The Berkeley Unified School Board Wednesday voted unanimously to appoint Brent Stephens as the district’s new superintendent. Stephens will be paid $239,000 in the first year of his three-year contract.
Stephens, 48, the Chief Academic Officer of the San Francisco Unified School District, was named as the likely new superintendent last month, pending a visit to his district and contract negotiations.
He will take up the position on July 1, replacing Donald Evans, who announced in January that he’d retire from the role, after leading the district for six years.
“We are confident that he has the right combination of skills and experience to move our District forward and fulfill our mission to enable and inspire our diverse student body to achieve academic excellence and make positive contributions to our community and our world,” board vice president Beatriz Leyva-Cutler said in a press release.
Stephens, who was born in Canada, grew up in the U.S. and now lives in Oakland, was the longtime chief academic officer for SFUSD, leading a $70 million division and overseeing curriculum and instruction there. In February, however, in a surprise move, the San Francisco School Board declined to renew his contract.
The new superintendent was at Wednesday’s board meeting and made a few remarks after the confirmation. He thanked the board, and mentioned its determination “to do due diligence in a way I was not prepared for.” He said he would try to visit all schools before end of school year, and then do a listening tour to learn about the community once he’s on the job. He cited three touchstones: “empathy and listening,” “family empowerment,” and “working together [so] we can accomplish wonderful things on behalf of all students.”
Stephens’ reference to the board’s due diligence apparently referred to four days of interviews and meetings between Stephens and various stakeholders in Berkeley, followed by three days where board members, school district officials and parents met with counterparts in San Francisco.
“We were told we were getting a real gem,” said BUSD director Ka’Dijah Brown, recalling her visit with director Julie Sinai to members of the SFUSD board.
In the prepared statement put out by BUSD Wednesday night, SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews. said: “Dr. Stephens is an excellent leader and learner, and he has a wonderful, engaging personality. I am confident he will be an extremely successful superintendent in Berkeley.” And Laticia Erving, a SFUSD parent and the staff liaison to SFUSD’s African American Parent Advisory Council, said: “He has been a champion for African-American students in SFUSD. We are going to miss Dr. Stephens.”