By Supt. Antwan Wilson
Last week this paper ran a story entitled “Oakland Schools in Turmoil as District Threatens to Remove 17 Principals.” This is completely false, and this number was not confirmed with us before publishing. I was shocked and dismayed to see it reported – incorrectly – that we, OUSD, are planning to remove 17 principals. I am writing to set the record straight and provide some context for the real challenges we need to face together.
For next year, there are 5 official principals who received a notice of possible reassignment, nowhere near 17. The notices referred to in the article are something required by state law to be provided every year by March 15 to any leadership potentially reassigned. For comparison, the year before I came to Oakland, there were 20 such notices given to principals. These numbers demonstrate that we have not engaged in massive reassignment of principals as suggested in last week’s article.
Principal turnover is an issue that is of concern to us in the district and me specifically. We want to minimize turnover as much as possible. We also recognize that there will be factors that lead to us losing leaders, some out of our control and others related to systems that we are in the process of improving, such as operational systems that have been an issue for decades.
I’m proud to work with our many great school leaders. We are committed to working with new leaders by growing with them and investing in their leadership. The changes we seek require strong leaders and leadership teams made up of principals, assistant principals (when applicable), teacher leaders, parent and community leaders, and student leaders. There will be times we have to make changes to school leadership. When that happens, we will work to make sure we are lifting up the needs of the students and what’s best for the district. It is important that as we do this work that we provide accurate information about what we are doing and how.
As a former principal myself, I know how important school leaders are. I also know how pivotal they can be when we need to turn-around our schools. We need to do this in multiple schools across the District. In places where change is under way, we are giving principals more supports and resources to produce Continued from page 1 some results before considering any leadership changes.
Finally, to mix in the issue of Proposition 39 offers of unused or underutilized public school space to public charter schools is unfair and inappropriate. The Prop. 39 process tends to coincide every year with the March 15 legal deadline for noticing certificated leadership of potential reassignment or removal. There’s no connection, other than circumstantial. Also, it is true that where schools have been underperforming for years, students and parents are likely voting with their feet and taking kids to other District, private, or charter schools, often thereby creating a bunch of empty classrooms that we then, by law, must offer to charter schools that request space. The cause and effect, however, are the reverse of what was insinuated in the article.
We face challenges every year as we try to change course by providing high quality education to ensure that Every Student Thrives. If you know of any great potential school leaders out there, please send them our way!