Letters for the week of July 5-11, 2006

Some after-the-fact discussion about our pre-election profile of Sheila Jordan.

“Err Jordan,” Feature, 5/24

Questionable conduct
Bravo for publishing Robert Gammon’s revealing, well-informed, and timely article on Sheila Jordan illustrated by Justin Page’s brilliant likeness of its subject in his cover illustration. This well-researched article has successfully uncovered Ms. Jordan’s highly questionable conduct as Alameda County superintendent of schools.

Anne Kasdin, Oakland

Something’s rotten
The sleaze in Gammon’s story comes only from the factual content regarding Jordan’s performance and behavior. To say that the accusations are from only “disgruntled former employees and political losers” is Jordan’s typical retort to any criticism. We don’t have to look east to Washington for the dark side of cronyism.

I had to smile at Joe Morgan’s comment on Jordan’s Web site that teachers in Novato got pink slips under Bernard. This is a yearly ritual in Oakland schools, as my schoolteacher daughter can tell you. At least, Mr. Bernard did not use private funds to support candidates for the board who would be determining his salary.

The two primary duties of the county superintendent are 1) to oversee the fiscal viability of the school districts within their county and 2) to run the county schools. We don’t need to go over the high failure percentage within Alameda County compared to other counties. But I work near the Rock LaFleche school in Oakland. A former teacher there described the chaos at the school — kids hanging out in the hallways or wandering into the neighborhood, sex in the bathrooms, and generally, no learning taking place. She stated that Sheila didn’t want to be confronted with the problems. Granted, this is but hearsay. However, co-workers and I jogged daily by the school. If we were so lucky to go by at lunchtime, we were bombarded with apples, partially filled milk cartons, and profanities. One day, yelling from behind the fence, a frustrated teacher begged me to file a report — obviously, the staff at Rock LaFleche had no control and no internal support.

I have no doubt that Sheila has made some positive achievements. There are even some progressive goals for education that we share. However, borrowing Karl Rove’s tactic of whisper campaigns and her unchecked power to deal despicably with staff or political opponents makes Jordan a local example of why I find myself among those Americans critical of the current ilk of Republicans and Democrats scattered across this country.
Marian Baldwin, one disgusted Independent, Oakland

Blame the boards
You are way off on this story. The facts are that the OUSD board and their superintendent did not do their job. They blamed Sheila partly because she would not let them use bond money for operations. They blamed the computer system; they blamed some low-level bean counters. I was on the bond money advisory board for two years. I could not get financials, nor would they provide an audit, which I requested on many occasions. The SFUSD was illegally using bond money for their operation at the time. I asked, how do we know that OUSD is not doing the same thing? I was assured that it was in great shape.

Sheila cannot be responsible for the mismanagement that occurred in Oakland or Emeryville. Their school boards have that responsibility. I don’t know what kind of job she does otherwise, but I know that those school boards fucked up and did indeed shift the blame to her.
Joseph Debro, Oakland

Yes, you are
Are we to infer from the banner on your latest issue that the Express has made an editorial decision to oppose Ms. Jordan’s run for reelection? It would be natural to conclude that such a bold statement, prominently displayed across the front page, expresses an editorial stance. Am I wrong in assuming that responsible journalism requires consideration of multiple perspectives — or at least both sides, in an election — before drawing an editorial conclusion? Further evidence of the Express‘ descent into inconsequentiality since its takeover, with sensationalism trumping integrity.

Robert Brown, Berkeley

Vote Bernard
Robert Gammon presents some very well-researched facts that should convince you to vote for John Bernard for county superintendent. Bernard wants to bring in a new openness and a spirit of collaboration into the office which have been lacking since Jordan took over in 1999. She has run the county office of education as her own private bailiwick. She is able to hire friends and grant them generous salaries and perks. She claims that the county board of education has no say over her spending or hiring. This is supported by rulings of the county office of education’s legal counsel whom, by the way, she hires for over $165,000 a year. They’re going to disagree with her?

She puts into the budget her own expenses of almost $400,000 and tells the board: You have to approve my budget, and you can make no changes. Since July 2002, that has been an academic question, because she helped get elected a majority on the county board of education who simply rubber-stamps whatever she wants. Only boardmembers Gay Cobb and Dennis Chaconas ever raise questions. They are outvoted and told to be more collegiate.

A few years ago, some boardmembers asked her to report to the board how she spends her budget. She refused, and her $165,000 legal counsel said that she was correct to refuse.
Ernest Avellar, Hayward

Editor’s note
Sheila Jordan was reelected with 62.7 percent of the vote.

In the caption that accompanied our June 28 review of the play Permanent Collection, we misidentified the character played by Karen Aldridge. She plays the museum director’s assistant, not the journalist.

Art writer wanted
The Express is looking for a visual-art writer to do short capsule reviews and occasional longer reviews and previews of shows at East Bay galleries and museums. If you’re interested, send a cover letter and three writing samples here

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