We’re offerring a piece by our retired teacher comrade Jack Gerson on the “legacy” of Tony Smith, the now resigned superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District. We will be posting more on this soon. Please send comments and suggestions.
Tony Smith: What He Did to Oakland, What He’ll Try in Chicago
By Jack Gerson April 6, 2013
On April 4, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Superintendent Tony Smith gave notice that he was resigning effective June 30 and relocating his family to Chicago to be near his ailing father-in-law. There is little doubt that Smith will soon be a visible presence in Chicago education – quite possibly the next CEO of Chicago Public Schools. It is important for Chicago teachers and community to know just who they are likely to be dealing with – and to those fighting back against the corporate education agenda elsewhere too,
given the importance of the struggle in Chicago.
My guess is that Tony Smith’s job in Chicago will be to break or weaken the powerful alliance between teachers, students, parents and community so evident during and after last September’s teacher strike. There are few who can match him when it comes to talking about the importance of neighborhood schools providing wraparound services to combat the effects of poverty; to recruiting, rewarding, and retaining good teachers; to stimulate authentic learning based on concepts and creativity rather than skill-based rote learning; to provide all the resources that teachers need to teach and students need to learn; to acknowledge and work to overcome racism and its effects; to forge real authentic collaboration between faculty, staff, community, students, parents, and administration; to crack down on mismanagement, excess administrative overhead, and needless outsourcing; etc. For that is exactly what he did when he was appointed superintendent in Oakland four years ago. He talked so well, in fact, that even some skeptics were willing to suspend disbelief and give him a shot.
But in Oakland, it was just talk. Continue reading