Boy mayors, pet teachers

The boy who would be mayor snagged a big endorsement this week. Former Mayor Heather Fargo announced on Tuesday she’s backing Jonathan Rewers in the mayor’s race, over Kevin Johnson and even Leonard Padilla, who has threatened to make Fargo his city manager if elected.

“I think Jonathan has got the experience and the smarts and the love of the city to be a good mayor,” Fargo told Bites. Rewers is chairman of the city Parks and Recreation Commission and a former longtime city bureaucrat—though you wouldn’t guess it by looking at him. He knows city government, he’s got lawn signs, and he’s not K.J. Plus, as Fargo notes, “He looks younger than he really is.”

As Bites was putting this column to bed, there were rumors that even Padilla was considering endorsing Rewers.

Johnson, meanwhile, ran off to Los Angeles this week to hold a campaign fundraiser with AEG and Antonio Villaraigosa and Richard Riordan but continues to duck debates with his opponents because he deems them “not viable” and not worthy.

Indeed, Bites doesn’t know how Padilla and Rewers can put together enough points to force the mayor into a run-off. Too bad, because that’s the only way to make him debate.

You’ve heard of the teacher’s pet? How about pet teachers?

The Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jonathan Raymond and his trusty board of trustees certainly seem to have their favorites.

Earlier this month, an administrative-law judge said the school district unfairly pink-slipped about 90 teachers with seniority, while protecting the jobs of teachers in Raymond’s pet “priority schools.”

Priority schools are schools with low test scores that Raymond has picked to throw more money at. The principals get paid more, the teachers get a lot more face time with education consultants. And teachers who buy in to the program get to keep their jobs while teachers at others schools get fired because of budget cuts.

Has it worked? The district says test scores are up. But scratch the surface and at least some of the gains appear to be due to trimming lower performing students from the rolls (see “Fail” by Cosmo Garvin; Feature Story; November 17, 2011).

The district says skipping priority-school teachers in the layoff process is better for students. But in fact, turnover at priority schools is pretty high, anyway.

More likely, “skipping” is just a backdoor way to get rid of seniority at those schools and ditch cranky old teachers who won’t drink the Kool-Aid. Seniority is not perfect, but do you really want to replace it with a system where only teachers who kiss enough administrative ass get to keep their jobs?

In any case, the judge found that the district violated state law by protecting teachers at priority schools while giving more experienced teachers the boot, and said the district ought to bring some of the pink-slipped teachers back.

But the decision was nonbinding, and the board of trustees rejected it. Most of the teachers will stay fired. So, just how much money did it cost to have the administrative judge make her recommendation? Because the district could have ignored Bites’ advice for half as much.

After getting the board to vote his way, Raymond sent an email to all the principals at his priority schools saying, “I wish I could wrap my arms around all of you and give each you a huge hug!”

As for you nonpriority principals and all the nonpriority teachers who won’t be coming back to your jobs at the nonpriority schools: Nice try, see you next year. Oh, wait—no, we won’t.