Kathleen Osta, the wife of Oakland schools Superintendent Tony Smith, will leave her post as associate director for the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools, a school reform nonprofit with longstanding contractual ties with the Oakland school district.
The decision came about because of a conflict-of-interest ruling by the Oakland school district’s new general counsel, Jackie Minor. After reviewing state law and case law for about two weeks, Minor said, she concluded that Osta’s employment with BayCES was a conflict of interest for Smith and the school district.
Minor said concerns about Osta’s employment were raised shortly after Smith’s appointment in May; she wouldn’t say by whom. She concluded that one of two things would have resolved the problem: either Osta stepping down, or BayCES ending its work in Oakland Unified.
Smith said he and his wife decided it was the right thing to do — though I’m not sure they had much of a choice.
“It’s obviously very personally hard, but professionally right,” Smith said this afternoon. Osta had been with BayCES for 12 years.
BayCES Executive Director LaShawn Route-Chatmon had this to say, in a prepared statement:
We respect the public’s right to have the potential conflict fully disclosed and resolved. The resignation of a valued colleague is the unfortunate and unintended consequence of the tremendous opportunity Tony’s appointment to superintendent represents for this city.
I asked Minor whether the same laws governing the interests of public officials would apply to David Kakishiba, another board member who is director of the East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC). Minor said she had been looking into this, as well.
She did say, though, that Kakishiba is only considered to have only a “remote interest” under one of the laws, since he is part of a multi-member body. Kakishiba abstains from voting on issues relating to EBAYC contracts.