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Grin and Bear It: SJ schools chief Linda Murray looks happy. but she's crying on the inside.

Public Eye

Schoolyard Recession

Normally education-friendly Gray Davis has been driving local school officials nuts since the governor's Dec. 16 announcement that the state plans to cut $3 billion from schools statewide. San Jose Unified School District spokesperson Karen Fuqua declared Code Red and spent last Monday calling newspapers and firing off emails to reporters saying, "This is critical to us that the catastrophic reality of these cuts is known." San Jose Unified School District Superintendent Linda Murray was no less freaked out. "We've already been tightening our belt as prudently as we could in keeping cuts away from our core programs," she says. "It's a terrible crisis for the state." Murray says that the cuts will mean $6.5 million less for San Jose Unified this year and at least that large a cut next year as well. That cut--plus the $1.3 million the district cut in the spring and the $4.8 million it chopped in October--takes a 5 percent chunk from the district's overall $260 million budget, which insiders say is a huge whacking for a school district. Murray says programs already (or soon to be) underfunded include special education, dropout prevention and class-size reduction. The state is now around $21 billion in the hole, according to the legislative analyst (a number that is expected to grow soon). So, what can anyone do? Murray says Davis and the Legislature could loosen restrictions on how schools can spend their money, and that "he could support some kind of a tax increase. [An increase] doesn't look good right now. But I don't see anyway around it." Two-thirds of the state Legislature would have to back raising taxes. "That's not gonna happen," says Associate Superintendent and finance ace Jerry Matranga. "We can't look to Sacramento [for more money]. We've got to take a more practical approach. That's just reality. Locally, we're going to have to figure out how to close the budget gap." Matranga says the district will extend its hiring freeze, and some school employees could get laid off. "We'd replace teachers, school secretaries, principals, custodians," he says. "For every other position, we'd have to see if there are alternative ways to get the job done." Those other positions, the ones that might not be safe, include school nurses and lunch ladies/men. "This proposal reflects tough decisions made to deal with a tough situation," the governor said, according to a Dec. 6 press release explaining his recent proposal for $10.2 billion in cuts in education and elsewhere. "Reductions will be made in every state agency, nearly every department, nearly every program and in all areas of state spending. In times like these, everyone must be part of the solution." Davis has already been part of the solution, his staff proudly explains. Finance Department spokesperson Anita Gore says that the governor's office took an 8.5 percent pay cut in the May revised budget and would suffer no further loss from this new proposal. Hilary McLean, chief deputy press secretary, says that her boss has always taken less pay than he can. "The governor has always voluntarily taken a reduction in pay of at least 5 percent," she says. Davis could rake in $175K a year, but he only asks for $165K.

Caret Sticks Around

San Jose State University rules! It's certainly better than Boca Raton's Florida Atlantic U., and it tops Maryland's Towson U., at least. That's what SJSU Prez Robert Caret's move to shun headhunting offers from those other schools and stay in Dodge last week would suggest. What exactly does Caret like so much about San Jose State? After all, he's not getting a raise and will have to continue to survive on $222,540. (That's just $57,540 more than the governor.) Explanations for his decision have been vague. Caret released a statement on Dec. 3 crediting "many conversations and an outpouring of support from family, the campus, the community and the leadership of the system and state" for his choice. Still curious, Eye rang up his office, but the truth-finding mission was thwarted. "I know he doesn't want to talk about that," says Nancy Stake, one of Caret's media guards. "It's time to move on." Stake says that Caret's announcement to stay, made on Dec. 3, is "old news." Instead of beating that dead horse, she recommends profiling the 23rd president of SJ State, an idea she pitched to the Mercury News two years ago, and which they finally bit on in Sunday's paper with an article titled, "Caret credited with putting SJSU on map." SJ State poli-sci prof Terry Christensen is more willing to break down specifics. "Surely these guys are hot property," he says of school presidents who attract attention from recruiters. "I don't think it'll hurt in the next review. It could result in more money down the line." He adds, "I'm pretty sure family had to be another factor. His wife has a job here. They've got a couple kids in high school. Ultimately, though, Christensen points out, "It doesn't hurt to show that other people want you."

War on Error

Eye was excited about Palo Alto district U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo's new website promising to bring the people closer to its leaders and reminding this region of its high-tech successes. The site--www.house.gov/eshoo--launched Friday, Dec. 6, should help keep locals informed in a confusing time of presidential war courting and empty piggy banks. "Although Silicon Valley is experiencing job losses for the first time in a decade, the Internet revolution continues to change how companies do business and how we all live our daily lives," Eshoo notes on her new legi-site. "I'm proud to represent the region which fueled our nation's economy in the past with innovative technologies and which will lead us again in the 21st century." Yeah, that's the spirit. But Eye had only to click on the first "timely topic," the War Resolution on Iraq link, before communication broke down. "The requested page could not be found," said the site, each of the four times Eye clicked on it. Eye is now trying to ignore the symbolism of this empty link to the topic of war on Iraq and advises that readers do the same.

Sex Change

Eye's eyes for soccer opened wide the day before Thanksgiving while reading a Mercury News article on the NCAA women's tournament. In Mark Emmons' lead piece, he heralded Santa Clara's University's Aly Wagner as one of the athletes "most likely to take the baton from the current group of stars who put women's soccer on the map--such as Mia Hamm and the Earthquakes' Brandi Chastain ..." Oh my. Since the Earthquakes are the men's team in San Jose, not the women's team, Eye just had to rifle off an email to Mike Guersch, the Merc's executive sports editor. With the utmost sobriety, we offered our services as freelance soccer reporters, available at any time, and Guersch took our information in hand. He also informed us that the mistake was made by a copy editor, who had inserted the comment, and that Emmons ought not to be blamed.

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From the December 12-18, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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