Is anybody in there? The OUSD central office exodus

In the high-stress world of urban education, it’s not just teachers who leave their jobs en masse. A number of key Oakland school district leaders have — or will soon — bid farewell to the crumbling facility on Second Avenue.

Some of the managers lost their jobs in the central office redesign. Some found more rewarding work elsewhere. Some retired.

This list is evolving, but here are some of the names I have been able to gather:

  • Barak Ben-Gal, budget director (left this spring and took a job at Yahoo!)
  • Roqua Montez, communications director
  • Oswaldo Galarza, information and technology officer, and several other IT personnel
  • Liane Zimny, charter schools coordinator
  • Vince Meyer, director of buildings and grounds
  • Tanya Avila, after-school program coordinator
  • Gail Whang, executive officer of student services
  • Roy Combs, general counsel
  • Pam Bovyer, accountability coordinator
  • Janine Saunders, prevention coordinator
  • Hae-Sin Kim, executive officer of the New School Development Group
  • Sue Woerhle, executive officer of school support services
  • Nora Cody, wellness coordinator

Granted, the central office is a fairly large organization that should expect some degree of turnover, and many administrators are sticking around. But someone mentioned above told me she found a list of the district’s 31 top managers from March 2006. By this fall, she said, just 11 will remain at the district with their same positions– if they don’t decide to leave first.

You have to wonder how such a dramatic change in leadership — not to mention unfilled vacancies, such as the budget director and charter schools coordinator — will affect the school system.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Debora

    Hi Katy:

    Just a note to say I’ve been reading your blog daily and you’re asking all the right questions! Thanks for commenting outside the usual “reportorial” sphere. I’ve learned a few things just in your early days here!


  • Jim Mordecai


    I hope you will be reporting on who takes over responsibilities for those leaving. Barak Ben-Gal was the top of your list and also the leader of the complicated. and controversial, management concept called Results Based Budgeting, RBB.

    I’ll be awaiting further reports on consequence of the OUSD administrative exodus.

  • Suzanne

    What is truly scary is the growing lack of any institutional memory and the growing number of new administrative positions being created. The district is losing talented people to be replaced by the clones of the Broad foundation.

  • Mary

    Hi Katy,
    Just learned about your blog last night. Hopefully it will provide a forum for sharing multiple perspectives on the myriad of issues that surround any urban school district.

    FYI Your can add Pam Bovyer to your list of central administrators retiring from the
    Oakland school district after 34 years of service. SHe was the Coordinator of Accountability and manager of all the categorical programs (State and Federal) in the district. I think she was encouraged to leave even though the California Dept of Ed chose her to represent California this week in Washington DC at a forum on NCLB.

  • http://wccusd.blogspot.com Charley Cowens

    Here’s a recent Wall Street Journal column about Barak Ben-Gal and OUSD that I found:

    “Another School Dropout” http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110010241

  • James Jones, Jr., 2007 SSC Chair Sherman Elementary

    It sure would be great if someone did exit interviews with all those folks leaving.. (hint, hint)…

  • Rhea

    Hi Katy

    I commend you for starting this blog and I encourage you to continue to ask the essential questions. If you research further, you will discover that one of the major causes of the exodus of quality and stellar educators, both teachers and administrators, from school sites and central offices is the “Institutional Bullying” in the Oakland Unified School District. There is an insidious “bullying” culture that has plagued the Oakland Schools for years. What makes this culture so dangerous is these bullies are at all levels and hold every position in the District. They are board members, executive officers, custodians, teachers, parents, consultants, principals, assistant principals, campus security officers, attendance clerks, locker room attendants, superintendents, asst. superintendents, state administrators, counselors, legal staffers, and secretaries who are allowed to “bully” and “mob” members of the school organization. A few months ago, on KTVU Channel 2 News, I watched an OUSD school board member maliciously bump against a teacher at a school closing meeting as she exited the meeting. It was as if she was challenging him to fight. This same school board member has been identified as bullying other OUSD staff, parents, and community members, and causing their departure or dismissal from the District. I could comment for pages about factual accounts of the “bullies” in the OUSD, school sites and central offices, who are allowed to continuously abuse and even “mob” others. Many people will not tolerate this abuse, therefore they leave, and once again our young people suffer.

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  • ousd student

    im not suprised at the departures in OUSD. The essential people in charge are the one leaving which is very critical to the young people like me in ousd schools. but as fast as the key components are leaving so are the schools. OUSD is very quick to see theres a problem and the outcome fo that is the closures of school orin some cases they instead fire or lay-off some one else. OUSD never takes responsiblity for their faults and instead they pin the blame on some on else. but as far as Kimberely on her decison is very predictable for an outsider of this Oakland community to dictate the fate of our schools. she who may have never experienced public school does not operate them to good either. the impoverished community of Oakland is suffering educational and instead of improvement we get the community is blamed. for example East Oakland Community High School which was shut down after an false “investigation” was done. they shut down a school students marched and cared for and loved alot. but in Oakland thers no giult or sorrow when a school is shut down. instead they move on as though the youth are no one. which in Oakland is very evident in the school disrtict. and me being a product of the Oakland school district it is a disgrace to say not becasue the status or accomplishment if any, but because we theres no progress and we are slowly declining. lastly the people who “operate” and run our schools for our benefit are not awarding us with any thing. therefore the Oakland School District needs a new approach to getting the community voice involved,which is absent now. so from A OUSD student the condtions of our schools are extremely bad, but in Okalnd you have to survive.

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  • http://AT&TYahoo Carolyn Holloway

    Dear Kathy,

    I just learned of your Blog yesterday and would like for you to publish the list of administrators who will retire, reassignment, who is their replacement, resign, terminated from employment for 2008-2009 School Year. I understand that a lot of folks will be leaving but where they are going, if not up yonder, then where?

    I speak for many parents of the community when I say that management seem to have selected very inexperienced principals to demonstrate positive role models for the schools they were hired to replace veteran principals and other administrators within the District. How soon will you be able to obtain the list and have published?

    I await your reply.

  • Katy Murphy

    Carolyn: By administrators, do you mean principals? I compiled a list last summer of all of the former principals and their replacements, and I plan to do the same this year.

    Although some people announce their retirements/resignations well into the summer, I’ll hopefully start the list within the next two weeks.

  • harlemmoon

    Hey Katy,
    Are you planning another list like the one you did previously?
    It was quite informative.

  • Katy Murphy

    That’s a good idea.