Friday, June 13, 2014

New Oakland Schools Chief to get $280,000 a year, Lots of Extras

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
Bay Area News Group

OAKLAND -- Oakland's school board is set to vote Wednesday on a new $280,000-a-year contract for Antwan Wilson, the top superintendent candidate who will start his job July 1 if he wins approval. 

"If you ask me, I would bet there will be a unanimous vote," said school board President David Kakishiba. 

Wilson will get $30,000 a year more than Interim Superintendent Gary Yee and $5,000 a year more than former Superintendent Tony Smith, who resigned last year and moved to Chicago. 

Yee said he had no intention of continuing for more than a year on the job after taking over for Smith. 

Wilson, who has worked for five years as an assistant superintendent at 86,000-student Denver Public Schools, will get some nice perks in his four-year contract. 

Those include free health care premiums for him and his family, a $1 million life insurance contract, two bonus payments of about $28,000 in years three and four of his contract, $28,000 in moving expenses, six months of free lodging while he looks for a place to live, 75 sick days to start with and an accrual of one per month, $750 a month for local travel and $420,000 a year should he become disabled. 

"I think this is a pretty good financial deal for the district; it's economical," Kakishiba said, noting that some heads of government agencies often negotiate lucrative zero-interest loans to buy homes. 

In return, the board will evaluate his performance each year and has the right to fire him with or without cause. 

The Oakland school board was impressed with Wilson's accomplishments in Denver because he worked on issues that are similar to those in Oakland. Before he moved up to assistant superintendent in Denver, Wilson became principal at the troubled Montbello High School, where a student was stabbed to death in the cafeteria the year before. While there he increased the percentage of students going to four-year colleges from 35 percent in 2005 to 95 percent in 2008. 

Wilson comes to Oakland, where the graduation rate is 59 percent, well below the 80 percent state average, and where 25 percent of students drop out, a figure well above the state figure of 13 percent. 

Kakishiba and two other school board members visited Wilson's employer recently and said he got "high marks" from everyone they met. 

"It was wall-to-wall meetings, and what I walked away with was a sense that Antwan was at the center of a lot of work around improving middle and high schools," Kakishiba said. "He seemed to be at the center of developing and implementing systems on how to identify schools that were deeply troubled and that require intensive support to get them on the right track. Is everything perfect there? I don't know. But it seems he is at the core of a leadership team that is making things happen out there." 

In a statement posted on the Oakland school district's website, Wilson said he is "honored" to be the finalist out of about 20 candidates. 

"It is my belief that all young people have the ability to achieve at high levels, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they do," Wilson said. "This includes having high expectations for students to succeed academically, socially, in their college and career pursuits, and in life." 

Wilson's current boss, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg, had plenty of nice things to say in the statement on the Oakland schools website. 

"He has built an outstanding team of middle school and high school leaders who have driven strong gains in the number of families choosing to send their kids to our city's middle and high schools and in the number of kids graduating each year from Denver Public Schools and going on to college," Boasberg said. 

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