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Oakland Superintendent of Public Schools, Dr. Tony Smith, Inspires Partnerships for Building Full-Service Neighborhood Schools

The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce hosted a power breakfast on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 that featured Superintendent of the Oakland Public School District, Dr. Tony Smith. Eight SMU staff members attended the event at a table sponsored by the University.

Dr. Smith spoke to a room of Oakland business, education, non-profit, and government leaders and community advocates who within minutes were transfixed by his vision and passion for radical change to build a full-service community school district where every Oakland neighborhood has its own high-quality school. Participants were challenged to engage, volunteer and create excitement within their workplace.

“Pound the rock!” Introduced by Brian Rogers of the Rogers Family Foundation, the rock metaphor was shared because of how it both recalls the tradition of football (Smith’s past as a UC Berkeley football captain) and symbolizes how Dr. Smith comes to his work. “Lean into it.”  “Love the grind.”  The inspiration to join the effort to make Oakland schools better is all about doing the hard work, not standing by the sidelines.

Dr. Smith began his position in 2009, the District’s first permanent, locally-appointed Superintendent since 2003. He is a veteran of the Bay Area education reform movement and a champion for equity in schools.  Before his tenure in Oakland, Smith served in the Unified School Districts of San Francisco and Emeryville.  A graduate of UC Berkeley, he received his BA in English, and a MA and PhD in the Graduate School of Education.

As he told the story of how over a dozen Oakland school kids were murdered last year –our community’s children – you could have heard a penny drop. Poignant and practical, Tony Smith compels us to pound the rock bit by bit, because Oakland’s children deserve schools that care and nurture, and adults, beyond the parents, who are present and actively supportive.  Dr. Smith ended by reading a poem that he had written, calling the question: who is responsible for ensuring that every child in Oakland receives the education they deserve? It is his, it is ours. 

The Samuel Merritt University team thanked Dr. Smith for his leadership and inspiration, and expressed the commitment to partner with the Oakland School District for encouraging pathways to colleges and universities.

Pictured above: Alejandro Rodriguez, Margrette Peterson, Dr. Tony Smith, Stephanie Bangert, John Garten-Shuman.