Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Tony Smith is resigning, according to messages posted Friday morning on the district’s website.
In a letter addressed to school board president David Kakishiba, Smith wrote that his father-in-law was “recently hospitalized and is in poor health,” and that his family will relocate to Chicago at the end of June. In his letter, Smith wrote that he and his wife Kathleen decided to move “so that we can be there to help and so that our daughters can spend time with their grandparents.”
Smith ended the letter saying: “The decision to leave at this time is very difficult. However, my commitment to my family first means this is the right decision at this time. I believe in Oakland, value my relationships and our community and will always be an ally in the effort to create more opportunity for Oakland children.”
A separate letter issued on behalf of the Oakland school board stated the resignation was “unexpected and came as a surprise.” It said the board will address the situation at its next meeting on Wednesday, April 10.
“We commit to supporting the Superintendent in his transition and to standing with the community of staff, students, and families as we move forward in this new chapter for the Oakland Unified School District,” the letter continued.
Smith’s last day as superintendent will be June 30, 2013. Smith began his term on July 1, 2009.
“It was something that wasn’t in planning for a long time, but it was obviously a decision the superintendent needed to make in support of his family,” said district spokesperson Troy Flint. “I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision and the board is not happy to see him go, but they understand his motivations.”
The school board has the right to appoint a replacement. Kakishiba said the board will discuss its selection process options during closed session at Wednesday’s meeting. Kakishiba said some options include hiring a national search firm to find qualified candidates (which was the method used in Smith’s appointment), appointing an interim superintendent, or appointing someone internally without a search process.
“As far as determining which route we will go at this time or how long it will take, there will be more news after the meeting,” Kakishiba said.
The Oakland Education Association’s vice president, Steve Neat, said he hopes that the board will solicit input from teachers, parents and students, and that Smith’s departure will hasten the teachers’ union’s contract negotiations, which are still in the bargaining stage.
“Bargaining has been cordial so far,” Neat said. “We feel like we have a reasonable contract demand and I think that would definitely be a way to leave on a positive note if it’s done by the end of this school year.”
Neat said he also respects Smith’s decision and recognizes the steadiness he brought to the district. “He’s been in OUSD for four years, which I’m sure is more than the average urban superintendent, and more than most of the people who had come before him. He had brought at least a degree of stability in terms of the leadership in OUSD,” Neat said.
Kakishiba said the board still supports the educational ideas Smith endorsed during his term. “We are committed to the vision around building a full-service community school district and working to eradicate racial disparities in academic achievement and other life outcomes for young people,” Kakishiba said.
“Staff and the board are confident that this new development will not derail our work,” he said. “We’re going to be able to absorb this loss and be able to move forward.”
You can read Oakland North’s in-depth interview with Smith shortly after he took office here.
The April 10 meeting at La Escuelita Elementary School starts at 5:00 p.m.