Once again, I find myself without a boss. Well, to be more precise, my boss's boss is without a boss. The superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, Tony Smith, has resigned from his post effective on June thirtieth of this year. That will bring the number of superintendents under whom I have worked to four. That works out to be one every four years or so, so according to the national average, and that makes sense. I suppose.
In this case, Mister Smith is going to Chicago, where his father-in-law is in poor health. We have been assured, the cynics in the crowd, that he is not leaving for another job or greener pastures. He's leaving because of a family emergency. It couldn't be a continually shifting economic and local political landscape that never allows a solid foothold made it impossible for any of the reforms or fixes that he had in mind to catch on. It couldn't be that the Oakland Unified School District lacks that second modifier. It couldn't be that the job, as invigorating as it appears at first chews people up and spits them out. Or maybe it's just time to move on.
The decade and a half that I have spent working for the OUSD has been a challenging and humbling time. Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks, to quote the poet. I can only imagine what the view from the top must be like: looking down on all those little pieces just a little out of place, the dripping faucets, the grumbling and the frowns. Can't we all just get along?
Or maybe it's time for us to get along down the road. Whatever time Mister Smith might spend in purgatory will be lessened by his stint in Oakland. His resume now includes four years of service in California's most improved urban school district. At this moment I am reminded of all the times that I have said goodbye to colleagues with whom I have spent time in the educational trenches. I invariably tell them that I am of two minds, the professional part that wishes that they would stick around and see how things turn out, and the personal which wonders what took them so long to figure out how thankless a job they had lucked themselves into. And that's when I give them the hearty handshake and the "vaya con dios." Good luck in the Windy City, Tony.