Your new school board prez

School board meetings can be painfully long, but they promise not to be dry, bureaucratic affairs this year. That’s because today at Oakland City Hall, the board elected Alice Spearman its new president.

Spearman is not one to tip-toe around the issues. I’ve watched her chest bump a teacher who insulted her (at a televised meeting); cross-examine an eighth-grade KIPP student about her high school selection process; accuse a fellow board member of racism; and, most recently, chide parents for taking advantage of the district’s school choice policies, rather than opting for their neighborhood school.

Spearman, the board’s former VP, will assume the post previously held by David Kakishiba. She represents the East Oakland-Elmhurst district; last year, she won a close re-election bid against Doris Limbrick and Beverly Williams.

In December, Spearman made good on one of her biggest campaign promises: a local vendor policy that many hope will be a boon to the Oakland economy. We’ll see what else she pushes to the forefront in 2009.

Katy Murphy

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

  • celine

    God help us all.

  • Nextset

    People vote with their feet also.

    Spearman is probably a fair reflection of what OUSD is all about. Good luck to her. 2009 is going to be a hell of a year!

  • former hills parent

    I voted with my feet and now am extremely happy with the San Ramon schools.

  • Sharon

    Former Hills Parent: Good for you. Wouldn’t you find it odd if someone moved from San Ramon to Orinda, for instance, but couldn’t seem to “let go” of their least favorite experiences about San Ramon? I would.

  • former hills parent

    I still have many friends with children in OUSD. Experiences from those that have moved elsewhere can be valuable in determining how a functional vs. dysfunctional school district works.

  • melanie

    Hah! I just finished leaving a blog on the Skyline track lights issue. Although. I intend to make a phone call, I can also ask Ms Spearman to do something about the issue (as I still think it is a no-brainer decision….yes for lights during practice in winter!) Anyway, the last time I paid any attention to the school board was when Wilda White was a memeber. I’m looking forward to what 2009 will bring. Good luck to Oakland schools. Good luck to all the members of the board who work hard to make things more functional.

  • Nancy

    Should we call a Code Pink to maintain civility?


  • oakland mom

    Former Hills parent: how does your comment #3 above specifically relate to “experiences from those (who) have moved elsewhere can be valuable in determining how a funcational vs. dysfunctional school district works”? I also have friends — in Sam Ramon — who tell me that they are generally happy with the schools there but there are problems with elementary school overcrowding and with drinking/drugs in the high schools, among other things. Friends I have known who have moved to suburbia have all focused on issues in their new school district once their kids are in school there.

  • former hills parent

    I tried to focus on school issues while as a parent in Oakland. However, I only found a resistant and non-responsive district office. Try discussing curriculum with OUSD and the concept appeared to be foreign to those “in charge” of curriculum.

    As to San Ramon, yes there are large schools. However, my 1st grade daughter is in a class with 17 students. She is in the only Title I school in San Ramon, a school with an API score of 917. How does this happen. It happens because the school district has a school board and district office staff that are on top of curriculum. What a novel idea.

    Here’s another one for you. My daughter’s school will be emailing the weekly homework to our home, so that the school can save on the cost of duplicating the homework.

    Yes, I have no doubt that there is drinking and drugs in high school…as in Oakland High Schools.

  • Brian

    I harbor concerns about the appointment of Alice Spearman to the Presidency of the Oakland Board of Education . Although I applaud Ms. Spearman for her service to the district and many other community boards and organizations, I have some concerns about her past behavior and her ability to lead the Board in real discussions that focus on how to increase positive academic outcomes for the students of Oakland. In past board meetings, I have seen Ms. Spearman be condecending, divisive and rude – not the qualities of the person who you want to be bringing groups together in order to lead the district in a collaborative strategic direction.
    These are incredibly critical times for the Board and OUSD. The Board is soon going to return to complete control of the district, we are hiring a new superintendent and we are facing a budget crisis that has the potential of crippling our public education system further. We need district leadership that is innovative, flexible and willing to do whatever it takes in order to enable all of our students to graduate and thrive. I hope that Ms. Spearman will be able to do this.

  • John

    Hmmm. I thought Spearman would be the hands on favorite to fill the boots of OUSD’s ignominiously departed police chief. Oh well, I’m sure she’ll serve with equal distinction as an Oakland school board president.

    SHARON (#4): I don’t find it the least bit odd that someone would move from his deteriorating Oakland home town, where he attended public school and taught for twenty-five years, to take up new residence in a safe community with good schools and safe streets reminiscent of his youth.

    I wouldn’t even find it odd that he’d traded his large Oakland home for a much smaller similarly priced Orinda condo so his preschool daughter could, among other things, attend the kind of high performing public school Oakland residents now fight over (e.g. Hillcrest) while presided over by the likes of Spearman.

    I suspect he’s not the first refugee to look back and find it difficult to “let go” of his once civil law abiding home town with good schools, now a toilet of political indoctrination and escalating crime that required him and his family to take flight.

    Yes, he did have a “choice” about leaving Oakland and believes all non-felon Oakland residents who care about the welfare, betterment, and safety of their families should also leave IF able to do so, even if it results in a major reduction of affordable living space.

    To somehow insinuate that moving from Oakland to Orinda is analogous to moving from San Ramon to Orinda is either patently ignorant or grossly disingenuous. It’s also a bit cowardly to respond to another’s issues or concerns through comments to a third party, but I guess for some the safest and warmest place to keep ones tail is discretely tucked up between her legs.

  • cranky teacher

    John, that bitterness is a boomerang. Let it go.

  • former hills parent


    Actually San Ramon Schools is ranked #6 among all California Unified School Districts, so if I moved from San Ramon to Orinda it would be a lateral move, not a vertical one.

    Sharon: You may want to check out your facts before you speak.

  • John

    Former Hills Paretn: Good objective point.

    Cranky: Learn some OBJECTIVE critical reading skills.

  • Ramon

    i don’t know were you got your information that the teacher insulted spearman. She was inappropriate in attacking “bumping” a teacher. this is not a good example to be the leader of the board.

  • Katy Murphy

    Ramon, I got my information first-hand. I was at that meeting, and witnessed the whole thing.

    Note: I didn’t say Alice Spearman was justified in bumping the teacher, only that it was the insult (if I recall, the teacher told the board member to sit down and said she had been a thorn in the school’s side) that apparently set her off.

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