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Back To School

Back To SchoolIt may be summer, but Tufts graduate Randy Ward has no time for a vacation as the new head of Oakland's ailing public schools. Oakland, Ca.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.17.03] Randy Ward has a difficult task ahead of him. The state recently appointed the 46-year-old Tufts graduate to head Oakland's public schools - a district with the largest budget deficit in California history. But the veteran education leader - who made a name himself by raising both fiscal solvency and standardized test stores in Compton - says that he's up to the job.

"I'm daunted by this assignment, but I believe it's not impossible," Ward told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Less than three weeks into his appointment as head of the district, the 1978 Tufts graduate is already receiving a steady stream of input as to how to turn Oakland around.

"I'm getting 30 to 40 e-mails a day from people with suggestions about what I should do," Ward - who was also welcomed with a personal tour of Oakland by the mayor -- told the Chronicle.

In addition to the support he is receiving, the Tufts graduate - who must slash $35 million to balance the district's 2003-2004 budget - has many ideas of his own.

"I am moving forward, and not going back and undoing anything," Ward told the Chronicle. "Until I go through the budget with a fine-toothed comb in July, I can't make any fiscal decision. That would be irresponsible."

Ward's ability to make difficult decisions is part of the reason many feel he is right for the job.

"He's a brilliant guy," Oakland Assistant Superintendent Tim White - who worked with Ward for 15 years - told the Oakland Tribune. "He doesn't seem to be flapped by things that flap other people."

While Ward has earned high praise for his work in the California school system, a career as a leading educator was not part of his original plans. In fact, he did not discover his passion for teaching until midway through his career at Tufts.

"Ward originally thought he would become a pediatrician or a child psychologist, but fell for education when he was a sophomore at Tufts University," reported the Chronicle.

According to Ward, it was an education course at Tufts that required him to work in a classroom which altered his career path.

"I was teaching [students] to read, and that's when I realized the power of education," Ward -- a child studies major -- told the Chronicle. "That feeling of making a difference is so tangible in education."

As the Tufts graduate told the Tribune, "I thought how amazingly powerful this is, to affect the lives of children by helping them learn, and I never lost it."


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