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WWJD?: Make mine an A, please.

The Fly

Cell Short

That pesky city auditor, Gerald Silva, continues to poke around San Jose City Hall in his perennial quest to save taxpayers (i.e., you) a few nickels here and there. Lately he's been rummaging through his colleagues' cell phone bills and has discovered, lo and behold, that this great city has been overpaying for its cell phone service. By something like half a million bucks a year, give or take a couple hundred grand here or there. It seems that, while the rest of the world has been upgrading their calling plans to take advantage of competitive rates and hook cool new phones to their belts and purses, our hard-working public servants are on old, expensive plans. Silva figures the city could do something like a friends and family plan--yes, a really big family--under which city workers could pool their minutes at really low rates (and maybe upgrade to camera phones). While Silva won't comment on the unreleased report, it should be out next week, according to the auditor's office. With no detail too small for Silva's propellerheads, we shudder to think where he will go next. Will he figure out that the city can save tens of millions if city council members dine with each other at La Victoria rather than 840 N. First Street? Will he have the chutzpah to suggest that our mayor exchange his big honking city-subsidized SUV for an electric hybrid vehicle? Will he recommend that the city hire some Abu Ghraib prison MPs to reduce the crime rate and jail population? We'll text-message you as soon as we find out.

Grade Mercy

The motto of St. Martin of Tours Catholic School, which is on the east side of Interstate 880 from Valley Fair Mall, is "Not words but deeds." Unfortunately, some of the deeds committed by St. Martin's 350 students haven't been much to brag about lately. Nothing serious, just typical classroom antics, though enough to earn a "check," approximately equivalent to a demerit. Four checks each grading cycle should earn students an F on their report card. But as Fly learned last week, at least three students were boosted from an F to a C because school officials thought the bottom-fishing grades would inhibit students' ability to be admitted to the high school of their choice. According to one of the St. Martin letters, written to a St. Martin parent, "A 'C' may still raise the red flag of concern for the high schools, but it was as high as we felt, in conscience, we could go without seriously damaging our credibility." An anonymous letter to Fly calls the social promotions "disappointing and embarrassing" and hints that it might be due to pressures to keep St. Martin's image squeaky clean. "It makes the administration of Saint Martin's look better to have more Saint Martin students accepted into private high schools than other schools," the letter says. San Jose Diocese attorney John Ottoboni took umbrage that letters to parents were being distributed to the media, saying it could damage children. "Your assumption is inaccurate," he says. "There was no F grade given in the first place. These were warning letters sent consistent with policy." Reminiscent, perhaps, of the old schoolyard saying, "Pay your fees and get your Bs."

Financial Aide

The local chapter of the NAACP held its $135-a-ticket annual Freedom and Friendship Banquet at Lou's Village Restaurant in San Jose May 1 to celebrate Brown v. Board of Ed's 50th anniversary. The event was also supposed to raise some dough to keep from backsliding toward an even stupider social and cultural state than this country is in now. One donor at the event was the political homecoming king of Assembly candidates, Joe Coto, a popular guy who kicked fellow Dem Kathy Napoli's ass in the primary with 43 percent of the vote and now heads toward the election in November to trample lonely Republican Mark Patrosso. Coto threw out a winning figure during the NAACP evening's silent auction. The auction featured such luscious indulgences as an eight-day Caribbean or Riviera cruise vacation, a plane trip, some delicious wine and the obligatory web design package. But Coto won the prize that's probably best suited to his particular needs--financial assistance. Coto, of course, is the former East Side Union High School District superintendent who left behind a $6 million deficit and an unflattering audit delineating a trail of funny finances, including noncompetitive bidding practices and apparent conflicts of interest. So, it's nice for him that he scored an estate-planning package provided by the law offices of Floyd Frisch. Perhaps Frisch could also help Coto climb out of debt, which, despite the generosity of his interconnected web of influential friends, he generated during his feisty primary campaign.

The Traveling Man

When Alum Rock Union Elementary School District Supe Alfonso Anaya was hired from the Alisal district in Salinas, he, according to Fly's spies on Alum Rock's selection committee, promised to eventually relocate from Salinas to San Jose. Two years later, Anaya still commutes from Salinas to work in San Jose every day. Meanwhile, last week the Alum Rock board held a special closed session to discuss Anaya's evaluation and his salary needs. While members of the board remained mum about the specifics, one did divulge that Anaya received a "fair" grade--"not horrible, not outstanding." The supe's salary negotiations were postponed until later this month because, by law, they need to be discussed in an open session. However, there are hints that one of Anaya's salary demands, amid a districtwide budget crunch, may be for an increase in his traveling stipend. It seems his daily commute is becoming quite expensive. "I don't have any indication that he plans to move," says one person in the loop. Anaya, though, is no stranger to making sure he's fully supported. Indeed, the superintendent was paid $138,000 to leave Tulare County's Lindsay Unified School District in 1998.

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From the May 12-18, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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