A Partnership Between the Superintendent and Principals

By Ashley Martin

My name is Ashley Martin, and I am an Oakland resident, a former Oakland teacher, and a current Oakland Unified School District principal. I am OUSD.

In the School Board’s selection of a new superintendent, I believe we need a leader who values and creates structures around seeking the opinion and perspective of principals in system level decision making. Principals are a key point of contact for the day-to-day realities for students, families and staff.  The success of our new Superintendent will be dependent on his/her ability to collectively engage principals in problem solving for challenges faced across the district.

Aligning Around District Priorities

I want OUSD to be successful, and I believe a key element of the district’s success relies on a close partnership with site leaders. Principal involvement in the conception of district initiatives helps the organization and school sites maintain focus on outcomes for students.  Alternatively, when central office staff operate without principal input and feedback, we are at risk of taking on too many initiatives, lacking successful implementation, and failing to produce results for our students.

I want OUSD to be successful, and I believe a key element of the district’s success relies on a close partnership with site leaders. Principal involvement in the conception of district initiatives helps the organization and school sites maintain focus on outcomes for students.

Principal Voice and Engagement

There is a challenge and opportunity to engage principals meaningfully.  The challenge is that when principal feedback and input are inconsistently sought out, site leaders can get stuck in their our own context and think only about how decisions impact their school site rather than thinking about the big picture and how it affects all schools and all students.  

The opportunity is that when principals are engaged in system-level problem solving it helps develop a culture of systems-level thinkers.  When principals are invited to understand district-wide challenges, they gain a deeper appreciation for the difficulty of managing a district and their site level perspective can help the district make the best possible decisions for students.

Superintendent Candidate Questions

The selection of our new Superintendent represents an opportunity to hire a district leader who values a partnership with OUSD Principals.  If I could interview Superintendent candidates, I would target a series of my questions to assess for the following values:

  • How will you create structures for principal voice – including structures for principals to help shape and guide the development and implementation of initiatives?
  • How will central office be organized to work in service of school sites – routinely receiving feedback from site leaders on how their work is impacting student achievement?
  • How will you encourage principals to speak up and share their candid opinions with the goal of developing a partnership of trust between the Superintendent and site leaders?

If I had the opportunity to speak with our incoming superintendent, I would let that person know that OUSD principals are ready to engage with the central office in helping develop and implement the district’s key priorities.  We want to be partners in the work and provide ongoing feedback on how those initiatives are making a difference for students. Our main goal is getting kids ready for college and career and we are here to make that happen with you.  Let’s get to work!


Ashley Martin began her educator career as a teacher at Acorn Woodland Elementary, where she participated in the school transformation process that resulted in Acorn being named a California distinguished school in 2012.  In 2013, she became the Principal of Hoover Elementary.  Ashley lives in Oakland, with hopes that one day when she has kids they will be Oakland Public school students.  

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