The school board powers up


Thursday update: After talking to David Kakishiba, the board president, I have a new question for you all to consider:

Should the board…

a) choose an interim supe while searching for a permanent leader

b) immediately start a search for a permament superintendent, which could take four to six months, or

c) wait until the last two areas of control (finances and academic policies) are returned to the board, because the complicated, two-leader system might scare top candidates away.


Tonight, the Oakland school board voted 5-2 to approve a power transfer agreement with Jack O’Connell, the state superintendent of schools.

The agreement restores board authority over staffing and facilities, as O’Connell promised at a Nov. 30 press conference. And, of course, the ability to select a superintendent for the first time in about five years.

The state still controls Oakland Unified’s finances and its academic policies.

Noel Gallo and Greg Hodge voted against the agreement, as I understand it, mainly because of this clause, which includes language from the state takeover law:

Pursuant to Senate Bill 39, authority over Personnel Management may be returned to the Superintendent upon his or her determination that the Board violated any provision of improvement in this area. Similarly, authority over Facilities Management may be returned to the Superintendent upon his or her determination that the Board violated any provision of improvement in this area.

O’Connell wasn’t there this evening to sign the document, and I’m told there will likely be a signing ceremony on the horizon.

image from Andrew Spearin’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

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

  • Sue

    Let’s take whatever we can get.

    If the best the state can offer is a bit more local control subject to the State Administrator’s second guessing and overruling the board, well, at least the community has the opportunity to let the board members know what we think about the issues and our opinions of the board’s decisions.

    It’s not as if the previous State Administrators have had any interest in hearing from us.

  • cranky teacher

    Ms. Murphy: On a different question, are you/have you written about the outrageous demands from the State Administrator that the next teacher’s contract roll back wages, cut elementary teacher’s paid prep and allow secondary adminstrators to give teachers NO PREP??!!

    That they would even suggest such things as a point of negotiation is appalling.

  • Sharon

    Here’s my theory about the timing.

    I suspect the philanthropists (who are really the ones calling the shots) are giving up on Oakland because after almost five years, and millions of dollars worth of trying, they haven’t seen the successful outcome that they had imagined. That’s why they are willing to let O’Connell turn over control of OUSD now.

    A New York Times article on 3/9/08, “How Many Billionaires Does It Take to Fix a School System,” explains what goes on in the philanthropists’ minds. You may be able to access it at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/09/magazine/09roundtable-t.html?_r=1&scp=39&sq=&st=nyt&oref=slogin

    This new breed of educational philanthropists is fixated on seeing results; they don’t just want to be benevolent nice guys. They strongly believe in, and have been developing, what they call “disruptive strategies” for the public education system. The “disruptive strategy” that was devised for Oakland just didn’t yield the outcome they desired.

    I suspect they want to bail out now so they don’t have to deal with the upcoming OTA contract negotiations. Losing interest in Oakland, they would be happy to let our school board, and the new superintendent, deal with that difficult issue. It is going to be even more difficult this year considering the circumstances going on with the state budget.

    Local control’s first battle will be with that huge monster. The philanthropists and the state will be gone, so they can avoid getting the blood on their hands and won’t even have to clean up the mess.

  • http://www.smallschoolsfoundation.org Holly at Oakland Small Schools Foundation

    In response to Sharon, regarding philanthropic interest (or lack thereof) in Oakland public schools: At the Oakland Small Schools Foundation, we continue to see a lot of philanthropic interests in the schools themselves. The heartfelt philanthropists out there believe it is still possible to improve the opportunities for kids in the inner-city to get a great education. They do, indeed, want to see more and more metrics, but they have not been asking for miracles. At OSSF, because we have been able to provide a safe vehicle for philanthropic investors and do deliver outcomes, we have been successful in directly raising over $600,000 from private foundations this year for small schools in the flatlands (plus individual donations, organizational contributions and extra government funds amounting to another $800,000.) In addition to raising the money, the schools and the foundations know that we will help the school leaders be as efficient as possible with the resources. We are aware that the huge foundations are biding their time with their major top-down support until the district has a permanent superintendent — we believe that these major support will flow back to Oakland once leadership is firmly in place.
    At OSSF we do work with relatively small grants, so there is not as much risk for foundations — but despite the negative press that Oakland seems to always get, we do not have foundations saying no to Oakland public schools. There does seem to be hope among philanthropists, — and we really must try to deliver on some solid, measurable outcomes (and I am not suggesting it’s all about the tests) so that everyone knows (including the middle class tax payers out there) that we are developing cost-effective, successful programs for kids.

  • James Jones, Jr., Parent, etc.

    Without control of Finance what can a Superintendent really do? .. other than get paid. The State Administrator retains all power and can veto any decision made in any area (returned to the board or not) under the guise of Fiscal responsibility.