The Oakland Board of Education this week chose the same Southern California search firm to recruit a new superintendent that they utilized to hire outgoing Superintendent Antwan Wilson two-and-a-half years ago.
Board members did not indicate how much would be paid to the search firm –Leadership Associates in La Quinta in Riverside County – or the qualities they were looking for in a new superintendent.
The motion at the Monday evening meeting was to authorize the district’s General Counsel to negotiate an agreement with the firm, “subject to final approval … by the Board of Education,” according to the board agenda.
The vote was 4-2 in favor of the motion. Boardmembers Shanthi Gonzales and Roseann Torres voted no, while Jumoke Hinton Hodge, Jody London, James Harris and Aimee Eng voted yes. Nina Senn was absent.
As of Wednesday, two days after the board meeting, neither the video of the board meeting nor the motion to negotiate with the firm were on the district website.
In a letter to all board members Wednesday, the Post asked:
“Based on what (we) are hearing from teachers, parents and community members, (we) would like to know what the board is planning to do to guarantee that the superintendent recruiting process is transparent and practices community engagement before the selection is made.
“Given the huge amount of money donated to board members’ campaigns last month, there are concerns that GO Public Schools and California Charter School Association (CCSA) will have a disproportionate influence in the final choice of superintendent,” according to the Post email.
GO and CCSA spent nearly $700,000 this year to reelect Hinton Hodge and Harris, and in the unsuccessful attempt to defeat incumbent Torres.
By Post deadline, only Boardmember Torres responded to the request for comment.
“Shanthi and I voted no on the search firm,” said Torres. “I didn’t feel like that when we went with Leadership Associates last time, we got somebody who was the best choice. And they didn’t give very many choices to pick from.”
She said she wanted to see the search consist of as many local Northern California candidates as possible rather than from other areas who don’t know Oakland’s needs and challenges. Preferably the best candidate will have experience working in Oakland, she said.
Torres said that she and Gonzales have called a public meeting, tentatively on Jan. 14, to hear community input on the superintendent selection process but have taken heat from other board members for not waiting for the board and the search firm to do outreach.
“We have every right to have a community forum,” said Torres, adding that the search firm and the board are free to organize other public events.
“Other board members may not agree, but the two of us feel it is incumbent on us to hear from our community,” she said.
The search firm in the past told the district “that they were going to talk to key stakeholders, that they were going to do community outreach,” but that meant talking to stakeholders like GO Public Schools, not to parents, teachers and community, she said.