Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Oakland Eyes Denver Educator for Schools Chief

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
Bay Area News Group

OAKLAND -- The school board has named an assistant superintendent from Denver Public Schools as its top candidate for superintendent to oversee its 37,000 students and may take a public vote on him at its April 30 meeting.

The board named Antwan Wilson, an assistant superintendent in the 86,000-student Denver school district, as the top finalist to replace Oakland Interim Superintendent Gary Yee. 

"We leave tomorrow to Denver to do a due-diligence trip and meet people in his district," said Oakland school board President David Kakishiba. "If all goes well, we will set an April 23 meeting to approve a contract for Mr. Wilson." 

Kakishiba declined to say who came in second to Wilson, but he did say there were about 20 serious applicants. He and two other school board members, James Harris and Jumoke Hinton Hodge, will make the trip to Denver. 

According to information on the Denver Public Schools website, Wilson oversees middle and high schools in Denver and is responsible for leading the college readiness programs there. Before that, he was principal of the troubled Montbello High School in Denver where, his biography says, he increased the percentage of students going to four-year colleges from 35 percent in 2005 to 95 percent in 2008. He also worked in Wichita, Kan., as middle and high school principal. 

Wilson comes to Oakland where the graduation rate is 59 percent, well below the 79 percent state average and where 25 percent of students drop out, a figure well above the state drop out figure of 13 percent. 

If the school board approves Wilson, Kakishiba said, the four priorities for him in the next year will be to improve the district's financial management, because it has had "some very scathing audit reports about the state of our financial management"; improve the high schools, manage an overabundance of schools and work on retaining teachers. The average teacher salary is $55,000 a year. 

Kakishiba said the board likes Wilson because "of his experience as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent overseeing secondary education, which was clearly a plus." 

Yee gave up his seat on the school board to become interim superintendent for one year in 2013 after former Superintendent Tony Smith stepped down and moved to Chicago. Smith held the position for four years and was the first permanent superintendent named by the school board since the district fell into financial ruin and then state receivership in 2002. 

"The major challenges he will face are that we continue to have too many schools, finding a permanent location for our administrative offices and settling a contract with our unions," Yee said. "He also will need to make sure he's in tune with the activism in Oakland. A superintendent has to be really adept at that kind of community involvement." 

Oakland schools spokesman Troy Flint said candidate names were not publicized because "that would discourage qualified candidates from applying for fear they would lose their jobs in their home district when it was revealed they were pursuing the superintendency here in Oakland." 

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