Berkeley Schools Superintendent Bill Huyett to retire

Superintendant Bill Huyett speaks on the first day of the 2011 school year at Rosa Parks Elementary. Photo: Rachel Anderson

In a surprise move, Berkeley Unified School Superintendent Bill Huyett announced today that he will retire on June 30, 2012.

In a statement published on the BUSD website, Huyett said: “I was drawn to Berkeley because I saw an opportunity to work on the achievement gap. With a committed Board, dedicated staff, an involved community and the 2020 Vision, much has been accomplished in the past four years.  Now I’m ready to pass the torch so I can spend more time with my wife and family.”

“Bill is an intense family man,” said BUSD spokesperson Mark Coplan, adding that when Huyett accepted his current position, his wife took retirement. “Bill’s wife has been enjoying retirement for four years now and Bill would like to do the same,” he said.

Huyett has had a 38-year career in public education. He came to BUSD four years ago, replacing Michele Lawrence who retired in 2007. Huyett had previously served as superintendent in Dixon and Lodi.

The Berkeley Board of Education will start looking for Huyett’s replacement soon. Coplan said the board may take the route of hiring a consultant to help with the process as it did four years ago with Lawrence’s recruitment.  “It’s up to the board to define the approach,” he said.

Typically, assistant superintendents and principals of large high schools of the calibre of Berkeley’s would apply, Coplan said.

Coplan said that although the job is a tough one — four years ago there were 50 openings for school district superintendents in the state, reflecting the difficulty of attracting people to the position — Berkeley is a relatively appealing proposition compared to many other school districts.

“We in good shape,” he said. “We are not in financial trouble. You can probably count on one hand the number of districts with balanced budgets. And initiatives like 20:20 Vision are impacting student achievement gap,” he said. Coplan also cites the $23 million BSEP money and the $210 million that has been committed to construction for schools locally.

The flip side, he said, is the relatively high cost of living locally compared to other locations.

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  • Anonymous

    What a waste of time…why can’t Busd get and keep someone at this position? So frustrating the reality is he’s leaving because Berkeley politics is rearing its ugly head and it is impossible to make change with impossible people! While he did a better job than Ms. Lawrence he didn’t really accomplish much…but then again Lawrence did a horrible job!

  • Anonymous

    I would like to know his retirement package…must be pretty nice to come in to a job,work four years, and retire!

  • Educator

    The average tenure of superintendents nationally is 3.5 years, so technically Huyett is no different.  It is often a thankless position with little support, particularly in these economic times.

  • Anonymous

    Send the job announcement to former King and Cragmont Principal Jason Lustig!

  • jjohannson

    Huyett has been a hard-working and compassionate superintendent, visionary from an educational viewpoint, and fiscally savvy in a statewide environment of cascading chaos.  Haters on the thread speak gaseously.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps all that, and occasionally tone deaf and dense.

  • Berkelelyeye

    I agree with 3rd Gen – Mr Huyett did a much better job than his predecessor.  He seemed to do very well for BUSD, and has been a good fit for the District. The only issue I have had was the amount of $$$$  that has been promised to a local charter school. Certainly a Charter School should be allowed to use any surplus facility that may be available without the BUSD making a profit on it, but the burden to upgrade it, maintain it, and operate it should be the burden of the Charter school, not BUSD who will be losing State dollars with every BUSD student who goes there instead of one of our District schools. With the amount of money local homeowners are kicking in for our schools, District money should not be used to support non-BUSD schools operating without union teachers and serving mostly non-Berkeley students!  I hope it was an untrue rumor that millions of BUSD dollars were going to be used to support the Charter or to upgrade the west end buildings at West Campus to be used for non-Berkeley students. 

    As for hiring a new Supe, I hope the District understands that it should hire from outside the district if avoiding political backwash is important. Right now the only people in the District’s employ that are even remotely qualified are doing an important job in their current position. I hope every knows that the suggestion by Berkopinionator must be tongue-in-cheek!

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Lustig left in a hurry there was an uncomfortable situation at King that not many know about.

  • Anonymous

    Guaranteed if the way the gun situation at BHS was handled differently and had a different outcome Mr. Huyett wouldn’t be leaving so quickly which BTW still hasn’t been solved or dealt with properly.

  • Sarah

    Are you speaking of Realm? How much money was promised to the school? Was the money surplus to ADA funds? I know many charter schools have to pay rent to the district for their building out of ADA funds. Is this not true for Realm?

    Do you know what the residency breakdown actually is? I am asking because I am curious. I keep seeing claims that Realm serves mostly non-Berkeley students, but I haven’t seen any data to support the claim.  

  • SarahB

    This comment doesn’t seem fair to Jason Lustig, who to those of us not in the “know” at King, seemed like a great principal.

  • Goodkind

    Those of us who weathered the storm of the previous principal of BHS probably have Huyett to thank for the fact that Slemp is no longer on site, and we now have the esteemed Mr. Scuderi at the helm.  All of this was done ever so quietly and we will never know for sure, but that’s what it smells like. I’ll be thanking Huyett for this for a long long time even if I have no proof. He must have compiled quite a file of Slemp’s insubordination for that to happen as it did, without legal backlash and with total board approval. Masterful. He will be missed.

  • Voxhumana

    He left to attend a graduate (doctoral) program in public education administration at Harvard. What was the “uncomfortable” situation at King? Don’t throw that out there and leave it hanging!

  • libraterian

    If he’d done nothing more than the hit on Slemp, he’d have earned his retirement. But he’s done us another great service: He’s shown us this board is impossible to work with, even for the most skilled administrator.

  • I think Huyett is bailing on a drowning ship. My interactions with him haven’t been very positive, and I believe he took the job in Berkeley in order to close out his career with a feather in his cap which I predicted last year. Furthermore, it seems to me that whatever good he has done is being overshadowed by the overwhelming problems and failures. I sincerely hope BUSD finds someone who is willing to make a long-term commitment to our schools.

  • Does anyone actually know why Jim Slemp left? Granted, his leaving was a blessing… but why, really, did he leave?

  • libraterian

    RE: ” I sincerely hope BUSD finds someone who is willing to make a long-term commitment to our schools.”

    I hope Berkeley voters replace this old boy/girl network, BTF back scratching board with new faces and a reality based vision of:

    WHO should we be spending our property taxes, BSEP taxes and bond issues on? Educating Berkeley’s kids? Or on swollen staffs and overcrowded classes to accommodate every East Bay family happy to fraudulently register.

    STAYING ON MISSION to educate our kids to pass the states achievement tests. Rather than curry political favor by wandering among conflicting approaches proposed by pricey consultant looking to churn fees.

    Until this board is replaced – who the superintendent is, neither will nor can make a difference in the quality of our kids education.

  • Anonymous

    i couldn’t have said it better…the problem is similar to the Berkeley city council you would have to clean house and start fresh to make a change because the old members have too long to infiltrate the minds of the new incoming members “they bring them along telling they new members this is the way we things around these parts” it will never change unless more people get outraged!!!

  • Goodkind

    The public story was that he retired. However many teachers at BHS reported he was fired, so one could  surmise that is what he told them. There was a feeling of friction between his teachers and the school board. Some of us thought he encouraged that. This part is my opinion. But here are some facts…

    No one at his level ever gets fired; they get “reassigned.”  One week before his sudden retirement (which was announced on 3/10/10), at a school board meeting on 3/3/10,  the school board  reported out of closed session that, with unanimous agreement, one certificated administrator had been reassigned and one certificated administrator might be reassigned. If this was indeed about him, it all had to happen before March 15, the day that his contract was due to be up or renewed. Unless a school board member or Supt. Huyett breaks confidentiality, no one will ever know the real story, and there is no reason to think that will ever happen.  But the facts stated here about timing and the report out of closed session  are accurate, and supported by the minutes of the meeting.