Kakishiba to resign from Oakland school board

David Kakishiba took even his school board colleagues by surprise tonight with this news: He will step down at the end of the month because of a conflict-of-interest ruling by the district’s new general counsel, Jackie Minor.

Kakishiba is also executive director of the East Bay Asian Youth Center, a local youth development nonprofit that works in the school district. In the past, he abstained from votes involving EBAYC contracts, but apparently, that’s not enough.

“Yesterday I was informed by the general counsel that it was her opinion that my continuing to serve on this board and to work at my organization is a situation that is untenable,” Kakishiba said at tonight’s (well, last night’s) board meeting.

He added, “I believe the general counsel has done her due diligence. … I believe my resignation is in the best interest of the school district and my organization. … There is no need to get into any high drama and wasting everybody’s time, basically.”

Kakishiba has served on the Oakland school board since 2002, and he was board president when I started covering Oakland schools for the Tribune. I always found him to be open and thoughtful. He was well respected by his fellow board members, who reacted to his announcement with bewilderment and sadness.

Gary Yee became emotional as he spoke about Kakishiba’s leadership. “How to process in my mind, that Director Kakishiba’s leaving,” he began. “We came on the board at the same time, and he more or less made me a promise that we were going to stay on it together. … This is the only promise David Kakishiba has made in his seven years on the school board that he can’t fulfill.”

He looked down the table at Kakishiba. “So I’m really mad about that promise that you didn’t keep.”

This is the second major conflict-of-interest opinion Minor has issued since she came to the district this summer. In August, Kathleen Osta, the wife of Superintendent Tony Smith, quit her high-level job at another local nonprofit, the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools, after Minor determined that her employment created a conflict of interest for Smith.

Ward Rountree, executive director of the Oakland teacher’s union, called Kakishiba’s announcement “a devastating one.”

“I have found you to be an honest broker,” he said. “I am honestly sorry that your presence won’t be felt on the school board level. … You have led, even in your quiet manner.”

Katy Murphy

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

  • Michael L. Moore, Sr.

    Director Kakishiba,

    Thank you for your years of couragous service.

    You will be greatly missed.

    Michael L. Moore, Sr.

  • http://www.movingforwardeducation.com Lacy Asbill

    What a sad loss for OUSD students–David Kakishiba is a clear-headed leader who advocates tirelessly, in both his role on the board and at EBAYC, for the right solutions for Oakland students. Thank you, David.

  • Downtown Celeb

    I still find it quite incredible that OUSD counsel has unable or unwilling to fashion workable “ethical walls” for Kakishiba, or Smith.

    Minor has more power than the electorate right now at OUSD. What a disgrace.

    Ethnic cleansing of the school board?

  • …really?

    All this love for the champion of the budget-busting Measure OO?

    I just don’t see it.

  • Michael Siegel

    Much respect to Mr. Kakishiba for his decades of work for Oakland. Measure K, in particular, is an amazing legacy for Oakland’s youth. I find it amazing and disturbing that, under this new ruling, we are now precluded from having either nonprofit leaders or school staff from serving on the School Board. Basically, we are saying that the people with the most knowledge of what is actually happening at the ground level — the people in the classrooms, running the after-school programs, advocating for the parents — are not able to serve as district leadership.

    Katy, if possible, please post the conflict of interest ruling by the general counsel. I’d like to see what rules the attorney relied on — and why there is this sudden change of course.

  • Debora

    Everyone on this list – This is what we asked for – we asked for transparency – we asked for honest brokering without any remote possibility at a hint of favoritism, nepotism and backroom deals. David’s stepping down says that he understands what the citizens of Oakland have requested of the public officials. He is saying that what we have asked for is fair, legitimate and respectful.

    I will miss Mr. Kakishiba and his thoughtful recommendations. I have not always agreed, but then I do not always agree with anything or anyone.

    Thank you David for your service, your integrity and your wisdom.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Principles before personalities.

  • Jessica Stewart

    Certainly a loss for the Board of Education. Thank you for your service, David.

  • Katy Murphy

    According to the board secretary, the school board can fill Kakishiba’s seat in two ways: appoint someone to serve out the rest of his term (which ends January 2011), or call a special election.

    IYHO, what should they do?

  • Max Allstadt

    So Kakishiba’s out because general counsel sees a conflict of interest?

    What does general council think about Chris Dobbins dating a 17 year-old OUSD student?

  • Steve Jubb

    Director Kakishiba has served according to his beliefs and principles. He has always, in my view, wanted the best for his constituency and the district as a whole. He and I have agreed and disagreed about many things over the years, but he deserves our gratitude for his years of public service. To serve on an Oakland school board is subject oneself endless criticism and few accolades.

    So thank you, David. We’ll miss your wisdom and commitment to open dialogue and civil debate. Your resignation brought this quote to mind:

    “It is not the critic that counts…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… who strives valiantly, who errs and often comes up short again and again…who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

    President Theodore Roosevelt

  • Jim Mordecai

    I have no doubt that School Board Director Kakishiba could have finished out his term of office and/or ran for re-election. I am not aware of anyone that would push for the Counsel’s opinion being acted on because of the wide respect he has earned from the manner he has carried out his duties as an elected official. I have spent many years following the School Board and share that respect for Director Kakishiba’s character. Faced with making a stand and fighting the conflict of interest concern that would be about him, Director Kakishiba took the high road and acted to resign for what he judged to be in the best interest of everyone else. What a different world we would live in if other elected officials acted in the same fashion.

    I often have questions about procedure. One of the questions in my mind was whether or not the School Board could refuse to accept the resignation of a Board member. I think the following answers that question.

    Board Bylaw

    BB 9222
    Board Bylaws


    A Governing Board member who wishes to resign may do so by filing a written resignation with the County Superintendent of Schools. (Education Code 5090)

    A copy shall be given to the Board secretary.

    The written resignation is effective when filed, except when a deferred effective date is specified in the resignation. (Education Code 5090)

    A Board member may not defer the effective date of his/her resignation for more than 60 days after filing. (Education Code 5091)

    A written resignation, whether specifying a deferred effective date or otherwise, shall be irrevocable upon being filed. (Education Code 5090)

    Upon resignation, the Board member may continue to exercise all his/her powers, save that of voting for a successor, until the effective date of resignation. (Education Code 35178)

    When leaving office, the Board member is required to file a financial disclosure statement within 30 days.

    (cf. 9270 – Conflict of Interest)

    Legal Reference:
    5090 Definition (vacancy)
    5091 Special Election
    35178 Resignation with deferred effective date


    Jim Mordecai

  • harlemmoon

    Like David said: “No need to get into any drama” over this matter.
    It’s the best darn thing he’s said in a while.
    So, let’s move along.

  • http://jeanswatercolors.blogspot.com Jean Womack

    Hi Katy,

    I think I subbed once for David Kakishiba at a preschool where a child’s eye had been scratched by another child, under his eye, not in it. He was OK. I don’t know what they did about her. She scratched me too, on the arm, but it wasn’t serious. She didn’t even hurt me. She was wearing a little heart pin with rhinestones in it. They have wonderful teachers there. I doubt they could have done anything to stop it. Things like that happen quickly and unexpectedly. The garbage workers went on strike one day later. Unfortunately I only worked two or three days for Oakland and they did not call me back. I would love to go back to work there any time they need a good sub.

    Katy, you are a terrific reporter and you are doing a great job. I wish I knew how you inspire so much confidence that they let you write about the schools so the public can know what is going on.

    Jean Womack

  • Chauncey

    Damn! Here we go! Kakishiba was the sole voice of reason to the bottom ine. Much respect David.
    Why was this never an issue before?

    What other conflicts exists? Mr. Yee served on the board as his wife was a principal- was that a conflict? What do you do about votes rendered in the past that consituted conflicts that were not pointed out beofre? Are they null?

    This conflict stuff appears to be opinion. How can one legal counsel have different opinions than others? What are the repurcussions of one opinion versus another?

    I bet there are all kinds of issues this person will point out, but in the meantime- OUSD will be in trouble very soon – you’ll see/

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    I’ve never met Mr. Kakishiba, and I’ve only heard good things about what he’s done for our corner of the school district.

    However, he may have been done in by the Oakland Small School Foundation, whose advisory board he serves upon, and who recently published the most recent version of their Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2008-2009 through 2010-2011.

    This is an organization hoping to broaden its presence within the OUSD, for an increasing price.

    Scroll down to page 84 and you’ll see the list of “Threats” to the organization’s success and survival. Third on the list of THREATS is this:

    “OUSD grows more effective; need for OSSF could diminish.”

    It’s highly doubtful that Mr. Kakishiba considers the effective EDUCATION OF OUR CITY’S CHILDREN as a “threat.” The OSSF, however, has stated that “problem” quite openly, and Mr. Kakishiba’s affiliation with them might indeed have been interpreted, however undeservedly, as a conflict of interest.

  • Debora


    Some members of the board (Mr. Kakishiba) listen and respond to the will of the people of Oakland and some do not. With some people the conflict anticipated or can be quietly pointed out and they make the correct decision for complete transparency and leave no shadow of a doubt about the conflicts and others take positions or keep positions that will enhance their personal wealth, status and opportunity.

    David made one choice, Gary made another, there are people in positions of power throughout the district who have had conflicts of interest, some follow the path of David, others Gary.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Woah, Ms. McLaughlin: That’s some serious “citizen journalism.” Props!

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    ::bowing:: Thank you, Cranky Teacher. I love me some props. Only an accidental “journalist,” though; was just clicking around on the District website when I came upon the link to this very long, very multicolored PDF document, and at first it looked pretty good…raising lots of money for the school district from private donors and so forth.

    But then you get into the thing and it looks like the makings of a prospectus-to-be for future investors. I’m no economic expert by any means, but how do we make $$$ from public education without giving the children short shrift, or having them forge license plates or harvest crops?

    Seeing the success of the OUSD on anyone’s list of “Threats” is nauseating. How do we interpret this? “OUSD grows more effective” = Children Learning, to my mind, and how can that be anything but good?

    Again, I’ve only ever heard wonderful things about Mr. K, and I hardly feel qualified to comment on his departure. I have no idea whether it has anything to do with the OSSF; that’s pure speculation.

    Having said that, I sure wouldn’t want my name on that document. I can get cranky too, and I don’t like some slick foundation wagering its fortune on the failure of my neighbors’ children. I’ve saved the document in case it disappears (did you notice it’s marked CONFIDENTIAL all over the place?) and I’ll be printing out that “Threats” page to use in class discussions regarding how to disappoint the kinds of carpetbaggers who underestimate, at their own peril, the most wonderful city in America.

  • Mary E.

    My understanding is that under state law, David Kakishiba can serve on the Oakland School Board even if his agency has contracts with the district, as long as he discloses his financial interest and recuses himself from any vote involving those contracts. The problem lies with OUSD School Board By-laws, which are more stringent than state law. I can see no purpose for OUSD to have by-laws which are more stringent than state law, and I am concerned that those by-laws would cause us to lose a school board member of the caliber of David Kakishiba. I think the by-laws should be amended to reflect state law, and David should stay on the board.

  • Katy Murphy

    Oakland Community Organizations sent this letter to the school board yesterday, in light of Kakishiba’s resignation, requesting that the board change its bylaws:

    October 19, 2009

    School Board Directors
    Oakland Unified School District
    1020 2nd Avenue
    Oakland, CA 94606

    Dear President Gallo and Directors London, Kakishiba, Hinton-Hodge, Yee, Dobbins, Spearman:

    Oakland Community Organizations is concerned that the OUSD School Board By-laws regarding conflict of interest are more stringent than state law requires. We believe that these By-laws create an undue burden on those who currently serve on the Oakland School Board and will negatively impact the quality of candidates in the future. We want to have school board members who are closely connected to the lives of young people, and who understand their needs. People who engage in business with the district should be allowed to serve on the board as long as they disclose their financial interest and recuse themselves from any discussion or vote that involves their financial interest. We urge you to amend the By-laws to mirror the standards of state law.


    Pastor Lucy Kolin

    Cc Tony Smith, OUSD Superintendent
    Katy Murphy, Oakland Tribune

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com Sharon

    Re Kakishiba – to OSSF – to a discussion which Portland is having about the pros and cons of small schools at the high school level:

    “Many express support for larger Portland high schools at community forum,” October 17, 2009, @

    A few years ago, the Gates Foundation abandoned their support of “small schools,” depriving a number of people from their bread and butter. They weren’t the magic bullet Bill and Melinda had been searching for.

    Will the next move be that those small high schools created by Gates’ money will start thinking about merging back together into one?

  • Chauncey


    I think this was a bow to the will of a lawyer, not the people. He served for 7 years til this legal council arrived.

    I respect the decision to go without a fight- however there are many who want him to fight. When you serve in this capacity of public servant- the job is greater than you (at leaset that how I call it).

    Now- it may very well get dumb if a rubber stamper gets appointed.
    Id respect it if he fought- he’s much smarter than the rest.

  • Debora


    I agree with you about David. I am waiting to see what other conflicts of interest the lawyer deals with IN THE SCHOOLS. There is enormous number of conflicts of interest by people in positions of power at the school level, and the district administration level as well as with the Board. There are conflicts of interest with members of the Oakland City Council as well.

    I believe that because David stepped down it will create the pressure needed for us to stop the Deborah Edgerly and Ron Dellums sort of nepotism as well as just hiring people who are neither qualified for the position, nor give a fair 8 hour day’s work for 8 hour day’s pay for a non-exempt worker. We have to start somewhere.

    And, if we don’t see the changes elsewhere in Oakland, we will know that this was an effort to manipulate the school board, because we have witnessed time and time again the disclosure of conflicts of interest in Oakland’s City Administrators. If we do not see, hear of or know any others conflicts of interest being eliminated, as citizens, we will need to makes sure that we manage through the ballot process. I hate that process. I would love to vote in competent, ethical elected officials and let them do their jobs, but if they find it too difficult, we vote in what we need.

  • Jenny

    Debora & Chauncey:

    I agree with you regarding David Kakishiba, but disagree with your comment stating that you’re waiting for the lawyers to deal with the other conflict of interest in the school District. Where should Minor start in reviewing and correcting the “conflict of interest cases?” For the last few years, there have been enormous “conflict of interest” situations within the District. For example, there have been many positions created and relatives were hired to fill these positions. On top of that, many are employed in the same department within the school District.

    What is the definition of “conflict of interest”? Does it apply to all ethnic groups or does that depend on who you are?

    Last but not least, Minor needs to review the District hiring process for the last few years and correct the unfair practices within the District.

    We as Oakland citizens will need to make sure that our tax money and our additional property taxes for “School Measure E” are properly spent on the school renovation projects, and not on hiring unnecessary staff within the District.

  • Chauncey

    Jenny- No_ I agree with you and know first hand of people who work in places such as the supply warehouse who are family members to board members.Their are tons of other examples.

    It does need to be addressed- what I am saying is that how come it did not happen before and when this lawyer leaves, who then?

    I do not think anyone truly know what a conflcit is or isnt- such is the way with legal jargon-non comitting.\
    I just think that this opinion caught up the wrong one at OUSD-thats all.

    As for taxpayers money- we’ve been ripped off for years by OUSD and will conitnue to do so. I am pressing for charters to share get a share of bonds monies because I do support their efforts as well-they are educating Oakland kids and we pay for them too, yet they get no money.

    At least I will feel somewhat better when educrats take the money

  • del

    Get no money? I know this is off topic to the conflict story, but Chauncey— an ignorant, incorrect statement like that really drags down the rest of your post and makes it look like you have no idea what you are talking about!
    I DO agree that there are plenty of conflicts of interest, and they all need to be investigated and expunged form the district. If kids are not the #1 priority, then they need to go.

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    Chauncey: Be careful what you wish for. Ever hear of California Charter Academy? Once upon a time, it was the largest charter school district in our state. Check these links:




    Back in the early days of Charter Mania, a sly, bloodthirsty monster roamed California. Disguised as a mystical healer, he appeared from nowhere before one after another weary school board, spinning unearthly fables designed to soothe and thus beguile them. Charles Cox was the name he answered to outside of hell.

    Fee fie foe fum! He could smell a gravy train from miles away. Despite his sketchy qualifications, he easily charmed district after district into signing over their children’s lives. Ultimately, was granted charters for 60 schools in various counties.

    (Fortunately, the OUSD was immune to his curse. The magic word “ghetto” blinded his eyes with dollar signs to the beauty of our magical city.)

    I remember reading about this bum soon after his spell had broken with a vengeance. He had budgeted something like 22 cents per student for daily meals, and something like $500 per school for annual custodial services, because Abracadabra, the students should just damn clean up after themselves.

    And one dark autumn, as thousands of hapless children prepared for the new school year, a great cry rose across the land. Cox had absconded with at $5.5 million, leaving parents scrambling to enroll their children elsewhere at the last minute. Soon, school districts far and wide were plagued with bills, unpaid leases, and other contract obligations that he’s left in his wake. (While charter schools are not under direct district supervision, somehow the same districts are obligated to pay some of their more expensive expenses. What’s up with that?)

    In the long run, Cox may have been a blessing in disguise. After this nightmare, California passed legislation limiting any one charter outfit from opening too many schools across too many district/county lines. The Legend of CCA also frightened many a school board into tightening its criteria for granting charters at all. But heed the tale of Charles Cox: Not all of these people are in it for the children.

  • Chauncey


    Ignorant? How much bond monies do charters get? How much taxes do charter parents pay? Its simple. Yes O’Connel gave charters monies this year that was the equivalent to chump change.

    Do the math, and look at the mirror. There you will find ignorance.

  • Chauncey

    Ms. McLaughlin-

    Their is a bigger beast >>>> OOOOOHHHHHH.
    its called unions(Wooohhhhh).

  • del

    Hmmm, in the mirror I see someone with a master’s degree in school finance and administration, who has helped draw up over 30 school budgets at multiple schools including charters.
    now here’s the math:
    Charters/public schools receive the same funds from the state & district based on very basic formulas. You said they “get no money”, yet they get the exact same funding.
    As for bonds, the largest has to do with school building improvement—charters at school sites have exactly the same access to that money. Charters who choose to rent non-district land negotiate improvements with the landowner, just like everyone else. So again, they are equal. The funding for measure Y etc is also equally available to charters and everyone else. So again, equal funding.
    Some bonds passed that did not include charters, which was a choice the citizens of Oakland made. At the site where I work, we have 2 severely handicapped classes—these kids are refused entrance to charters, and the bond money we receive does not even cover the supplies needed for these kids. Public vs charters again the money comes out on the charter side in this equation. Add in the stunning amounts collected from out of town and out of state donors, and the amount of money accessible to charters (info available on this site many places) far outstrips that available to public schools—and with out the mandates and accountability required of public schools.
    So, there’s the math for you. To remind you, I did not call YOU ignorant (I think many of your posts have merit), I was referring to your quote “yet they get no money”—which clearly shows that you are ignorant of the facts. Your choice to call me ignorant is a personal attack, and calls into question your reasoning skills. But hey, that’s ok, I get called names by the kids too!