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School Daze

Sep
28
2003

Total Recall might be the subject of a NYTimes magazine cover story and the main focus of most of the state’s daily newspaper editorials but in San Francisco, the big drama – one that promises a few more twists and turns – is between School Superintendent Arelene Ackerman and her board.
Ackerman hinted last week, according to The Chron that she might be moving on. And there was some rejoicing among mayoral candidates when word circulated that Ackerman was holding a press conference. The conclusion – the wrong one – was that she was publicly resigning that the neighborhood schools proponents had “won.” But Ackerman called a press conference and with Mayor Willie Brown by her side, said no way, she wasn’t going anywhere. Good for her.
The three board members who are holding the door wide for Ackerman, all but pushing her out, are assumed to be in cahoots with Green Party mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez, president of the board of Supervisors. Even if they’re not — and some are claiming they were quoted by The Chron out of context — they’re giving the whole gang a bad name.
Only San Francisco’s sometime parochial politicians would automatically assume someone would publicly resign — giving them gloating rights. But that assumption speaks volumes. The kind of enemies Ackerman has show she may well be on the right path to cleaning up city schools. Certainly her calling the law in to investigate the mismanagement and possible fraud she’s found is an step in the right direction. That, of course, doesn’t mean Ackerman’s always right. The fight over neighborhood schools — keeping kids in near home for schooling despite the racial balance at those schools — is a delicate one. It needs a savvy political nose and sense of the class and racial conflicts in play within and with San Francisco’s Chinese community. Ackerman may not have that sensibility. Not yet anyway.
Her fight with the board members is a multi-faceted fight, one that’s undoubtedly complicated by race. But there’s another factor here: Ackerman is also from a far away place, where they do things very differently. That’s right. She’s from the East Coast where being “autocratic” is considered part of being a boss. In San Francisco, being autocratic is often the same as knowing what you want and being straightforward in how you go about getting it. And you know what? San Francisco could use a little more of that, particularly when it comes to city politics.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 6:45 PM | Permalink

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