Departures ’08 (a working list)

Speaking of people leaving the Oakland school district … I’ve been meaning to tell you all — who don’t already know — that Eric Nelson, a “network executive officer” who oversees more than a dozen elementary schools, is leaving at the end of the month. He’s taking a job with School Turnaround.

Nelson’s area includes ASCEND, Bella Vista, Cleveland, Crocker Highlands, Franklin, Garfield, Glenview, International Community School, La Escuelita, Lazear, Manzanita SEED, Joaquin Miller, Montclair and Think College Now.

And Allison Sands, a Broad resident who you might have seen at any number of school “engagement” meetings — about closures, enrollment priorities, and school interventions — has already left.

Here’s a letter Nelson sent out a couple of weeks ago:

May 16, 2008

Dear OUSD Friends,

I am writing to let you know that I will be leaving OUSD at the end of June, having accepted a position as a leadership coach with School Turnaround, an educational consulting company.

I’d like to extend my deepest and most sincere thanks to each of you for your compassion, skill and dedication; working every day to improve achievement for each OUSD student. I also want to thank everyone for your kindness and collaboration as I have worked closely with 18 elementary schools and multiple OUSD departments and partners. It has been inspirational to see the tremendous work and growth of many, many school staff, teachers, and principals at the schools I have been lucky enough to work with.

Although my new job will include working with schools across the country, my wife, Christina, and I will continue to live in Oakland. We feel very fortunate to have been welcomed with open arms into the community and have made many wonderful friends. Please say hello the next time you see us at the farmers market or walking around Lake Merritt.

I have included some of my favorite OUSD student photos in this letter to remind each of us that no matter what the circumstance, we are all here for the children. There are so many things to be proud of at OUSD, and success will continue if students and their needs are at the center of every conversation and every decision. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. astutely told us:

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

Thanks again and take care,


I’ve heard rumors of other resignations, but I’m waiting to hear confirmation before posting more names just yet. Heard of other key managers or principals leaving? E-mail me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com, and I’ll add them to the list.

So far, though, it doesn’t sound like quite as much of an exodus as last year.

Katy Murphy

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

  • catherine

    I wish Eric well. He is works hard on issues of achievement gap, students of color and unique ways of raising student achievement for the lowest achieving students.

    I hope that when the district replaces Eric, or reshuffles the schools deck that the same innovation, care, and concern spent on the lowest achieving students is also spent on those students who are working above grade level. Currently children who start the school year above grade level are not given the opportunity to advance one full grade level in knowledge over what they began the school year achieving because of the time and effort to bring other students up to standard.

  • http://AT&TYahoo Carolyn Holloway

    Hi Katy,

    Yes, I mean Principals with the OUSD as well as Millsmont Aspire Public Charter Schools.

    Thank you.

  • Debora

    I agree with Catherine. We need to have a program where every child is allowed to advance at least one grade level per year of school from WHERE THEY STARTED THE YEAR in each and every subject.

    I would be great if teachers wrote an IEP sort of document and included the parents/guardians in the process and the teacher for the following grade acutally read the “IEPs” for the students that were incoming to his or her classroom.

    It would be helpful if teachers read the final report cards of all students that were coming into their classes. I know at our school that is not done.

  • hills parent

    Catherine and Debora:

    I also wish that my daughter, who had already met the Kindergarten and much of the first grade standards, was encouraged and allowed to work at her current level. Instead she spent the school year reviewing what she already knew.

    As I put her into another school district this coming year, I only hope that her experience in Oakland will not negatively impact her future progress.

    Academically she wasted much of this school year.

  • Nextset

    Catherine: You assume the “school” ever intended to advance the precocious students one year with one year of work. They don’t. If you have a precocious (read “normal” or “above normal”) child you’d better get that child out of that district.

  • hills parent

    I would like to say that my experience is isolated to just one of the schools, a “hills” school at that. However, it seems to also hold true for other schools in the district. It is evident that “hills” teachers are no more skilled than others in the district. However, where is the district office in all of this? Are they condoning this blatant disregard for the needs of those students performing above grade level in our elementary schools? And where are the network executive officers in all of this? Do they even know what is or is not occurring in the schools? If they are oblivious to what is occurring at the schools/principals that they supervise, why is the school district even paying for yet another layer of administration? How about eliminating this layer and give the money to teacher salaries?

  • Katy Murphy

    How much interaction do parents generally have with their network executive officers? Do most parents even know who their “nexo” is (or what they do)?

    I’d imagine the network executives would want to talk with families from time to time to get a sense of what’s happening — or not happening — at a school. Or do you think concerns about curriculum should be addressed within a school, without involving the central office?

    In general, how valuable are these intermediary positions — to principals, teachers and the system in general?

  • Realist

    my experience has been that we’ve had little or no interaction with our network executive officer.

    in the 11 years we’ve been involved with OUSD, the network executive officer (NEO) has only made appearances two times, each time involved a situation that became “bigger than the school”.

    in any case, we don’t miss the NEO when it’s “business as usual”, and we were not impressed with them when they were engaged with our school. my sense from my limited experience is that the intermediary (atleast the one we dealt with) does not add value to the current process.

  • Fed Up Mom


    Most of the parents at my school know who our nexo is. We have had many parents calling her with questions and frustrations surrounding our principal and school. It seems to me that the nexos are nothing more than puppets. Their strings are pulled by the state administrator and Brad Stam. They rarely come to the school and yet they have all the pat answers to pacify the masses. Did you know that they evaluate the principals on their attendance at meetings and if the principals make the dates for having their teachers turn in assessments on time? There is no evaluation done on how principals interact with their staff and parents. The whole staff and parents could be totally dissatisfied with the principal but that doesn’t matter to the nexos. Bottom line? They only care about the business aspect of schooling and API status. What happened to educating our youth? Sadly that appears to be a thing of the past.

  • another hills parent

    I met the NEO of my daughter’s school on one occasion at a meeting to discuss student registration issues. I was not in the least bit impressed. She added very little to the discussion and played the PR part. What OUSD needs are curriculum leaders at the district office, those that know what is occurring at the schools, and those that address the schools when they are not meeting the needs of all students.

    On those rare times when I bothered to try to contact the NEO, she failed to return my calls and matters were not resolved until Senator Perata’s office was involved.

  • Public school fan

    I am a very involved parent at my child’s school. I’ve never even heard of a Network Executive Officer and have certainly (to my knowledge) never laid eyes on one, heard one speak at my school, or had one address any of the concerns at our school or in the district.

    And, like a broken record, I once again fully agree with Catherine and Hills Parent. I wish OUSD would realize that it needs to focus some (even a tiny amount) of time and resources on its above proficient students. Even in the “hills” schools not enough is being done to challenge these kids and spur them on to greater achievement.

  • John

    Catherine, we should keep in mind that No Child Left Behind redirects nearly all efforts to educate the lowest achievers. If it wasn’t for NCLB’s punitive consequences for low scoring schools & districts OUSD would probably embrace it as a good fit.

    Unfortunately, it’s NOT the low achievers who make the greatest contributions to society. Perhaps education policy that focuses on a society’s low achievers, while ignoring its bright potential high achievers, should be complemented by an expanded immigration & work visa program. The program could focus on countries that allow their brightest and smartest to be bright and smart at school. They would be fuel for our economy and a source of income for American high school drop outs and graduates selling fast food and/or holding out tin cups at freeway exits and intersections.

    THANK YOU for getting your bright daughter out of the Oakland Schools. Given her age and grade level I assume (hope) too much damage hasn’t already been done. I’m sure you’ll be keeping a sharp eye on whatever school she attends.

    “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” even if it is bright and/or gifted. Unfortunately, you’ll never see this truth attached to that slogan in our land of make believe.

  • Debora

    I have met our NEXO, Eric Nelson three times. I have written to him twice, once about supporting our new principal. I got an immediate reply to my email.

    Then, my second email talked about my daughter’s experience at her school. She has a great teacher, who if allowed to teach (using her 15 or more years experience and some training on differentiating the curriculum) would have the kids working on different projects. Two examples I used were that my daughter is currently being “taught” three digit addition and subtraction at school, while at home we are talking about squared numbers, square roots and the importance of prime numbers and she is reading above grade level and passes the majority of her spelling pre-tests with a perfect or near perfect score but is still required to write sentences for each word, underline the word and take a post-test.

    Our NEXO’s response was that it was difficult to differentiate homework, that the classroom teacher was doing great things (she was in the areas in which she was allowed flexibility), and that I laid out a sad, sad case.

    I understand OUSD has an achievement GAP that must be narrowed, but narrowing the achievement GAP should not come at the expense of some children (holding them relatively constant) while trying to move lower performing children up. That is cheating – it’s cheating the system, the lower performing students who are made to believe something that they are at the knowledge level of their classmates and to the students who are kept down to make the district look good.

    Eric Nelson has some good ideas. He believes in and works toward the advancement of those children who are struggling. My experience is that he only has so much time, effort and influence and has chosen to use it on specific students first and foremost.

  • hills parent


    Your example is just another reason why parents with young children who excel should look for other options, at least until OUSD realizes that these children also deserve a quality education that meets them where they begin.

  • Sharon

    Katy: If possible, would you please post the duration of service to OUSD along with this exit information? Thanks.