David Silver sees himself as a "cheerleader" for Oakland education and says the city needs to show a more united front in how it serves students.
"We cannot be fractured in our efforts to support our kids," he said.
Mayor Libby Schaaf has hired the former Oakland principal as the city's new director of education. Silver was most recently the CEO of College Track, a national organization that helps underserved students graduate from college.
In his new role, he'll be responsible for creating partnerships with families, communities and the school district itself. In an interview Friday, Silver told KQED that by the fall, he and the mayor's office hope to have a strong plan for how the city will be supporting Oakland's public schools.
The following Q-and-A has been edited for length.
Devin Katayama: It sounds like a huge task for one person. What role should the city play in Oakland's public school system?
David Silver: At the end of the day what we believe that Oakland needs is for everybody to be rowing in the same direction. I have been in Oakland for 18 years in education and I have never seen the alignment of a superintendent, a mayor, a city council, a school board and other community partners like we have today.
I think what's missing sometimes is relationships. And as a former teacher, as a former principal, as a former nonprofit leader, I want to utilize whatever relationships I have been able to use as well as the mayor has to be able to bring us together as a common vision and I think that common vision is around cradle-to-career.
It's very clear to me that there is widespread alignment on the idea that we need to take our most vulnerable population starting when they're born and provide more and better aligned resources for them.
Katayama: Is part of your job to bring in new money?
Silver: My philosophy is if you have the right ideas and if you have the right relationships, the resources will come. I think the mayor has done a great job in her first six months at building those relationships, and I think I will try to leverage those as well as the relationships of other people within the city to bring in more resources.
At the end of the day, yes, we need more resources in this city and we need to make sure that happens so I will be a partner in that. When people ask, "So does this job have jurisdiction over X, Y or Z?" What this job has is an opportunity to inspire. What this has is an opportunity to bring together a coalition towards a big vision.
Katayama: Are there any immediate or long-term initiatives that you have planned?
Silver: The biggest initiative that the mayor and I want to do is literally put together a cradle-to-career plan with specific ideas and benchmarks where we're going to have tangible impacts for kids.
I think what makes it unique is if we were to launch something like an "Oakland College Promise" that is something that is not just at one level or another. We're talking about a three-legged stool where you're talking about 0-5, you're talking about K to 12 and you're talking about college into career.