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Politicians to scrutinize state takeovers of schools

By Katy Murphy
Tuesday, July 15th, 2008 at 4:51 pm in finances, local control, OUSD central office.

Tomorrow in Sacramento – the week after the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury released an unflattering report on the subject — legislators will hear all about state takeovers in Oakland and elsewhere in California.

A new Assembly committee recently formed to take a look at the school financial takeovers system. They’ll probably get no shortage of suggestions on improvements.

School board member David Kakishiba is expected to be there, along with other school board members, policy analysts, superintendents, and union representatives. I won’t be able to make it to Sacramento tomorrow. But if you go, you should consider writing a synopsis for The Education Report!

Read all about the hearing, straight from Assemblyman Sandre Swanson’s office:

(Sacramento)—Assembly Speaker Karen Bass has authorized a committee hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on State School Financial Takeovers.  Assemblymember Sandré R. Swanson (D-Oakland), will call the hearing to order on Wednesday, July 16, at 10am in room 447 of the State Capitol.

The topic of the hearing is “Evaluating The System of State Receivership: What Works, What Doesn’t, and How We Can Improve the System”.   Representatives from State government, local districts, and the education community will testify on their experiences with the State system of fiscal receivership, including best practices, and suggestions for how to improve the system.

“More and more districts are facing serious financial difficulties.  The State’s assistance in these districts is vital, but we must have a transparent process from start to finish that preserves community participation and collaboration along the way.  It is our hope that this hearing will help guide our legislative efforts to better assist districts in recovering from financial disaster,” Assemblymember Swanson stated.

Assemblymember Swanson’s district includes the Oakland Unified School District, which has been under State receivership since 2003.  The District’s Board of Trustees recently regained partial governing authority, with a State receiver playing the dual role of Administrator over Finances and Pupil Achievement, and Fiscal Trustee over all other areas.

“Education is supposed to be our best example of Democracy, and public schools are the heart of civic participation in our community.  Our objective is to ensure the integrity of public education and preserve local participation when State assistance becomes necessary,” Swanson concluded.

Other committee members participating in the event include:  Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Woodland Hills), Chair of the Budget Sub-Committee on Education Finance; Noreen Evans (D-Vallejo), incoming Chair of Assembly Budget Committee, Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) Republican Whip, Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City) Vice-Chair Committee on Housing and Urban Development; Loni Hancock (D-El Cerrito) Chair of Natural Resources; Gene Mullin (D-San Mateo) Chair of Education.
Confirmed Attendees include:

Representatives from State agencies:     

Joel Montero, Executive Director—Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT)

Rachel Ehlers, Senior Fiscal & Policy Analyst—Legislative Analysts Office (LAO)

Rick Simpson, Education Consultant—Office of Assembly Speaker Karen Bass

Andrea Ball—Office of  the Hon. Jack O’Connell—State Superintendent of Public Instruction

                                                                                                                          

Representatives from districts currently or recently in receivership, including:

Compton Unified School District

Fred Easter—School Board President

 

Oakland Unified School District                                                                            

David Kakishiba—School Board President

 

Vallejo Unified School District

Dr. Mary Bull—Superintendent of Schools

 

West Fresno Elementary School District

Alice Grant—School Board President

 

Representatives from the education community, including:

Mike Egan, Legislative Advocate—California Teachers Association  (CTA)

Jeff Fritas, Legislative Representative—California Federation of Teachers (CFT)

Mynette Theard, President—Local 1021 Service Employees International Unions (SEIU)

Morris Tatum, President—American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees

(AFSCME) Local 257

Adonai Mack, Legislative Advocate—Association of California School Administrators (ACSA)

Rick Pratt, Assistant Executive Director—California School Boards Association  (CSBA)

If you could testify before the committee, what would you say?

image from Living Proof’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons
 

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  • John Garrett

    There is a lot I don’t know about this issue, but here is my take.

    I see some positives to the state takeover of Oakland schools.

    * Finances. Current school board president David Kakishiba stated last September “In reality, the district is in the best financial shape it’s been in ten years.” The state doesn’t deserve credit for the school bonds passed by Oakland voters, and former administrator Kimberly Statham in particular should be criticized for not spending millions in funds available to the district, but in general they get credit for managing finances wisely, a skill which landed the district in state receivership to begin with.

    http://www.eastbayexpress.com/news/oakland_schools__cash_stash/Content?oid=499156

    * More planning and research. In the past the school board seemed to lurch from crisis to crisis without a road map for longer term outcomes. And it is helpful to have numbers and research to develop policy.

    * Action. The state administration seems less restricted by the need to reach political consensus. Even a casual observer of OUSD’s previous school boards would note their feckless nature.

    * Innovation. I’ve heard OUSD described in recent years as a laboratory for educational innovation, and that has the potential to be a good thing, depending on how such a laboratory is run.

    Then there are the drawbacks.

    * CEO model. In a system based on a CEO model it becomes critically important who leads. OUSD saw excellent advances under Randy Ward, but fewer under Kimberly Statham and Vince Matthews.

    http://www.eastbayexpress.com/gyrobase/eli_s_experiment/Content?oid=518210&page=1

    * Anti-democratic. Obviously this one is huge. One must rely on the state appointed administrator to be good at what he/she does and to act in the best interest of Oakland’s citizens. If one disagrees, or if the administrator is incompetent or a tyrant, he/she is beyond direct reach of the voters as there are no elections or impeachment/recall process.

    In the end, I think leadership of the district can be high quality under either scenario, state administration or local control. It depends on the people leading. In my ideal scenario, the board regains control and hires Randy Ward as superintendent. In addition, I would like the district to retain the planning and financial practices of the state, and I would like the board to focus on oversight and policy only and leave day to day management to professionals.

  • Sue

    I have to disagree with your ideal, John. Dr. Ward should *not* come back.

    He was probably a very good classroom teacher at one time. I appreciated the way he interacted with my sons the first time we met him – his first day in the district.

    He was not good at interacting with families or staff, though. Too autocratic and at times dictatorial. He needed to listen, and he seemed to have little or no skills or interest in doing so. He made some people so upset that he believed their anger at him could become violent, and as a result of his poor handling of these situations (I was a witness to one at a meeting of special education families, and understand there were others.) the district had to hire personal bodyguards for Dr. Ward. This is an expense that no other superintendent or state administrator has inflicted on our finacially troubled district.

    He should stay in San Diego if they’re happy with him, and if he’s happy living there. OUSD needs someone who won’t antagonize families and consequently feel unsafe in the position.