Some people say that the superintendent's job is impossible, but I considered it an honor to be asked to lead the Oakland Public Schools.
During the six months following Tony Smith's departure, I've had a chance to visit 50 schools, and I'm continually reminded of what important work we all do: those at schools, those at the central office who support them, and our students, parents and community.
The board's priorities, and mine, have always been improving the quality of education and the social experience for every child in our schools.
That means completing the implementation of the district's five-year strategic plan: "Community Schools, Thriving Students."
And, when necessary, it means making tough decisions because business as usual is not in the best interest of our students.
I want to share with you four key elements that you may have heard about that, together, will provide the levers for positive change we all want:
1. Implementation of the Common Core State Standards: California is one of 45 states to adopt these standards for English language arts and mathematics that are aligned to the high expectations and rigorous curriculum at the heart of our college and career-ready strategic plan.
2. Applying the new state local control funding formula: For the first time, a portion of state funding will be determined by selected characteristics of the student population, such as poverty levels and the number of English language learners and foster students in a given district.
This will almost certainly provide significant additional dollars to Oakland and increased support for students who need it.
The state's accountability requirements with local control funding have not yet been given to school districts, but we are very excited to see California embrace a vision of equity that aligns so closely with our strategic plan.
3. Implementing voluntary resolution plan: We are accelerating our strategic plan initiatives to address disproportionate discipline of African-American males and creative, more positive academic, career and social outcomes for the black male population.
These efforts are spearheaded by the Office of African-American Male Achievement with districtwide support. While we focus additional resources to improve the fortunes of Oakland's African-American male students this will benefit students across the board.
4. C.O.R.E. waiver from No Child Left Behind: Along with seven other California districts, Oakland was approved to be able to waive the No Child Left Behind federal policy. The waiver helps us connect reform strategies, assessment systems, and evaluation of schools, teachers and curriculum with our goal of high quality instruction, focused on the Common Core, in every classroom.
We know we have a long way to go to reach our goals, but we can succeed through planning, greater collaboration, higher efficiency and more precise execution.
There are hurdles to overcome, but we have the right team to ensure that continuous improvement will be evident, not only in what we do and how we do it, but also in how we explain the difficult choices we make in the service of children.
I invite you to join us as we work toward the day when every OUSD student will graduate prepared for college, career, community and life.
Gary Yee is interim superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District.