Another OUSD veteran who would be chief

Denise Saddler, a former Chabot Elementary School principal who now supervises elementary schools in North and West Oakland, tells me that the rumors are true: She, too, is vying for the Oakland superintendency.

Like Michael Moore Sr., Saddler is an Oakland native with a long history with the school district, beginning as a teacher in 1979 (She attended the Anna Head School for Girls, which is now Head-Royce, for 12 years).

While chatting with her briefly today, I learned that she was the teachers union president between 1986 and 1992 — a time of labor peace, she said. She also served four years as the City of Oakland’s Education Legislative Analyst under then-Mayor Elihu Harris before returning to OUSD.

“I know so much about what’s happened and what’s been tried; I’ve worked with so many superintendents,” Saddler said. “I just know that we can turn a corner if if we continue this work we’ve been doing.”

At this moment, the school board is supposed to be narrowing down the list, and interviews start soon.

Save the Date: May 20 is the day in which the top two or three finalists will be presented to the community, likely at the school district office. I don’t believe the time is posted.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Hills Mom

    Fascinating… Katy, do us all a favor and ask her what she has done to improve the poor performing elementary schools that feed into Claremont? Rockridge families want little to do with Claremont, a school with nothing inherently wrong with it other than it faces an uphill battle of educating a large group of kids who never reached proficiency at the K-5 levels in schools under Ms. Saddler’s supervision.

    If she had no influence on the elementary schools that she “supervised” then I’ve no reason to believe she would be effective as the leader of the entire district. If she believes the situation was out of her control then I’d like to know that, too.

  • Jim Geer

    I’m excited about Mrs. Saddler’s desire to become superintendant. I’ve known her for many years and have observed her work ethic. She has the knowledge, and experience to reformed OUSD and make certain it measures up to or surpasses the expectations of excellence often stated by President Obama.

  • Judy

    Here we go again!

  • Public School Fan

    I agree with Hills Mom. What exactly have been Ms. Saddler’s successes as NEXO? All I have seen from her is her being unsupportive of parents and school administrators and an obstruction to new ideas and change.

    Her quote: “I just know that we can turn a corner if we continue this work we’ve been doing.” Exactly what work? And what is working? The district continues to lose students, it is further in the red than it was even believed to be five years ago, special ed students are unsupported and treated poorly by the district as a whole, there is no emphasis on challenging gifted students to do even better work (as a matter of fact the gifted students are pretty much ignored and left to their own devices), physical sites have been left to decay (see discussions on Tilden and others), schools and district offices have been repeatedly broken into and robbed (see discussion of computer thefts at Claremont Middle and others). I guess I could go on and on. Yes, there are successes, but the list of failures and mediocrity is so long as to be quite discouraging. Why on earth should someone already affiliated with OUSD become superintendent? And why should it be Ms. Saddler? Again, Hills Mom’s comments seem right on point.

  • Judy

    As a former OUSD parent I can easily say that the elementary curriculum in Oakland is a far cry from my daughter’s new school in another community. The words “rigor” and “alignment” to the standards is a foreign concept in the OUSD schools. What has Ms. Sadler done about this?

    It is evident that the lack of leadership at the district level has not only contributed to the lack of curriculum alignment, but has also encouraged it. OUSD needs leadership, not more of the same.

  • Jim Geer

    Since when did the buck stop with an assistant? The assistant super. was hired to follow the direction of the Superintendant. Had he succeeded he would still be in demand and rewarded for his leadership. Get real folks, it take all of our input to reform OUSD. Where were the above respondents during the term of the last adminstration? Parents have to be responsive to positive change and take part ownership in the development and education of their children.
    Neither Judy nor Hill’s mom have a clue as to the scope of the challenge to reform the under-funded OUSD. Get involved, hold the Superintendent accountable, but also hold ourselves and our children accuntable for positive change.

  • Public School Fan

    Please don’t assume things about any of the writers here, Jim. Many of us are very involved in the workings of OUSD and trying to get reform on a variety of issues. Many of us have encountered roadblock after roadblock from OUSD at all levels, including the state superintendent and the acting superintendent. While I can’t speak for other writers here, I am VERY involved in my children’s education, both at the school level and at higher levels, including meeting with OUSD staff (and occasionally the superintendents and NEXOs when it has been necessary). Now, that much of the state control is over, only the Board can truly hold the Superintendent accountable and I have yet to see any evidence of that happening. Is easy to tell people that they need to get involved and advocate for “positive change” — whatever that means — but many of us have been to get change for many years and to be quite frank, many times we can’t even get OUSD staff to return emails or voicemails.

  • harlemmoon

    It is indeed incumbent on the entire community to support – and hold accountable – the OUSD staff and Board. Alas, I have been at far too many Board meetings and witnessed the utter lunacy that passes for debate and the trivial matters on which they become mired for hours.
    On the other side, I’ve seen far too few parents, students and community members at those meetings.
    At the end of the day, WE are ultimately responsible for the direction – up or down – of the district. One person does not a Superintendent make. Rather, it is the collective, informed voices of the dedicated people of Oakland who play a vital role in that makeup.
    If we ALL gave a damn, the district wouldn’t be in this position in the first place and we wouldn’t be bickering now over who is best qualified for the unenviable task of leading this rudderless ship we call OUSD.

  • David Spencer, Parent

    Harlemmoon, I agree with you.

    In addition, the focus here should be on educating our students. I am tired of Oakland being used as a stepping stone for some “hotshot” to come in from out of town and “save” us. They make a name for themselves and then jump ship.

    We need a superintendent who knows Oakland; knows the students, knows the parents, knows the teachers, knows the community – we need someone who has some skin in the game. We need someone who has been here, has passion for Oakland and is qualified to do the job. Quite frankly, I think Denise Saddler is that person.

  • harlemmoon

    Well, Mr. Spencer, let’s hope that you and Denise’s ever-increasing band of supporters are at every board meeting where the Supe’s job is discussed. With Alice’s abrupt resignation as board president, it is clear that the panel of imbeciles is up to their old tricks. This Supe’s search will be dirty, highly politicized and fraught with missteps. But this time, the community must be prepared to respond. To demand accountability, full representation and a total airing of the process.
    We have to let them know that it won’t be business as usual. Otherwise, it will be.

  • John

    This is perhaps a bit off thread, but does anyone here have a connection with the superintendent of the San Francisco schools? He’s put together a 51 page education guide with a picture of Jimmi Hendrix on each and every page! He says their “plan is as transformational now as Hendrix music was then!” The superintendent’s stated aim is to transform the educational “experience for every child in every school.”

    I’m not as interested in the 51 page manual as I am the give-away ‘Hendrix poster and Hendrix-emblazoned canvas tote bag’ that reportedly comes with it! Although it might be kind of groovy turning my bedroom into a head shop with fifty-one wall mounted head images of Hendrix, especially with my parents no longer around to tear em down!!!

    I attended the Monterey pop festival in 1967 and witnessed Hendrix smashing his guitar on stage before setting it ablaze! Wow!!! Who’d have thought back then that Hendrix would become an inspiration for San Francisco students!

    Too bad he suffered a drug over dose and choked to death on his up chuck at 26. In addition to becoming a nostalgic education icon he might have grown up to become an inner city school superintendent. Don’t tell the S.F kiddies he never graduated from high school, it could spoil everything! On the other hand, it does prove African American high school drop outs can pick up and smash a guitar for a smashingly successful future, does it not?

    Any advice or leads on how I might get my own 2008/2009 SFUSD Hendrix poster, tote bag, and fifty-one head pics of Jimmi would be mucho appreciated!



  • Thana Christian

    I am thrilled to see that Denise Saddler is going for superintendent, she would be outstanding and is just the person we are desperate for. I know her as my daughter’s principal for her first five years of elementary school. My daughter started at Chabot (we live in East Oakland, and got into Chabot in what was then a lottery system) in the fall of 2000, the year Denise started there. Chabot moved from a “8” to a “10” rated school during her tenure there. She was tireless in making Chabot a feeder school for Claremont, and more of the youth from her tutelage have gone on to Claremont than in any recent time. These 2000 kindergarteners are just now finishing 8th grade, and many more will move to Oakland Tech (including my daughter) than in prior years. She has the patience of Job, has dedicated her life to her passion – the Oakland public school system, and is very smart along with great social and emotional intelligence, too. She knows how to get things done. She also comes from a family that has given great service to Alameda county for many decades. Check out the internet on her dad, James Saddler, who died at 81 two years ago, who gradated from the dental school at Howard University and was a greatly respected dentist in Berkeley. He, too, was passionate about education. I so hope she gets this position!!