And the next school district chief will be…


The Oakland school board meets tomorrow in closed session to hash out a plan for the crucial duty which it will soon be allowed to carry out: Choosing a leader for the school district.

School board president David Kakishiba said today that the board isn’t talking about any candidates in particular. In fact, he noted, the board has yet to receive the official go-ahead from Jack O’Connell, the state supe, although that is expected to happen soon.

So what are they talking about? According to the board prez, they are weighing the district’s priorities and discussing the skills and leadership qualities they believe Oakland’s superintendent should have. This is their second meeting this week on the subject, and public forums will follow. (I’ll keep you posted.)

Here are some of the questions reportedly being discussed behind closed doors: Does OUSD need an instructional leader, like Kimberly Statham, or a finance and operations expert? Someone who can make a long-term commitment, or, as Kakishiba put it, “a rock star?”

What do you think? Kakishiba says he will read this blog to see what you all have to say. Although the board is more interested in the qualities you’re looking for than in specific names, feel free to nominate candidates as well. Heck, you can float your own name if you want to.

The question mark image is from purpleslog’s Web site at flickr.com

Katy Murphy

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

  • Sharon

    So many qualities are needed, but I hope the Board focuses on selecting someone who is highly skilled with overseeing the finances and providing transparency about this aspect.

    Since so many people don’t trust that OUSD could ever manage on its own, they will be waiting for problems to arise so that they can say, “I told you so.” This district just can’t afford to take another hit.

  • jim2812

    Why is the Board meeting behind closed doors? It is a mockery of the word democracy to restore power to a democratically elected school board that then in an anti-democratic fashion discusses the important topic of a new superintendent behind closed doors.

    There is a question of violation of the Brown Act spirt, if not the acts words, by holding these discussions in secret. The Brown Act provides for protecting personnel issues but since the Board is not as yet dealing with a live person I question whether a secret approach is not a violation of the open government Brown Act?

  • jim2812

    The following quote from a previous Attorney General goes to the point I was making that an abstract discussion of criteria for superintendent position must be held in public session and does not have any protection under the Brown Act just because the subject matter is personnel decision making.

    In 63 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 153 (1980), we concluded that abstract discussions concerning the creation of a new administrative position and the workload of existing positions were inappropriate for a closed session. However, had the workload discussions
    involved the evaluation of the performance of specific employees, a closed session would have been proper for that portion of the discussion.

    This makes my point until the Board is considering specific individuals the Board discussion must be public.

  • John

    Give it a rest folks! Given the board’s history they need some private time. It has been a long time since their opinion counted for anything that warranted public dissent. They need some rehearsal time before their new curtain goes up. Let’s order some pizza to be delivered behind those closed doors.

    No anchovies on that new superintendent – pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease!

  • Sue

    The district is in desparate need of stability! Can we please get someone who’s going to stick around.

    I won’t go through my list of problems our family has faced because of honest mistakes made by good-hearted people who were simply new in their positions and learning to do their jobs. Believe me, I could write a thousand-page tome that no one would ever read.

    It’s incredibly frustrating for families to keep dealing with the same things we dealt with last year or the year before, because the district staff has turned over, and the staffers who faced the problem before, and fixed it before, and learned from it and could make sure it didn’t recur are gone, again. And when we get frustrated about something that’s happened for the forth, fifth or sixth time, we’re less than patient (understandably, I hope) with the new person who doesn’t have a clue – it’s got to be incredibly hard for a staffer to deal with parents who’ve lost all self-control and are reduced to shouting.

    Let’s start building stability and experience from the top down.

    My family has met with Mr. Matthews, the current state administrator, under very difficult circumstances, and he handled himself with admirable self-control, restraint and professionalism. If the board chose him for superintendant and he’s willing to make a long-term commitment to the district, our family would be comfortable (should the need to escalate that far ever arise again) that we could seek him out, get a fair hearing of our issue or concerns, and get appropriate resolution.

  • John

    Sue! I enjoyed your pitch for the board to name Vince Matthews as the next superintendent? I’m pleased to know that he confided in you his “willingness to make a long-term commitment to the district.” It’s wonderful that your “family would be comfortable” with him. The board needs your input! It’s time to put you behind those closed doors!

  • Katy Murphy

    John: I specifically asked for everyone’s input, and Sue has given some. If you have your own ideas then by all means, throw them in, but let’s lay off the sarcasm.

  • John

    OK Katy. It’s your blog and you call the shots. NO MORE SARCASM! Retired teacher’s honor.

    Here’s an idea: Hire two (2) superintendents: One to watch the cookie jar and One to watch the students. Chaconas, the guy who couldn’t account for all those cookies in 2004, necessitating a state OUSD take-over admitted he was watching the district’s students but NOT the district’s cookie jar.

    Having completed the course work for a school administrative credential (required academic qualification for principal, superintendent), I can assure you there is NOTHING in a superintendent’s academic preparation (within the scope of his credential) that qualifies him to oversee a district’s financial operation).

    Hire someone from the private sector, with proper financial oversight training and experience, to handle the cookie jar. Give him/her equal domain over his operation as the other superintendent has over his. When the two (OPS superintendents) clash have them plead their case before the school board – Oops! Oh well…I did promise NO MORE SARCASM didn’t I. How short sighted of me!

  • Victor

    Hey Katy:

    Before most people get on the high horse and start shooting in all directions, we ought to pay attention what worked and what didn’t work. Looking into the profiles we can learn a thing or two. I personally was a high school student in Fremont High School when Chaconas came on board. From my perspective, he did a lot more than most superintendents did prior to his hiring. Okay, he totally flawed in the money management and ‘tough love'(Bustamante once said with Gray Davis) would follow suit. But the event happened whether he managed it or the state; the cuts were inevitable and it happened one way or another. If Chaconas would have stayed in OUSD, at least we wouldn’t have lost local oversight. Then again I have my own opinions about the deficit that led to the overtake by the State, buts that’s a whole new story.

    In short, I would take the sarcasm from John into consideration, why not hire Chaconas to have oversight in the stduents but have an independent ‘accounting guru’ that would present revenues to both the superintendent and Board. Let’s eat on that.

  • John

    I agree with you Victor. The irony is that when more money was spent under Chaconas the district saw improvements (fiscal manager or not). Then along came the big bad authoritian state with it’s emphasis on dollars over students.

    Now, in the wake of the Governor’s announced desire to suspend Prop. 98 (1998’s guaranteed funding for education), it seems that the economic challenges for OUDS and other districts will foce many to continue putting dollars before students, and in a state that’s in the toilet for per capita student spending nation wide.

    Maybe the board should consider a retired general with some martial law (declaration and administration) experience for superintendent!? Seriously Katy!

  • Victor

    Has anyone thought to hire a younger superintendent, perhaps someone who hasn’t been a superintendent but has managed school site management before. I always thought the Charter model worked in a sense that it encouraged parents and students to take ownership of their academic environment. There must be understanding that the curriculum cannot be watered down as it has, increase tutoring programs at the secondary level, and re-introduction of vocational paths for students while encouraging higher learning. These I consider pivital actuions that could shape up the ediucational system, and at the same time a supportive system for stduents to actually grasp the material when they cannot receive at home.

  • http://www.tigerthegecko.blogspot.com Former Oakland Teacher

    As someone who has taught through 5 superintendents/state administrators (and 8 principals… in only 8 years… ridiculous, no?), Chaconas was hands-down the best for students and teachers, but apparently couldn’t handle the money.

    Since then, the instability has been a HUGE problem. HUGE.

  • John

    Victor! I think you’re on to something that the first state administrator, Randolph Ward, could sink his teeth into. He was totally into hiring young (inexpensive) teachers and principals (in Compton and Oakland), so why not also hire a cheap young superintendent!? It could be a great cost savings for the district and a great complement to the struggling young inexperienced teacher brought on board by Randolph and others. A struggling young OPS superintendent trying to dodge public spit balls and just survive his/her first year would also make for some great reading!

  • sandra

    central office is teeming with all kinds of 11 and 12 months TSA’s. They take up space and a huge chunk of the budget in return for very little. They are not going to schools, no helping out, not offering PD, not returning calls and simply riding along.They need to be at school sites and not on the fourth floor of 1025 taking loooooong lunch periods. Waste of money.