OAKLAND — Barbara Adams hasn't been a superintendent, but she knows a thing or two about urban education.

A career educator, she has served in various capacities — deputy superintendent, principal, special education teacher and intern — in Boston, Portland, Ore., Atlanta and various Bay Area districts, including West Contra Costa and San Mateo.

Adams, 61, most recently was the chief academic officer for Boston Public Schools, a post she had held since 2008. But this spring, when she returned to her home in Foster City to be with her husband, who had undergone surgery, she decided to stay in the Bay Area.

"We were really fortunate to get Barbara," said Carol Johnson, superintendent of Boston Public Schools. "We hate to see her leave."

Johnson described Adams as knowledgeable, experienced and skillful at using student achievement data to improve teaching. She said Adams put in place a newcomers academy for late-arriving immigrant students. Adams also began a common writing assignment program to analyze instruction across the district's schools.

"I would say that Barbara's administrative style is as a teacher," she said. "She's always trying to bring research to bear and to help people use data."

Adams said she was impressed by the progress the Oakland school district had made despite the tumult surrounding the fiscal crisis and state takeover.

"I see that structures have been put in place," she said. "That's what excites me. Most places that are struggling with student achievement are still tinkering around with the structure."


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She added, "The next step is to look at what's happening in the classroom."

Katy Murphy covers education. Reach her at 510-208-6424 or kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read her Oakland schools blog and post comments at www.ibabuzz.com/education.

Barbara Adams
  • Age: 61
  • Education: Master's degree in administration, planning and social policy, Harvard, 2004; master's in reading and learning disabilities, Western Oregon State University, 1972; bachelor's in education and history, Mundelein College-Loyola University, 1970.
  • Experience: Chief academic officer for Boston Public Schools, 2008 to April 2009; cabinet-level administrator at Portland Public Schools, 2005 to 2008; regional superintendent in West Contra Costa School District, 2000 to 2003; previously a principal and special education teacher in San Mateo and Portland, Ore.