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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.

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Mission accomplished? OUSD’s structural deficit, closure savings and other budget questions

This spring, Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith heralded the elimination of a $40 million structural deficit that he had inherited when he came to OUSD in 2009. Soon thereafter, his financial services team discovered a multimillion-dollar shortfall, which was followed by major reductions in the proposed special education budget for 2012-13 and other adjustments.

Then, last Friday, the administration made the deficit-eradication claim once again. A public statement about the Lakeview Elementary School sit-in, which is now in its second week, said that the closure of Lakeview and other elementary schools had allowed the district to “eliminate a $40 million structural deficit…”

If you look at Slide #23 in the budget presentation¬†(second-to-last link), and your eyes automatically run to the highlighted green line, that sure looks to be the case: You see a $665,071 surplus. But scan a bit further down and you’ll find a different number — a structural deficit of $10.28 million. Continue Reading