At long last, OUSD hires new budget director

budget.jpgBarak Ben-Gal, who quit OUSD about six months ago to take a job at Yahoo!, finally has a successor. His name is Jason Willis.

Willis came to Oakland’s central office earlier this year as a project manager for the Expect Success! initiative. Like Vincent Matthews, the interim state administrator, he received a major promotion after just a few months on Second Avenue.

He was actually promoted about three weeks ago, but I just heard about it through the grapevine yesterday. Here’s an e-mail the district spokesman sent out after I asked for Willis’ resume and got a bio instead. (I don’t know who the “all” is, in case you’re wondering.)

Hello All,

I would like to formally introduce Jason Willis as the new Budget Director for the Oakland Unified School District. Many of you know Jason through the work he performed in his previous position as an Expect Success project manager focused on developing the District’s investment framework and service economy.

Prior to joining OUSD in 2007 Jason was an Assistant Product Manager with Standard & Poor’s, an independent provider of credit ratings and home to the S&P 500 Benchmark Index. In his role at Standard & Poor’s Jason worked with school districts throughout the country to identify, analyze, and understand how resource allocation decisions impact teaching and learning in the classroom. Before moving to Standard & Poor’s, Jason served as an instructional aide and tutor in the New York City and Washington, DC public schools.

Jason earned his M.A. in Education Policy and Finance from Teachers College Columbia University and his B.A. in Education and Psychology from Catholic University in Washington, DC. He is also vice president of the Community Research and Learning Network (CoRAL), a consortium of universities and community organizations in Washington, DC dedicated to providing high-quality research and evaluation for the non-profit community.

image from 23pixel’s Web site at flickr.com

Katy Murphy

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

  • district employee

    This is the introduction that was sent to most of the executive directors and then (in most cases) passed through departments. “All” is definitely appropriate.

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

    What exactly does the phrase, “the District’s investment framework and service economy,” mean? To me, Barak was a supporter of Randy Ward’s site-based budgeting system. (I forgot the brand name.) What does the arrival of this guy mean for this budgeting system?


  • Katy Murphy

    Charley: You mean Results-Based Budgeting (RBB), right? Any major changes to that policy would likely come from the top.

    Because RBB is so complex, though, I wonder how well it is functioning in Barak’s — and former CFO Javetta Robinson’s — absence.

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

    Katy, sounds like a story. Anything related to school finance is complicated, but the basic principles of RBB are pretty clear: have the site make the trade-offs for expenditures within the resources due to the site from its enrollment. One of the key features Barak discussed in a presentation to our budget advisory committee in WCCUSD was a special internal software application to make it easier for site administrators to work with RBB. I suspect the success of RBB is based a great a deal on how successful this software has been.

    Finally, I still wait for someone to take a stab at explaining “the District’s investment framework and service economy”.


  • turner

    A normal school district allocates money to its schools based on student enrollment, and the expenses the schools will incur that year. The budget is expense-driven.

    Instead, OUSD uses RBB. They take into account current enrollment, historical enrollment, size of school and numerous other criteria. Then the schools are allocated their revenue. The RBB budget is revenue-driven.

    At the same time RBB was introduced, there was an effort to restructure central office personnel. Their aim was to convert district services to revenue generating operations.

    RBB’s goal is to give the OUSD schools the flexibility to choose services they wanted to use. They would have the option to purchase district services. The district non-academic operations would have to compete to provide services and generate revenue. This is the service economy.
    The investment framework is the structure (rules, policies, procedures) that would enable the service economy to be successful.

    It is a good idea…in theory. Central Office operations would rely less on general fund dollars and their services to the schools would be improved greatly. And, the schools would have more oversight on, and authority in, their expenditure.