this summer a second 17,000-square-foot building opened across the street. Approximately 180 students (62 percent of whom are from the valley) are currently enrolled and up to another 84 more will be added next year. The first group of pharmacists is due to graduate from the four-year program in May 2018.

In addition to educating their pharmacy students, CHSU leaders are currently working on a master plan for their permanent campus, to be conveniently located on approximately 70 acres in the Clovis Research and Technology Park, just north and west of the Clovis Community Medical Center campus. They are also deciding which other medical specialty colleges will follow the College of Pharmacy and in what order, based on needs in the valley.
CHSU plans to open as many as 10 post-graduate colleges to train health care professionals and is considering allied health, podiatry, optometry and a medical school, among others. The timing and specific discipline for each new school will be determined based on the need as well as opportunities for job placement within the region, according to Kleiser.

It is estimated that the build-out of the university and its campus will take 20 years since development of the campus will occur in phases as each new health science college is established.
The first building scheduled to be built on the permanent campus is a 70,000-square-foot College of Pharmacy building that could start as early as 2017 and be complete in fall 2019 or spring 2020. Once it moves to the new site, Kleiser said that the Clovis Avenue site will be used as an “incubator” for each new school they establish, allowing the administration to fully understand the space, facility and equipment needs of each college. Only after the colleges are well established enough will they move to the permanent campus.
Other structures due to be constructed include a library, student housing, an auditorium, administrative building and a student center. Projections call for the university to one day enroll between 2,000 and 3,000 students and employ approximately 300 faculty and staff.

“Our leadership team is interested in rolling out the university campus in the best way possible so they have reached out to and visited similar campuses all over the country to study their programs, facilities and campus designs,” Kleiser said. “The environment and programs we provide to our students is extremely important to us.”

The Assemi family recruited Dunn to serve as president of their new university because they had served on several charitable boards with her and respected her leadership abilities and her deep connection to the community. They also understood her financial prowess as a former banker and knew that Dunn was well aware of the valley’s health care challenges.

She, in turn, went outside the valley and brought in Dr. Wendy Duncan as provost and interim Dean of Pharmacy. Dr. Duncan had previously served in similar capacities at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and at St. Louis University.

College of Pharmacy

When California SB 493 took effect in 2014, the role of pharmacists on the health care team was elevated in the state. The bill created the Advanced Practice Pharmacist (APP) designation. APPs may provide primary care in collaboration with physicians to help alleviate the shortage of health care providers.

“Physicians will continue to be the diagnosticians on the health care team, but once there has been a diagnosis, patients with chronic conditions may be referred to a clinical pharmacist for regular visits and creating care plans. The pharmacist can conduct physical assessments of the patient, review a patient’s current and past medical history, medications and diet, and then give advice and even adjust their meds, if necessary, with the permission of the physician,” said Richele Kleiser, CHSU vice president of marketing and communications.

“We are preparing our graduates to perform at the top of their licenses through team-based learning and an innovative curriculum that includes physical assessment and delivery of primary health care services to meet the demand for health professionals in this region,” said Dr. Wendy Duncan, interim dean of pharmacy.
This is what sets CHSU apart from other pharmacy schools in California. CHSU students take courses in pharmaceutical sciences, biomedical sciences and patient care and complete physical assessment labs under the direct supervision of practicing pharmacists and physicians during rotations at hospitals, clinics and community pharmacies so that they will be ready to perform in an environment where the pharmacist sees the patient much more frequently than the physician does.

“This model has been in place at Kaiser Permanente and the Veterans Administration for a while now and it is providing additional opportunities for pharmacists. A pilot program with the Clovis Community Medical Centers will soon have CHSU faculty and pharmacy students seeing qualified patients in their employee health plan and we plan to open a pharmacist-led clinic on our campus,” Kleiser said.

“We are proud of our innovative curriculum which is really pushing the field of pharmacy forward. It will be a tremendous asset to the Valley,” she added.

California Health Sciences University’s College of Pharmacy is one of 13 colleges of pharmacy in the state of California. It is currently working toward full accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the national agency that accredits all Doctor of Pharmacy programs.

The college will be eligible for full accreditation when its first class graduates and ACPE is able to evaluate passing rates and pharmacy board exam scores, according to Kleiser.

But CHSU’s current status of “candidate status” with ACPE gives students the same rights as full accreditation and allows them to take their pharmacy board exams upon graduation and shows that the college is providing students with an excellent pharmacy education.

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