Jordan urges state schools supe to let Oakland choose its own superintendent

sjordan2.jpgBelow is a strongly worded letter from Alameda County schools superintendent Sheila Jordan to state superintendent Jack O’Connell. In the letter, Jordan says she has “urgent concerns” about the appointment of a new state administrator in Oakland.

Jordan supported the state takeover of OUSD in 2003, but she told me today that  “it’s more than time” for the school board to choose its own superintendent. In her proposal to O’Connell (which he rejected, she said) she recommended that a fiscal advisor oversee the district’s finances.

Jordan also writes that her office urged the state to disapprove OUSD’s 2007-08 budget, which projects a large budget.  The letter was sent to the governor, the Oakland mayor and other major political players, late last month.

September 25, 2007

Jack O’Connell

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

California Department of Education

PO Box 944272

Sacramento, CA 94244-2720

Dear Superintendent O’Connell:

I want to express my urgent concerns regarding the pending appointment of a new State Administrator for the Oakland Unified School District, to replace Ms. Kimberly Statham. I forward this proposal in the spirit of the personal and legal responsibility we have, to be collaborative, in the effort to provide leadership and support for the fiscal and educational recovery in the districts we both represent.

Although there are areas of noteworthy progress, the District continues to face major financial challenges. The Alameda County Office of Education has detailed the District’s financial issues in a series of letters directed to the State Administrator. I need not reiterate the specifics here. Suffice it to say that the District has failed to meet the targets outlined in the State’s initial Multi-Year Fiscal Recovery Plan, and that my Office has recommended that the State Department of Education disapprove the District’s budget.

The pending permanent replacement of Ms. Statham provides an opportunity to assess the best way forward for Oakland. Given that the State takeover was the result of fiscal mismanagement, it is vital that the next person in charge of the Oakland District have a demonstrated record of experience in California school finance and business. SB39 specifically states, “The administrator shall have recognized expertise in management and finance” [Education Code 41326 (b) (2)].

This is the perfect time for the State to accomplish the shared educational goals for students, by marrying the fiscal expertise of a State appointed trustee with a locally appointed Superintendent. If OUSD is going to provide a strong and quality education for its students, it must be built upon a solid fiscal recovery plan.

It is also vital that the person in charge of the District have the support of the community and share its aspirations for the speedy achievement of responsible self-governance.

In the past year, the Oakland School Board has made great strides forward in its ability to govern the District. The Board has taken a close interest in the State Administrator’s management, as evidenced by the Board’s unanimous August 8 resolution regarding the Multi-Year Fiscal Recovery Plan. The Board’s progress has achieved statewide recognition in the form of AB45, calling for a phased return of governance of the Oakland District to its elected School Board. That bill reflects the growing desire and ability of the community to take charge of its schools.

I propose that the State Department of Education assign a trustee instead of a state administrator. The window of urgency when a State Administrator was required to manage the District appears to have closed. The recent staff departures from the State Administrator’s Office in Oakland may be read as a signal that the issues facing the District at this time can best be resolved by a District Superintendent who is accountable to the School Board and the community.

The State’s financial interest in the Oakland District, notably the outstanding balance on the State’s emergency loan, can be adequately protected by the appointment of the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) as Financial Adviser to the District. FCMAT would work in conjunction with the County Office of Education and would report directly to the State Department of Education.

The recovery formula proposed here replacement of a State Administrator with a Trustee and a locally selected District Superintendent together with a FCMAT Fiscal Advisor “is the successful model used in the fiscal recovery of the Emery School District.” FCMAT was also assigned by me and successfully assisted in the fiscal recovery of the Berkeley Unified School District. I urge you to consider the adoption of this proposal for Oakland.


Sheila Jordan

Alameda County Superintendent of Schools

cc:Vince Matthews, State Administrator, OUSD

David Kakishiba, President, OUSD

Scott Hannan, CDE

Leon Glaster, OUSD

Joel Montero, FCMAT

Carlene Naylor, ACOE

Lou Highlander, ACOE

Marianne England, ACOE

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor

Don Perata, Senate Pro Tem

Ron Dellums, Mayor

Katy Murphy

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

  • http://n/a sheila jordan

    Hi Katy,
    Excellent report on my letter. I’ll let you know if I hear something in the next day or so about AB45. I will be on an airplane Tues morning. Otherwise you should be able to reach me if you want to talk to me.

  • http://n/a sheila jordan

    Your blog is great. Thanks for telling me about it.