It’s not about this…

… or that.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been called an “equalizer” but it’s not. Depending on one’s circumstances, it is affecting many segments of our society in different ways.

The pregnant mother sees the virus differently than the mother of three.

The shoppers for Instacart see the virus differently than the people who are receiving the groceries.

The elderly see the virus differently than the young.

And those in the N-MUSD administration see the virus differently than teachers, parents, and students.

Though the analogy is far from perfect, it recently occurred to me that while we all see the N-MUSD administration and the trustees, they mean different things to different people.

There are people in the Ensign neighborhood who are justifiably upset about the handling of the school’s safety upgrades. Many of them do not have kids in the schools and did not have much of an opinion of the district administration and the board majority until the Ensign Fence Mess. That’s OK. As Paul Henreid said to Humphrey Bogart near the end of Casablanca, “Welcome to the fight.” 

There are parents who are upset about their child’s distance learning progress, or lack thereof. Many of them want answers to questions about how the grades and test scores are going to affect their child’s college entry prospects but there is no notice on the district website, not even an entry such as “We’re working on it.”

There are teachers who are upset with the district about the lack of preparation to help them get over the distance learning curve. Valuable time was wasted.

Those groups, and others, all have issues to be resolved. The distance learning challenges will be resolved on their own – or at least until the next catastrophe – on June 19, which is the last day of school. Until then, the administration folks on Bear St. are holding their collective breaths just trying to make it to the finish line.

They’re also hoping that the summer break will erase the public’s memory of the worst debacle in the history of the district. And it just may. History has shown us that interest in problems drops dramatically once the summer finish line has been reached.

For the residents around Ensign, it’s a matter of having their concerns heard and having them taken seriously.

All of these, and more, are good causes – things that need to be pursued. More important, however, we must ensure that these mistakes do not happen again.

I have no faith that the current board majority will do much of anything to make the changes need to improve accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility, which are the three “super issues” that most need addressing.

I’ve seen this cavalier attitude toward the public’s right to know for far too long. Too many huge mistakes have been made in too short a time to believe that anything is going to change anytime soon. If you need support for this, go to the top of this page and search for “The List.” It hasn’t been updated in awhile, but that won’t be necessary – you’ll understand how bad the situation is and has been without the addition of distance learning inefficiencies, the Ensign Fence Mess, and more.

The point today is that while you may have a particular issue justifiably near and dear to you, others have their issues, too, and different perspectives. The easy, short-term thing to do is get your issue resolved and move on, but that will not serve the root problem, which is that we need new leadership at the highest levels of the district. Unfortunately, that ain’t gonna happen with the current board majority, which includes two trustees who were elected in the 90’s.


… You have a choice. You can watch your issue get resolved – or not – or you can work to ensure that changes are made so that the chance of these issues happening again and again are greatly reduced.

That is done by voting out the three incumbents – or their surrogates – running for office and voting in three people who will help improve the levels of accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility.

To that end, I am pleased to announce the candidacy of Dr. Leah Ersoylu, who is a contender for the school board seat in Area 1.

I have met with Dr. Ersoylu (she’d probably prefer just “Leah,” but  I want you to know that she has a Ph.D.) on multiple occasions and am confident that she is the type of trustee you need on the school board to help right the many years of wrongs.

Ersoylu has an impressive resume of education and community involvement. She is a small business owner and has a unique perspective on the challenges facing parents in the area because she has a child in school in the district.

I’ve already donated to her campaign and I will be canvassing neighborhoods once the governor says it’s safe to do so.

It is important to support Dr. Ersoylu even if you don’t live in Area 1 and can’t vote for her. When you do, you will help end the administrative paralysis that has prevented progress in the learning community and help restore our once-proud district to its rightful place at or near the top of all of the districts in the county.

Please support Dr. Leah Ersoylu. The URL for her website is:

Thank you.

Steve Smith


We need new leadership

Question: If a government agency knew that they were putting your child at risk of exposure to unwanted graphic images, would you be upset?

Here’s the question again, revised: If a government agency knew that they were putting your child at risk of exposure to unwanted graphic images but didn’t bother to advise you, would you be upset?

This is the situation that parents of Newport-Mesa students are facing at this moment. Here’s a link to the latest chapter in this mess:

The short story on the link is this: Zoom CEO acknowledged serious privacy issues, said, “I am deeply sorry,” and said that “Zoom will stop adding new features for the next 90 days and instead focus solely on addressing privacy issues.” (

The N-MUSD has been aware of this problem. At the board meeting on Tuesday, a student board member told the trustees and the administration that she had experienced Zoom problems five times.

And I posted about it Tuesday night.

So what has been the district response to the fact that their distance learning platform may be risking kids to the exposure of unwanted graphic images?

Nothing. Not a word. No advisory so that parents can make an informed decision, no message that a workaround is being worked around, no effort to get other districts together to send Zoom a message, nothing.

These people on Bear St. keep talking about school safety but they still don’t get it. Safety is not just protecting kids from a shooter, or improving access so kids don’t get injured on the way to and from the campus. Kids are not in schools now, so the safety emphasis has to shift to making sure that kids are protected during the distance learning program era.

If they were truly serious about school safety, they would issue the advisory NOW.

It’s what responsible leaders would do. But save for a couple of trustees and a glimmer of hope now and then from the other five, we do not have the responsible leadership we need, We haven’t had it for a very long time, but we really need it now.

Forget about the super taking the initiative to issue the advisory. If past behavior is an indication of future performance, you won’t hear a peep about this.

I could write about this stuff all day. Nothing will change until we get new leadership on the school board – trustees who understand that the super works for them, not the other way around.

The tail has been wagging the dog for too long. Vote out the three incumbents – Snell, Fluor, and Black (or their hand-picked replacements if that applies) and vote in people who understand the concepts of transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility.

And parental advisories.

Steve Smith

P.S. Not thrilled with Zoom or their CEO, but at least he said “I’m sorry.” The super and the board majority should try that sometime.




It’s disturbing is what it is

A very good night’s sleep helped me recall a few details of yesterday’s school board meeting that are worth mentioning.

The first is a question posed by Trustee Vicki Snell, who asked whether there were any construction projects that could be delayed at this time to help save some money for the surprise expenses popping up during the virus crisis.

It was a good question, the type of which should be asked repeatedly by the trustees or anyone else.

  • What else can be done to defer payables?
  • How can we benefit from the changes in staffing and teaching?
  • What can we learn from other districts (best practices)?
  • And so on…

I stayed through the entire 3.5 hours of the meeting and for me, Snell’s question and the Student Services update were the highlights.

The lowlight was a disturbing comment from the super who said near the end of the meeting that “There are individuals who want to create divisions among us.” I reported this last night but that good night’s sleep brought some additional clarity.

Secure, competent people don’t make comments like that. People who are pointing fingers and scapegoating make comments like that.

Strong leaders don’t make comments like that, weak leaders do.

Who are these evil “individuals” of whom he spoke? Are they parents? Community activists? Anarchists? Lawyers? Or are they perhaps union individuals? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the superintendent of our district took the time to mention them.

Maybe it’s students. As was reported last night by a student board member, 64% of the students in her poll rated the district’s virus performance at three stars or less out of five.

(A tangent here… I have created a bazillion surveys over the years. I never use an odd number for a rating system – such as 5 – because a disproportionate number of responses will be right in the middle, such as 3. An even number forces people off the fence.)

And who is “us?” Did he mean the people in the community? If so, I’m afraid he’s too late. People in these parts were upset with the district’s performance well before he said this.

Is the “us” the district administration team? If so, there’s no danger of anyone creating divisions. The well-compensated folks in the cabinet and in other administrative positions have no intention whatsoever of rocking the boat. They have good jobs – hard to find jobs like these – and they want to keep them, thank you very much.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which “individuals” (reminds me of “irregardless”) he’s scared of or which group he is afraid will turn against him. What matters is that he said this. It’s disturbing and it is conduct unbecoming the head of the district administration.

It was not a Phi Beta Kappa thing to say. As Vito Corleone said to his son, Sonny, “Never tell anyone outside the family what you’re thinking.”


Steve Smith

Save it.

Hey N-MUSD bureaucrats:

Parents and students don’t care about your self-congratulations or the plaudits for your “team,” and how hard they are working. Those people on your team have jobs and money coming in. Some of the people listening to you tonight do not have jobs or money and even more who did not log on are out of work and running out of money. These parents have no sympathy for people who working “around the clock” or whatever you said and they’d trade places with them in a heartbeat.

So save it.

They’re sick and tired of you thanking them for their patience and they’re sick and tired of the way you gloss over the many blunders that have been made, or don’t even acknowledge that the start-up of distance learning has been a mess.

Save it.

I’m not buying your accounts of how people are telling you that everything is roses and rainbows.

From Trustee Vicki Snell tonight: “Everybody in the district is doing a great job.” OBTW, she expressed some disappointment in some local people who don’t understand blah, blah, blah.

Save it.

OBTW, if I hear some district person say “amazing!” one more time, I may scream.

My job

My job is to tell the other side of the story. You can take it or leave it as you please. But remember that I’m not making any money here and I don’t have a boss or a high-paying job to protect.

So, here’s a blogger telling parents, students, and teachers what the district should have already expressed to you: There is a good possibility that kids are not going to return to school this semester. Make arrangements accordingly.

This message was delivered tonight by Trustee Michelle Barto, who read a message from Tony Thurmond, the Superindent of the Calif. Dept. of Education. The district should already have advised parents of the possibility.

Here’s a blogger telling you that Zoom is problematic. I mentioned it in my last post and it was supported tonight by a student board member who said that she had experienced crashers (aka Zoombombers) 5 times.

Parents, those Zoombombers are not interrupting online teaching with historical facts or intriguing math problems, they are sharing a lot of bad stuff.

Here’s a blogger telling you that a different student board member’s survey revealed that 64% of students polled rated the distance learning a 3 or below (out of 5).

The not-so super-intendent

The super started his portion of the show by reciting some meaningless history about how the district had a distance learning program in 2005-06. Then, 2 1/2 hours later, trustee Karen Yelsey said that distance learning is “something we’ve never been through before.”

Whatever. What the super apparently didn’t realize is that by mentioning the precedent, he just made the case that the district should have been more prepared this time around.

Yelsey is the only participant in tonight’s meeting who offered some honest perspective on this whole mess. I didn’t write it down but she alluded to the personal challenges we are all facing right now.

No one should have expected a flawless launch of a distance learning program of this size. With so many moving parts, there was bound to be some problems.

What was missing during the start-up and what is missing now is acknowledging the problems. Why does it take a student board member to tell them that so far, students are less than dazzled?

The super said tonight that there are “individuals who want to create divisions.” The small point first: There is no such word as “individuals.” The word to use is “people.”

The second and larger point is this: Criticizing those who chose to criticize is not becoming of someone in your (hefty) pay grade. If you can’t take the heat, pal, you are free to leave the kitchen.

So save it.

A lost opportunity

I have no hope that any significant changes will be made based on the distance learning experiences during the virus crisis. Beauracracies crave the status quo and everything points to getting back to it as soon as possible. That is the priority here.

That, ultimately, will be the biggest deficit of the crisis plans. There is so much to be learned and so much that can benefit students, teachers, and taxpayers, but I have no hope that anything will change once the crisis is over.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge one bright spot during this time. The district’s Student Services Dept. is doing a good job trying to help students and parents who are suffering from any emotional distress at this time.

Any student who is in crisis and needs help can call (714) 424-7538.

Any taxpayer who is in crisis over the execution of district learning, the ongoing lack of transparency, the lack of fiscal responsibility, and the near-absence of anything close to accountability, can call the superintendent.

Unless, of course, you’re trying to create a division.

Steve Smith

Uh-oh. Plus: Telling it like it is

On Dec, 6 2019, the stock price for Zoom, the software used in the district’s distance learning program, was $62.74. This morning at 10:57 a.m., it was $145.76. Had I bought a bunch, I would have all the toilet paper I need.

But I didn’t, so here I am writing another blog post.

The phenomenal rise in Zoom stock has been short-circuited by some disturbing news, which has caused the price to drop 3% today alone. Eight days ago, the price was $159.56.

Why the sudden steep drop? I can’t be certain, but it looks like the disturbing news is the culprit.

Here’s the first paragraph from the coverage in the New York Times:

“Zoom, the videoconferencing app whose traffic has surged during the coronavirus pandemic, is under scrutiny by the office of New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, for its data privacy and security practices.”

And some highlights:

“While the letter [from the NY AG] referred to Zoom as “an essential and valuable communications platform,” it outlined several concerns, noting that the company had been slow to address security flaws such as vulnerabilities “that could enable malicious third parties to, among other things, gain surreptitious access to consumer webcams.

Click on that Zoombombing link and you’re going to read some scary stuff, such as, “[Trolls] are jumping into public Zoom calls and using the platform’s screen-sharing feature to project graphic content to unwitting conference participants, forcing hosts to shut down their events.”

Finally, this, from the NYT story:

“The office expressed concern that the app may be circumventing state requirements protecting student data. To help educators, the company recently expanded meeting limits on free accounts. The attorney general’s office called such efforts “laudable,” but also said the company appeared to be trying to offload consent requirements to schools.”

This is another potential crisis. So, I did what any concerned citizen would do and sent the NYT link to the board and the super. Got a quick “thank you” from Board President Martha Fluor.

What happens from this point is anyone’s guess.  Will there be consultations with other districts to learn what they are doing, if anything? Will someone at the N-MUSD contact the state BOE to get some direction on how to handle this? Will this be another bit of bad news that is swept under the rug?

Based on past experience, I’d say the answers are no, no, and yes.

So how about at least letting parents know of this development so that they can make an informed decision about the online content their child is receiving?

Nah. Doubt it.

If I were a parent, I’d want to know. And if my child was a victim of some troll exposure and I knew that the district was aware of the possibility but said nothing, well, I think I’d be really mad.

There’s more not being said

If you are a parent and have kids in the distance learning program or are a teacher, my guess is that school is out for the rest of the semester. No one’s going back.

I may be wrong, of course, but based on the tea leaves I’m reading, I don’t think so.

The last district’s most recent CV update was posted yesterday. Unusual for its brevity, the post read:

NMUSD schools are currently closed.

At the March 31 Board of Education Meeting, Superintendent Dr. Fred Navarro will recommend to the Board of Education that Distance Learning continue until May 8, with classes tentatively scheduled to return to the classroom on May 11.

NMUSD has developed a resource page. Review the latest news and information on our School Closure – Distance Learning Webpage.

Reminder: Follow the Statewide stay at home order and practice social distancing.

That’s it. It’s not what I would have written, but it is what it is and it reflects the poor leadership we have seen during the crisis.

That version is similar to what you hear an airline pilot say when everyone is on board and ready to go but the plane’s not backing up. That one goes, “Ladies and gentlemen, just an update from the cockpit… We are experiencing some computer problems and are working to get them resolved as quickly as possible. We expect to be departing in just a few minutes. Thank you for flying Cramped Seat Airlines.”

Passengers hear that, then “a few minutes” turns into half an hour, which turns into an hour, and the next thing you know, you’re being asked to get off the plane.

I would prefer the whole truth from the get-go, thank you very much.

So my version would have read:

NMUSD schools are currently closed.

At the March 31 Board of Education Meeting, Superintendent Dr. Fred Navarro will recommend to the Board of Education that Distance Learning continue until May 8, with classes tentatively scheduled to return to the classroom on May 11.

Parents are advised, however, that there is the possibility that our schools may not reopen for the remainder of the semester and they may want to make contingency plans accordingly.

NMUSD has developed a resource page. Review the latest news and information on our School Closure – Distance Learning Webpage.

It’s that “contingency” that is problematic for the district. Despite being in existence for decades in earthquake country, where “the big one” could hit at any moment, the superintendent did not have a contingency distance learning program in place and valuable time was lost.

About tonight’s board meeting…

It starts at 6 p.m. Here’s a link to the agenda:

This meeting is remote, too, a “teleconference” is what they are calling it, but there’s no conferring, at least not with the public. A member of the public who wants to address the board must do so in writing by 3 p.m. today. Public comments will be read at the usual place on the agenda.

If you want to comment, here is the link – just follow the instructions:

That agenda includes the approval of at least $58K in legal fees.

Oh, BTW… The meeting is hosted through Zoom. Just thought you’d like to know.

Steve Smith



5 reasons why the video fails

Moments after I wrote about how the super should have created a video presence, voila!, he did. But it’s worthless – utterly and completely worthless. In my career, I’ve done enough media coaching to be qualified to comment on this…

  1. Poor presence. Instead of wearing a coat and time – something that exudes authority, the super is dressed as though he were heading out the door to the market. Perhaps that is to be expected from the guy who showed up at the recent special meeting in a T-shirt. (Yes, he was wearing pants, too.)
  2. Sitting. He is in a chair, rocking and swiveling. He should have been standing and using his hands for emphasis.
  3. Background. He is standing in front of a map of no consequence. He should have been in his office with books in the background (if he has any), or perhaps in an empty classroom.
  4. Rehearse. Did he even read what he wrote or what someone wrote for him? There are a few bad cuts and jumps, and his eyes wander too many times to the script. The thing is only about 2 minutes – he should have had it down.
  5. Content. He said nothing of substance except for the mention of the squishy deadline for the distance learning program that he should have had in place years ago. “Expected sometime next week” is not reassuring.

Here’s the link:

Grade: F

Steve Smith

The more things change…

… The more they stay the same. French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote that in 1848 but he could not have known that it would apply to the N-MUSD in 2020.

The example today is the special meeting that was held at 2:30 – a closed-door session to discuss even more potential litigation involving the Coronavirus. If you go to the district website to get the agenda, you will see that it starts with this:

Special Meeting of the Board of Education
Newport-Mesa USD
March 20, 2020 2:30PM

First of all… ALL CAPS? Seriously? I know that people think that presenting something in ALL CAPS makes it look serious or important, but all it does is make it harder to read. (The most readable font is a serif font, such as Times, but graphic artists and web folks don’t like to use Times because it looks too old school. So, they use Helvetica or Arial because it has a cleaner look. But they are much harder to read, particularly when they are under 12 points or when there is a large text block. This blog uses a serif font vo)

As I was saying… The agenda post had limited information about how to speak if one wished to speak, but some clarification came to a reader this afternoon as follows:

“Due to the Governor’s stay-at-home order we will only be allowed to have one person at a time inside the board room to make their comment and then leave. This is a closed session only special meeting so the meeting will be confidential behind closed doors via teleconference.”

Here’s the change/stay the same connection… We are in the early stages of the greatest crisis ever faced by the district. That’s the change. The same? most of these special meetings have no one in attendance. I’ve been to a number of them and the greatest number of people I can recall attending is three. So it’s not like having only one person in the room at one time is any big deal. It’s business as usual.

The change/stay the same concept also applies to having to pull someone through a keyhole in order to get the public speaker details. Why was it so hard? Because public input never has been a priority and as long as we re-elect the same ol’ folks, it never will be.

Oh, and as someone pointed out earlier today, the administration has been so gung-ho on making sure our students are prepared for the 21st Century [sic] economy but went it came time to do something as simple as teleconferencing a meeting and having people call in with comments, they couldn’t do it. There was no reason to have to make people violate the governor’s edict by showing up to offer comments.

Unless that was the plan all along…

Frontline report

This was posted on the district website only yesterday as part of an FAQ:

What learning options exist for students?
We are in the process of implementing a cohesive Distance Learning Program to meet the needs of all of our students. In the meantime, we created an NMUSD Distance Learning Toolkit to support families with educational resources they can use until Distance Learning is implemented.

“We are in the process…” No estimate of when, no details on what to expect, the number of hours per day, how to prepare, etc. Just a vague general statement.

Sorry, not good enough. It is long past the time when the super should have made a short video on this mess and sent it out to everyone. Hiding behind these updates only makes matters worse. The good news is that this lack of engagement by the super expose the weak leadership about which many people have been railing over the past several years.

Too bad it had to be confirmed under these circumstances.

Steve Smith


A common advisement here is to try to understand what the district is not saying. It’s often more important than what they do say.

In this case, here’s what I believe and what they are not saying: The N-MUSD schools are not going to open before the end of the semester.

No chance.

I think the superintendent knows this. If he does he should have said something to parents by now. At the very least, that statement should have been issued at the time the first closure announcement was made and should have been something like, “Parents and guardians should prepare for the possibility that our schools may not reopen for the remainder of the semester.”

Now we have word that there is a special meeting of the board today at 2:30. The notice includes this:


Unfortunately, there are no instructions on how to watch or comment. Now, one would think that, OK, they wanted to post the notice to conform to the law and to give people as much notice as possible, even if the technology hadn’t been finalized. In that case, the responsible, respectful thing to do would have been to post this:

“Instructions for watching and/or commenting will be posted as soon as they are available.”

But that doesn’t appear on the agenda page. Why? Because they don’t care if you watch or comment. If they did, they would have posted something similar to what I just wrote. That would have been the responsible, respectful thing to do.

Yeah, I know that these are “unique and unprecedented times” (superintendent) and if this were the first time something like this had happened, I wouldn’t even mention it. But it’s not – it’s routine. Standard operating procedure: Fake community meetings. Posting agenda just hours before the legal deadline. Disrespect. Etc.

Teleconferencing protocols should have been established years ago so they could be used at a moment’s notice. We’ve had the technology. What we haven’t had is the leadership.

OBTW, The closed session portion of today’s show includes a meeting with an attorney to discuss “ANTICIPATED LITIGATION Facts and circumstances that might result in litigation against the Local Agency. (GC 54956.9(e)(1).) – Pertaining to the coronavirus”

Is the attorney showing up or patching in? If he/she/they show(s) up, it costs taxpayers money – it’s called “travel time” and a lot of attorneys and consultants charge it. But if the meeting is Skyped, we save money.

Gee, what a concept.

Steve Smith

Too little and way too late

It’s another “Ready!” “Fire!” “Aim!” moment on Bear St. as the superintendent and the other overpaid deputy, associate, and assistant supers scramble to try to patch together something that looks like a distance learning program.

Things look sorta like this:

(Thanks to Trustee Vicki Snell for that gif, which she posted on Facebook during an exchange we had over some other fiasco awhile back.)

Now comes word that the super has sent another message out to the community. This one is a doozy. Gonna save you the time and trouble of reading the whole thing. Here are the highlights:

  1.  “I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Newport-Mesa Community for your ongoing understanding and flexibility during this unique and unprecedented time.” According to the super, these times are not unique or unprecedented, they are unique AND unprecedented. There’s that nonsense, then there is the fact that neither is a good description of what is happening. How about “troubling” or “uncertain?”
  2. “The Newport-Mesa Community is a very special place and I know that we will get through this together.” Apparently, it’s not special enough: The super lives in Palos Verdes. Next super we hire, we should insist that he or she live here and become a part of the community.
  3. “We are currently in the process of collaboratively creating a cohesive distance learning program that will meet the needs of all of our learners.” Is he serious with this gibberish? “collaboratively creating a cohesive…” But, that’s typical: Why say it in 9 straight words when you can say it in 24 that are meaningless? And why didn’t you already have this program in place, huh? Why? I would like a trustee to ask him that.
  4. “We want to know about your level of technology and internet access at home. We ask parents to please take this questionnaire on any electronic device no later than 4 pm Thursday, March 19th. [Link provided]” Should have been done YEARS ago with an annual update.
  5. “Given the rapidly evolving nature of this crisis, we cannot be certain about the weeks ahead, but we know that together we will do our absolute best for our students!” A few paragraphs ago, this was just a unique and unprecedented time. Now, it’s a crisis. Pick one.

Weak. The whole thing is weak. No details on the program or when it may be ready. The super raised more questions than he answered and he would have been better off saying nothing. Or, as Archie Bunker would have told him:

Oh, about that survey, one reader remarked, ”

“the district is now delaying by asking us to re-take the technology survey. i’ve completed this survey several times and they’ve long the data required to have a plan in place. the only thing the new survey request does is give the appearance that they are working on a solution when all they are doing is stalling because they are not prepared.

“are kids ready for online learning? yes-what is the plan for students and teachers? do some kids not have devices at home? yes-what is your plan to get devices to them? do some kids not have internet at home? yes-what is your plan to provide access?”

Good questions.

Another reader wrote, “Santa Ana did a nice job of creating a video on YouTube explaining their policy for distance learning. Why can’t NMUSD do this?”

Because we have weak leadership, that’s why.

Steve Smith


That’s the grade the N-MUSD administration gets for their failure to have a distance learning plan in place. If there were an F-. they have earned it.

Here’s a fresh message from a school principal just forwarded to me by an N-MUSD parent:

Dear Costa Mesa Community,

We are hopeful that you are receiving the district communications regarding our school closure and status of Distance Learning opportunities for students, which is on hold for now, but expected to begin soon.

During this time, we want to assure you that we, along with all district Principals are highly involved in the process and direction that our district is taking to provide enrichment opportunities to our students. We are diligently working to determine the details of the plan. 

While we work through the details of the Distance Learning Plan, we also anticipate providing parents with instructional enrichment and parent resources that will be consistent districtwide. 

Although our schools and front offices are closed for the time being, we are available via email should you have any questions. We urge you to please be diligent about regularly checking email, phone, and the district ( and school website for updates. 

Here are the key lines:

  1. “Which is on hold for now…” Yeah? Until when? Can you give us an approximate date? I guess not.
  2. We are diligently working to determine the details of the plan.” Sorry, but that should have been done a l-o-n-g time ago.
  3. “We urge you to please be diligent about regularly checking email, phone, and the district ( and school website for updates.” I have a better idea: Parents are trying to adjust to having their kids home. Most are juggling jobs, child care and anxiety. Some are also caregivers to a parent or parents. Instead of making them work so hard to get information, why aren’t you issuing twice-daily – or more – bulletins?

They aren’t issuing bulletins on the status of the distance learning program because we do not have the leadership we need. And it’s not as though this is new: Distance learning has been in place in other districts across the country for a very long time. Places with floods, tornadoes, and snowstorms already know how to do this.

All the leadership had to do was take a best practices approach.

I don’t blame the principal for this mess and I appreciate that this person is communicating. This breakdown in the learning process is the fault of the superintendent and the five trustees who have been around for years. Those trustees failed for years to push the super for the process and failed to demand updates and details, despite the fact that the area has been living under the threat of a major catastrophe – an earthquake – for decades.

Instead, it is the virus.

There is no excuse for this debacle – none: They’ve had the money and the people all this time. What they lacked was leadership.

The super’s compensation is over $400,000. There is a s*** ton of admin people making over $150,000, yet, between all of these well-paid bureaucrats, they have not done the one thing they always say is their top priority.

They get an F. And back in my day, they’d be sitting in the corner with their faces to the wall.

Steve Smith