District Issues Worrisome Directive

"NO ONE IS TO SPEAK TO ANY REPORTERS!"

Where would you suppose such an order in all capital letters with accompanying exclamation point would have been issued? North Korea? Mother Russia? Cuba? The NSA? Or that bastion of liberalism known collectively as the Bay Area? Actually the edict was issued right here in River City following the Tuesday, Feb. 11, gas leak at Encinal High School.

Those well-meaning people responsible for the gag order were trying to scotch any speculation about the leak and, more importantly, stop variants of the newspeak version from reaching the public via the media.

Was this Machiavellian order directed at administrators, teachers, janitorial staff and students, or just teachers? One has to wonder what the punishment is for disobeying such an unconstitutional edict. Are there people of integrity, or thugs, that are prepared to punish those who exercise their first amendment rights?

Whoever put out that censorship directive had no appreciation for the role of the press; when someone tells one of those loose cannons not "TO SPEAK TO ANY REPORTERS" those rebels get facial tics just thinking about leaking the truth to the public.

Believe me, I know the type; every one of those civil libertarian snitches is out to become the next Daniel Ellsberg or Edward Snowden; in their delusions of grandeur they visualize Pulitzer prizes, movie contracts and accolades from Tea Party conservatives.

Fortunately, a poor economy coupled with a highly subjective evaluation system has many teachers intimidated; were the apparatchiks to demand the lower echelons to doff their hats, curtsey, speak to them in the third person and buff their wing tips or pumps, they would probably get away with it.

Actually three variants to the gas leak story are floating out there.

One: A fitting in the gas line leading to the Bunsen burner taps had mysteriously loosened itself, thereby defying several of Newton’s Laws.

Two: A section of the gas line leading to the Bunsen burner taps had been cannibalized, i.e. was missing altogether, and the science department was unaware that the system’s integrity had been compromised.

Three: A two-foot section of mangled flex tubing leading to the Bunsen burner taps was so tortuously twisted, that it sprang a leak.

The hose fitting is presently the only authorized explanation being spewed in official emails to the public and at meetings with a trusting constituency present. It is amazing to watch this version be retold so unctuously that its raconteur could easily pass a polygraph test while spinning it. It is told so well that the science teacher, who witnessed what really happened, would probably believe it.

Given the commandment, "NO ONE IS TO SPEAK TO ANY REPORTERS!" it seems that the loosened-fitting story trumps all unauthorized versions.

The missing-pipe-section theory emanates from the science department; but then, what would they know? They were there. The two-foot section of mangled flex tubing comes from witnesses at the ever-popular 1400 Club on Webster Street at Central Avenue.

Several witnesses said that they saw three Encinal administrators lug the tubing into the 1400 Club at four in the afternoon, the day of the leak. Rarely do administrators take twisted tubing out for an afternoon cocktail especially at a nice place like the 1400 Club; perhaps they were going to barter it for drinks.

Or, when the administrators stopped for cocktail hour, perhaps they were en route to the Alameda Sun to offer a photo op. Then again, they could have been en route to the Park Street Bridge to deep six conflicting evidence.

So was the "NO ONE IS TO SPEAK TO ANY REPORTERS!" threat issued in the interest of national security or someone’s job security? Is it likely that anyone in the district will offer an apology for the threat? Do the teachers deserve an apology for demanding they suspend their constitutional guarantees?

Does the local news media deserve an apology for being mistrusted by district employees? After all, a free press, which is the principal pillar of a free and civil society, can only operate if citizens can exercise their right to communicate with a free press without fear of reprisal or revenge or termination.

The Alameda Unified School District likes to tout itself as transparent (sic). "NO ONE IS TO SPEAK TO ANY REPORTERS!" reveals a district that has gone from transparent (sic) to opaque without ever having passed through the translucent zone.

If the district is prevaricating about the loose fitting, can we trust that the district was speaking the truth when it convinced a rubber-stamping school board that it needed to evacuate Historic Alameda High, needed a shrapnel fence, needed to rent $30,000 per month digs to house all its anachronistic file cabinets and supply lockers and now needs to float a bond issue?

And what about that mysterious three-week hiatus?

How do we know that taxpayer money isn’t being fed to a crony real estate agent and that most of the bond revenue isn’t going to get squandered on a $5 million administrative chateau that Alameda students and most teachers will never set foot in?

If the truth is being sidelined and squelched with an attitude of "NO ONE IS TO SPEAK TO ANY REPORTERS!" why do we spend $90,000 on a propaganda minister?

Pliny might have been right when he said, "Populus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur," (People want to be deceived, therefore let them be deceived.) but do we really want to spend $90,000 every year on smoke and mirrors?

Not too long ago, AUSD deleted the Public Affairs billet to save money and that was progress; now we’ve added a spin doctor and that too is progress. Remember: In public education, change is often confused for progress.

In bella Napoli they have omerta: the code of silence; it’s enforced by Camorra Gangsters, not school administrators.

In the swine circuses of the world, the whistle blower mysteriously chokes on his whistle or gets strangled by his whistle lanyard. Hopefully the district won’t use plumbers to find information leaks; the plumbers will keep their eyes and wrenches on the gas, water and sewer lines instead.

Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov is a Russian immigrant living out his days in Alameda.