On Wednesday, February 9, Superintendent Brent Stephens of Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) announced that he will not extend his contract with BUSD past June 30 of 2021.
Stephens will stay on until the end of this school year. A successor has not yet been named, and Stephens did not share what prompted his decision or his future plans.
In his message to the district, Stephens reflected on BUSD’s accomplishments over the past three years, referencing progress in regards to educational equity, increased support for teachers, and the creation of EdHub, a collaboration between the Berkeley Public Schools Fund and the district that supported BUSD families during the pandemic.
“It has been an honor to work beside so many remarkable educators, parents, community and City partners, and students,” Stephens wrote. “Berkeley is a singular place – smart, idealistic, passionate, and progressive – and I am deeply enriched from being by your side during this exceptional time.”
Stephens entered his role as superintendent on July 1, 2019, after a career in education that led him from a position as a Spanish bilingual teacher in Oakland to Chief Academic Officer for San Francisco Unified School District.
“I extremely value working with student leaders and working with their enthusiasm and helping them make a difference,” Stephens told Jacket reporters at the time of his hiring. “I’m excited and thrilled for this opportunity.”
Throughout his time in BUSD, Stephens dealt with teacher shortages, budget reductions, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stephens said the pandemic “almost completely defined” his time in the district. Balancing the wishes of students and parents on top of the safety of every individual proved a difficult task, and Stephens faced controversy from community members including parents, students, and teachers over his decision to keep schools open despite the rising case numbers of the Omicron surge.
BUSD School Board President Ka’Dijah Brown also released a statement expressing gratitude to Stephens for his work as superintendent.
“We are not saying goodbye just yet,” Brown wrote. “In the next coming weeks, the Board will discuss and determine its next steps in the search for our Superintendent’s successor. In the meantime, please join me in thanking Dr. Stephens and wishing him all the best on his next journey.”