I just returned from the town hall meeting featuring the final three superintendent candidates. I spoke with a number of people throughout the event and afterward, and asked their perceptions of each finalist: Barbara Adams (right), Tony Smith, and Edward Velasquez.
At least in terms of popular opinion, it seems as though the front-runners are Smith, a deputy superintendent in San Francisco, and Velasquez, superintendent of the 33,000-student Montebello school district in Los Angeles County.
Anthony Hall, an involved dad whose daughter has attended Hoover Elementary, Westlake Middle School and now, Oakland Tech, said Smith struck him as a philosopher and consensus-builder, while Velasquez seemed to have more of an assertive leadership style. He said he liked the two candidates, but he was leaning toward Velasquez.
“We shall see, what does Oakland want, a philosopher or a general?” he said. “I believe Oakland needs a general.”
It was clear during the forum that the small schools/Oakland Community Organizations camp generally backed Smith, an Oakland resident who used to work with the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools. Smith drew applause, and even a standing ovation, during his address, including from some student leaders sitting in the front rows.
While some said Smith’s knowledge of the district’s history, its schools and its players are key to moving OUSD forward, others said they liked the specifics Velasquez cited in his address, and the fact that he’s been in the same district for so long. The audience applauded when he touted his district’s 9 percent dropout rate. He also had some good one-liners. (When asked about creative solutions to Oakland’s budget crisis, he said, among other things: “Some of you know I’m also the chief of the police department, so that’s a budget savings.”)
For those of you who attended, what did you make of these candidates? Who do you think is the best fit for Oakland schools?
photos by Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group