In recent school board meetings, an empty seat

Staff Photojournalist
photo by D. Ross Cameron/Oakland Tribune

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.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nontcair

    part of Smith’s job is to collaborate with other school district leaders and to raise money to support the district’s initiatives.

    IOW, to make cliche-riddled *political* speeches for higher taxes.

  • effectsofreform

    Yes. I was wondering. Thank you, Katy. Let’s hope that he was not taking advice from anyone in NOLA (charter experiment central).

    It would be wonderful if he was using his considerable celebrity to point out that California is entering the dark ages in terms of funding education for our residents. He needs to insist that we are on the wrong path and that an educated populace is a fundamental, necessary investment. We aren’t going to “partner” our way out of this problem.

    Please, let November bring meaningful change.

  • Ethan Brady

    Dr. Smith, Thank you for travelling! Thank you for every vacation day that you choose to work and get paid at your per diem (should be more than $1,000, right?), even if it is travelling or from home!
    We, the people, understand, and we will wait for your answers when you have time to give them. We patiently await for the planets to align.
    Can I sub for you (only during summer time, regardless of the mess, less audience)?

  • http://www.saveoaklandschools.org Tim Terry

    The rumor on the street is that Tony Smith and his pony tail gang are looking for another job. What Smith failed to do in Oakland he certainly has accomplished for Emeryville where he served as Superintendent before coming to Oakland. Emeryville and Smith are still tied as he closed Oakland’s last public elementary school in the 94608 zip code and leased the building to Emeryville contributing to Oakland’s education desert in North Oakland. The reality is that Oakland’s enrollment under Smith’s tenuous time in Oakland has taken a dive including a 4.6% drop this year as a result of his push for Charter Schools and parents giving up on the District after the School Closure Fiasco. Smith is taking from Oakland over $300,000 in salary and benefits and his contract was extended by this board through June 2015. We wish him well.

  • Adios pony tail gang

    Best news all day! Here’s hoping that Tony and the pony tail gang is on the way out. I have to think that the heat that Tony is feeling from the Crocker community where he lives, his kids go to school, and where he has made his latest mess has a bit to do with this decision.

  • Katy Murphy

    The “ponytail gang?” Is there more than one person on staff with a ponytail?

  • Students First

    Did anyone read the part where it says “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.”