The “love fest” on the Oakland school board over its new hire — as described by Jumoke Hinton-Hodge on the night of Tony Smith’s unanimous selection — appears to be over.
Tonight, three of the seven members voted “no” on the future superintendent’s contract for various reasons — but mostly, because of the compensation. (It sounds like Smith was a formidable negotiator.)
“It’s just really difficult for me, as cheap as I am, to accept the terms of the contract as they were written,” said board member Gary Yee.
The juxtaposition of Smith’s lucrative contract with the previous agenda item — the grim budget outlook, and the prospect of closing schools, laying off staff and increasing class sizes in the next year to make ends meet — was hard to ignore.
Yee and David Kakishiba were careful to say that they welcomed Smith to the district, and that they were opposing the contract on principle. Kakishiba said the severance package didn’t sit well with him. He also said the board had agreed in March to pay its new hire up to $275,000 in total compensation; Smith will earn a base salary of $265,000, plus health benefits and, depending on his performance review, a total of $60,000 toward his retirement during the next three years.
Alice Spearman, who cast the third dissenting vote, was less tactful. She said she felt that the retirement language in the contract had changed since the board voted on it Saturday (Jody London spoke up later and said she was certain the terms were consistent). She also said something about Smith’s “arrogance,” apparently referring to the negotiations.
“This school district is in the throes of financial difficulty,” Spearman said. “I’m not here to be hijacked by nobody.”
Hinton-Hodge wasn’t happy, either. “I’m just highly disappointed,” she said, when it was her turn to speak. “We struggled to get to a 7-0 decision around our new superintendent. We pushed one another, we showed leadership. I am terribly, terribly disappointed in the way in which we can slander people, calling people arrogant, acting as if people shouldn’t value themselves. … I feel totally apologetic to Dr. Smith.”