Tony Smith Leaves Oakland in Shambles

By Dylan Riley
Last Updated on

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Superintendent Tony Smith declared on April 4th, 2019 that he would be effectively resigning on June 30 in the hopes of relocating his family to Chicago. It would be a good move for him to take care of his ailing father-in-law.

That being said, it is no surprise that Tony Smith will be a visible presence in Chicago as well, fighting for their education system.

One also hopes that in all probability he will be the next CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Hence, it is important for the teacher body in Chicago to understand the magnitude of Smith’s presence especially during the kind of struggle the education system is already facing there.

Tony Smith’s shift to Chicago will weaken the strong bonding prevalent between the teachers, students, parents, and community all the more after last September’s teacher strike.

Not too many voices can match him in standing up for the rights of neighborhood schools to compensate for the poverty stricken quality of services being provided already.


Who Was Tony Smith?

tony smith of OUSD

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Smith stands up for the recruitment and rewarding of teachers, the indulgence of concept based learning, providing more resources for students and teachers alike to learn and grow and lessen the racism present between the teachers, students and the community as a whole.

He is also all in for rumbling down the management, in addition to the excess of administrative prowess. In his tenure as the Oakland superintendent 4 years back, this is all he did and this all he will be doing wherever he goes. He articulates his words in such a manner that even the skeptics would be willing to give him a shot.

Tony Smith graduated in 1992 from the University of California Berkeley. He used to be popular as the captain of the football team and further went on to get his masters and doctoral degrees in Education from the same university.

He was also one of the leaders of the Oakland-based Bay Area Coalition of Equitable Schools (BAYCES – now the National Equity Project) from the period of 1997-2004. BAYCES was heavily funded by the Gates Foundation at that time which promoted the “small school miracle”. This, in turn, led to the breakup of thousands of secondary schools in the nation.

The implementation of BAYCES shut down the Fremont, Castlemont and McClymonds High Schools’ libraries permanently. It further eliminated French teacher positions, the closing of fashion and culinary streams.

These were targeted for the city’s most poverty stricken areas where Black and Latino’s enrollments were plenty.

As a result, the enrollments decreased for these particular schools and led to the removal of charter school education in Oakland. From 1750 to fewer than 600 enrollments in Castlemont, 1000 to 250 in Clairemont and 2300 to 750 in Fremont – the charter school enrollment system crumbled in a matter of a month.

At that time, Tony Smith was the BAYCES leader till 2004 and shortly after, he ran the Emeryville, California schools till 2007.

In a matter of 5 years in 2012, he became the OUSD Superintendent.

He continued to maintain Ward’s Results Based Budgeting to target veteran teachers.

In 2012, he also declared the removal of classroom teacher policies in Castlemont, McClymonds and Fremont.

Instead, they will be teachers assigned for special projects. This move was ill-conceived and was as poorly constructed as the breakup system. It led to the draining of all school resources and in a way compelled all the teachers to reapply for their jobs in these 3 schools every year.

The success of the school was not predominantly dependent on the size itself. The breakup of the schools thanks to BAYES was destructive for the education system as a whole.


Few Milestones Achieved by Tony Smith

All the hopes raised by Smith years back were crumpled by his own doing. The following is a preview of his false talk:

  • Smith shut down at least 5 neighborhood schools last June to combat the difference in size, school enrollments, and other criteria. A group of parents also arrange a sit in at Lakeview Elementary school to object to the same, however, they were driven away by the cops thanks to Smith.
  • Smith removed the whole idea of wraparound services two years ago by gutting Adult Education. 25,000 students had come in 2009 and were entirely wiped out. He also made some cuts to the Early Child Education program and removed counselors from the District’s largest high school. Surprisingly, the new services introduced by him were based on money borrowed from friends and family.
  • The fight to combat racism did not work as well. The majority and minority enrollment in these schools had just four Black and one Latino entry. The openness to their enrollment has sadly become more segregated thanks to Smith.
  • The struggle to regulate the mismanagement under Smith only doubled everything under the OUSD including doubling the administrative overhead and outsourcing contracts compared to the average California school district.

In a surprising turn of events, Smith was also seen quoting that he would not care at all if all schools in Oakland were charter schools. Even though the Oakland teachers were underpaid off late, Smith’s entry guaranteed a good 6% raise for all of them.

Tony Smith is a rising superstar for all teachers and students in Oakland and his new journey to Chicago will also see him as a hero in uplifting public school education. His divide and conquer strategy was backfiring on him in Oakland and people had started witnessing that irrespective of his ideas. Although he might be looking to move out, one cannot overrule the reality of his father-in-law’s actual health problems.