The seat in the middle of the Oakland school board dais — belonging to Superintendent Tony Smith — has been empty the last two board meetings.
I felt it was worth noting; schools chiefs do miss the occasional meeting, but rarely two in a row. In fact, I can’t remember the last time it happened here. Both agendas were lighter than usual, and the meetings ended early, by OUSD’s standards.
Given the often brutal tone of the public comment sessions, I doubt attending school board sessions is high on Smith’s list of cherished superintendent duties. (With respect to that imaginary list, I imagine most school board regulars — myself included — can relate!)
Of course, the recent absences might have nothing at all to do with his reception in the board room. Smith was traveling on official business both days, according to the district’s spokesman, Troy Flint.
Flint said Smith was at a conference in New Orleans during the meeting on Oct. 24, and at another meeting in La Jolla, Calif., on Oct. 10, when the school board was hearing a report from its new special education director and feedback from teachers and parents.
“Tony has a lot of opportunities to travel, and in the last few years he has declined many of them because of the need to be here at the district level,” Flint said.
Flint noted that another part of Smith’s job is to collaborate with other school district leaders and to raise money to support the district’s initiatives. “He’s traveling a little bit more this year, with the idea that he’s going to generate additional interest and funding for our efforts here in OUSD,” he said.
So there you have it, in case you were wondering.