Quick Links for Aug. 4th

Yes, it’s two posts in a week. The taco truck posts are such a non-newsy cop out that I’ve guilted myself into doing these Quick Links. Luckily, hilarious shit happened! To the Quick Linkmobile!

Want to know why politics move at a snail’s pace?

Because people hate change and people who want to make real Goddamn changes usually don’t last very long. Want a point of reference? There are way too many. But, if I were to pick one off the top of my head, former SUSD Superintendent Tony Amato seems like an appropriate example. The SUSD Board of Trustees lauded him as a guy who they hoped could change the culture of failure in an underperforming (which is putting it lightly) district and unite an inexperienced, dysfunctional board that was prone to petty arguments. What happened? He actually made some changes and everybody  promptly lost their shit (well, teachers anyway, it’s debatable whether the board ever possessed shit to lose). Even worse, he held he district accountable for it’s performance after years of sucking! And, wait for it, those changes had the gall to (kind of, sort of) work! Tony Amato did what he was charged to do. Don’t take my word for it, take it from the Board of Trustees themselves.

Obviously, that couldn’t stand. Teachers complaining about the speedy roll out of Amato’s fancy new programs (and the resulting additional workload they were facing) pitched a fairly impressive fit and eventually got his programs axed. Then, just for fun, they served one if his biggest supporters with recall papers at a graduation ceremony because this is obviously about anything but the gradually increasing amount of children walking across that stage. Eventually, Amato was shitcanned. The Kraken being slain, there was once again peace in Stockton Unified School District. Or everyone just focused on Dan Castillo and finding a new superintendent for a while. One of the two. I know this is an oversimplification of a complex issue, but the message is clear, the more things attempt to change, the more they stay the same.

What does this have to do with former interim Superintendent Steve Vaczovsky exchanging tense e-mails earlier this year? While Vaczovsky’s temporary status generally prevented him from making any real academic changes he did seem intent on succeeding where Amato had otherwise failed, strengthening the relationship between the Superintendent and the Board of Trustees. He did so in a fairly ingenious way too by explaining to various board members that despite his job description being to carry out the wishes of the the entire board, that didn’t necessecarily make any one of them his boss. He answers to the board as a whole, not individual members of it. SUSD Board President Beverly Fitch McCarthy apparently didn’t get the memo and promptly went about attempting to abuse power she actually doesn’t have.

This is pretty much the crux of a majority of the conflicts between school boards and superintendents. Citizens run for the school board because it’s a low-level elected position that’s fairly easy to attain. Shit, if Anthony Silva can get elected I’m pretty sure I could run as Slick Diaz and still win and I don’t even have kids. Thing is, after the high of having enough people like you (or disliking your opponent) to get you elected wears off, you realize how fucking boring it is. You’re just one person on a seven-person board and you have no real power. You’re essentially just a vote. You show up every other Tuesday and have a bunch of shit presented to you by the people who deal with this crap every day of the week, you decide whether or not they’re right based on a 15 minute presentation, and then you drive back to your home in Davis. Much like any relationship, the chase is infinitely more fun than the actual catch.

Again, that’s a gross oversimplification of a somewhat complex process, but you can see the problem with a group of elected citizens making decisions for a group of what are essentially government workers who live and breathe education on a daily basis. There are bound to be clashes, especially when someone forges out on their own making requests of the Superintendent personally instead of at the behest of the Board. Many Board members aren’t completely aware of how the process works because this is probably their first elected office and they just wanted to see their names on a bunch of lawns. Not to mention it’s hard to stay focused on what your job actually is when you’re thrust into the circus that is SUSD meetings. Steve Vaczovsky was trying his best to get them back on track. So when Beverly McCarthy (ironically, the only board memeber with previous experience on a citizen elected committee dealing with full-time government workers, City Council) started sending antagonistic e-mails about shit she read on a white board, Vaczovsky did what he was supposed to do. He told her to piss off. Actually, he was nicer than that. He explained what the “Magnificent Seven” line actually referred to. When she didn’t believe him, that’s when he told her to piss off.

Again, that shit couldn’t stand. A guy with a strong hand that was doing what he was supposed to be doing? We can’t have that! She then proceeded to pick apart pretty much everything Vaczovsky did. My personal favorite being questioning why he had brought in his own advisors and questioning their credentials. Because why would Vaczovsky want to bring in former City Councilman Clem Lee? Something must be up. He’s only an educational professional with a background in citizen elected groups dealing closely with government employees. What the fuck kind of expertise could he bring?

Yes, like everything in the Stockton Unified School District, things devolved into petty, childish arguments while someone tried to abuse power they individually don’t actually have. So Vaczovsky had to go and they brought in Carl Tolliver, himself a former interim Superintendent, who presumably won’t rock the boat. Because everything is clearly going very swimmingly.

What? No “Show me the money!”?

Remember those foreboding billboards the Stockton Police Officers Association put up a few months back? Well the newest ones are decidedly a decidedly different approach. Instead of citing bullshit magazine rankings, they’ve gone with movie quotes! Sure, there’s still a misleading homicide counter (which will include James Rivera by the way), but now they also as us to “Help us, help you”. You know how PD could really help us? By taking their budgetary lumps like everyone else.

They don’t want to help us that way, so apparently it’s up to us to…well, I’m not sure. It’s not like we’re voting on the budget in November. Whatever’s going to happen is just going to happen. They’re just trying to sway public opinion in their favor. You want some help SPOA, here’s some free advice. THAT’S NEVER GOING TO FUCKING HAPPEN. Even if PD wasn’t being painted as a bunch of soulless trigger-happy racists by the Rivera family  right now, no amount of billboards or happy, special feelings are going to change the fact that we have no fucking cash. No matter how hard Fire looks for it.

So unless the SPOA intends on swaying some cash into the depleted General Fund, they should probably stop wasting that billboard money. We get it, you’re pissed. We understood that months ago. Nobody likes getting laid off, it sucks. But publicly bitching about how dangerous the town you’re supposed to be protecting is just pisses us off and reminds us that maybe you didn’t earn those raises you’ll be gunning for in a year when the labor deal is up.

Hey look! jobs!

So that Prison Hospital thing is official. Construction is to begin sometime next spring. Until then, the City and Chamber have to take their victory lap! They got concessions…in writing! I’m still not particularly impressed by those concessions, and this celebration reminds me of the Canada on Strike episode of South Park where Canada celebrates “victory”, but at least the roads money should be pretty nice for the apocalyptic roadways in South Stockton. The “hundreds of thousands of dollars” going to schools and local government and the “up to $1 million” of local sales tax revenue are nice too. But anybody familiar with the severity of the budget crisis knows that those concessions are essentially a Bennigan’s coupon and a piece of gum.


~ by Slick Diaz on August 4, 2010.

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