Dog Bites

High School Confidential

Former schools Superintendent Bill Rojas made a blustery return to San Francisco last week to appear before an obscure supervisors' committee, and though the meeting was only two hours long, it managed to be almost as chaotic as Rojas' actual tenure.

Rojas was in town to offer his take on the school district's financial mess. The district has acknowledged not being quite sure where $15 million in state bond money intended for school construction ended up, and it recently asked the FBI to investigate what happened to more than $80 million in additional funds during the previous administration.

Rojas ran the school district from 1992 to 1999 and left unpopular enough to make the most recent school board elections essentially a contest of who hated him most. When he came back on Tuesday, the result was a predictable fiasco. The meeting began with a couple of shouting matches between school board leaders and Supervisor Leland Yee, who kept pounding his gavel and at one point declared, "This is my hearing!"

Then Rojas got up, prompting Supervisor Chris Daly to blurt out, "Is public comment provided under oath? If he testifies falsely, is there any penalty of perjury?"

Rojas didn't flinch. In a series of unrelated tangents, he suggested that part of the district's difficulties could be traced to the firing of the facilities director believed to be at the center of the FBI probe, as well as the canning of the technology director who oversaw a $5 million software boondoggle.

When Rojas finished, he slid into the hallway and held court for reporters. As he left, he happened upon school board Vice President Dan Kelly.

"Nice to see you again, Dan," he said.

"It's never nice to see you anymore, Bill."

"Since when?" Rojas asked, shrinking into a mock-wounded pose.

"Since you started buying board members and putting their spouses on your payroll," Kelly snarled.

"Oh!" Rojas exclaimed, waving his arms while turning for the stairs. "What accusations!"

 
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