by Kathy Eide
Jim Yovino has a passion for education. He has spent his entire career working on behalf of Fresno County students. “It’s hard to believe that this year marks my 24th year in education. When you are doing something you have such a passion for, the time goes even faster,” Yovino emphasized.
A lifelong resident of Fresno County, Jim Yovino was born and raised in southwest Fresno. His parents instilled a valuable work and education ethic in all three of the Yovino kids, beginning at an early age. “Work hard and go to school”, were the words that the kids heard over and over again. Yovino’s dad worked countless hours as a truck driver for the Hobbs Parson produce company. Though his mom was in frail health, she always made sure that her family was well cared for. All three kids graduated from Central High School. Jim knew that he wanted to go on to college, but he also knew he had to work for that privilege. He had spent much time with his dad around the big trucks, and as a result, he identified a need for something that could be helpful to the truckers and could earn him college money. He made a small investment in some big equipment and started his own mobile high pressure truck washing business. He washed and worked his way through Fresno State, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree and then his teaching credential. He went on to earn his Master of Arts in Education from Fresno Pacific University.
Since that time, Yovino’s passion for making a difference in the lives of Fresno County students has led him to be a classroom teacher, a coach, and a principal in the Fresno, Clovis, Dinuba and Central Unified School Districts. While at Central Unified, he served as Assistant Superintendent of the Human Resources Department, where he had oversight of collective bargaining, labor relations and all of the district’s 1,400 employees. He was also responsible for direct supervision of all middle, secondary, adult and continuation schools. This valuable experience allowed Yovino to continue building a strong, well-rounded foundation for the coming years.
In 2006, Jim was appointed as the Deputy Superintendent for the Fresno County Office of Education. This move brought challenges along with opportunities and he seized both with his trademark, ‘roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work’ attitude. He immediately began collaborating with over 100 stakeholders, leading to the creation of the Fresno County Volunteer Preschool Plan. This Plan allows every four-year-old in Fresno County to have the opportunity to attend a high-quality preschool program, offering all children a good educational beginning; a critical time in a child’s life. In 2013, when former Superintendent Larry Powell retired, the Fresno County Board of Education appointed Yovino to the position of Superintendent. On July 1, 2013, he began serving as the 21st Superintendent of Schools for Fresno County.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims has worked closely with Jim for many years. Sheriff Mims noted, “He embraces this job with his trademark passion, tenacity and commitment. From literacy projects to active shooter response, he has taken an active leadership role. Jim Yovino is an effective and enthusiastic partner in implementing innovative school safety initiatives, always looking out for Fresno County’s students. ”
Larry Powell expressed his strong support for his successor and said, “Jim Yovino’s knowledge and passion make him perfect for the job. He has visited every district in the County and has provided a positive direction for school districts during this funding transition at the state level. As Superintendent, he is providing the perfect balance between oversight and support, which allows school superintendents and school boards to do their jobs. I have full confidence in him as a person and as a leader.”
The position of Superintendent allows Yovino to continue to be a champion for the success of all children, and has led to the creation for the components of his ‘CAPICHE’:
Career tech, formerly known as vocational education, acknowledges that the traditional formula of high school to university to career isn’t the perfect fit for every child. I support allowing students to explore their interests and develop career skills, while at the same time reinforcing their academics. It is critical for their success.
The arts bring joy and creativity to our schools while at the same time requiring rigorous practice, close attention to detail and critical thinking skills. I support school districts embracing arts integration programs for their students.
Our school children cannot thrive in home environments where the urgency to find stability, food and shelter overshadows their education. I support community programs and partnerships to boldly address ways to decrease poverty rates in our area.
Schools need the active involvement of parents, local businesses, community leaders and citizens to succeed. These essential partnerships come in many forms from mentoring to sponsorships of programs from Career Technical Education to the arts.
Teaching our students to be givers instead of takers is the foundation from which we must build true servant leaders. We must surround our students with mentors who model good behavior from the most basic “please and thank you” to the more fundamental concepts of respect for our neighbors, our community and our country.
Education is the great equalizer and there is no equality in Fresno County when 70% of students are eligible for free and reduced lunches. I urgently support collaboration at every level from private to public to address and solve the issue of homelessness.
Our children need access to educational opportunities and school readiness programs before kindergarten to give them the best possible foundation for a lifetime of success. Studies have shown that investments in quality early-care education beginning at birth dramatically increase a child’s chance at higher education, economic standing and mental health later in life.
Yovino emphasized, “ I have always been a strong advocate for the arts, along with promoting career tech education. I am committed to providing students the opportunity to discover their own passions as they prepare for higher education and/or to enter the work force. I remain committed to addressing the attendance and drop-out rate in Fresno County by partnering with local business leaders; establishing a successful mentoring program that has citizens working directly with Fresno’s most vulnerable students. I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and look forward to continuing all the work we’ve started.”
Jim Yovino is married to the former Jennifer Quinn. Together, they founded the non-profit Halo Café, Fresno County’s Pet Food Pantry. This pet food pantry exists to serve low-income families, elderly and homeless community members in an effort to keep pets with their people and out of the already overcrowded shelters.