More — but not all — local control returns to OUSD

Sometimes, rumors and speculation are right on. This morning, state superintendent Jack O’Connell did, in fact, promise to return control over facilities and personnel management to the Oakland school board.

O’Connell also said the board could begin recruiting and hiring a superintendent as soon as the agreement is signed — most likely in January or early February. That might be the biggest news of all.

The upshot: In a month or so, the school board will oversee the district’s community relations, its buildings and grounds and its staffing, but not its finances or policies around student achievement.

I can only imagine the power struggles that are likely to unfold in the meantime.

Here is the release from OUSD:

Oakland Unified School District Press Advisory
For Immediate Release

State Superintendent of Instruction O’Connell to Announce
Partial Return of Local Control to Oakland School Board;
Announcement moves Board of Education closer to appointing superintendent 

Oakland – Nov. 30, 2007 – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and David Kakishiba, President of the Oakland Board of Education, discussed the process for restoring partial local control of the Oakland Unified School District at a press conference this morning. Addressing an audience at Oakland’s Crocker Highlands Elementary, the two education leaders announced that they have entered negotiations to return two of five operational areas to local authority – the first step in enabling the Board to hire a superintendent.
In 2003, the State of California assumed control of Oakland Unified in return for a $100 million emergency loan. As part of the agreement, a State Administrator was appointed to run the District and the Board took an advisory role. Since that time, OUSD’s progress toward stability has been evaluated by the state’s Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), which assesses performance in five areas of operation: Pupil Achievement, Financial Management, Facilities Management, Personnel Management, and Community Relations & Governance. When FCMAT determines that the District has made sufficient progress in a specific area (typically a 6.0 score on a ten-point scale), that area is recommended for return to the school board.
In July, the Board reacquired control of Community Relations and Governance. This week, a report released by the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), recommended that the state consider restoring local authority over Facilities and Personnel Management as well, a recommendation that was accepted by O’Connell.
 “Oakland Unified School District is making a valiant effort to come back from severe financial difficulties that unfortunately forced it to come under state control,” O’Connell explained. “I’m very pleased to announce that the district is making great strides in all five areas of its recovery plan, enough so that I intend to return Personnel Management and Facilities Management control back to the school.
“Once details of the District’s management over these areas are agreed upon over the next few months, a Memorandum of Understanding will be signed and the District will have authority to begin a search for a district superintendent.”
The memorandum will address in detail the arrangement whereby OUSD Interim State Administrator Vincent Matthews will continue to hold authority over the remaining two areas of Pupil Achievement and Financial Management, while the Board and its new superintendent wield authority over Community Relations and Governance, Personnel Management, and Facilities Management.
“The Board of Education and, I think it’s fair to say, most of Oakland, welcomes this decision,” said Board President Kakishiba. “It stands as validation of the work we have done to prepare for the return of local governance and represents a great leap toward the day when full governing authority is restored to Oakland.”
OUSD has steadily improved its rating in all operational areas since 2003, but the results of the latest FCMAT review represent a dramatic increase in District performance. OUSD was credited with stabilizing its human resources staff and received a score of 6.60 in the area of Personnel Management. The District posted an even higher mark in Facilities Management, booking a score of 7.08 while earning praise for new policies and procedures that help evaluate the condition of its facilities.
“FCMAT’s findings are a testament to the real progress being made in all aspects of Oakland’s public schools and credit to OUSD’s students, staff, board and advocates in the community,” said Interim State Administrator Matthews. “The vast improvement in FCMAT scores indicates that the Oakland school board will re-inherit a school district that is functioning at a higher operational level than the one that was transferred into state control in 2003. While this is cause for celebration, it is also cause to redouble our efforts – particularly in the area of pupil achievement – to ensure that OUSD is as healthy as possible upon the full return of local authority.”

Katy Murphy

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

  • Sue

    I’m not going to celebrate yet, but this feels like good news.

    Now, I hope the board will make sure anyone they consider for superintendant will be in the position for more than a year or two. The revolving door on the state administrator’s office has been bad for the school district’s stability.

  • sharon

    Check out the nasty things that are said in the comments section of Jill Tucker’s SF Chronicle entry on this same subject (sfgate.com). Oakland has a huge PR issue, but I guess we knew that.

  • John Willson

    Hmmm! I think I’ll apply to become the next OUSD superintendent with no responsibility district fiscal matters or student achievement. Sounds like an easy gig for BIG bucks! As I recall Mr. Dennis Chaconas, the last board selected superintendent before state take-over, was quoted to say that his ‘focus was on academic issues effecting student achievement, NOT district fiscal matters.’ Perhaps after the state restores district responsibility for student achievement Chaconas should throw his hat back into the noose, I mean ring, until such time fiscal responsibility is restored to district control – at which time he could submit his resignation and leave with dignity and an honest admission of his fiscal ineptitude.