OAKLAND — Tony Smith says there's only one job that could take him away from his cabinet-level position in the San Francisco Unified School District: the superintendent of Oakland's public schools.

Smith, 42, lives in Oakland. His oldest daughter, who is 6, will attend the district's high-performing Crocker Highlands Elementary in the fall.

"We're not going anywhere," he said. "This is where my kids are going to grow up."

In November 2007, San Francisco Unified Superintendent Carlos Garcia recruited Smith from his post as superintendent of the 800-student Emery school district, which he had held since 2004. Smith became San Francisco's deputy superintendent for instruction, innovation and social justice, a role created to address the school system's racial achievement gap.

Smith has never been a classroom teacher, but his administrative work has impressed Dennis Kelly, president of the 6,000-member San Francisco teachers union. Kelly described Smith as inclusive, respectful and efficient.

"I think Tony Smith is one of the best central office administrators I've ever worked with," Kelly said. "Tony is, in many ways, the soul behind the district's attempt to create goals and move beyond the talk, as they say."

With the budget challenges facing public education in California, Smith said, the Oakland school district will need to set clear priorities and be honest about the trade-offs. "In some ways, the ideology conversations are going to have to give way to very specific, detailed conversations about what's right for kids," he said.


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Garcia said Oakland would be fortunate to have someone of Smith's caliber, but joked that he is tempted to root for his deputy's rivals. "I selfishly would rather have him stay here," he said.

Tony Smith
  • AGE: 42
  • EDUCATION: Doctorate from UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education, 2002; bachelor's in English from UC Berkeley, 1992.
  • EXPERIENCE: San Francisco school district's deputy superintendent for instruction, innovation and social justice since November 2007; superintendent of Emery school district, 2004 to 2007; director of Emeryville Citywide Initiative and, previously, for the transitions project at the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools.