The Berkeley Unified School District moved quickly to fill the gap left by the resignation of outgoing Deputy Superintendent Glenston Thompson, bringing back the man Thompson himself replaced a year ago.
Late last week, BUSD Superintendent Michele Lawrence announced that Eric Smith would return to the district on Sept. 1 to resume his duties as deputy superintendent, with an emphasis on finances and operations. District sources said that Thompson chose to voluntarily leave that position to return to the private sector effective Aug. 3, choosing not to request renewal of his one-year contract.
Smith holds a master’s degree in public administration from California State University Stanislaus, and has worked for the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), the legislature-created organization charged with overseeing many of California’s public school systems, including BUSD.
During his first one-year tenure with the district that ended in May of 2004, Smith was credited with helping to erase BUSD’s $6.5 million deficit and getting the district out of the red for the first time in three years. Lawrence credited him with saving the district between $2 million and $3 million by fine-tuning systems and changing outdated business practices.
In March of 2004, Smith announced that he was leaving the district because of a family emergency involving his two children that required him to relocate to another part of the state. “It’s purely personal,” he told the Daily Planet at the time.
School Board Director Shirley Issel called Smith’s departure “a tremendous loss for the district.”
In her statement announcing Smith’s rehiring, Lawrence expressed confidence in Smith.
“I feel certain that our progress on many issues can continue without disruption and flourish under his leadership,” she said. “Eric is considered by his peers as one of the five best chief business officials in the state. In addition to his extensive knowledge of all aspects of school district operations, he is recognized as an expert in school facilities finance and construction.”