Berkeley superintendent Brent Stephens finds new job leading Lafayette School District

The day after his contract expires at Berkeley Unified, Stephens will take over as Lafayette’s superintendent.

BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens speaks onstage at the Committee for Berkeley Public Schools watch party at Spats in Downtown Berkeley.
BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens speaks onstage at the Committee for Berkeley Public Schools watch party at Spats in Downtown Berkeley. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Berkeley Unified Superintendent Brent Stephens, who announced in February that he would be leaving the district at the end of the year, has found a new job as the leader of a neighboring school district.

Stephens will take over as the new superintendent of Lafayette School District in Contra Costa County beginning July 1. His three-year contract at BUSD expires June 30.

“I’m excited to join the Lafayette community,” Stephens said in a press release, calling Lafayette “a well-regarded district.” “I honor the values that I see in Lafayette: high expectations, support for each student to grow in a nurturing environment, and strong community bonds.”

Stephens told Berkeleyside in February that he was leaving BUSD in order to spend more time with his wife and teenage daughter.

“This decision is really a personal one,” he said at the time his departure was announced. “It’s about prioritizing family and thinking about the value of time, having not had a lot for a few years.”

Rob Sturm, Lafayette school board president, said Stephens was the superior candidate applying for the district’s superintendent position.

“The appointment process underscored that Lafayette is unquestionably a destination district, as it produced many worthy applicants,” Sturn said. “One candidate, however, clearly stood out in all respects.”

In a press release announcing Stephens’ new position, Lafayette School District cited Stephens’ successes in Berkeley, including his role guiding BUSD’s pandemic response, the $380 million school construction bond passed by Berkeley voters in March 2020, and Stephens’ efforts to raise teachers salaries and retain teachers of color, among other achievements.

Stephens will take over the post from Richard Whitmore, who has been superintendent in Lafayette since 2018.

Meanwhile, Berkeley Unified’s own search for a new superintendent is just beginning. The Berkeley school board held its first meeting on the superintendent search process March 10.

The next six weeks will consist of community engagement and recruitment and the school board will start interviewing candidates April 30. A community survey is open through March 25. The school board will select the next superintendent in the first two weeks of May and approve the contract in early June.

Ally Markovich covers education for Berkeleyside. Email: ally@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: allymarkovich.