HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD | In the midst of Dr. Donald Evans's likely departure as Hayward's superintendent of schools for the same job in Berkeley, he produced a short presentation Saturday to a meager attendance of just a few dozen, many district staff or elected officials, on the district’s vision and progress.
The town hall comes at an odd time for Evans. He recently was announced as a finalist for the superintendent of Berkeley Unified School District; therefore any vision he lays out now he wont likely be around to help further implement. Evans offered no reason for seeking a new position. “They’re personal reasons,” Evans told The Citizen.
Evans may not say why he is leaving, but the district had previously been plagued by turmoil over an affair between two former board members and controversial dismissals of some of its principals. Also despite Evans’s efforts to highlight positives of the district Saturday, it still remains one of the lowest performing in the county and is still racked with financial issues. Evans only spent a mere 18 months with the district before deciding to seek employment elsewhere.
But Evans pressed on with his town hall. He claimed that Hayward’s school district has been missing a vision for years and recently offered a clear path to better education in the district. “Students will be prepared, challenged and motivated in a 21st century learning environment that develops the physical, intellectual and emotional success of all learners,” said Evans. The three R’s are the common principles of the district’s vision, Rigor, Responsibility and Results.
Evans said new instructional framework, dual language immersion programs and school district learning academies, like last Summer’s Algebra Academy or the CAHSEE Academy, helped create a college preparation environment for students. Evans talked results highlighting the district’s rise in Academic Performance Index (API) scores since 2008 for 10 schools. He also praised the district for being positively certified for its budget, meaning the district can pay its bills this year, although deficit spending still remains a major issue with the board.
Evans noted the negative impression of Hayward’s schools without pointing fingers at anyone but asked for the community to accentuate the positive. “We like to talk about the negative a lot, but we need to celebrate the positive things happening” said Evans enthusiastically. The superintendent wouldn’t elaborate on who he was referring, but Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney has been one of the more caustic critics of the district over the past few years..
The mayor recently railed against Hayward’s schools for still being the worst performing in the district despite the slight uptick in API scores. Sweeney said because of the dismal API scores the value of Hayward’s houses are kept low. “Your homes could be worth $100K more!” exclaimed Sweeney at his State of the City address earlier this year. “We’re the lowest performing school district in Alameda County. This is a big problem.”
One attendee, Kirk Williams, a PTA member, criticized the district’s Youth Enrichment Program heavily. He called it, “glorified paid babysitting,” and how he has to correct the tutor’s misinformation provided to his kids when they return home. “I gotta spend three hours re-teaching them everything they were just taught because it's wrong,” said Williams. Evans offered no response, but Lisa Brunner, a school board member, offered defense to the program saying that some schools have better mentoring programs than others. However, Board President William McGee agreed full heartily with Williams. “He’s right, it’s completely broken and we need to do something to fix it.”
Even though Evans wanted to highlight the positive aspects of the district, like increased API scores, better budget management or staff recognition rewards, Williams said he thinks the district spends too much time celebrating one small victory, like a high-scoring child, rather than paying attention to a rash of other problems that signal a broken system. “It’s like we celebrate the one kid who eats asparagus over eating ice cream but the nine other kids are still eating ice cream,” said Williams. McGee agreed with this. Evans will give his second town hall this Saturday.