Public Comment

Commentary: A First Look at New School Superintendent

By Julie Holcomb
Friday December 28, 2007

I was pleased to accompany our school board on an excursion on December 18, to visit the Lodi Unified School District to learn about their superintendent, Bill Huyett. It’s a large and diverse school district, with over 31,000 students (36 percent Hispanic, 17 percent Asian, 9 percent African American, 30 percent white) and 51 school sites. By comparison, BUSD has about 9000 students (17 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Asian, 29 percent African American, 30 percent white, 16 percent mixed or decline to state), and 16 school sites. 

Lodi does not have a parcel tax like our BSEP, which we passed as Measure A last fall (2006), but they do have a school bond for which they have a citizens’ oversight committee. I was able to meet with several parents, including two who had chaired that committee, and they gave me their full assurance that Superintendent Huyett regards transparency and community oversight as essential to fulfilling and maintaining the trust of the voters, and that he is scrupulous in meeting that obligation. Our school parcel tax promises Berkeley voters not only rigorous oversight to guarantee that funds are spent according to the purposes specified by the Measure; it also promises that there will be genuine community participation in planning how its funds will be spent, at school sites and at the district level, so I was very interested to find out how Superintendent Huyett views parent involvement and community participation. All of the parents I met spoke with real conviction about his genuine commitment to including parent and community members in decisions about their schools. They praised his openness to new ideas from any source, and his strong, involved, and collaborative leadership style. 

He also holds strong and deep beliefs in equity. This is a person who has taken a bold position on the urgency of eliminating the achievement gap in a politically conservative community, and demonstrated it in words, actions, and results. The data from the Lodi Unified School District show a diminishing achievement gap between white and Hispanic students, and between white and African American students, in both Math and English Language Arts, with all numerically significant groups showing increases in test scores every year for at least the last three years (the only years for which I saw data). In view of these impressive results, I asked parents if Superintendent Huyett might be narrowly focused on improving test scores at the expense of the arts in education, which we also value very highly in Berkeley. They assured me that that is not the case. They do have a music program in their schools (but parents must supply instruments), and they were unanimous in affirming that Superintendent Huyett values arts in education, and would be delighted with the resources available for the arts provided by Measure A, as well as the other community resources for arts education in our community.  

I congratulate the School Board on their excellent choice, and I congratulate Berkeley on our outstanding new Superintendent, Bill Huyett. Let’s welcome him into our community in a spirit of collaboration and shared commitment to the academic achievement and well-being of all our children. 


Julie Holcomb is co-chair of the BSEP/ Measure A Planning and Oversight Committee, and parent of two students in the BUSD.