Watch video highlights of Superintendent Wilson's Introductory Press Conference:
To the Students, Families, Partners, and Team Members of the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD):
On my first day as the Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), I want to take a moment to share that it is my honor and privilege to serve this tremendous city and to work on behalf of its students! I want to extend my deep appreciation for the warm and sincere welcome that so many of you have already provided me during my initial visits to Oakland. I am struck by the strong interests in the success of our schools shown by so many people. It is important that this interest remains and we all now begin to work together in the interests of the students and their long-term success. It is important that our focus is on working to make Oakland a district where our students succeed in school and grow into well-rounded young people. It is important that our schools are safe places where students are engaged, challenged to meet college and career standards, and encouraged to have fun and build productive and sustaining relationships. We must work to ensure that Every Student Thrives!
As I transition into Oakland, I am filled with both excitement and eagerness for our awesome potential, as well as respect and humility for the foundation built by leaders and educators before me. Additionally I am focused on providing leadership that positions our district to be the premiere urban school district in the country. As a result of interactions with OUSD stakeholders over the past several weeks, I can see our pathway toward becoming an exceptional public school system that leads the nation in educating the whole child while preparing our students for college and career success. Thank you for welcoming me to the Oakland family and giving me the opportunity to serve as a partner, a colleague, a friend, and a leader!
Over the past 60 years, the city has been the epicenter and at the forefront of major civil rights and social justice movements throughout the country. This is a place for activists and actions that demand equity across the lines that often divide us. As we embark on this journey together, it is important that we find common ground ensuring that every child receives a quality education that stimulates and motivates them and prepares them to be college and career ready, as well as productive world citizens. Schools should be safe places where our children are challenged, where they grow into young adults, and where they have fun. We must work together to ensure that we provide these experiences for the young people of Oakland. This work is also a social justice issue that Oakland must lead the nation in addressing on behalf of young people in our city.
Now it is important that we build on past improvements, such as increasing school autonomy, the voluntary resolution plan, community schools, and school choice to implement a vision where Every Student Thrives! One of Oakland’s greatest strengths, its diversity, is also one of its most complex challenges. Similar to other major urban centers, OUSD has the puzzle of building upon extraordinary successes, (e.g. distinguished schools, national blue ribbon winners, state-recognized instructors), while also facing persistent struggles, (e.g. under-performing and under-enrolled schools often impacting populations that have the greatest need). The fact of the matter is that in order for us to be great and meet our full potential, we must ensure that all of us are successful. It is this challenge that inspires me to be a warrior on a team of warriors – to fight for all students and families across the hills and slopes and heartlands, from east to central to west Oakland, at 98th & International and Adeline & Grand, at Mountain & Thornhill and Fruitvale & MacArthur.
I strongly believe that success is best achieved through strong and determined leadership working in partnership with members of a team. In my first visits with the Oakland community, I am impressed with the knowledge, skills, and talents that abound at schools, in district departments, and with the community partnerships. I see smart teachers and principals who work hard to serve their students and parents. I see central leaders asking how they can serve schools better. I see community leaders facilitating the push and pull work of supporting OUSD while holding them accountable to the community’s needs. Looking across the landscape, it is an exceptional team that may not always agree on everything, but shares the common goal of building a full service community district that supports full service community schools to ensure that Every Student Thrives!
A few months ago, as I turned to the final page of Community Schools, Thriving Students, I thought, “This is an extraordinary vision, an ambitious plan, and there is nothing here that I disagree with. And that’s unusual.” Moments later, thinking ahead to actual implementation, I thought, “If we are to be successful, we must prioritize and not try to do everything at once.” To try to lift everything at once as the top priority would in fact mean that we get nothing done at a high quality. Part of what makes the top organizations great is that they have a clear vision and a narrow set of priorities that they work to accomplish to ensure that they are successful. Put simply, they are clear about who they are, who they are not, where they are going, and how to get there. They know what winning looks like. This is important work that we must also do on behalf of our students in Oakland. As we do this work we will allow ourselves to be smarter tomorrow than we are today. As new information presents itself we will use it to make the best decisions on behalf of our students.
As I begin to design my first 100 days, I’m thinking about how to enter the Community Schools, Thriving Students expedition in 2014 and what the work towards our vision looks like for success in 2020. How do we take the wide scope of strategies, initiatives, and hard work – and focus on the few things that we need to do well right now and over the next 5 years? How do we develop our scope and sequence of “getting it right” and building on top of a strong foundation? How do we come together with a focus on school quality, on improving our culture, making progress towards acting upon a common definition for community schools, on nurturing positive relationships with community, and supporting our student's growth partnering with our families? These are questions I'm contemplating amongst others... because I know we can do it! I am unwilling to entertain the idea that our students are not capable, that we can't be successful. We need to win in Oakland! To this end, I will be sharing a Transition Plan that will outline the work I'll be engaged in over the next 100 days, culminating in a roadmap for implementing our strategic plan. This strategic roadmap will detail my plans for reorganization of the district to implement a narrow set of priorities aimed to move us towards a vision of Every Student Thrives!
Once again, I want to offer my deep gratitude to all of you for giving me the opportunity to lead and work beside you. I have spent the last couple decades fighting to create the best educational opportunities for all students, getting deep into the toughest schools and classrooms to turn them around. This determination has grown from a personal experience of having to work hard to achieve what has come to me. I hate to lose and I hope you do, too. A few weeks ago, a young person in Oakland asked me: “What made you want to come to Oakland?” And my reply: “Why not Oakland? Oakland has much to offer. Our country needs Oakland to succeed! If we can make Oakland what it can and should be, then what’s the excuse for any other city not to get it done for our nations children?” I look forward to working with you to make success happen.