The Oakland Unified School District board appointed Gary Yee as acting superintendent during its regular Wednesday meeting, a move that brings to an end his 10-year tenure as a board member.

The 6-0 vote to appoint Yee took less than a minute. He will take over as district chief July 1, a day after current Superintendent Tony Smith leaves to be with his family in Chicago.

The OUSD board now has 60 days to decide how to fill the empty District 4 trustee seat.

Yee apologized to the voters of District 4, who elected him three times to serve on the board, adding that he is just beginning to appreciate the enormity of his decision to accept the appointment.

Instead of setting policy he will now be responsible for running the sprawling district.

"I want to you to hold me responsible," he told his former board members after the vote. "Hold me accountable for acting with integrity."

Yee began his career in public education in 1973 as a third-grade teacher at Cleveland Elementary School in Oakland and has a long track record, including serving as assistant to the superintendent from 1992 to 1995.

In 2008, Yee retired from the Peralta Community College District as vice chancellor for educational services.

He was elected November 2002 to represent Oakland Unified District 4. By January, when he was sworn in, it became clear the Oakland district faced a crushing debt that led to a state takeover.


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Now the challenges, according to Yee, include improving the quality of the district's high schools, settling labor contracts, resolving the future of the ruined administrative building and implementing the quality review process.

"We're getting our stride little by little and Gary Yee is part of that," OUSD board member Rosie Torres said. Accepting responsibility for the district is a sacrifice, she added. "But it's a sacrifice well worth it."

The board will have to decide on Yee's compensation and whether his replacement will be selected by the board or chosen through a special election run by Alameda County. OUSD board members will launch the search for a permanent superintendent in September.

Few had critical words for Yee. But Mike Hutchinson, a former District 5 board candidate, criticized the process for appointing Yee, especially given his record of voting to close schools and imposing a contract on teachers.

"It's very worrisome," Hutchinson said. "We want an open process."