At a meeting with principals and other administrators before spring break, Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith apparently said he didn’t care how many of the city’s schools became independently run charters.
After reading the comments a couple of you posted about those remarks, I asked OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint if Smith did, indeed, say something to that effect. He did.
“Basically, the point of those comments was to emphasize that we need to create more good options for children, and that needs to be the focus of our efforts,” Flint said.
He added: “He was just emphasizing that these are Oakland’s kids, and we’re responsible for their success. Our job is to promote the best possible outcomes for kids, and we have to put that ahead of ideology.”
Flint stressed that Smith did not mean that he was giving up on its district schools, or that he preferred one option over another.
I didn’t hear the statement, or its context. I don’t know, for instance, whether the subject came up in response to another question or as part of his prepared remarks. Unless the meeting was recorded, which I doubt, I can’t even provide you with an exact quote of what he said.
As far as I can tell, Smith has been fairly consistent in his agnostic position on charters. It’s possible his comments were hyperbole — a rhetorical flourish. He sure had strong words in response to the initial charter school petitions of ASCEND and Learning Without Limits (before a different deal, a partnership charter, was negotiated).
Just in January, Smith said that the charter conversions of those two schools would undermine the district’s strategic plan and cause the district to lose “its collective identity as a school system serving children in all neighborhoods in Oakland.”
Now, two — and quite possibly three — its schools are converting to charter schools this year. (In the first two cases, to have more control over staffing, schedule, curriculum and budget; in the case of Lazear Elementary, which the board voted to close, it’s to remain open.) Others unhappy with district policies could just as easily follow suit, now that the partnership charter precedent appears to have been set. So it does matter where Smith stands on the issue.
Were you there? What did you hear the superintendent say, and what did you make of it? What do you wish he would say?