Rocketship Education, the energetic charter school operator in the national limelight for educating poor children, has run into some turbulence.
In a lawsuit challenging Rocketship plans to build a K-5 school next to San Jose's Tamien light-rail station, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Franklin Bondonno signaled bad news for that school -- and future ones as well. His tentative ruling released this month said that the Santa Clara County Board of Education lacks the authority to exempt Rocketship from zoning regulations. Rocketship builds its own schools, and on the Tamien site wants to use land slated for light industry. Rocketship will be back before the San Jose City Council for land-use approval Tuesday.
Then another school-site possibility evaporated. Rocketship had sent Foothill Presbyterian Church in East San Jose a proposal to least about 1 acre behind the McKee Road church, to build a school.
Initially, "it sounded good to me," Pastor Ben Daniel said. A 30-year lease would help with church finances.
But in a straw poll on Sunday, church members overwhelmingly opposed the proposal.
"The most common reason was the feeling that putting a school back there would be too big an impact on our church," Daniel said, adding the church will follow its members' will.
Rocketship downplayed the setback.
"This project was a general backup site, and very early on in the process," said Rocketship spokeswoman Jessica Garcia-Kohl, wife of San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo.
While Redwood City-based Rocketship continues to attract admiration and awe for producing stellar math and English test scores amid a sea of low-scoring public schools, the opposition is revving up. There's an irate website, stoprocketship.com, and high-profile education-reform critic Diane Ravitch has signed on.
"The chain is backed by the rich and powerful California corporate charter industry," Ravitch claims, and "the rich entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley would not put their own children in a Rocketship school."
Of course not; they have Palo Alto and private school alternatives.
Garcia-Kohl lamented that the criticism comes with the charter outfit's growing profile. "We see more and more misinformation," she said.
San Jose city attorney lays down the law to mayoral candidates
We're pretty sure that the major candidates running for San Jose mayor in 2014 already know about the city's campaign contribution rules. But just in case, the City Attorney's office last week issued a one-page memo to the City Council reminding them about what's legal in advance of Dec. 5, the first day they can officially start collecting cash.
Specifically, some candidates have asked whether a candidate for city office can solicit backers to serve on a fundraising committee in the "blackout period" leading up to that date.
That's not prohibited, the city's legal eagles say, because it's considered "merely a planning and coordinating stage for soliciting and accepting contributions to a campaign."
But, lining up pledges or contributions from now until then, they write, "would seem an indication that some degree of solicitation was made and is therefore prohibited" until after Dec. 5.
Some of our sources suspect that's what's been going on, and that's why City Attorney Rick Doyle's office sent the memo. Not so, say the candidates.
San Jose City Council members Pete Constant, Sam Liccardo, Madison Nguyen and Pierluigi Oliverio are announced candidates, and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese is expected to run.
San Jose detectives pulling patrol shifts
Detectives have always enjoyed an elite status with the San Jose police. But that sheen seems about to corrode. Under a new plan designed to meet manpower shortages on the street, they're going to start doing patrol shifts at least once a month beginning Nov. 1.
The move by Acting Chief Larry Esquivel's department is not popular. With reason, detectives think it subtracts from their ability to investigate crimes. And the San Jose Police Officers' Association has seized upon it as an opportunity to take a fresh shot at Mayor Chuck Reed.
"When investigators must be taken away from investigating crimes to answer 911 calls, it's time for bold leadership from City Hall to reverse the failed Chuck Reed pension and pay cut scheme," said POA president Jim Unland.
We could not get much that was straightforward from Esquivel's office, though this cannot be blamed on the chief. He is responding to the steady exodus of cops who are ready for retirement or dislike the mayor's pension-trimming.
Speaking of which: We hear that a significant number of the recent 41 police academy recruits have already accepted offers from other departments. Under the "Tier Two" program, they earn lower pensions than officers already on the force in San Jose, as much as a half-million dollars over a lifetime.
When we asked the mayor for a comment about whether he was worried about recruits leaving, he said this: "I'm not surprised. The POA has been working hard to get recruits to leave. Yes, it worries me. I'd like to give them a pay raise. We have an offer on the table."
Milpitas school board leader is a Beatles fan
When the Beatles show "In My Life'' comes to the Montgomery Theater on Nov. 3 with accompaniment by the Milpitas High School string quartet, Daniel Bobay, the president of the board of the Milpitas Unified School District, will try to attend. He has a special reason.
In 1964, Bobay was a 9-year-old student at a Lutheran parochial school in rural Indiana -- and a Beatles fan. On the school bus, he led other students in singing Beatles songs. Bobay says this bothered school authorities so much that they stationed a guard on the bus to stop the singing. "Now I am president of the school board in Milpitas, so let's let these kids play,'' he wrote by email. "You can bet I will be singing along.''
"In My Life'' is a musical retelling of the Beatles' story through the eyes of manager Brian Epstein, featuring the tribute band Abbey Road. The Milpitas High quartet members -- Alina Ren, Trang Tran, Peter Rafe and Kinbert Chouwho -- will be appearing at the 2:30 p.m. performance. A Los Gatos High quartet will perform with the 7 p.m. show.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Tracy Seipel, Sharon Noguchi, Scott Herhold and Paul Rogers. Send tips to email@example.com, or call 408-975-9346.