Antwan Wilson (Denver Public Schools)
Antwan Wilson (Denver Public Schools)

OAKLAND -- The school board Wednesday night approved a four-year contract for a new superintendent, Antwan Wilson, who will start his job July 1.

The vote to approve Wilson, an assistant superintendent at Denver Public Schools, came amid a handful of complaints about the closed selection process. The process was different from the one used to pick the last permanent superintendent, Tony Smith, whose interview process in 2009 was open to the public.

Wilson takes over from interim Superintendent Gary Yee, who has held the top job in Oakland schools since July 1 of last year.

Spokesman Troy Flint said the school board chose a closed selection process this time around to encourage candidates who wouldn't want their current employers to know they were seeking another job.

The school board received about 20 serious applicants and chose to interview two. Also playing a big role in the interview process were eight student leaders from the school district's All City Council and two student school board members.

"I am very disappointed that the whole process was done in secret without the public having access to the candidate," said Oakland resident Mike Hutchinson during the public comment period before the board voted. "We still haven't even met the new superintendent. How is a community supposed to buy into the process when we weren't allowed in the selection process?"

Board members defended their selection process.

"When I sat and reviewed applications, I did it on behalf of the 56,000 people I represent," said board member Jody London. "I appreciate this is a very different process than what we had five years ago. I apologize we couldn't invite everyone in, but that is what we are elected to do."

Board member James Harris said, "I believe with all my heart this man is going to lead us in a positive direction. I feel like we had the weight of the city on us. I don't want anyone to think we took this lightly or that we tried to make decisions in closed doors. We took the (criticism) that 'you're doing this in private' so that we could get the best and the brightest for you."

Contact Doug Oakley at 925-234-1699. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.