Tony Smith’s first anniversary in OUSD

Tony Smith, Oakland school district superintendent. File photo by Anda Chu.

Tony Smith, Oakland’s superintendent of schools, hits the one-year mark today. We have a story about his first year in today’s Trib.

How would you grade his leadership so far? Now that he has a year behind him, what do you hope he accomplishes in the next 12 months? Or in the next few years, if he stays that long?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Jenna

    D for actual work

    C for the talk

  • TheTruthHurts


  • J.R.

    He gets an “A+” for salary negotiation though, he does know how to do that. As a talking figurehead he gets a “C-“

  • localed

    It’s going to take at least a decade to turn the OUSD ship around and I think it’s way too early to pass judgement. Those who do haven’t a clue what’s really going on.

  • J.R.

    With all the corruption inherent in the system, it just might take that long. All the people who are “hangers on” with the “blase'” attitude toward education (both toxic staff and students)must gradually be filtered from the system by retirement and or other means in order to have a fully functioning learning environment. Real change does not need to take a long time, but there is so much self interest involved having people who are “digging in their heels” to do whats best for them and not what is best for kids. The education system is entirely too easy to manipulate and abuse for personal gain. This must end, and it will because there is no other choice.

  • JB

    Tony Smith is a real person. What he says in private or small group conversation is what he says in public. Of course, one can’t expect results after only one year. His strategic plan actually makes sense. It’s not just a bunch of buzzwords thrown on a page. The idea of increasing family and community engagement by strengthening vertical relationships among the sites pre-K – 12 is extremely important.

    OUSD has been broken for generations.

    Give this man a chance. Don’t just stand on the sidelines snarling. Get involved and work with him. That’s what I’m doing.

  • harlemmoon

    Barring improbable improvement from top to bottom, OUSD is surely witnessing its last days.
    The wave of the future is not in bureaucratic, unionized, overblown, budget-busting districts but in smaller, efficiently run models that practice academic rigor.
    In a 2.5 universe, OUSD is a worn, aged ship blithely barreling toward extinction. It has come to represent the very definition of an irrevocably flawed – indeed, tragic – academic model.
    In a show of true compassion and understanding, the incredibly dysfunctional Board should vote itself out of existence and clear a path for ingenuity, inspiration, and forward-thinking scholastic models that loom just ahead.
    And while I realize that this may be heresy for some, the truth is that we can no longer wait for a pseudo-Messiah dressed as Tony Smith (or Steve Jubb) to “save” the district. For honest eyes must see that it is already dead.

  • Mr. T

    Anyone can complain and point out problems. Who ever said that Tony Smith must single-handedly fix the district? He has a role to play, and so do the rest of us, even those of us who are not educators or have kids in OUSD. Get involved in your local school. If you want OUSD to work, if you want democracy to work, pitch in and take some work off of the superintendent’s plate so he can be effective at the big things he needs to work on. Volunteer your time, energy, talents, political connections, whatever, and make your local school great. It’s fun and rewarding.

  • Katy Murphy

    David Kakishiba made a similar point to me in an interview about Smith this week (which, for space reasons, didn’t make it into the story). He said he felt like Smith — if he stayed for another five years — could really change OUSD and its reputation. But he said he gets the sense that some might expect him to do so singlehandedly, an expectation Kakishiba felt was unreasonable and even unhealthy.

  • Mr. T

    What would be healthy and helpful, though, is if Tony Smith could outline some ways in which ordinary citizens could help the school district. Recommend ten ways to get involved. Kind of a Kennedy-esque “ask what you can do for your country” theme. Otherwise, people just sit back and watch because they don’t know how to help. A bonus would be to show how that fits into the his strategic plan – that’s leadership.

    In fact, I often wish state and federal leaders did the same as well.

  • Gwendolyn Bikis

    I’m a long-time teacher for OUSD. I am a good teacher (We are punished, while the incompetents are rewarded.) No one man can turn around a corrupt school district, it’s true. Especially not when he adds to the corruption. His salary, and the fact that he had the nerve to negotiate for it, is unconscionable. The fact that he doesn’t know the research on what works for African-American students is even worse.
    Oakland citizens who want to inform themselves about “Expect Success” in the Oakland Public Schools should familiarize themselves with the works of the (privately-owned) Eli Broad School for Superintendents.

  • Katy Murphy

    Gwendolyn: Thanks for writing. Where do you teach?

    I’d like to hear more about your point about research for what works for African-American students — and how you learned or concluded that Smith isn’t aware of it. Also wonder what you think about the decision to hire an administrator specifically for African-American male achievement (with private funds).