Gov. Jerry Brown has named Bruce Holaday, who for five years ran the military charter school in Oakland that Brown founded, the next member of the State Board of Education.
The governor’s nontraditional appointment to the 11-member board was long in coming. Former member Greg Jones resigned 18 months ago, and two other members’ terms expired in January.
Holaday, 59, currently does fundraising and designs teacher workshops and programs for at-risk youths as the director of educational advancement at Wildlife Associates, a nonprofit in Half Moon Bay that offers conservation education to schools. For most of his career, Holaday has taught and been an administrator at military schools, although he didn’t attend a military academy or serve in the military.
For 28 years he held various positions, including English teacher, development director, and administrator of a large summer school and camps, at the Culver Academies, a century-old private military school in Northern Indiana. Then, in 2004, Brown, who started the school in 2001, and the board of Oakland Military Institute hired him as the fledgling school’s superintendent. In 2009, he helped found Newpoint Tampa High School, an online charter school in Florida.
“My background is not typical for this position,” Holaday said in a telephone interview. “The governor knows my background, and he seems to think I might be helpful in a number of ways.”
One way may be to help rethink the state’s accountability system, a topic on the agenda at Holaday’s first State Board meeting next week. Brown has criticized the use of standardized tests and quantitative measures as sole gauges of a school’s success and cited the importance of softer, qualitative measures like participation in extracurricular activities and sports, discipline records, and parental satisfaction. He has pointed to the work of the Oakland Military Institute in building character.
Serving boys and girls in grades 6-12, the school stresses discipline and leadership as key elements of achieving the school’s mission of preparing all students for college. The vast majority of its graduates have gone on to four-year schools; only a handful of students annually apply to West Point and the military academies.
Students wear uniforms. Boys keep their hair cut short; girls wear theirs in buns. All march in formation daily. The school has ties to the California National Guard.
A backlash against the Vietnam War wiped out dozens of military schools in the 1970s, but within the past decade there has been a resurgence of the military model in magnet and charter schools attracted to its “clear and distinct purpose and direct approach to behavior and values,” said Holaday, comparing it with the Boy Scouts when done well.
“The heart and soul of good military schools are patterns of ritual and traditions, knowing that each year the traditions will go on,” he said. “A lot of day-to-day responsibility is given to kids. It’s a good thing to hand over reins to kids, who rise to the occasion in wonderful ways.”
The military model “is not for everyone, and I would not impose it on anyone else,” he said, but other district schools could find aspects useful, such as its success in creating a school culture.
During Holaday’s tenure at Oakland Military Institute, the school’s API score fluctuated in the mid- to upper 600s, below the state’s target of 800. There was some tension with parents who wanted a more hard-edged military school, as this 2007 article from the East Bay Express indicated.
Holaday attended public schools and graduated with a B.A. in English and education from the University of Illinois. He also has a Master’s in education from the University of Indiana. He grew up in Champagne, Ill., home of the university where his father was a professor of drama. His mother had a Ph.D in French. He didn’t have to travel far for the job with Culver Academies; it’s on the same lake in Indiana as the family’s summer cottage.
Holaday’s appointment requires a two-thirds vote of the State Senate.
Nominees to the CSU Board of Trustees
Also on Friday, Brown appointed the founder of a bilingual radio station in Fresno and a corporate attorney to the California State University Board of Trustees.
Hugo Morales, 63, a graduate of Harvard Law School, migrated from Mexico at age 9. He has been executive director at Radio Bilingüe Inc., which he started in 1980. In 1994, he received a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called “genius award.” He received the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1999. Lupe Garcia, 43, of Alameda, has served in multiple positions at Gap Inc. since 1999, including associate general counsel, senior corporate counsel, and corporate counsel. She is a member of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.
John Fensterwald is the editor of Edsource Today. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jfenster.
A video introduction to the Oakland Military Institute.
Short biographies of members of the State Board of Education.