OUSD: Changes in the principal’s office

Here it is, your long-awaited account of who’s in and who’s out of various Oakland schools this year. From this 2012-13 directory, I count 15 new principals — seven at elementary schools, three at middle schools and five at high schools. Did I miss any?

This means that about 17 percent of OUSD’s 86 schools will have new leaders. Last year, if you recall, there were 20 new principals for 98 schools.

Two schools are also trying out the co-principal model — two people who share the job. Burckhalter Elementary School, which expects to take on dozens of children displaced from the shuttered Lakeview Elementary, will take on Lakeview’s former principal as well — along with its existing leader. Claremont Middle School, which has undergone some serious turnover in recent years, was appointed co-principals as well: twin brothers whose mother attended Claremont.

I’m curious about this setup — the financial implications (Are they paid the same as if they were the sole principal? Who’s covering the additional cost?), the potential benefits, the division of labor, and the reasons those two schools were chosen to have two leaders — and will have more for you later.


Elementary: Brookfield, Burckhalter (which will add a co-principal; Carin Geathers is not leaving), Esperanza, Grass Valley, Lafayette, Sobrante Park (which will share a principal with Madison Middle School, even though the schools aren’t supposed to merge until 2013) and International Community School

Middle: Claremont, Elmhurst and Montera

High/alternative: Bunche Continuation, Castlemont High, Dewey Academy (continuation), Oakland High and Community Day School

Where did the principals of the five closing elementary schools go?

Lakeview’s principal, Clara Roberts, heads up to Burckhalter, where she’ll work with Carin Geathers; Lazear’s principal, Kareem Weaver, has left OUSD; Marshall’s principal, Brandee Stewart, goes to Grass Valley, along with many of her students; Gabrielle Thurman, from Maxwell Park, goes to Brookfield; and Monica Guzman goes from Santa Fe to International Community School.

How did you find out about the change at your school? Were you involved in the selection of the new leader? Montera’s principal told his families after school had let out for a summer, through an automatic phone message he sent about a month ago. A parent sent me a transcription, and I meant to post it earlier:

Dear Teachers, Staff, Students and Parents,

This is to inform you that I have submitted my resignation as the principal of Montera Middle School effective July 1, 2012.

I received an offer for a high school principal position with another district, and after careful consideration, I realize that this opportunity is too exciting for me to decline.

It has been a pleasure working with the students, teachers, staff and parents over the last five years. One of the highlights of my career was collaborating with all of you in creating a California Distinguished School.

Montera is poised for continued growth, and I wish you much success in the future.

Goodbye and have a great summer.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Rodney Brown

    In the past this information has been reported much sooner via a personnel report. Seems this district is pushing through a 2012-13 directory without the school board approving personnel. They’re already using the Strategic Plan to workaround School Site Councils and school budget approval.

  • makeitgoaway

    dance of the lemons…

  • http://theresalozach.com Theresa Lozac’h

    Katy – do you know what happened to the Brookfield principal Adam Taylor? He was a really positive force for that school and it is sad to see him replaced.


  • Harold

    what happened to Mrs. Romero (O-High)?

  • Nontcair

    A “co-principal” model. Really.

    Once again we see the bureaucracy working for its own interests — in this case, testing out an alternative management system — instead of the interests of the taxpayers it was instituted to serve.

    What’s worse (and typical), the kids are being used as little more than guinea pigs in this unscientific experiment.

    What is OUSD in business for?
    When do the kids get to experiment on the bureaucrats?

    Can’t you envision all the quarterly and annual administrative meetings wherein consultants, psychologists, doctors, and other “experts” will scrutinize data, dissect policies, and consume gallons of de-caf all in the effort to divine the positives and negatives of the district’s latest game changing innovation.

    Then the beleaguered stakeholders — you know the ones, the folks who pay the bills to support this fuster cluck — are left wondering “where does all the money go?”

  • A coding error

    Smith said it in the all admin meeting in January: if you are not with the plan, without blame, leave!
    It is a shame the list does not reflect those principals who only stay for their communities, regardless of the magic “co-constructed” plan.
    Principals report more and more concerns to the Principal Advisory Council and UAOS, but there is no trust issue, says Smith. Two years, 37 new principals. Oh, boy!

  • Rodney Brown

    With the strategic plan came this strategic plot to exclude school stakeholders and workaround every democratic process in OUSD, including the unilateral decision to strike “selection” in Board Policy 4500 “Principal Selection” and replace Principal Selection Committees with “Recommendation” Committees. They are not the same. When one asks what the difference between School Site Councils and the OUSD invented Community School Strategic Site Plan Team is, and the difference between Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) and Community School Strategic Site Plan, SSC and SPSA are legal and democratic, while the latter is made-up to serve self-interest.

  • Nontcair

    OUSD’s Community School Strategic Site Plan Team

    Are you kidding me?!

  • Steven Weinberg

    Harold, Ms. Romero is enjoying retirement in Vermont.

  • makeitgoaway

    I agree with Nontcair. Having experienced the co- principal model, basically you are paying higher salaries to one additional figurehead, and nobody knows who to go to. I believe a Bill Gates grant paid for it. Co- general? Co- president? Co- CEO?

  • Harry-Colin

    What about Markham Elementary School- they are to have a new principal also- no mention by the district yet?

  • Catherine

    I am looking forward to the new principal at Montera. I hope that she is able to find a way to reduce teacher turnover.

  • IMHO

    The piece should have included district employees who leave, or are forced to exit, in droves only to be replaced with none-too-inspiring and even inept staff. Perhaps you will write another piece on who left and was replaced by whom, why? It’s not possible to rebuild an organization while shedding its most able personnel. Examples galore. Just peel and ye shall findeth!

  • Nontcair

    With all the money we spend on public education it is outrageous that we have teachers (existing or replacement) that are none-too-inspiring and even inept.

  • J.R.

    I feel badly for the teachers and principals(and naturally students as well) who are subjected to the whims of an “out of touch”, overpaid collection of “do nothing constructive” bureaucrats who, as are politicians(AKA the taxpayer funded “new elite” nobility). “Let them eat cake”!

  • Calimama

    Katy (and everyone else),

    Here’s what I know about the Claremont principal selection process:

    First, I believe the former principal was fired (on what grounds, I’m not exactly sure). So this past school year, Claremont had an acting principal, then an Interim Administrator (or something like that). The acting admin came from O High (Benjamin Schmookler). The prinicpal selection committee was comprised of parents, teachers, at least one community member, and some admin types. They solicited input from the community. I assume the committee selected Schmookler, because was he was offered the job, accepted it, then a couple weeks later, backed out. It was quite a blow to the school community, I’m sure.

    So a letter was sent out saying the principal selection process would begin anew in January 2013.

    And then, wham, it was announced that the twin brothers were hired as co-principals. I have no idea if they were even in the running the first time around. I don’t know if the selection committee is pleased with the choice, or if they were even involved with the decision. Also, there will not be a vice principal, and the one who was at Claremont, Itoco Garcia, is gone. I understand he was well-liked and was hoping to be principal one day.

    I’m not yet a parent at the school, but may be soon. I wish there had been a little more transparency about the process. But I am also cautiously optimistic about the arrangement at Claremont. Obviously twin brothers would have a long history of working together–there shouldn’t be too much stepping on each other’s toes. And they will have one another for support, in what is sure to be a difficult job.

  • On the Fence

    Calimama, Great update. Thanks. I’m glad that you are still considering your local middle school, and you may be right about twins working well together. But someone is spending money on 2 full time principals, right? That seems crazy! I really don’t care if there is an outside grant. Grants usually run out and then we get stuck with more bloat. I think the idea of double teaming administrators is outrageous. Double teaming teachers, ok, I could get behind that if it worked.

  • 4Teacher

    Will Madison Principal be responsible for K-12?

    Why is Madison principal taking over Sobrante Park if its not supposed to happen until 2013? What happened to Mr. Franco? He was doing amazing work at Sobrante?

    Further, isnt Madison suppose to be expanding into a HIGH SCHOOL? If so, how could one Principal be responsible for ALL of this? I friend of mine worked there last year and it was only the Principal and a counselor.

  • 4Teacher

    Also, like Theresa, what happened to Adam Taylor at Brookfield? He was doing great work.

  • Jesse James

    Adam Taylor went to West Contra Costa SD to the elementary department–GO MR. TAYLOR!!! Kareem Weaver is the new ED at new Leaders. GO MR. WEAVER!!! We lost 2 amazing, commited educational leaders.

    I still wonder why there are 2 principals at Burckhalter. Why was a principal that was run out by both staff and the community from two schools in two consecutive years been given a principal on special assignment positon downtown? Why is incompetence rewarded? That doesn’t seem strategic! Why did 2 succesful, bright and charismatic leaders leave? Why are we so stuck? Dr. Smith? How will you retain excellence and get rid of incompetence in the district office? How much just plain bad performance will get an administrator fired?

  • Jenna

    Claremont process was horrible. The discipline at the school is horrible. I hope the brothers are walking the campus looking for discipline issues. They are everywhere and if they hope to lure more students prepared to learn to the campus they absolutely need to deal with the fighting (parents and students), the disrespect to teachers, the racism (black on biracial primarily), the lack of work ethic by more than 50% of the students and the use of slang in the classroom instead of real English.

    The school has so much potential and so many problems. All students should be held to high academic and behavioral standards or their parents should have to come down to the school and sit with their children.

  • Harold

    Jesse wrote: “Why was a principal that was run out by both staff and the community from two schools in two consecutive years been given a principal on special assignment position downtown?”

    I have asked this question several times on this blog.

    Katy, when are we going to get the story about all of the failed-admin/Principals, biding time downtown – on “special” assignment?

  • Jesse James

    @Harold: I too have asked this question a number of times on this blog.

  • Observer

    Ask Jodi London about anything going on at CMS. That’s her pet project. While I don’t see her name on the selection committee, you can be assured she is on top of all the dealings, transparent and opaque at CMS, for better or worse.

    And about behavior issues—well there’s a reason that Sankofa has been slated to go to 8th grade that has a lot to do with Claremont. For better or worse.

  • A coding error

    @Rodney brown
    Board policy is a joke, an excuse for doing things as they please, when it pleases them. Or to ignore it.
    We’ll see what happens with the new double-size, double quorum SSC as approved by the Board (even against State and Federal recommendation).
    Where were the elected officials asking for accountability with the SpEd coding error? Board policy…
    New principals are more and more like back-door appointees to go with the strategic plan politics and make their supervisors look good. Everybody in a happy choir singing the miracles of the plan. If not… ;p

  • Rodney Brown

    @A coding error: That is exactly how it went down at Castlemont.

  • Seenitbefore

    Sankofa = K-8
    Claremont = Charter

  • for the record

    For the record:
    District did not fire principal at claremont, but they did move her. She left the district in June on her own.

    Grass valley principal had a difficult time navigating the communities of both schools, but she did not make any serious mistakes. She was offered a different opportunity.

    The new principal at Montera will start the year without the assistance of former leadership. Mr. K resigned. Needless to say This situation will be very challenging.

  • IntrepidTeacher

    I don’t know anything about the situation at Claremont, nor do I know the twin brothers, but I will say this: for some years, I was at a very small school, where at various times, 2 to 5 of the 14 teachers were related, sisters/ cousins/ aunts. And this became a huge problem for those of us who were not members of this family. They tended to always stick together, and it really was hard to work with them. Since the principal also favored them, it was not even possible to complain in any meaningful way, about their passive aggressive behaviors, and their ways of manipulating everything to their satisfaction. I was so relieved when two of the last three family members retired, so at least there was a sense of equality among the staff after that (at least it improved somewhat).

    These folks were “just” teachers. I can only imagine how this problem would be exacerbated by having two family members as administrators. Schools are NOT family businesses. There should NEVER be two family members in positions of authority. I find it astonishing and appalling that anyone downtown thought this could possibly be a good idea. Long history of working together? Not necessarily; since it is unlikely that they were ever in related work positions, regardless of whatever went on in their family lives.

    Imagine if a teacher has a conflict or difference opinion with one brother; doubtless the other brother will back him up. This is something to which I would strongly object if I were a teacher at that school. It’s just another way of ensuring teachers are disempowered. Been there, know how it works! Guaranteed disaster. Check back to this posting in about six months.

  • Jesse James

    @for the record: i did not name the principal but now you have. How do you know the principal did not make serious mistakes? If she can’t navigate 2 different school communities why should she be a leader? There are plenty of mediocre principals who aren’t drummed out so vocally and quickly. Families and staff were seriously affected by her leadership. If she performs badly this year, will she be let go? Can you have 3 disastrous years and be offered yet another placement? This just follows the theme of disconnect between the strategic plan and reality listed above.

  • Alice Spearman

    @Jesse James,
    Makes a resonable person wonder, wouldn’t one?

  • http://OaklandTribune Marty Price

    I feel the pripncipal turnover is relective of Smith’s inablity to wori with either group..teachers and principals. First putting the teachers on blast at Castlemont and Fremont for not buyg into his new “model”. Another top donww thing like the previous failed”model” of which his former organization BAYCES authored. I mean you want teachers to buy into something admit cupability in what your fellow tried and failed to do. The most sucessful academy at Fremont had Mr. Schmookler there since it’s inception, yet this man who knew this community so well is passed over for someone who is Smith’s choice, shuffled off to two schools in one year…that old thing liberal white folks do.”oops having trouble with black kids send a strong blackman in to fix it then pass him over” We called it the Calvin Criddle syndrome. His latest big example of cronyism, aside from the dolt who is the Skyline principal is his choice of OAL commissioner..Russell White, please give us a break. This walk on coach with no credential, teaching or admin was a failure at the Castle because he had to forfit games for using ineligible players. Isn’t this basic to what a coach does? Secondly he passed over a very qualified, credentialed applicant with ten years of varsity and fulltime PE experiance for his buddy(Cal football). Why is this important? Because the OAL as a separate CIF section is heavily minoirty who will speak for our kids if we lose our status as a separate section? This man who speaks of “white priviledge” who is a prime example of it is all big ideas and no nuts and bolts. Perhaps he shoujld take a turn in a classroom, preferrably a middle school for a year or two and learn how to teach. Oops I forgot, no credential! I mean what happened to that part of having a credentialed person in every classroom that does not apply at the top. This man’s tenure is a failure of the board.

  • Ethan Brady

    @Marty Price and Alice Spearman
    When is the BOE asking the questions about alleged cronyism and the use of school budget (public funds) in this twin and co-principal arrangements?
    When is the BOE checking into the work of Regional Executive Officers in relation to principal turnover?
    Time to look below Smith and the subordinates with unclear accountability standards…

  • Nontcair

    #32 wrote: he passed over a very qualified, credentialed applicant .. (emphasis added)

    Once again we see a special interest eager to further entrench public education as a *political* institution. In this case, by resonating with the chorus that the schools need to be run by “experts”, ie those who hold “credentials”.

    Haven’t the experts done enough damage already?

    Public education is supposed to be about teaching Johnny how to read (assuming that he wants to learn). You know, so that a kid who came from a family which didn’t give a hoot would at least acquire the basic skills necessary to say, acquire a drivers license and read a GIS map.

    Public education is certainly NOT supposed to be a system of protectionism for college educated derelicts who tend to vote for a certain major political party.

  • Lupe Cruz

    I’d love to hear what’s happened in central office. I heard that Mia Settles, the Region 1 area sup, has created a new position for herself high up in the organization. Some are questioning how this was decided, what she’ll do. As well as the quality of the work she did previously. So who will be the new Region 1 person? What other new positions have been created? What other shifting will happen? Who will head PEC?

  • Student Teacher

    Personally, I would love to see Mia Settles take over the day to day interactions between the district and the principals. Mia was at Cleveland and worked hard to have teachers become more involved in the school site by choosing the committees thay wanted to be part of and rallying reluctant parents into joining and participating. Through grants she was able to have music, art and gardening brought into Cleveland school and every grade participate. The music program teaches all studnets how to read and understand music beginning in kindergarten.

    She understood that libraries are as important as sports in Title One schools and the kindergarten and first grade students have a library as well as the older students. She let good teachers teach, and brought up the skills of lower performing teachers. She worked with the union members in her school to have them accept more responsiblity while acknowledging that the union may be necessary to prevent abuse of teachers by some.

    Mia understands Oakalnd students and has worked with tardy and truant students to get the bus passes they need to be on time to school. She recognized that students learn best when they are in school, on time, every day. Mia works with parents and guardians ensuring that while she understandas their issues and will work to make it easier for them to comply, ultimately the parents and guardians must get their children to school every day prepared for learning. No excuses.

    Mia can do what Tony has to date been unable to do. If she managed to get herself wrapped around some of the superintendent functions to make the district work, I say good for her. The district will be better off in the long run.

  • Observer

    Agree with #36. Mia Settles is a workhorse, somewhat of an anti-bureacrat. Now she would make a great superintendent.

  • Seenitbefore

    ^ You have GOT to be kidding me!!!! Mia Settles?

    The same Mia Settles who allowed the former Principal at Claremont to destroy the morale of teachers, bully the students, and alienate the parent community????

    The same Mia Settles who was BEGGED personally by many teachers and the Union Rep to please investigate the many, MANY grievances and unfair labor practices that were taking place at Claremont?

    The same Mia Settles who flat out LIED to parents and the community about the latest Principal selection process? AND, who was also presented with true and disturbing information about several of the candidates which she chose to ignore. And, who then went on to threaten and defame the character of teachers, staff and community members who questioned why administrators who were related and who had serious legal issues in their previous school district were selected for a struggling school like Claremont???

    Yes. Of course that is the future leader of OUSD.

    And you can’t figure out WHY Oakland families are leaving the district in droves…… really?

  • IMHO

    To answer Lupe’s  question, Mia is serving as a  liaison for Vernon Hal and Maria Santos. People in the know are scratching their heads wondering why they need a liaison when their secretaries can easily do. Tony created the job for Mia because the previous one was way above her head and she could not possibly stay there. Unfortunately, she was moved after  a series of missteps. Her new replacement, Matt Duffy, has already left the district. He could have stayed and cleaned up the mess, but he is way smarter than that.

  • Nontcair

    #36 wrote [Settles] understood that libraries are as important as sports in Title One schools and the kindergarten and first grade students have a library as well as the older students.

    SJMN identifies OUSD employee Mia Settles as an “Executive Officer Regional Network” (whatever that is) with a total compensation package worth $174,000.

    Another public education (anti-!) bureaucrat getting rich off the system. And the beleaguered OUSD taxpayers can’t figure out where all the money goes.

    We already pay for a public library bureaucracy — one that supports youth reading programs no less. The schools don’t need their own.

  • Seenitbefore

    @39 exactly……

    The same Tony Smith who was personally asked to PLEASE investigate the charges of misconduct at Claremont by the (former) Principal and who immediately called said Principal, who then mercilessly retaliated against all teachers who expressed concern about her “leadership” abilities, or lack thereof.

    If an organization’s dysfunctional leadership can be described as “a fish rotting from the head down”….. OUSD’s is like a Hydra….for each “head” you cut off… it grows 2 more.

  • Student Teacher

    #40 – Mia was the principal at Cleveland Elementary at the time. As will many schools on the flat side of 580 they have a PE “teacher” and after school sports. We feed kids breakfast and lunch. In some cases we have dentists and medical clinics, but what these same schools do not have is a functional library in which students check out books, return them, are read to by a librarian or volunteer and are able to conduct research using books.

    One huge, huge difference. If you asked, “What is the Dewey Deciimal System?” to elementary, middle and high school students all over Oakland from kindergarten through high school my guess is fewer than 10% in the flatlands would know what it is to describe it as being used by a library. However, over 90% of the hills students would know that it is a way of filing books in a library.

    I can almost hear you now. So what? The flat land students do not know how to look up information in our public libraries either. They cannot complete research work and my experience in the flatlands schools is that very few, if any schools require students to complete research reports at all unless the teacher keeps the books in his or her class. They do not go to the library at school, they do not trust that the sudents will know how or have the ablity to get to a public library and in the classes I have been in there are no students with library cards (one first grade class 2 students had cards).

  • Harold

    OUSD is a great place to be an Administrator. Incompetence will get you a special-made assignment, and you get to keep your $170,000+ package.

    Maybe when Katy gets back, these scandals can come unraveled.

  • Ethan Brady

    So much to be unraveled about the mischiefs of Smith’s entourage, their political intrigues, their personal motivations to drive people…
    What is their accountability? Lower region or network scores (student achievement) will only affect teachers and principals (the latter can be removed at will). Their accountability is how well they get along with Smith and how well they perform in their role as “political police”.
    All principals know that if they speak their mind in meetings, and their mind is not within the FSCS as defined by them, they will be getting an email later in the afternoon… S
    And some people earlier were wondering why a successful principal left for a district not far away… Among fellow principals, there is no question why. It is public knowledge. Good for him! Not so good for those left behind.

  • IMHO

    Mia superintendent material? Under Tony’s ever-imploding leadership, you do not have to be qualified to be promoted. You might even move up despite being lousy at your job, which is why we’ve lost many sterling professionals, only to see them replaced by an uninspiring bunch of inepts. Just take a look at who has been replaced for what position. The brain drain is staggering. 

    And it gets worse. Any forward-thinking district leadership would also be alarmed at the loss of hundreds of  students from the schools. If you think that Tony and his cheerleaders are going to attempt to figure out why parents would rather pay tuition, opt for charter schools or migrate to other districts than to send their children here, you might be in a state of denial. The speeches, pontifications and grandiose plans do not seem to have stopped the increasing number of adult professionals and students from deserting the district. 

    Meanwhile, at the next leadership gathering at the Oakland Zoo, Tony will do yet another I-feel-your-pain, powerpoint sermon about the plight of children in Oakland, with some in the congregation nodding their heads and looking at each other incredulously, “Our leader is one cool dude.” Don’t get me wrong, most attendees would  be looking at each other even more incredulously and thinking, and perhaps texting each other, “OMG, enough already! How in the world did we end up with this guy who gets paid so much in exchange for doing so little?” The only difference is that the latter are afraid to say it, lest they get replaced by yet another set of inepts. Even though the same silent observers wish and pray that Tony and his cronies would just leave, it  does not mean that they are not making exit plans to run for saner environs in case the disfunction continues to reign supreme. It is the same disfunction that shamelessly entertains thoughts of Mia as superintendent. 

  • Nontcair

    If every OUSD student were to make the very rational decision to leave (total OUSD student headcount dropped to zero),

    1) How much government funding would still go to OUSD?
    2) Would our property taxes fall to a level more consistent with the reduced amount of goverment funding?

  • A coding error

    It seems the Zoo meetings are not a place of joy for each and everyone. But Tony is in denial. He seems not to know. Which would mean that the Rexos/Nexos and other members of the cult have done a good job in creating the feeling that they control the “pack”. That is their job.
    In the meantime, while some text each other, 4 or 5 principal careerists (Ok, maybe 8-9) will cheer and shed political tears of emotion.
    The new principal Sup appointments are just intended to boost the dwindling number of cheering “leaders”.

  • teacher

    Bringing in brand new principals with NO experience (and so many of them of them!) leads me to wonder about the wisdom of the district. At my school, it was only because of the extraoridinary supportive and chohesive staff that our neophyte “principal” survivied (along with the 3-days/week support of a retired principal). It would be more appropriate to term this person as “administrator” rather than “principal,” as it was a year of leadership by the (district’s) book. There is a wave of 30-days-to-becoming-a-principal mentality in ousd that has me shaking my head in disbelief. Teachers have a difficult enough time without having to be subjected to the messes made by a newbie to the job, district, and city. Thankfully, a retired principal was called in mid-year to help this person do their job! Come on, is this any way to run schools?!

  • principalrehash

    Is it true that over 70 OUSD principals have received letters that they may be reassigned or terminated at the end of this 2013 school year?