‘Beloved’ Berkeley schools leader to retire after 25 years

Neil Smith will retire after 25 years of service. Photo: Berkeley Unified School District
Neil Smith will retire after 25 years of service. Photo: BUSD

A 25-year veteran of the Berkeley public school system will retire later this year, officials announced last week at the Berkeley School Board meeting on Wednesday.

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Donald Evans announced the upcoming retirement of Assistant Superintendent Neil Smith, who is set to step down in four months. Smith may continue on in a consulting role with Berkeley Unified, though details on that have not been released.

Evans said he had received the news from Smith reluctantly.

“This has been very, very difficult for me,” said Evans, “because he has been my right hand, and I truly do not know what I would have done without him as I transitioned into Berkeley. He’s always been there.”


In his remarks Wednesday night, Evans described Smith as a “beloved” member of the Berkeley schools community, and called him “the foundation of this district,” adding: “You will truly be missed.”

Smith received a standing ovation from everyone in the packed meeting room.

“It’s been actually 25 wonderful years here in Berkeley,” Smith told those in attendance.

In his brief public remarks about the news, Smith noted his pride about the district’s 2020 Vision effort to end the achievement gap, as well as the high caliber of the district’s teachers and administrators. He also lauded the broader community for its commitment to local public education efforts and needs.

“It’s wonderful as an educator to work in a community where people want to get out and support the schools,” he said.


Co-superintendents  Javetta Cleveland and Neil Smith at the 2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Neil Smith and Javetta Cleveland at a 2020 Vision symposium in 2012, while they were co-superintendents for the district. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Board President Josh Daniels thanked Smith for his long service to the district, which at one point involved Smith serving as principal at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. Daniels noted that he himself had gone to Willard, but said his sister had been a King student during Smith’s tenure, and had positive memories of his leadership at that time.

Daniels pointed out how Smith, along with the district’s Deputy Superintendent Javetta Cleveland, had served as co-superintendents after the prior superintendent retired and as the district struggled to find a good candidate to replace him.

“You really helped keep us pointed in the right direction at a time when we really needed it,” Daniels said.

See Superintendent Evans’ remarks about Smith’s retirement in the first video, beginning at 1:12, which was provided by school district spokesman Mark Coplan. The school board remarks follow in the second video.

Related:
Enrollment surge necessitates three new kindergartens (08.16.13)
Workshop urges action on gun violence around Berkeley (05.29.13)
School board launches new superintendent search (02.13.13)
Why most Berkeley 9th-graders aren’t actually failing PE (12.04.12)
Berkeley schools show gains on standard tests (10.12.12)
BUSD board vows to be more inclusive in new chief search (09.20.12)
Berkeley goes back to school amid transitions (08.29.12)
Berkeley school district names interim superintendents (08.23.12)


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