Collage of some of the Oakland district leaders from the past 50 years (not comprehensive, includes photos where available).
With the departure of Oakland Unified Superintendent Antwan Wilson last week, the search is on!
I have a sense of déjà vu: we’ve been down this road quite a bit. As a data nerd, I started wondering about our previous superintendents. Who has led OUSD in the past 50 years? How many superintendents have we really had? How long did they serve? Are there any patterns or trends? I’m hoping some of the facts might help inform our current search.
NOTE: Oakland’s superintendents have been Board-hired, State-appointed (due to 2 state takeovers, both within the past 30 years), and Interim. I’ve focused my analysis on the first two categories.
Of the 24 leaders who guided OUSD in the past 50 years, 10 were interim (42%) while the rest were “permanent” superintendents, either Board-hired or State-appointed.
Some Interesting Observations:
I’ve heard a lot of people express interest in hiring a local, someone who has prior Oakland experience (myself included). But, over the past 20 years, the leaders with Oakland experience and those with zero OUSD previous experience stayed the same amount of time on average (2.6 years for OUSD experience vs. 2.8 years for non-OUSD experience). So, hiring someone local does not ensure longevity (although local may beneficial in other ways). Food for thought: what DOES ensure longevity, if not existing ties to district?
Over the past few decades, Oakland’s population has shifted and OUSD students are now approximately 45% Latino (25% Black, 13% Asian, 10% White). But only 2 of our last 11 Superintendents (including interims) in the past 20 years share the racial background of our largest student population.
Women are underrepresented in leadership roles across industries and organizations, and unfortunately, OUSD is not an exception. In the past 20 years, only 2 out of 7 Superintendents were female – despite the fact that staff are disproportionately female.
43% of our “permanent” superintendents in the last 20 years have been state-appointed. Today, unlike all those other times, we have a voice in who leads our district. Let’s use it! Please tell your board representative what you think is important in this selection!
If you are like me and really just want to see the cold, hard data, see here for more in-depth analysis I did to reach all of the above.
*P.S.: Data I would love to add: how many past Superintendents share the background of our highest need students? I think this is a powerful leadership quality.
**P.S.S.: Special thanks to Jean Wing, Executive Director of Data & Assessment at OUSD, for providing data on past superintendents dating back to 1870, and Mara Benitez for her thoughtful insights.
My name is Carrie Chan, and I’m Educate78’s newest staff member. I joined the organization as an Analyst, and I LOVE data (feel free to call me a data geek). As a former OUSD student, I also care a lot about Oakland public schools. That is why I am so excited about this new blog series, “Crunched!” which will take a data-driven approach to important, relevant questions facing Oakland public schools. Please email me with ideas or requests.
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