By Aaryn Belfer
“Poor guy, he doesn’t realize that being frank and open about our financial condition is discouraged around here. He will be taken to the wood shed.”
–Text message from San Diego Unified School District board member, Scott Barnett, predicting the fate of the new chief financial officer Stan Dobbs.
Only one weekend after “investigative journalist” Will Carless published his sycophantic Q&A with Stan “Data” Dobbs, school Superintendant Bill Kowba did damage control, issuing a relatively meek apology for Dobbs’ many erroneous statements. Data Dobbs was then quietly whisked away and fed into a wood chipper. Keeping with its pattern for sticking any warm body in the CFO position, San Diego Unified vetted and hired Dobbs’ replacement even before the blowhard’s left leg had been turned into mulch.
What follows is an exclusive interview with San Diego Unified’s newest Chief Financial Officer, Sarah Palin.
A former Fox News Contributor, Palin brings her bangs and a unique wilderness savvy to the job. Palin once quit her gig as Governor of Alaska smack in the middle of her term, but she assured me she is here to stay and committed to dressing this pig. The one-time Vice Presidential candidate, a gun owning, abstinence-lovin’, outspoken advocate for Nars Spring Break Larger Than Life lip gloss has her eyes on the financial books of our city’s school district, and she’s set to shake things up.
Let me just say here: Nothing in my two-and-a-half years as a parent entwined in the public school morass could have prepared me for this interview. (Full disclosure: I used Carless’ thought-provoking questions because why re-invent the wheel, right?)
I’ve selected some key parts of our conversation, which was lightly edited in an effort to put commas where I thought they might belong. I did my best.
With the problem-solving background you have, is there a part of you that thinks there’s more to solve in this district than simply the finances?
Well first of all, Aaryn, let me just say happy that I am, elated, because talking with you is such an important and vitally way to resolve the issues. And so sure, yes! Privatize! Also: abstinence, school prayer, evolution, armed guards. There’s so much more to solve, here, ya know? And I am so grateful for this opportunity to sit down and really have a chance to, you know, stand up for children’s rights and protect them from greedy teachers who hate them for their freedom.
How do you find extra money, when 92 percent of the district’s budget goes toward salaries and benefits?
I like to promote an honesty and integrity, values and the likely. Todd and I imply these in our own home and I intend to bring that experience, fortitudeness, to the SDUSD with a leadership unsung for decades. For example, when I’m doing laundry, I check all the pockets for change, even those tiny little pockets above the front pockets because sometimes there will be a waded up bill and it’s finders keepers in the Palin household. And I would take this approach to finding extra money in teacher’s pockets. But to do this, we need to hire more fixers, administrators with high salaries who can smoke out those teacher-cheaters actively breaking down our system.
How do you make sure the school board is on the same page as you and buys into your philosophy?
Well, of course I rely on journalistic hacks to sway the public to my side with their fair and balanced Fox-style reporting. And, too, I wink at board members when I’m talking. Sometimes I wrinkle my nose to add emphasis. Oh, and if all else fails: Jazzhands!
So, bottom line, you believe there are more things you can do to save money?
Oh hellz to the yiz-eaaaaaah!
We’re gonna fire teachers, custodians and counselors, and hire armed interns to replace ‘em at a fraction of the cost. We are going to shut off the water on Wednesdays and cut the phones everyday after lunch. Finally, we are going to eliminate toilet paper, hand soap and hand towels from all K-5 schools…oh, wait… I just got word that many schools are already saving on this line item. So I did that decision. And like my mincemeat predecessor, I’d like to see kiosks in every mall so parents can get a read-out of expenditures (minus the cost of installing the kiosks) while eating a hot dog on a stick. God Bless America!
Nobody can say I’m not a get-it-done gal.
That’s why you’re here?
You have a school board that has a history of saying they will go and do things and then turning around at the last minute and stopping doing them. A good example would be closing small, underperforming schools. (Deputy Superintendent of Business) Phil Stover is so exasperated with this that at every step of the way, before he has his staff do stuff, he goes back to the board and says, “Are you sure you want us to do this?” How do you work with that?
I’m so tired of this back ‘n forthin’ on closing small schools. I’m gonna tell ya, we gotta gut this turkey. It’s gonna be ugly. But my goal is—now this is rogue here—my goal is to close all the schools. Then we’ll pray on it for a while.
One of your challenges is that you have a school board that some reporters say is largely supported by labor unions…
Well first, we need astringent voter ID laws to prevent unions from placing anti-American sentiment directly on the board. Next, it’s thanks but no thanks to labor unions. But no, I can’t get behind that redemptive blatancy of pretending of that, there, indeedofcourse. Wink.
So, let’s say we get through to 2014, and we get to the point that we start to get more money from Proposition 30. How do we ensure all of that money doesn’t get swallowed up by a new labor agreement?
What’s Prop 30 again?
How does that 92 percent compare to other districts you’ve been at?
Not to tell you how to do your job, Aaryn, but you’re not supposed to end sentences with a preposition. I think I remember that from my sports casting days. Anyway, to answer your question, I haven’t been at other school districts. But I’m a mom, which means if you have 92 percent, then 8 cents to the dollar is another 17 flagpoles and the Muslims are going to build mosques on Mt. Soledad, mark my word, and death panels! Not buyin’ it. So while it seems complexicated, its really as simple as an Everything bagel.
How does that compare to what you’ve seen elsewhere?
Hoo-boy! I’ve seen some things! And you can’t really compare the view from my house. I can see the Taj Mahal from there. I do so love Egypt.
We’re always told in San Diego that we don’t pay our teachers very much, but we give them good benefits.
Well, I’m gonna go right out on a limb here and refudiate every second of what you just said. We pay teachers way too much and it has to stop. Did you know the average pay for a San Diego teacher is $232 trillion a year? That’s before health benefits! What working class American gets health benefits? It’s ridiculous and downright anti-American.
How does that compare to the teachers up in Hayward and elsewhere?
Could you solve the district’s structural deficit problem, just with the health care benefits?
Exacting. We must remove barriers to large classrooms, and cancel lunch, which at most facilities is a wasteful 15-minute process better spent arithmatically. Mostly though, we need to take away all health care for teachers and their families. It’s this entitled attitude that is bringing down the rungs of real America. It’s bootstraps and belt buckles, is what I’m sayin’. Minimum wage for the fewest teachers and what Mitt said: Kids cleaning toilets. We’ll be in the black in 3 months. Problems solved. Man will I be bored then!
All this new revenue we were promised from Proposition 30, the way I understand it, just stops us from hemorrhaging more. It keeps us afloat.
Is Prop 30 that new craft brewery in South Park?
Aaryn Belfer blogs at aarynbelfer.com and has lots of opinions. Deal with it.