Err Jordan 

As Alameda County's schools endured record financial woes, Sheila Jordan seemed more interested in punishing employees who questioned her judgment or her alleged illegal behavior.

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Over the next two years, Roth said, Jordan got revenge by twice visiting his classroom and openly questioning his teaching methods in front of the class. "Sheila proved to hold grudges," he said. "It was Nixonian, almost." After the second time that Jordan riled up his class — at Rock LaFleche, where he had transferred — one student tossed a pint of milk at Roth while he stood at the blackboard with his back turned. He resigned shortly thereafter and now teaches at Juvenile Hall in San Francisco.

Jordan basically asserted that Martin, Abad, and Roth were all lying. She denied that Martin was harassed into resigning, and said she terminated Abad's job in part because she "didn't feel that office was operating the way it should." Jordan said she could not remember Roth speaking out at her reorganization meeting, but she admitted that she took the side of a student in his classroom on at least one occasion. "I dealt with Marc in a very respectful way," she said.

Asked why so many people would lie about her, she responded angrily: "They're all disgruntled former employees. ... You're going down the wrong road if you're questioning my ethics."

Tony Aweeka said he first met Jordan while volunteering on her 1988 campaign for the Oakland school board. Like her, he was a progressive, and one day he just showed up and asked to help out. He also worked on her city council campaign race and her 1998 race for county superintendent. Over time, they became friends.

Aweeka was a science teacher at Irvington High School in Fremont when Jordan recruited him in 1999 to become the head of Camp Sweeney's new Cisco Academy, which was part of a larger plan by Cisco Systems to train disadvantaged youths to become familiar with networking. "Most of the youth there are barely literate — if that," Aweeka said during a recent interview in Montclair. "But some students are very competent. The idea was to take them and provide them with more than just a very basic education." Jordan's PR department inundated local reporters with press releases about the new technology classroom. Aweeka was one of the rising stars of Jordan's new administration.

However, Cisco Academy ran into financial problems almost immediately. Kids can be tough on computers, and there was no money in Jordan's $30 million budget for repairs. By 2001, the shine had completely worn off the academy, Aweeka said. Following the dot-com bust, Cisco lost interest, and Jordan decided to turn the academy into a computer repair center where students could learn how to fix computers. But Aweeka said there was still no money for supplies, and he had to scrounge around for spare parts.

Aweeka said he became frustrated when Jordan's office purchased a new computer system and sent the old computers home with employees instead of donating them to his class. By early 2003, he was sending e-mails and letters, sometimes directly to Jordan, questioning what had happened to state and federal technology grants, which would have greatly improved his program. "I was complaining that money supposed to go to the classroom was going elsewhere," he said.

A few weeks later, on March 4, 2003, Aweeka's career crashed. He left school early — about 2:30 p.m. — for an eye appointment. He'd had LASIK surgery about a month before and was going in for a routine check-up. His absence was excused, but instead of getting a substitute, Principal Steve Karass took over his class.

When Aweeka pulled into the school parking lot the following morning, he immediately was met by Karass and one of Jordan's top aides, county human resources director Rick Minnis. The two stepped out of a van and approached him. "Minnis told me to not have contact with anyone at Camp Sweeney," Aweeka said. "He said they had found all this child pornography on my computer, and he said, 'You're going to lose your credential and I'm taking the case to the district attorney.'"

Inside Camp Sweeney, Aweeka's classroom was cordoned off as if it were a crime scene. There were six thousand images of young African-American and Latino girls on his computer. Minnis immediately placed Aweeka on administrative leave, and Jordan recused herself from the case because of her long prior relationship with him.

Aweeka maintained his innocence and demanded a hearing. As a computer teacher, he believed it would be easy to prove that he wasn't responsible for the porn. He turned out to be right. The county's own computer forensic expert exonerated him, Aweeka said: The pornography did not appear to have been downloaded from the Internet. Instead, it seemed to have been uploaded onto his computer in two mass copying sessions. Although Aweeka said the date of these sessions could not be ascertained, the time stamp from one session was 11:30 p.m. Aweeka said he never worked that late, and that the official record backed him up. A key code is required to enter the school after hours, he said, and there was no evidence that his key code had ever been used to enter the building that late.

Although the county never again accused Aweeka of being responsible for the pornography — the origin of which was never determined — his ordeal had just begun. Minnis, the HR director, quickly reinstated him, but then closed down the computer classroom and ordered all the equipment put in storage. Minnis reassigned Aweeka to teach social studies, a subject he was not qualified to teach, and Aweeka said he also did not have sufficient classroom supplies or textbooks. Nonetheless, Karass launched weekly audits of his new classroom, in violation of the teachers' contract, which Aweeka said prohibited formal evaluations of teachers immediately after they are reassigned. "I was under a lot of pressure," he said. "It was obvious that they didn't care about the rules. They were out to get me."


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