Don’t Blame the Messenger for County Schools Contract Fiasco

Real journalism is going the way of the dinosaur. Technology and the Internet have made news instantaneous, and the value of real, thorough reporting has been shunted to make way for entertainment that now passes as information.

Fact checking, ethics, in-depth reporting and the accurate dissemination of information that is pertinent to the public have been eschewed for the salacious, entertaining, partisan and often false narratives that permeate current events.

But once in a while, real journalism rears its fierce head to expose issues that are actually germane to the public and need public scrutiny. San Jose Inside’s recent reports on the county Superintendent of Schools fall into this category. Schools chief Jon Gundry pushed through a contract that allows the consultant, Mark Skvarna, to avoid CalPERS restrictions—it's a clear example of a public official facilitating double-dipping.

Some in the body politic have simply dismissed the story because they are upset at the media outlet that uncovered the activity. Metro, the weekly newspaper that owns this blog, has a history of edgy journalism, which includes the salacious, entertaining and partisan views of its leadership. They make no apologies for their brash style—but the substance of this story is important for the public.

There is no question that public servants try to max out their retirement and augment their income. Using the rules that exist, many go into consulting; many simply never take an “official” vacation so they can max out the benefit; and some use their sick days to augment their income. All of this is legal, but it doesn’t make it right.

Certainly, no one should argue that public employees are not entitled to vacation, sick pay and retirement. But when the system is abused, it invites the kind of solutions that divided the city of San Jose. Public employee morale has been devastated and taxpayers began to mistrust their public servants.

That’s why it is important to ferret out abuse, correct it and ensure it doesn’t happen in the future. The vast majority of public employees doesn’t abuse the system; most don’t even have the option. But those in upper management need to recognize that the public will not put up with anyone gaming the system.

That’s why public officials need to act on issues like the revelations made by San Jose Inside and Metro. No matter who calls it to their attention.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

14 Comments

  1. Rich I agree, but I think Josh could have omitted his “translation thought bubbles” in the article. The article took a more personal tone when he added those. While I know on the surface you’re trying to be objective here, calling Darcie “Bubbly” is analogous to calling her stupid (Head filled with bubbles, bubble headed bleach blond, ignorance is bliss, etc)

      • Interjecting his personal opinion would make it an op-ed piece. It sullies the story because the reporter shows personal bias. I’m not defending the reporting limit, I think it’s BS, but go back and read the Shirakawa stories. Josh wrote a lot more professionally about them.

        • I think “freedom of the press” really means “No Official Definition or Standard of Reporting”.

          A “writer” can make and excellent “report” of some circumstance on one day, and make a completely distorted narrative of something else the next day.

          It’s both the human condition and the First Amendment concept of Free Speech and Press Freedom.

          Whether something is an Op-ed piece or a prize-winning journalistic tour de force is often a matter of perspective.

          The lesson of Rashomon is that people see things differently.

        • “Josh wrote a lot more professionally about them….” that is not saying much considering how many comments about Shirakawa’s weight made it to print which just egged on commenters who violated JK/SJI’s posting rules which points out the glaring double standard that exists at SJI/Metro – “Agree with us and you’re ok – disagree and risk having your post get lost in moderation.”

          • > “Agree with us and you’re ok – disagree and risk having your post get lost in moderation.”

            True.

            But always true, of every forum.

            Can you think of a forum that allows EVERYTHING?

            Any forum needs relevance defined by a border between “on topic” and “off topic”.

            A theoretically “completely open forum” inevitably becomes dominated by the irrelevant.

            Some of my wisest, most profound, most valuable to humanity postings didn’t survive moderation at SJI.

            So, I just posted them on other forums, to be read by people who became winners of life’s lottery of brilliant internet postings.

  2. I agree, Rich. And I must say Josh provides some of the best reporting I’ve read in years. At least the reports on the Gundry/Skavarna corruption provide us with great reporting. Jon Gundry and Mark Skavarna were caught. Period. I’m left wondering what’s the Darcie Green connection to them? I’m sure it’ll all come out soon enough. Thanks Josh!

  3. This is great reporting and relevant information we just don’t see anywhere else. It’s strange, most people into “politics” focus on the national level with their usual hot button issues. But local politics has a vastly greater impact on your day to day life. The school board is a prime example. But 90% of people couldn’t name one member off the top of their head. Thanks to SJI for trying to inform at least some.

    • SJI has its head in the sand on actual San Jose politics unless it is cheerleading the IPA or Reed or Sam and their attacks on public employees. The only time they look at a “San Jose” politician is after the Pol has term limited out or when a civilian department head is clearly out the door. Current Department heads or council members aligned with Reed/Liccardo against public employees have a free pass – the police chief , fire chief and their subordinates are under the SJI/JK microscope and second guessed until the cows come home.

      • Sometimes Josh is subtle about his biases, and sometimes he is not. Seemingly neutral and technically accurate words can reveal editorial bias in a purported news story. Josh leaned heavily toward his anti-police bias by describing 19 year old Diana Showman as a “teenager,” a word clearly and consciously chosen to evoke sympathy for a chronically mentally disabled person who was a threat to others, yet who was free to roam the streets due to the strictures of the LPS Act. Name one 19 year old who would refer to him/herself as a teenager? But it’s not just Josh. SJI’S/Metro’s parent company completely erased the line between news and editorial content a long while ago.

  4. “…which includes the salacious, entertaining and partisan views of its leadership. They make no apologies for their brash style…”

    Good Job yourself Rich – at sucking up to the management… You have a pretty short memory. Didn’t SJI/JK have nothing good to say about the Daily Fetch’s “Brash” style of reporting/commenting on links to articles in the Merc and SJI?

    • Up until last week reddit was a pretty good spot. Then the CEO decided to ban some subreddits like /r/fatpeoplehate For a spell the /r/sanjose subreddit was under siege by vote brigading (seems there’s a strong union/chamber presence there) but just being my persistent self has sort of slain the dragon there.