Part of the Bay Area News Group

Must be lonely at the top, and far from home

By Katy Murphy
Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 at 1:14 pm in OUSD central office, superintendent search.


(Left to right) Barbara Adams, Tony Smith and Edward Velasquez

In the last few days, as I learned more about the three people who would be Oakland’s next superintendent, I was struck by what an aspiring administrator will do — or, more precisely, about where they will go — to advance their careers, improve school systems, or whatever it is that drives them professionally.

Remember ex-State Administrator Kim Statham, who for two years flew back and forth to Washington, D.C. to catch an occasional glimpse of her husband and teenage son? Leon Glaster, who had `retired’ to Atlanta with his wife when he was hired to be Oakland’s interim CFO?

Barbara Adams may have both of them beat. Until this spring, the superintendent finalist had worked or studied in Portland, Atlanta and Boston since 2003, while her husband stayed behind at their home in Foster City.

Then there’s finalist Edward Velasquez, who is prepared to leave his kids, who range in age from 15 to 32, and his elderly parents, whom he cares for, in Southern California (I don’t think any of his children live with him). He told me that it the distance would be difficult, but that if he moved to Oakland, the job would become his life.

Wow. Call me a wimp, but I wonder how long someone can sustain such a lifestyle. If this sort of geographic over-extension is as common elsewhere as it’s been in Oakland, maybe it’s no wonder that the average superintendent’s tenure is three years (or 18 months in big urban districts, as some estimate).

You can read the short profiles of the three superintendents, which appeared in today’s paper, here.

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  • district employee

    Interesting that you didn’t mention Tony Smith wouldn’t have to deal with such a hardship – his family is here in Oakland, already part of the community. Interesting.

  • A question

    Katy, do you know if Tony’s kids are school age and if so where they attend school?

  • Katy Murphy

    District Employee: Actually, Barbara Adams wouldn’t have to deal with the distance issue either. Her husband lives in Foster City.

    A Question: I know that Smith’s oldest child, who’s 6, will go to Crocker Highlands in the fall.