Bruce Holaday

Bruce Holaday

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 jfensterwald@edsource.org or follow him on Twitter @jfenster.

Going Deeper

A video introduction to the Oakland Military Institute.

Short biographies of members of the State Board of Education.


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  1. CarolineSF 4 years ago4 years ago

    It’s well known in the community that OMI imposes admissions requirements that select for motivated students. I don’t have proof, of course, but high-quality, specialized education journalists such as those at EdSource should have little trouble confirming this.

  2. Sharon 4 years ago4 years ago

    FYI, the student retention for OMI's high school is terrible. [9th grade class enrollment > 12th grade class enrollment, student retention %] Class of 2008: 87>49, 56% Class of 2009: 81>42, 52% Class of 2010: 86>57, 66% Class of 2011: 76>38, 50% Class of 2012: 94>51, 54% Average= 55.6% The student retention for Oakland Tech (the OUSD high school in the same neighborhood) comes in at 53%, 50%, 60%, 62%, and 66% for the same years. Average= 58.2% Also, OMI's proportion of Students with … Read More

    FYI, the student retention for OMI’s high school is terrible.

    [9th grade class enrollment > 12th grade class enrollment, student retention %]
    Class of 2008: 87>49, 56%
    Class of 2009: 81>42, 52%
    Class of 2010: 86>57, 66%
    Class of 2011: 76>38, 50%
    Class of 2012: 94>51, 54%
    Average= 55.6%

    The student retention for Oakland Tech (the OUSD high school in the same neighborhood) comes in at 53%, 50%, 60%, 62%, and 66% for the same years. Average= 58.2%

    Also, OMI’s proportion of Students with Disabilities has been historically about half the percentage served by Oakland Unified.

    No one should be too impressed with the numbers for OMI, especially considering its students are drawn from a subgroup of self-selected families. No magic bullet here.

  3. Rachel Norton 4 years ago4 years ago

    I absolutely support Sonja Luchini’s comment above — when will the Governor assure appropriate representation for students with disabilities on the SBE? Charters are well-known to have ducked their responsibility — as public schools — to fully serve this population.

  4. Sonja Luchini 4 years ago4 years ago

    When will there be better representation for students with disabilities on this State Board of Education? I appreciate the appointment of Carl Cohn as he was LAUSD's first Independent Monitor over the Chanda Smith Consent Decree before its Modification, but we need more members with his depth of understanding on this population. Charter School foundations and interests have left students with special needs in the dust for many, many years and under our last governor, … Read More

    When will there be better representation for students with disabilities on this State Board of Education? I appreciate the appointment of Carl Cohn as he was LAUSD’s first Independent Monitor over the Chanda Smith Consent Decree before its Modification, but we need more members with his depth of understanding on this population.

    Charter School foundations and interests have left students with special needs in the dust for many, many years and under our last governor, the charter-heavy SBE passed many laws that they should have recused themselves from due to their direct involvement with schools/foundations/businesses related to charters. I’ve spoken to the previous board regarding critical concerns about charters ignoring students with disabilities and my thoughts were discounted. I still remember one board meeting in Jan 2010 where I was informed before flying to Sacramento, that I would be given 5 minutes as the Chair of the Special Education Community Advisory Committee for LAUSD. I was cut off at 1 minute and they also cut off our Director of Special Education for LAUSD as well. Later in the meeting, as a show for the cameras, one member made the statement that “we need to consider special education more in our decision-making”. Hello! We were there and you cut us off! Unbelievable hubris at that time and it was a relief to have a thorough house-cleaning upon Gov. Brown’s election. He’s apparently starting to reward his friends now and I fear we will be revert to the same improprieties as the Schwarzenegger SBE appointments.

    Charter interests are not public school interests, no matter what they claim. Until all children are included in their schools, they are not public schools. They have practiced exclusive and discriminatory enrollment practices for years and I’ve just recently come across a Green Dot “Special Education Handbook” to prove it. This book gives specific, written instruction on how to remove a student with disabilities “back to LAUSD” without a proper IEP team meeting.

    When Jerry Brown was running for Governor, I asked, repeatedly (and never got an answer) about the enrollment by disability type in his charter schools. I have no idea if Mr. Holaday has utilized the same exclusive and discriminatory practices with our Governor’s charters. The Governor’s election committee would constantly bombard me with “please donate” emails, but when I’d ask for specifics I received a resounding silence.

    Where’s the Governor’s accountability for students with disabilities in his schools and what is Mr. Holaday’s position on students with moderate/severe disabilities in charters? Will he use his position to create a better environment for this population or will it be a gift to the California Charter Schools Association who uses dues to lobby for favorable laws that will enrich them at the expense of the public and our public schools that serve all children?

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