Oakland’s new middle school administrator

When I reported on the departures of Harriet MacLean and Fred Brill, the two OUSD administrators who supervised Oakland’s middle schools, I neglected to mention MacLean’s replacement: Gia Truong. (I also didn’t tell you that yet another “network executive officer,” Donald Evans, left for a job in Compton. That’s four out of the eight nexos.)

Truong was the principal at Urban Promise Academy, a district middle school in the Fruitvale area, for the last four years. She must have been appointed after the initial list of incoming and outgoing principals was compiled, since the school didn’t appear on the list. I’ve asked for an update.

Here’s the announcement that went out to district staff in July:

Hello All,

I’d like to introduce OUSD’s new Network Executive Officer for Middle Schools, Gia Truong. Most of you will remember Gia from her tenure as Principal for Urban Promise Academy. In her new role, Gia will oversee Middle School Network 2, a group that includes Alliance Academy, Bret Harte, Elmhurst Community Prep, Explore College Prep, Frick, Madison, Melrose Leadership, Montera and Roots International.

This latest challenge continues a career in education that spans 13 years and a series of classroom and administrative positions in the Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland school districts. After receiving a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Asian-American Studies from San Francisco State University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University, Gia accepted a position at Seattle’s Nathan Hale High school. While at Nathan Hale, Gia provided all students access to the traditional honors curriculum and was one of a dozen teachers responsible for designing the school’s 9th and 10th grade academies.

After three years in the Pacific Northwest, Gia returned to the Bay Area as a teacher at San Francisco’s Leadership High School, where she later became an instructional coach. During her time at Leadership, Gia taught social studies, leadership and math and teamed with colleagues to design challenging curriculum units tailored to student abilities and interests. Among other duties, she also coached Humanities and Leadership teachers in curriculum, instruction and assessment.
Prior to the start of the 2003-04 school year, Gia joined OUSD as Assistant Principal for Urban Promise Academy and as a resident and the first Assistant Principal in the New Leader for New Schools program. In her initial year, she helped restructure the bell schedule to support teacher collaboration and professional development and worked to build a strong academic culture. Gia began the next year as the Principal at Urban Promise, which saw its API scores rise from 524 to 649 during her four years as head of the school. As principal, Gia focused on coordinating and leading professional development for her faculty and served as a New Leaders for New Schools Mentor Principal.

Gia now joins Fred Brill as one of OUSD’s two Middle School Network Executive Officers. Please join me in welcoming Gia and wishing her the best in her new position.


Katy Murphy

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

  • Elisa

    As a resident and mom in Oakland who will send her chld(ren) to our neighborhood OUSD school and also as a former colleague of Ms. Truong, I am thrilled to hear of this appointment. Gia is one of the most thoughtful, deliberate educators with whom I’ve worked–dedicated to creating an environments that expect much out of students while also supporting the work and the thinking it takes to get them there. Kudos to OUSD for managing to keep and promote such a gifted educator. This is good news for our middle schools.

  • Jose, Former Student

    My brother just graduated from UPA and it was a joke. He and his friend who was the top 8th grade student got all A’s at UPA. They were lost in Algebra.

    I hope they get a new principal who will make sure ever 8th grade student gets a good teacher and Algebra book.

    Ms. Elisa, are you sending your child to UPA?

  • http://none Nancy

    Jose, I understand your frustration.

    It has been my experience that most of these new, young “administrators” are far from qualified, and walk in full of attitude, authoritative behavior, lack of personnel and employee communication etiquette, and lack of understanding about Federal and State laws that govern programs under their control.

    Most come out with a preliminary Administrative Services credential and have no practical experience. Like teachers, in my opinion, they need at least a 5 year mentoring partnership with veteren, retired principals, to orient them to the profession to be even ‘ready’ to be able to carry out the functions of a principal role in an Urban setting, and unfortunately the State of CA, the County, and the Districts serving Urban schools do not provide such a program.

    I do not know the particulars of this administrator you are upset with — however, I can realistically tell you that you need to take responsibility for your own destiny, including signing up for a communitiy college course (okay’d by your counselor) at night, online, or on weekends to get the knowledge in Algebra (and other subjects) you are seeking and then bounce that off what you are being taught in your classroom using inquiry-based approaches to your education and life.

    Be the expert, question the authoriity of your school’s leadership and faculty, and offer your peers help like a leader. Please do not risk your future to the Dilemmas of public urban education and socio-economic disparities that you have little or no power to overcome. Education is power!

  • Catherine

    What do NEXOs actually do? What do they attempt to accomplish and have they succeeded? Are they part of Expect Success?

    With half of the NEXOs gone, will we notice the difference except that we will have the money in the budget that we were paying them. Our school’s NEXO is gone, but of the three times I communicated with him, the only time he responded positively was when I was stroking him and our new principal. When I actually brought up problems or issues, his only response is “She’s a good teacher.” And yes, the teacher in question was a good teacher; however she needed to ramp up for those children who were working above grade level and I was trying to get her some training – a previous 1st grade teacher, teaching 3rd grade, still using techniques and even projects she used in 1sr grade.

    With a little help and guidance, she would have been an Excellent Teacher for all 3rd graders – sadly the NEXO did not help her, or me and a previously great teacher left for Berkeley Unified.

    So back to the original question, what do NEXOs do?

  • Gonzo

    As a former mid-to-high level district office employee, I can tell you that Executive Officers do very little. It’s a cakewalk in comparison to running a school. I have worked with Gia in the past, and although I don’t appreciate her politics, which rely on reductionism, she is a hardworking person, which I respect. However, she has limited experience running one school let alone multiple schools, so it is unclear to me why she was picked to be an Executive Officer. This is par for the course in the district office, however, where a vast majority of the top-level employees arrive through professional or personal connections (Broad) and boy do they pay themselves well. Yet, many of these folks in the district office pulling in the big salaries have little to no experience in management.

    If the district office were closed tomorrow and all the money were instead directed straight to the schools we would see dramatic improvements. You would be appalled at how little work gets done in the district office. While there are many talented hardworking people there, their efforts get lost in the top-down, do-nothing politics of the superintendent’s strategy group. They get frustrated and leave, only to be replaced by more Broad graduates and they cycle continues.

    Not wanting to just rant without offering a solution I will say that what needs to be done is create accountability at the district level. It’s a travesty that teachers and principals are subject to such stringent accountability measures when nothing the district office does is ever measured for effectiveness. Until that changes, there will be very little positive change for OUSD, I’m afraid.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com Sharon

    Gonzo: Do you know what principal supervisor models exist at other school districts? Was the NExO model imposed by O’Connell’s Broad-trained administration? If so, how were principals supervised by the district before they took control?

  • Gonzo

    I don’t know where the model comes from, but a lot of school districts are organized in a similar manner, to the point where they have identical district office department names, functions, etc. It’s interesting because not all states have district offices. For example, Maryland public schools report to the county offices (BTW, the state of Maryland’s public school system was ranked number one last year). Delaware is considering a similar design. It’s called consolidation. A Delaware study showed the state could save 50 Million by consolidating a certain percentage (not even all) of it’s district offices. That’s a lot of money that can be directed right to schools and students. It’s only a matter of time until the CDE wakes up and realizes the same. The schools in the east bay could just as easily report to the Alameda county office of ed.

  • Gordon Danning

    I just want to state for the record that the NExO who oversees Oakland High School – Alison McDonald – has always been very responsive to my concerns. Of course, she was a teacher for 20+ years, so perhaps she is the exception to the rule.