School & District Management

Oakland’s Beleaguered Superintendent To Resign

By Kerry A. White — April 21, 1999 2 min read
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Acceding to political pressure from California and city officials critical of the pace of reform in the Oakland schools, Superintendent Carole C. Quan announced her resignation last week.

Ms. Quan, 58, worked as a teacher and administrator in the district for 33 years before becoming the superintendent in September 1997. She was the first Asian-American woman to head the city’s school system.

Her departure, effective July 2, includes a cash settlement that will cover her $135,000 annual salary, accrued sick leave, and benefits she would have received if she had served the remainder of her contract, which was to expire in June 2000.

Ms. Quan did not return calls last week. But a district spokeswoman, Sue Piper, said that despite an outpouring of community support for Ms. Quan, “carrying this has been brutal for her.”

The superintendent had come under sharp criticism during the past several months for low student achievement and management troubles in the 54,000-student district. Since January, some school board members had openly sought her removal.

State lawmakers, meanwhile, have been considering legislation that would give recently elected Mayor Jerry Brown oversight of the city’s schools and the system’s $500 million annual budget. (“Oakland’s Jerry Brown Could Join Mayors With Power Over Schools,” March 3, 1999.)

Dan Siegel, a school board member elected last fall and one of Ms. Quan’s most vocal critics, characterized the past few months as “very difficult. There’s been a lot of public bloodletting.”

The superintendent’s announcement will allow the board, he said, “to search for a leader that will take the system out of the doldrums.”

Takeover Tabled

Ms. Quan’s April 13 resignation came one day before the education committee of the state Senate was scheduled to consider a plan that would give Mr. Brown, a prominent Democrat and former California governor, broad authority over the city schools.

But that plan, sponsored by state Sen. Don Perata, a Democrat whose district includes Oakland, was tabled last week.

With the prospects of a new superintendent and plans for an extensive state audit of the district’s finances, a spokesman for Mr. Perata said the senator “has no intention of moving the legislation right now.”

That’s just what Oakland school officials are hoping.

“We have raised the bar for everybody--students and staff. But it’s going to take time to meet new challenges,” Ms. Piper said. “We feel the same sense of urgency as everyone.”

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A version of this article appeared in the April 21, 1999 edition of Education Week as Oakland’s Beleaguered Superintendent To Resign

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