After a searching for a year and a half, the school board of the Berkeley Unified School District voted unanimously to name Donald Evans as the new superintendent of the district last week.
Evans, who is currently the superintendent of Hayward Unified School District, will replace his predecessor, Bill Huyett, on July 1. Edmond Heatley, the previous candidate, withdrew his candidacy following concerns about his views against same-sex marriage.
Having worked in education for 26 years, Evans has held positions at East Palo Alto High School and Compton Unified School District. While at Hayward, he helped pass a local parcel tax to improve the transparency of principal performance and increase communal collaboration in other districts.
“His career ticks off all the boxes we think are important,” said Karen Hemphill, the president of the school board. “He’s taught for a long time, worked with kids who have struggled and worked with families of all incomes.”
As associate superintendent of secondary education at Compton Unified School District, Evans helped reduce truancy and expulsion rates. California Standardized Testing scores in both math and English rose by an average of 11 percent at district middle schools during his time.
One of the biggest challenges Berkeley school officials said Evans will face is closing the district’s racial achievement gap. In a 2012 study by the city of Berkeley, 91.4 percent of white students from grades two to 11 scored proficient or above on an English language test, but only 43.6 percent of African Americans 56.6 percent of Latinos scored at the same level.
Hemphill says she is confident that Evans will continue to push programs such as the 2020 Vision Project, an endeavor to eliminate race as a significant factor in predictability of academic performance in Berkeley schools.
“The fact that he just in January submitted an African achievement plan for Hayward district shows to us this is something he really cares about,” Hemphill said.
Former colleagues who have previously worked with Evans also say he is prepared for the job.
“Berkeley will probably be a very good fit for him,” said Lisa Brunner, a member of the school board for Hayward Unified School District. “They always have been a communal, collaborative kind of district … Some people just say I, I, I. Evans has always been a ‘we’ person.”
In the push for passing Hayward’s Measure G parcel tax, which maintained critical funding for the district, Evans went door-to-door with pamphlets, said Brunner. Evans also increased transparency by implementing principal evaluations and regular town hall meetings open to the community.
“He tends to run an open administration, and we’re looking for open communication,” said Tom Killilea, PTA president for the district.