Kakishiba to stay on Oakland school board

David KakishibaDavid Kakishiba will remain on the Oakland school board for the rest of his term — which ends in December 2010 —  rather than step down, as he had initially announced, he told me today.

“I believe my obligation, my responsibility, is to serve out my term,” he said.

Kakishiba’s original announcement, that he would resign from the board at the end of October, came in response to a conflict-of-interest opinion by Oakland’s general counsel, Jackie Minor. Kakishiba is also executive director of the East Bay Asian Youth Center, which does lots of work in Oakland schools.

But Kakishiba said most of his board colleagues — who rejected the legal department’s recommendation in a 5-1 vote last week — and others in his district have since urged him to change his mind.

Board member Jody London said Kakishiba’s ability to “cut to the chase” when analyzing complex financial data will be critical for the district, which emerged from a six-year state takeover during the worst state budget crisis in years (or maybe ever).

Replacing him, she said, would have diverted time and attention from a more serious challenge facing OUSD: a projected deficit of at least $27 million for the 2010-11 school year.

The back story: Minor and an outside firm concluded that Kakishiba’s roles as board member and as executive director of a local nonprofit didn’t look good for the district — even though Kakishiba abstains from votes involving the organization’s contracts.

The attorneys said they found no ethical breach or evidence of wrongdoing, but that Kakishiba’s two roles created an opportunity for a conflict of interest to occur. They said public perceptions were especially important for the board now, as the board re-assumes its governing role.  

The recommendation: Minor did not ask Kakishiba to resign, per se, but she recommended that the district stop doing business with EBAYC if Kakishiba stayed on the board. (A 2007 inquiry by a previous general counsel resulted in a different conclusion: that there was no problem as long as Kakishiba disclosed his relationship with EBAYC and didn’t vote on contracts.)

Last week, the school board sent a strong signal to Kakishiba by rejecting Minor’s recommendation, with only Board President Noel Gallo voting to accept it. (Kakishiba was not at the meeting.)

Kakishiba said he understood, philosophically, the lawyers’ explanation earlier this month that “the law doesn’t care” how noble or honest an individual public servant may be. In practice, he said, “I think it matters a whole hell of a lot.”

Katy Murphy

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

  • harlemmoon

    “Kakishiba to stay on Oakland school board.” Well, of course he is.
    Nevermind the legal implications or the perception of conflict (Lord knows these are never issues that OUSD struggles with).
    The sideshow that is the district and the board continues. Unchecked.
    Why should we ever think differently? Oh, yes, I know why. Because of that persuasive cartoon of a PSA to get folks to come back to OUSD.
    HAAHAHAHA. It takes an awful bit of work to become a parody of yourself. But, I’ll be darned. The district and the board are making a spectacular go of it.

  • http://yahoo.com teacherspet

    Sadly, Director Kakishiba just does not get it. We are kidding ourselves if we believe that Director Kakishiba is the only honest, noble person with the ability to “cut to the chase” on budget issues. There are scores of qualified and motivated teachers, principals, and district employees who would make excellent school board members, but cannot serve on the Board. Why is Director Kakishiba – whe heads an organization that received $6.5 million in District funds since 2004 – above these rules? Isn’t the payment of District funds to outside organizations one of the reasons that the District is in financial trouble again? Will anyone suggest funding cuts to Director Kakishiba’s organization given his position on the Board? Isn’t the whole point of conflict-of-interest laws to prevent paying money we do not have to a Board member’s pet projects?

    I am embarassed that our Board members appear more concerned with their own careers than the rules they have been entrusted to uphold. We now have a Board member who clings to his position in the face of an explicit conflict-of-interest ruling to go along with one who remains despite a relationship with a 17-year-old former student.

  • http://www.cpa.com len raphael

    Lets cut to the chase and restrict Oakland elected officials to executives of non-profits who do biz with the city, union leaders, developers, and termed out state officials. that way the normal residents won’t get in the way of running the city into the ground.

    Especially sad to hear that DK is the most financially saavy person on a board that only a few years ago plead innumeracy after ousd went down in financial flames. No wonder they begged him to stay. They were worried they personally would actually have to understand and ask questions about the ousd finances.

    -len raphael

  • Barb

    I am thrilled that Director Kakishiba will remain on the board. He is thoughtful and doesn’t use any air time for grandstanding. It’s nice to see this kind of person valued.