Friday, November 25, 2016

Start Again

"I am writing with some bittersweet news..." This is how the letter began. It was enough. I knew that since it came from out district's superintendent how the rest of it would read: "Blah blah blah opportunity blah blah blah continue the work we have blah blah blah I know that blah blah blah." And so the reign ends. Another Oakland Unified School District superintendent packs it in. He will not be finishing out the year. He will be loading up the U-Haul and heading for his happy waiting employment elsewhere in February. 
He was very conciliatory in his parting remarks, praising us for our efforts in supporting his regime and its goals. According to his letter, delivered while we were all on Thanksgiving break, our students "are now better positioned to succeed than in any other year in Oakland’s recent history." Good news, but oddly reminiscent of the parting shot our last superintendent left us with just a couple of years ago. I don't really need someone who has barely warmed a chair here to tell me to keep up the good fight in Oakland. I have been doing just that for two decades. I have seen leaders and their agendas come and go in that time. Mostly go. 
Please understand that I wish our outgoing superintendent all the best. He is heading to our nation's capitol, where I am certain the issues of achievement and equity will need his constant attention. He will continue what we all recognize as "the good fight," while the powers that be left in his Oakland wake will be starting yet another in a long series of searches for just the right fit for our little corner of heaven. Two and a half years ago, our outgoing superintendent was the product of just such a search. And so it begins again. 
Meanwhile, I try and remember that kind of September when things were slow and oh so mellow and when we weren't looking for a new head of this or executive in charge of that. The head of technology just left a month ago. The supervisor of educational technology just before that. And the head of special education somewhere in there. This kind of body count is more acceptable in a slasher movie than it is in an urban school district. 
I find myself wondering not "what's wrong with our district," but "what's wrong with me?" While others have been climbing over and around me to get to the career to which they aspire, I have held on to the spot where I landed back in 1997. Tight. While the rest of the firmament shifted and twisted around me, I stayed put. Now the earth tilts again and the seating chart needs to be torn up and started over. Again. Bittersweet? For whom?

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