New Schools Chief Takes Office

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday February 05, 2008

Bill Huyett, Berkeley’s new superintendent of schools, began his first day in the district with the most tedious of tasks: moving in. 

According to other district employees, Huyett—who was superintendent of the Lodi Unified School District before taking over from Berkeley Unified School District superintendent Michele Lawrence Monday—had a steady flow of managers and other district staff dropping into his office all morning even in the midst of all the unpacking. 

“He took a moment to stick his head into the conference room where negotiations with BCCE—one of the district’s five unions—were taking place,” said district public information officer Mark Coplan. “He also had a chance to meet a few of the parents and community members as they passed through the building on business.” 

Huyett did not return calls from the Planet. 

“He’s extremely busy,” Amber Spencer, assistant to the superintendent, told the Planet Monday afternoon. “I think it is going very well because I have heard laughter coming from his office all day.” 

In an earlier interview with the paper, Huyett had vowed to fight Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to slash K-12 funding by $400 million this year and $4.4 billion in 2008-09. 

“But I won’t let that take away time from other things, such as visiting the students in their classrooms,” he said. 

Huyett also faces major challenges: closing the student achievement gap, the controversy over relocating the warm water pool from the Berkeley High School Old Gym and increasing classroom space for high school students. 

Although the Lodi Unified School District is three times the size of Berkeley, it is predominantly rural. The district was created in 1967 when voters approved a measure to merge 18 elementary districts and a union high school district serving the cities of Stockton and Lodi. 

Michele Lawrence, who retired Friday as Berkeley’s superintendent, spent a good part of her last week at the annual Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Superintendent’s Conference in Monterey.  

In the tradition of all retiring superintendents, she was recognized for her service to California public schools at the conference.  

ACSA also named Lawrence Superintendent of the Year for Region VI, which represents 1,300 school administrators in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.