First Asian American OUSD Superintendent Passes Away After Battle With Cancer

Thursday, January 7, 2021Contact: John SasakiCommunications Director 510-214-2080[email protected]
Oakland, CA —
 Oakland Unified School District is in mourning after learning that former Superintendent Carole Quan passed away after a battle with cancer. Quan led the District from 1997 to 1999 after spending a lifetime being educated in and then working for OUSD. She attended Franklin Elementary, Roosevelt Junior High, and she graduated from Oakland High.Former Superintendent Carole Quan.After college, the lifelong Oakland resident became an educator. She began her teaching career as a substitute, before becoming a full-time special education teacher. Quan taught at Lockwood Elementary (now CUES and Futures Elementary) and Lincoln Elementary. She transitioned into administration at Lincoln Elementary, Piedmont Avenue Elementary, Franklin Elementary and Joaquin Miller Elementary. Quan was a principal, then later, assistant superintendent, and finally, she made history when the OUSD Board of Education appointed her Superintendent in the late 1990s. Quan became the first Asian American woman to lead one of the nation’s largest school districts. Remarkably, she was a kindergarten student in Oakland 50 years before becoming Superintendent.

“I loved her. She was a very special person,” said emeritus principal, Denise Saddler, who worked closely with Superintendent Quan as City Schools Coordinator. “I think of an educator’s educator. She was a mentor to everyone in the district, and she cared about all students. No matter who you were, she made you feel like you were known to her personally. She always remembered birthdays. In fact, I got a birthday card from her just last year.”

Saddler added more personal memories about her friend, “She loved, loved, loved, loved desserts. That was her thing. She was a very active Christian, and a sharp dresser! She dressed to the nines all the time. She created a family environment for OUSD staff, where you felt like you were truly part of her family and the OUSD family.”

Saddler said on Quan’s final day in office, many staff members assembled to bid her farewell, and her family picked her up in a limousine.

Quan’s mother attended Oakland schools, as did her daughters, Holly and Heidi. Holly is a reporter at KCBS Radio in San Francisco who said, “Coming from a family of strong women, my sister and I could not have had a better role model. Through her success, Mom taught us tenacity and grace while nurturing in us a fierce pride in our hometown. From tailgating at A’s and Raiders games to feeding the ducks at Lake Merritt to turning the Magic Keys at Fairyland, she was a daughter of Oakland to the end.”

“Superintendent Quan represented the community with passion and singular dedication,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “She always put students first, was there for our staff in every way, and was a role model, being the pioneering Asian American education leader that she was. We are a better school district for having had her decades of service in the classroom and in leadership. On behalf of the District, I send my deepest condolences to Ms. Quan’s family, friends, and OUSD co-workers.”

Plans for a memorial for Carole Quan are pending. She was a big supporter of the Chabot Space & Science Center, and because of that relationship, the Center has created an endowment fund in her name to support an outstanding science teacher every year.
To Learn More About the Chabot Space & Science Center Carole Quan Endowment Fund, Click Here.###About the Oakland Unified School DistrictIn California’s most diverse city, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to creating a learning environment where “Every Student Thrives!” More than half of our students speak a non-English language at home. And each of our 81 schools is staffed with talented individuals uniting around a common set of values: Students First, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Cultural Responsiveness and Joy. We are committed to preparing all students for college, career and community success. 

To learn more about OUSD’s Full Service Community District focused on academic achievement while serving the whole child in safe schools, please visit and follow us @OUSDnews.
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