Berkeley school district superintendent announces retirement plans

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Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, Superintendent Donald Evans announced in a letter Thursday that he plans to retire, effective July 31. District school board members accepted his resignation letter at a meeting Thursday.

Before serving BUSD for six years, Evans served as superintendent of Hayward Unified School District. BUSD board clerk Ty Alper noted in an email Evans’ biggest contributions to BUSD: the creation of the “Universal 9th Grade” program at Berkeley High School, or BHS, and the passage of a parcel tax that keeps class sizes small. The ninth-grade program gives freshmen more time to decide which small learning community they want to join.

“Under his leadership, the district had a stronger focus on not only instruction but also socio-emotional support for our students,” said BUSD board Vice President Beatriz Leyva-Cutler in an email.

The decision to retire was not easy, according to Evans, who made his decision to spend more time with his family.

Student director and BHS senior Arvin Hariri said he was shocked and saddened by Evans’ announcement to retire. Hariri said Evans acted as a mentor to him and helped Hariri stay up to date on activities in the district.

“I want to thank him for all the work he’s done — not only in the district, but also for my personal growth,” Hariri said.

Evans believes he achieved the three goals he had when beginning at BUSD, according to the email. These goals included building the capacity of teachers by providing professional development and training, implementing professional learning communities and systematizing best practices.

“I want people to remember me as someone who was compassionate, caring and accessible. I tried to be one that listened and made good decisions based on research and facts,” Evans said.

Evans added, however, that his contributions throughout his time as superintendent did not result from him as an individual but rather his team and the larger community.

The BUSD board will decide the next steps in finding a new superintendent soon, according to Alper, who had no further updates to offer as of press time. Because Evans will remain superintendent for the rest of the academic year, Alper said there is “plenty of time” for a transition.

Leyva-Cutler said in an email that Evans held his students to high standards that carried over into his work as BUSD superintendent.

“The high expectations he had for his students are still the high expectations he holds in his work with our school district as Superintendent, the board, his staff and the community,” Leyva-Cutler said in the email. “To find solutions, to uphold the belief that everything is possible if we work together and to never forget that we want all of our children to be successful.”

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.