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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Then, earlier this year, when Bernard planned to launch his campaign against Jordan, who ran unopposed in 2002, she tried to derail it. Bernard, who grew up in Oakland and lives there, wanted his official kick-off to be at one of his alma maters — Maxwell Park Elementary School in East Oakland. But Jordan called the school's principal to say that such an event would be illegal.

She was wrong. Candidates make announcements at schools all the time — as long as they're not during regular school hours. Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, for instance, held a campaign event earlier this year at Oakland's Montera Middle School. Yet Jordan's call worried the principal, and Bernard's event had to be delayed two weeks.

For her part, Jordan denied threatening either Chaconas or Bernard. She said the last audit of Oakland schools had been planned before Chaconas ran for the board, and she said she would never take retribution against Newark schools for Bernard's decision to back Chaconas. "We do not insert politics into this office," she said.

But Jordan admitted to calling the Maxwell Park principal. When asked why the county superintendent would involve herself in an issue that was inside Oakland schools and thus outside her jurisdiction, she said she was merely acting on a complaint from a local resident. She then blamed her mistake on bad legal advice.

Following the Money

Alameda County school finances have been shaky during Jordan's tenure.

November 1998
Jordan defeats county Superintendent Cheryl Hightower and takes office in January 1999.

March 2000
The tiny Emeryville school district faces a deficit of at least $500,000. In September, Emeryville Superintendent J.L. Handy resigns, but not before Jordan's office fails to stop him from charging more personal items on his district credit card. By then, the deficit had grown to $650,000. After state auditors arrive, they determine that the actual debt is $1.3 million. The district goes bankrupt, requires a $2.3 million line of credit, and is taken over by the state. Handy is arrested and convicted of theft.

January 2002
The small Albany school district finds itself $750,000 in the red. Jordan's office failed to anticipate the deficit. She appoints a fiscal adviser to oversee Albany's finances. At about the same time, a $7 million deficit comes to light in Berkeley. It's blamed on shoddy record-keeping, but Jordan's office did not see the problem coming. She calls in state auditors.

September 2002
Jordan and her top staff are taken completely by surprise when Hayward schools alert them about management and financial problems. Eleven months later, the district is $12 million in the hole and she appoints a fiscal adviser to manage the district's finances.

October 2002
Oakland schools Superintendent Dennis Chaconas tells Jordan's office that his district has overspent by $30 million and appears to be on the way toward a $60 million deficit. Her staff had repeatedly approved Oakland's budget in the prior thirty months and had declared the district to be solvent. By June 2003, Oakland's total deficit tops out at $57 million. The district goes bankrupt, it requires a $100 million line of credit from the state, and Chaconas is fired. It's the largest schools bailout in state history. Jordan refuses to shoulder any blame.

June 2003
Livermore schools report a $650,000 deficit. Jordan disapproves the district's budget and appoints a fiscal adviser.

Jordan's Competition


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