Shortage to Surplus
Superintendent, Board Come Together to Solve Budget Crisis
By B Rock
est satiram non scribere.
together, in a spirit of collegiality and togetherness, the seven San
Francisco Board of Education commissioners, the two student delegates, and
the superintendent have just concluded an astonishingly successful weekend
in which a projected budget deficit of $16 million has been turned into a
surplus of over $50 million.
behind this turnaround is almost as extraordinary as the results
when the ten individuals agreed to proceed together to a weekend retreat
at a mansion on the Farallon Islands. An eleventh person was to join them
after their arrival. In fact, a series of eleventh persons made the
journey — with spectacular results.
arrival, and in the spirit of getting in touch with each other and their
feelings for and about their compatriots, Alan Wong suggested a group hug.
After some initial shyness, all participated and felt so refreshed by the
exercise, that they immediately proceeded to tackle the SFUSD budget
First up was
school closures and/or consolidations.
began by suggesting that Malcolm X be removed from the closure list. Eric
Mar seconded that emotion.
In her own
quiet and non-judgmental way, Jill Wynns gently pleaded with Wong to
search for a school to replace it on the closure list.
It was then
that Eddie Chin had a brainstorm and came to the rescue. He suggested
instead the closure of Sir Francis Drake school.
the same site," exclaimed Dan Kelly.
responded: "Wait just a moment. Let's keep an open mind and proceed with
some caution here. Consider all positions with reasoned equanimity, as is
my custom. I think Eddie is on to something, as he usually is. We have
spared some sites, like Luther Burbank, because they share campuses. And
in the case of DeAvila, we are leaning towards closing DeAvila yet leaving
Aim High in existence in the same building."
mean we could close Drake, but leave X in existence on the same campus?"
asked Sarah Lipson.
support that motion," exclaimed Norman Yee.
you're ready to vote," chirped the superintendent.
And they did
so, immediately, before anyone could change their mind. It passed
their initial success, they moved on to other schools on the list.
Franklin has too much community support," said Lipson. "Can't we find
another school to close in the same district?"
my dear," cooed Wynns tenderly. "I think we must instead close Polytechnic
High. We'll all miss Poly, especially Carol. But we simply have to bite
"I have an
idea," said Mar. "We need to respect diversity. At the moment, we have too
many schools to close in District Five. Let's spread the pain."
closing two small schools, let's close one larger school," suggested Yee.
case, I make a motion that we close Dianne Feinstein Elementary,"
exclaimed Chin. "After all, the people in that neighborhood love
diversity. They would probably prefer Golden Gate and DeAvila for their
still not quite in the swing of this new spirit of working together
dissented thus: "But that school isn't even open yet".
better," replied Sanchez. "That means there will be less moving costs,
since there are not yet desks, tables, bookshelves, etc. to transport."
motion passed unanimously.
point, the superintendent began to take a more active role, which, as
always, was welcomed by all present.
"Let me get
staff involved in this process," said Ackerman. "I'll get Dave Goldin from
Facilities out here right away. Everything he touches turns to gold."
enough, by the end of the day, Goldin had contacted the Nibbi Brothers,
who, being noted philanthropists, had agreed to build three more schools
so that they could immediately be closed, thereby saving the district
oodles of money.
dynamic group of ten turned their attention to the question of bringing
money in, rather than simply cutting spending.
"You know how we get federal money from No Child Left Behind for providing
the military with the information to contact and recruit our high school
kids? That's a great program. Well, there must be some way to do more of
chimed in: "That's a fantastic idea, Dan. I love the way your mind works.
I've been thinking for some time that the military has been ignoring the
increasing Latino population in San Francisco. Maybe we could get them to
call it El Navy or something."
minute," broke in Ackerman. "Our new COO, you know, the one so generously
provided by downtown business interests, Donel Bianchi, I think he used to
work for the Navy."
him out here," exclaimed Lipson.
Anybody who has the backing of the business establishment can certainly be
a great help to us," explained Mar.
"Done. Although I fear I've been working him awfully hard recently."
arrived, Yee tried unsuccessfully to suppress a laugh: "He's so small," he
you say?" asked Chin. "You said 'small,' didn't you? That's IT. Norman,
you've already got economic support from the city for universal
pre-school. Well, they are not part of NCLB funding. We can allow the
military to sign our smallest children, our pre-schoolers, to recruitment
contracts that will take effect when they turn 18. Then the feds will give
us more money."
Wynns. "I've heard about them doing that with 14 year olds in Iowa. And
they pay a bonus up front."
happy to have helped, returned to the mainland to begin crunching the
visit was Sherri Lansing, from United Artists Pictures. By the time
negotiations were over a few hours later, the district had every single
remaining dollar needed to make up the deficit, in the form of an advance
on a contract, the result of one of those "only in California" movie deals
that you read about.
obvious good relations between board members and the superintendent and
mindful of the success of the remake of "Guess Who" ('s Coming To Dinner),
Lansing agreed to another of Chin's ideas, to star Mar and Ackerman in a
gender-switching remake of "Get Smart," starring Ackerman as Ackx (tag
line: "I told you not to ASK me that") and Mar as 99 1/2 (tag line: "This
just won't do"). Esther Casco will be cast in the role of "The Chief," and
the picture will open with Ackx and 99 1/2 in the chief's office, the
chief behind a desk stacked to the ceiling with piles of requested
informational documents. There will also be a reprise of the role of Hymie
the Robot. His name will be changed to Rhymie though, and he will not
speak, but rap, although entirely in iambic pentameter.
It was early
leaked reports of this deal which incorrectly persuaded local newspapers
to report that Ackerman was going to take a vow of silence. They had
actually overheard her commenting on the "Cone of Silence," which will be
prominently featured in the film.
left, contract in hand, she suggested another visitor to the
superintendent: "You know this advisory committee that we are both going
to serve on — well, Jose Huizar, the president of the Los Angles School
Board is on it also. Why don't you have him fly in and see what you can
cook up as a way to approach the governor?"
And after a
brief meeting, Huizar and Ackerman agreed that to simply accept the
positions on the governor's Advisory Committee On Education Excellence at
a time when the governor was withholding Prop 98 funds would be a huge
Ackerman pleaded, "I'm going to ask you to please not do this. Arnold is
sinking like a stone in the polls. His rating in the area of education is
down near 40%. He's just using us to legitimize his stance on withholding
funds by picking this time to put us on a committee that will only meet
once a month and won't make any proposals for two years."
acceded to Ackerman's plea for support. Had he not done so, she might well
have been forced to quit. When he left, allied with the superintendent, it
was to speak to the editorial board at the LA Times. Ackerman contacted
the Chronicle and then called the governor. Arnold flew directly to the
And by the
time they were done, Arnold, having noted the united attitude of the board
and the superintendent, had announced that he was indeed freeing up the $2
billion, which meant $69 million in additional Prop 98 funding for SFUSD
was Ackerman's tough stance, coming from the strength of knowing that the
board was backing her fully, or it was Schwarzenegger's realization that a
refusal to serve would hurt his chances in the largely minority inner city
districts, as opposed to white suburban districts where they could more
easily make up for the cut in funds, Arnold's decision to release the $69
million has solved the budget problems entirely. Reportedly, he is now in
negotiations to play "Rhymie."
I can now
report that the ten have returned from their retreat, full of good
feelings toward each other and secure in the knowledge that together,
there is nothing they cannot accomplish. They returned this evening by
boat. During the long journey, Eddie Chin spoke at length about how the
relationship between the board and the superintendent was like that of a
captain and crew on a ship. At great length.
Next up: Mar
and Ackerman seek a better deal on future pension funding for teachers.
The stock market being somewhat in a state of freefall currently, the two
intend to visit Bay Meadows together with great regularity. They will sit
in the upper deck, but it is as yet unclear just who will bring up the