Superintendent Tony Smith Resigns

Staff Photojournalist
photo by D. Ross Cameron/Oakland Tribune

Superintendent Tony Smith announced in a closed session with the board last night that he is resigning as superintendent, effective June 30.

His reasons are family-related, as his wife’s father was recently hospitalized, and he and his family will now be moving to Chicago.

Smith wrote a letter to the board about his resignation, saying how proud he is of the accomplishments that have been made since working with the board.

While there is still much work to do, the district is well positioned to achieve the objectives outlined in the balanced scorecard and meet the goals described in our ambitious strategic plan.

Click here to read Smith’s letter to President David Kakishiba.

The board also released a statement on the district’s website to the community about the board’s reaction.

Also read Tribune reporter Angela Woodall’s story regarding the resignation.

Serena Valdez

  • https://www.facebook.com/timothy.terry.397 Tim Terry

    Mark – “too often grand mission statements are created that amount to very little”. I felt this about our Board’s “strategic plan” and “vision” which took up nearly the entire tenure of Smith. I am not sure how much strategic planning served the school boards administrators’ personal and professional interests and often felt it was a substitute for action. In the end we wasted years and tons of money and nothing has changed.

  • J.R.

    Here is a good primer on victimology(although I am sure that is not the intent),


    If people want to really be free of gangs, they cannot tolerate them and look the other way(not even a little). These domestic terrorists(and that is what they are) must be dealt with(stop & frisk, curfews) are just a few tools that are needed to break them apart.

  • http://ousdblog mark

    Hey “Tim Terry”

    You are smarter than I, for I fell for the grand vision, but after a while, I could see that many administrators in my opinion were not making the nuts and bolts changes that were setting a foundation for each year of future.

    Yes, I liked the concept of community schools, but, maybe it is stretching the role of the school too far with little money.

    I think the most crucial thing is getting reading levels up.

    And equally important is the getting of students to buy into learning with respect and dignity for all.

    So, I am in agreement with you. The school board needs to hear that the public does not want another feel good grand scheme leader, but instead (to be more realistic on my part…. A superintendent and an assistant superintendent that will really be like bean counters, and make sure things are done or people are fired.

    Also, perhaps one of the worst things that went on in OUSD is the grand visionary approach of hiring vast teachers without full credentials that work and attend classes while teaching. the mature well rounded teachers with experience are treated bad and the schools suffer with “green” teachers and…

    I don’t thing parents are informed that their child’s teacher has an emergency credential and is not a fully credentialed teacher as I think is required under ed. code.

    Lets push for the hire of a new superintendent who is very strong in getting things done without grand visions for the “feel good.” And let us lower the wages of the cronies that worked under Mr. Smith, in my opinion.

    Mr. Smith has jumped ship, so it is time to carefully evaluate what kind of job quality each person assisting him and the school district did and does, especially if that person makes over $150,000 per year.

    Thanks Mr. Terry,

  • Denver

    Actually Mark, Smith had many of the characteristics that you describe.

    And frankly – and I’m sorry if you are offended by this – who cares about a long list of “rappers” that nobody knows about. What have they done for Oakland? Probably more harm than good by glorifying the hood life. A celebrity list from Oakland including who was born in Oakland is pretty worthless. Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood have roots here. These guys eclipse pretty much everybody on your list and what have their connections to Oakland done for Oakland? Nothing.

    As long as there are activist elements supporting the idiotic – “don’t close our non-neighborhood underperforming school!” – that have some backing in the community, an improved system will struggle to take hold. Again, we reap what we sow. And we get what we deserve.

  • Nextset

    Mark: You really should view the video. It’s not just the factories and all the family breadwinners they employed, it’s the views of the neighborhoods and schools that are shown – and the parks of Oakland. All that is gone now.

    Oakland is going to look like Mexico City relatively soon. That is very bad. Even Hermosillo is bad. And don’t think there are comfortable places for urban blacks in such places. Think ethnic cleansing by bullets. Like we have in Los Angeles.

    Your posting about minstrels just isn’t a good thing. Minstrels don’t support families very well and they sure don’t transmit wealth through the generations. They don’t even have a decent mortality rate, what with the overdoses and trauma deaths..

    I’m tired of black schools raising black kids to prisons and early graves, leaving the better things in life (civil service even) for the other ethnics.

    Not the way it was in 1960. Things are so much worse now. Too bad Goldwater didn’t win in 1964.

  • http://ousdblog mark

    Dear “Denver”,

    I only chose to put in music people, for that element is very important not only to me but to just about all youth and perhaps all adults in Oakland. Music, in my opinion touches the soul and is of great importance. Sure there are countless of other categories of people that are important or were important in Oakland.

    I say Oakland is a premier place of value. Yes, lots of shootings, but with no employment, you get a lot of that, and I say we can take Oakland in a good direction with development of youth and adults with jobs and commerce.

    Why is not the mayor and her people making visits over to Palo Alto, and saying to Facebook and others, “Hey, we need your company to have a separate office in Oakland and hire some of those that live here etc.” I bet the founder of Facebook and other dot com types would open up satellite buildings etc. and there could be a sort of Oakland silicone bay computer and on line mecca.

    In teaching behavior changes to students it is known that to change behavior one must substitute something. It is not enough to “just say no.” So, we, everyone, including the next (2) my idea, superintendents, or a key superintendent and an assistant to the key superintendent with salaries of $200,000 a year and $150,000 a year working together (for less monies than Mr. Smith made) to work for the love it and the love of Oakland. To devise possible alternative choices for work opportunities for all, to stimulate the city of Oakland with entrepreneural spirt that goes beyond selling dope and such.

    The self medication of people in Oakland is due to a lack of love and meaningfullness with life itself. Graffiti is a calling out to be heard and is also due to a lack of love.

    Well, I think music is an important key to communication. It is just one key of many.

    Oakland needs leaders of the O.U.S.D. that network with the mayor and others to bring the ideas I listed above home.

    At least I am not a complainer like most on this comment section.

    I love Oakland!


  • Nontcair

    When I read the delightfully unexpected TV-news ticker re Smith’s resignation, I had to come back to ibabuzz for more info and to add my $.02

    As I’ve written here many times, Smith merited a grade of ‘C’, in that it makes NO difference who’s the Superintendent. Public education always gets worse.

    Imagine you could pick a “dream team” OUSD Board composed of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Ken Betts, George Zimmer, you name it. Imagine they could recruit a .400 hitting Superintendent with a five year, front-end loaded, performance based compensation package worth $1B.

    Nothing would change.

    Public education is dominated by literally THOUSANDS of government regulations — by far the two worst of which are compulsory attendance and the 180 day school “year”.

    It is designed to fail.

    So the “best” superintendent a public school district can hire is a politician who:

    can recite all the right cliches
    can effortlessly throw around vapid jargon, and
    has nice hair.

    Incidentally, school should be *voluntary* and of much shorter duration. The only superintendent worth considering is one who’d be willing to lead the fight to reduce OUSD to its constitutional minimum of ONE school. And be willing to do the job for $1 per year.

    Two $180K superintendents. Really.

  • http://ousdblog mark

    Dear “Nontcair”

    You can no wronger.

    I mean, you can’t be more wrong.

    Think this way. Think of one child. Think of one teacher who teaches that child. Think of a way to ensure that teacher is satisfied with the way things run in her or his classroom. Think micro. Think principal, Think of ensuring that the principal is running the school in ways that meet the needs of the teachers.

    Think of expectations from the principals and vice principals, and think holding them accountable for what they must do.

    Think of climate and culture of a school

    Think and know, there are some schools in O.U.S.D that are winners. They win. Each year they win.

    Think of a school board that needs to hold the principals, and key oversight people accountable for ensuring that more schools win!

    Think of taking each school at a time and doing a health check up on how it works and runs. and think of doing this with simple meetings instead of high paid research groups with lots of spent money on them.

    Noncair, think that the teacher can make the difference for the one child.

    It happens.

    Education has good things that happen.

    Positive change can and does occur.

    Think again for your post was negative and wrong, because it lacks truth.

  • Nontcair

    I know. I know.

    Resignation is for the family.
    School is for the children.

    I’m sure Smith’s kids will be signed up for one of those great Chicago neighborhood public schools. Like the ones Senator Obama sent his own kids to.

  • http://ousdblog mark

    John Steinbeck

    My eleven-year-old son came to me recently and in a tone of
    patient suffering, asked “How much longer do I have to go to school?”
    “About fifteen years,” I said.
    “Oh! Lord,” he said despondently. “Do I have to?”
    “I’m afraid so. It’s terrible and I’m not going to try to tell you
    it isn’t. But I can tell you this – – if you are very lucky, you may find
    a teacher and that is a wonderful thing.”
    “Did you find one?”
    “I found three, ” I said.

    It is customary for adults to forget how hard and dull school is.
    The learning by memory all the basic things one must know is the most
    difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if
    you don’t believe that, watch an illiterate adult try to do it. School is
    not easy and it is not for the most part very much fun, but then, if you
    are lucky, you may find a teacher. Three real teachers in a lifetime is
    the very best of luck. My first was a science and mathematics teacher in
    high school, my second a professor of creative writing at Stanford and my
    third was my friend and partner, Ed Ricketts.

    I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and
    that there are as few as there are any other great artist. It might even
    be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.
    My three had these things in common – They all loved what they were
    doing. They did not tell – they catalyzed a burning desire to know. Under
    their influence, the horizons sprung wide and fear went away and the
    unknown became knowable. But most important of all, the truth, that
    dangerous stuff, became beautiful and very precious.

    I shall speak only of my first teacher because in addition to the
    other things, she brought discovery. She aroused us to shouting, bookwaving discussions. She had the noisiest class in school and she didn’t even seem to know it. We could never stick to the subject, geometry or the chanted recitation of the
    memorized phyla. Our speculation ranged the world. She breathed curiosity
    into us so that we brought in facts or truths shielded in our hands like
    captured fireflies.

    She was fired and perhaps rightly so, for failing to teach the
    fundamentals. Such things must be learned. But she left a passion in us
    for the pure knowledge world and me she inflamed with a curiosity which has
    never left me. I could not do simple arithmetic but through her I sensed
    that abstract mathematics was very like music. When she was removed, a
    sadness came over us but the light did not go out. She left her signature
    on us, the literature of the teacher who writes on minds. I have had many
    teachers who told me soon-forgotten facts but only three who created in me
    a new thing, a new attitude and a new hunger. I suppose that to a large
    extent I am the unsigned manuscript of that high school teacher. What
    deathless power lies in the hands of such a person.

    I can tell my son who looks forward with horror to fifteen years of
    drudgery that somewhere in the dusty dark a magic may happen that will
    light up the years. . . if he is very lucky.

    *Appeared originally in the California Teachers Association Journal,
    November 1955, 51,7. Copyright 1955 by John Steinbeck.

  • Nontcair

    if you are very lucky, you may find a teacher and that is a wonderful thing.

    When did public schools become public crap-games? CSC Article IV, § prohibits that sort of gambling.

    And folks accuse political *conservatives* of romanticizing the past!

    Any excellence (luck) #60 attributes to public schools can be accomplished by *private* schools and, if the government would just eliminate all the regulations which impact them, at a small fraction of the cost of what OUSD is charging us.

  • http://ousdblog mark

    “Nontcair,” you are not correct.

    Of course some expensive private schools are wonderful. No disagreement there.

    But, the charter movement is bad in my opinion.

    I wonder why charters do not keep students with disabilities (that take great care and effort) but instead push them out for this reason or that.

    I remember reading about a charter in Oakland. One student refused to go along with the morning cheer. He chose to just keep silent. A meeting was called for his guardian be it a mother, or a grandmother or a father etc., and at that meeting it was explained to the parents that if the child (who was in elementary school age) would not cheer gleefully (my words) then the child would not be admitted to the charter school and had to leave.

    The truly sad thing is the child did back down and gleefully cheer because he had to.

    This kind of thing is why I despise charters, and also know that the teachers are overworked, unhappy, and do not even know that they have no retirement for their future, in my opinion.

    I realize some public education is lost at some schools. But, I do like the public education schools. I do.

    and… I love Oakland!

  • Nontcair

    Here we go again.

    I stated *private* schools.

    Charter schools are public scrools.

    The confusion which you exhibit is why the charter school mania has the potential to set back the true “school choice” movement — which is to say, a competitive, 100% privatized system — by twenty yeara.

    Meanwhile, many, many BILLIONS in tax dollars will be wasted.

    It makes little difference to taxpayers that their money gets burned on GOP contractors rather than DEM unions.

  • Seenitbefore

    ((shaking head)) ((big sigh))

    Really? C’mon people….. it’s not that hard to figure out.

    Answer a few simple questions:

    WHAT are 3 reasons that a student might get a better educational experience at a private school?

    IDENTIFY job factors (from the teachers’ perspective) that allow a teacher to deliver effective and engaging lessons to his/her students AND to form a bond of trust with administration, the students and their families?

    LIST to top complaints and criticisms of STUDENTS who have been SUCCESSFUL (graduated OUSD HS with a 3.0 or above GPA) in OUSD. Cite obstacles they had to overcome to make it through the OUSD system and include support systems that students found helpful in meeting those obstacles.

    *Extra credit. Compare and contrast the learning/work experiences of five (5) students and five (5) teachers who have LEFT OUSD and gone on to be successful in other K-12 academic institutions. Identify common and/or significant factors in their experiences.

    Now take a serious look at how the OUSD system actually operates… and change the things that can be changed. We may not be able to spend more money…. and… I BET that more money is not the answer to the above questions anyway. It’s HOW we (OUSD) spend our money.

    I already know what I think needs to happen. Use common sense and logic… and discover for yourself.

  • http://ousdblog mark

    When O.U.S.D. has a system solidly in place where teachers are not evaluated, yet passed along by administrators if they are their friends, well, you get the O.U.S.D. that you get.

    The problem with O.U.S.D. is it is not functioning properly under ed. code in many schools, in my opinion.

    Ed. code.

    Now, if administration above the school level does not check to ensure that schools are indeed doing things correctly, then schools become dysfunctional.

    How can the O.U.S.D. embrace the hiring of new teachers in masses that do not have a full fledged teaching credential?

    Answer: saves money

    How can so many things go on that in my opinion are not in accordance with ed. code?

    Answer: It saves time and money to skip things.

    I sure hope that simple accountability measures are set up with unannounced visits by those who need to inspect happen on a regular basis.

    In my opinion this is really necessary with regard to all things special education.

    But what if there is no accountability but instead, grand schemes and dreams.

    Well, you get a Tony Smith kind of leader, which is here today, gone tomorrow.

    And, I have an inclination that some leave the district in high places because the district is not ensuring that it is in proper compliance with all things.

    I could go on and on. The thing is, the system needs clean, non favoritism, easy to check (with check lists), kind of visits by oversight persons. If the check list is not all proper, give three months for it to get better and do the same check off list again. If the check off list is still not proper after over a half year, put a letter of non compliance concern in the personnel file of those who have had the proper time to fix the issue.

    I believe that the above does not happen, and good teachers are often let go, or choose to go from O.U.S.D, because there are those who work in groups, who choose to continue doing things wrong, when they know they are doing things wrong, but they lack the ability to get things changed, or they are considered “troublemakers.”

    A lot is wrong with O .U.S.D. Simple accountability needs to take place. Too often the 2,3,4,5 grade teacher is teaching remediation instead of the current state standards. So, if someone is dynamic, they might say, since we have a large group of students who are reading two or more grade levels behind, we will devote the last hour of each school day to the remediation of reading and move all students in each grade level to different grade level classrooms that remediate: 2nd grade reading, 4th grade reading, and if you can believe it or not…1st grade reading.

    Many a tough O.U.S.D. student is hiding the knowledge that they cannot read, and thus they lack assimilation in to the regular class with peers.

    We all must ensure quality standards are done with regard to education.

    Too often there is too many free trainings for teachers to learn learn learn, when that time needs to be given over to the teacher so that s/he can plan, rest, and plan.

    A lot of simple checking for quality of education need to be done, and often, the administrators are more concerned with who their friends might be instead of who a good teacher is.

    Much more accountability needs to be done on how administrators are running the school they are suppose to share with teachers. Also, why not cut the need for administrators to leave school one day a week for so called training for them. Why not make that two times a month.

    And while I am at it, in this rant, I am sick of administrators trying to achieve some kind of grand write ups for publicity. Why not just remain quiet and not taut things so much.

    The new superintendent will need to instill quiet, simple, clear, accountability, and be aware that simple changes need to take place.

    Maybe a lot of non compliance issues are heading this way and it has got too hot in the kitchen for the current leaders of O.U.S.D. so, they are running away from it all.

    I have a hunch that a mass amount of change needs to take place at O.U.S.D.

    I am upset for the students who do not get a proper education in some classrooms at some schools.

    I want better for Oakland.

  • Ted

    Nextset: re: <>

    I could use a less aggressive word, but it would not be appropriate. Your posting is ignorant. Either you are being purposefully offensive, or you have no clue about the field of music as a profession. Your generic dismissal of everyone on the list as “minstrels” is as insulting as if I called everyone in the lawyering business “parasites.”

  • Ex OUSD staff

    Nextset: re: #55 – “Minstrels don’t support families very well and they sure don’t transmit wealth through the generations.”

    Either you are being purposefully offensive, or you are inadequately informed about music as a profession.

    Your generic dismissal of everyone on Mark’s list as “minstrels” is as insulting as if I called everyone in the lawyering business “parasites.”

    Minstrel were entertainers in the late 19th and early 20th century whose acts were based on offensive racist charactures of African-Americans.

    In regard to “musicians not supporting families very well” you are writing about something of which you have no knowledge. There are many people living in the Bay Area who work full time in music. You probably have never heard of most of them, but they own houses, send their children to college and are set for retirement. I am one of them!

    Here’s a link to glossary of music careers from the National Association of Music Educators, which I encourage you to consult before you engage in a discussion about the profession of music in the future.

  • http://ousdblog mark

    Right On! “Ex OUSD Staff Says,”

    Music is so important in everyone’s lives. It helps people and inspires. I also think Oakland is something real special because the people, or at least most of the people, have a connection with music. I don’t get that feeling when driving to other cities or living in other cities.

    Oakland has all kinds of fantastic people of all ages. It needs good leadership from OUSD leaders and city leaders.

    I say again, creativity is there in Oakland.

    I ask again, why has not anyone in Oakland gone over to Palo Alto and asked some of those venture capital creations such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, to stretch out and start owning large corporate extension buildings in Oakland. I bet once they are up an running, the people of Oakland would be a great asset to the creativity of leveraging such companies to be the best they can be.

    I do admire Facebook for placing their corporate offices in East Palo Alto. I just hope the leaders of that organization will also open up offices in Oakland too.

    It can happen.

  • Nontcair

    Look around. Public education is *everywhere* and *always* a disaster.

    It always amazes me to see all the conceited people who believe that if only their local school district would listen to them, education would turn-around — even (if you can believe this) become *great*.

    Why don’t all you brilliant MBAs apply for OUSD Superintendent and show us skeptics how the job should be done.

  • Doug Appel

    I see no reason to question Dr. Smith’s stated reason for leaving. Likewise, I see no need to question his motives while superintendent. I believe he shared a real concern for ensuring that Oakland’s students succeed regardless of their circumstances. I think his recognition that what happens in the classroom alone is insufficient to overcome the disadvantages of poor and minority youth is important. What I do question is several of his decisions (ratified by the school board) such as the decision to radically alter Fremont, McClymonds and Castlemont High Schools–and then leave them to flounder. Although the staffs at all three schools are doing the best they can, Fremont looks near abandoned and the parents at Mac showed up at the last board meeting decrying, among other things, the lack of experienced educators. The decision to eliminate counselors from Skyline High School–resulting in a discrimination filing as students were not given proper guidance as to the courses needed to graduate and be eligible for college. The near shutdown of adult education in the district and the reduction of early childhood education–which calls into question the commitment to “full service community schools.” The District’s spending represents it’s real priorities–and that is to spend nearly twice as much on average on consultants, lawyers and other “service providers” while increasing class sizes and reducing direct services to students. I surely hope the board looks to find an experienced educator to succeed Mr. Smith–one who shares his values and commitment to all children but is less willing to conduct risky social experiments on them.

  • Nontcair

    Here we go again.

    Years ago I had a friend who was a teacher in the only high school in the district. About 800 kids total; 10% black/poor.

    She told me that the highest paid guy in the school was a white guidance counselor who held a masters degree (Psych?) who knew NOTHING, ie the guy gave awful advice. His daughter killed herself at age 25.

    All the black kids were assigned to a black guidance counselor, I guess because of liberal policies to promote self-esteem. Probably *none* of those kids ever escaped the cycle of poverty.

    It saddens me that some of the Catholic schools around here are adopting the public school psychobabble model, judging by their fundraising appeals for constructing office space for psychologists, counselors, and “life coaches”. I guess as fewer Catholics devote their lives to the Church the Church has turned to consultants in order to fulfill its nonreligious teaching role.

    All those “professionals” embrace the same baloney pedagogy advocated by the same bunch of Phd-certified quacks.

  • Denver


    Those companies – Google, Apple, Facebook – don’t come here because it’s not that attractive. Why would they? Commercial real estate isn’t particularly attractive. There are not many tax incentives to come to Oakland. Talent is located in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Potential partners aren’t really in the neighborhood.

    What happens in Oakland? Occupy and other stupid $(%# like that. No CEO worth any salt would establish a strong presence here when that crap takes place.

    And Facebook is hardly in East Palo Alto. It’s in the old Sun Microsystems headquarters, a beautiful building at the end of the Dumbarton Bridge. There’s nothing altruistic about locating the company there. Nothing at all.

  • Nextset

    Ex-OUSD Staff:

    They are minstrels. You certainly don’t have to agree.

    The people in the music business with the money are typically not the performers. I admit I’m biased – I remember some of the people I knew involved with Fantasy Records in Berkeley back in the day. I tend to agree with John Fogerty about how things worked.

    There are exceptions – Whitney Houston had the benefit of seeing how Dionne Warwick squandered her estate – so her contracts had escape clauses that allowed her to get (much) more money as her records sold well. Which was a big assist in drugging herself to death.

    It probably helps to be 2nd or third generation in that business. Most of the Black talent compete with each other for the worst recording contracts in history. And yes, like the black sports performers, they typically wind up broke and do not transmit wealth to later generations. This is the rule with black talent. There are exceptions, but they are exceptions with distinct explanations.

    Deal with it. You don’t like what I’m saying, you call it “offensive” – that’s typical. It’s true. You don’t have to like it. Boo Hoo.

    Part of doing well is being pragmatic and learning to work with information that is unpleasant. Many people have such strong aversion to doing so they get run over by avoidable trains.

  • Nextset


    I am quite familiar with white liberal expectations that black children will become performers, minstrels if you will.

    Black children are not encouraged to learn accounting, become business figures, produce products, merchandising, whatever.

    Collectivists are mainly interested in using Negroes as entertainment.

  • http://ousdblog mark

    Dear “Nextset”

    Your pain is showing in your comments. I applaud the fact that many children, be what color, get involved in learning finance, setting up their own businesses, etc. This is why I reach out to make the idea of inviting Google, Facebook, and Apple type companies over to the Oakland area. They can bring with them the culture of new job opportunities, and there is no reason why this cannot be done. All the founders of the companies listed above are idealists with nothing in their way to say something can’t be done.

    I see the mayor is touting new buildings on the bay. Well, such companies listed above could surge a new vibe of entrepreneurship of the youth in Oakland, and such hiring would be cool.

    Now stop talking about minstrels, it makes me sick, and you should not talk down to others in that way. Give others credit for they may be the movers and shakers to help all children and adults in Oakland.

    Don’t sell people or ideas short with your negativity.

  • http://ousdblog mark

    A general helpful way to watch all O.U.S.D. board meetings on video update:
    Earlier I posted that I was having trouble reviewing board meetings after 1-5-2013 on the O.U.S.D. website.

    I found out while visiting the OUSD web site that one can now watch many of the board meetings for year 2013.

    It is important to make sure year 2013 is posted in the box.

    Here is how to do it:

    1. go to OUSD web site home page

    2. scroll down on left side to school board etc. (click)

    3. find “calendar” on the top and (click)

    4. explore watching the videos of many of the board meetings.

    I wish to express that this system of the O.U.S.D. posting most school board meetings with video is outstanding. I do not think many school districts do this, and it should be done nationwide. This is something for OUSD to be proud of, because the school district uses technology in a helpful way to the outside public who may not be able to drive and attend school board meetings etc.