Where to Begin…

I was a late arrival at last night’s board meeting, having decided to skip the musical chairs portion of the show. That’s the annual change of leadership but all it really means is that everyone moves down one seat along the dais.

Charlene Metoyer is now the board president. The former president, Vicki Snell is now at the far end of the dais and that’s good news. Snell’s tenure as president will be remembered only for a new level of disdain and rudeness piled on the members of the public who took time to come and voice their opinions.

Metoyer is already better. I spoke briefly last night to correct her on a procedural violation she was making that technically voids all motions. Metoyer did it on multiple occasions last night so I informed her of the proper procedure and she thanked me for bringing it to her attention.

What I didn’t say was that her predecessor, Snell, made the same violation numerous times but that I didn’t bother correcting her. I also did not say that the violation I mentioned should have been addressed a l-o-n-g time ago by the $uperintendent, but he didn’t because he either was not aware of it or just didn’t care to bring it up. Either way, it’s bad.

And Speaking of the $uperintendent…

Today’s Daily Pilot has the story of the $uper’s annual Christmas gift from the board – a $29,500 tax-sheltered annuity that he does not deserve.

Story highlights:

  1. Snell stating that the $uperintendent, “suffered a head injury before the start of the 2017-18 school year, which caused him to miss work for about two months.” Not a Phi Beta Kappa comment from Snell, who may be unaware that the medical information she divulged may be protected information under HIPAA.  The $uperintendent is an employee and according to the law, employers (the board) are prohibited from revealing medical information about an employee unless there is a legitimate business reason to do so. But there’s more… Employers are also prohibited by law from asking a job applicant about past medical history, disabilities, etc. So, if one day the $uper decides that he wants to work somewhere else, the information about his head injury would have remained private. Until now.
  2. Snell saying that “… concerns about Navarro’s compensation are ‘voiced by a very small group of people.'” As if that matters. Let’s agree for the sake of the argument that Snell is right; that only a small group of people are upset about giving the $uper more money. So what? Does she mean to say that if more people had protested, it would have made the annuity wrong? It’s an absurd, illogical, irrelevant comment. Either the $uper deserves the money or he does not. (No, he does not.)
  3. Snell again. (Do you see a pattern here?) “People say that they value education, but they don’t seem to want to pay people what they’re worth,” Snell said. Those words are going to come back to haunt the board and the leaders at the N-MFT are probably writing “thank you” cards to Snell as I compose this. FWIW, I am happy to pay the $uper what he is worth, which would be a lot less than what he is making.
  4. And finally, this one from Trustee Martha Fluor: “I would challenge anyone to take a look at corporations and look at how [employees] are evaluated and how they are compensated,” Fluor said. “Many corporations provide salary increases. … I believe our system is quite weighty. We don’t sit willy-nilly and hand out numbers.”  Eh, not so fast.  In the corporate world, numbers are everything: Stock dividends (how much, how often), sales (up, down), market share, and profitability, to name a few. Key executives are promoted, fired, and compensated based on these KPIs. One reading of the $uper’s job description and the qualifications for a bonus, however, will reveal that there are no specific performance benchmarks in place – it’s all squishy stuff. There’s nothing like “Overall test scores must rise by XX%.” This annuity is a gift.

A breakthrough

Cabinet member Tim Holcomb gave an update on school safety progress and while I have some issues with what is being done – or not – I give him high marks for the presentation itself. Holcomb’s PowerPoint did not have complete sentences which he read aloud to the board and the attendees. Instead, he listed bulleted items which served as talking points to expand on a particular subject. That’s the way it should be done.

My issues with the school safety initiatives are three:

  1. Cameras. Holcomb talked about the use of cameras on campuses but failed to set expectations for them. Unless they are being watched constantly during school hours, the screens showing cameras images do not prevent an initial attack by an intruder. If they are not being watched all the time, and I doubt they will be, the best we can hope for is to identify the location of an attacker and possibly limit the damage. But cameras should not be considered preventive in the way most people believe. By not stating this, a dangerous false sense of security is created.
  2. Holcomb did not present any information about coordinating his safety initiatives with the mental health outreach of the Student Services Dept. These two are joined at the hip and the sooner the district understands this dynamic, the sooner we will recognize meaningful progress in school safety. Which brings me to point number three.
  3. There is still a fundamental avoidance or misunderstanding of the most effective way to prevent a shooter, so to speak, from harming students and staff. Yeah, go ahead and erect fences and install perimeter cameras. Have at it. It won’t prevent a determined shooter and that is a fact.

Money, money, money

The meeting also included a budget discussion. Bottom line: Revenue is up and so are expenses. It’s no wonder expenses are up when the board hands out undeserved annuities at Christmastime.

Steve Smith


It’s the Happiest Time of the Year

The delay in posts is not due to a lack of activity over on Bear St. but to the holidays. But after experimenting with some baking concepts and having settled on at least a couple of new desserts in the process, it’s time to get back to work.

Speaking of the process (You remember the process, don’t you? That’s the thing the school board club trots out when it suits them, and avoids when it doesn’t), today is the day when two new trustees are sworn in. At tonight’s meeting, there will be a good chunk of time electing new officers and representatives. It’s the local equivalent of musical chairs: For the officers, everyone moves down a seat. For the representatives to the various boards, committees, and commissions, well, those have probably been determined so expect no debate or conflicting nominations as they breeze through the appointments.

Tonight will mark the first school board meeting in 38 years without Judy Franco. That’s a long time – a commitment that most of us would decline if we were told in advance that it would be nearly 40 years before we got our lives back.

But Franco kept coming back every four years and helped the district achieve a status that it has lost over the past six years and is struggling to recapture. (More on that in a moment).

For her efforts, Franco gets a patio in her name and a proclamation. Not good enough, not even close.

Say hello

The two new trustees are Michelle Barto and Ashley Anderson. Both are intelligent, hard-working, and dedicated and represent a new generation of board members.

My expectations for them are low, not because I believe they are not capable – they are – but because it would be unfair to expect too much too soon. There is no list of demands – that is unrealistic – but I do have some hopes. Here is my short list:

More transparency – I hope that Barto and Anderson can help the board understand that while truth sets us free, so does transparency. When you reveal everything that is not information protected by law, you never have to worry about tripping over yourself trying to explain what happened, when, and why. It’s a refreshing exercise, actually, and the board may realize just how much after trying it for just a short period. The key to transparency is simple: Reveal it before you are asked or before it is discovered.

More accountability – Over the past six years, the residents of Newport-Mesa have suffered from a record-breaking number of blunders and mismanagement that have cost millions of dollars and ruined the credibility and performance of this once-proud school district. In any organization, this many problems would signal to the decision-makers that something is wrong. But this is the N-MUSD and common rules do not apply. There are problems in the management of the N-MUSD – big problems. But week after week, month after month, we see the same people operating under the same rules. Estancia High had the trifecta of incompetence, suffering from the stink, the pool, and the poles, but there was no sincere apology for any of these and no update on what has been done since to prevent such bad decision-making from reoccurring.

More fiscal responsibility – One of the benefits of being a Basic Aid school district is that we are not subject to the prevailing political winds of Sacramento and we have a more steady and predictable revenue stream, the ups and downs of property values notwithstanding. The downside is that because it is steadier and less volatile, there is a tendency to spend without enough careful consideration. We need board members who understand where that money comes from and who spend is accordingly, which means spending it more judiciously than it has been spent over the years.

More insight – Time and again, we have seen programs presented to the board by contractors or staff members, only to receive the equivalent of seven bobbling heads in response. I mentioned, for example, the Raptor security system that was presented a few weeks ago. Let’s assume for the moment that all schools really need a program that screens visitors for registered sex offenders or for child custody restrictions. When the program was presented, however, there was not a single question about the best practices of the program. No one asked where it was being used or what problems that district had encountered. No one took a deep dive into the issues over screening everyone for, say, a school play or a basketball game. Nothing. Every program that is being presented should have a section on best practices. It should be as automatic as the sunrise and the superintendent should insist that his people include it so the board does not have to ask for it. But he doesn’t because he is not held accountable, because he does not embrace transparency, he doesn’t understand the fundamentals of fiscal responsibility, and because, when all is said and done, he does not have sufficient respect for the hard-working taxpayers who cover his inflated compensation, including those tax-sheltered annuities the board is so fond of handing out.

More respect – A few days ago, I learned that current board president Vicki Snell had declared at the State of the Schools breakfast that trustee Karen Yelsey was her mentor. That was an “Aha!” moment, which clarified the reasons for Snell’s persistent rudeness from the dais. The board’s hypocrisy over public input, for example, has been a steady theme on these pages. The board may profess to want public input, but when they show up to give it, many of them are treated as nuisances; as something to tolerate before getting on with the rubber stamping. Oh, and scheduling those secret special meetings just a hair before the legal notification deadline is disrespectful, too.

So that’s my short list. Not too much to ask, eh?

No reply

Last month, I e-mailed Trustee Charlene Metoyer asking her to justify the use of district personnel in a last-minute campaign mailer. No reply. So, I sent it a second time. No reply. And a third time. No reply.

This morning, I gave it a fourth try. Here it is:

Dear Char:

My fourth request. Please explain the use of district personnel in your campaign mailer, which is contrary to district policy as described below by the superintendent.

Thank you.
The easy thing for Metoyer to do would have been to reply. Say something – anything – even if it’s the equivalent of no comment.

Perhaps Metoyer believes, as does Snell, that it is OK to use district people in a campaign mailer because most people don’t know who they are.
As if.
Once we were proud
From EdSource: “On Dec. 6, 2018, the California Department of Education updated the
official California School Dashboard with the latest data for schools and districts. The dashboard shows progress, or lack of it, on multiple measures. This database shows measures of achievement on six measures, in color codes selected by the state.”
The measures covered include:

Chronic Absenteeism: Proportion of students who miss 10 percent or more of the school year –18 or more days (high school grades excluded).

College/Career Readiness Indicator: Proportion of students designated PreparedApproaching Prepared or Not Prepared for post-graduation based on grades, test scores and academic and career technical education courses completed.

Suspension Rates: Based on a combination of current suspension rates and changes in those rates over time.

English Language Arts Performance: Student performance in Grades 3-8 on the English Language Arts Smarter Balanced tests administered in the current year, combined with whether scores improved, declined or stayed the same compared to the previous year.

Math Performance: Student performance in Grades 3-8 on the math Smarter Balanced tests in the current year combined with whether scores improved, declined or stayed the same compared to the previous year.

High School Graduation Rate: Four-year cohort rates, combining current graduation rate along with whether rates have changed over the previous year.

(source: EdSource)

Here is the chart of color codes:
Performance Code
Pretty simple: Blue good, red bad. Yellow: Eh.
The problem I have is with the interpretation of the test scores. At Lincoln El, for example, math and English performances are rated “green,” yet 39% of the students at the school failed to meet the state standards for math and 33% failed to meet the standards for English. In my book that’s not green-worthy.
Here’s the chart for Newport Harbor High (asterisk means no data available):
NHHS Color Code
And here’s the data for CdM and Costa Mesa High Schools:
CdM CMHS Codes
“Meh” is about the best I can muster. It wasn’t always like this. We used to be the envy of districts up and down the state. Now, we are more known for making the evening news about rats on campuses, tainted instruments, grade hacking, a prom draft, or some other scandal. Oh, and we’re also a go-to district for big administrative salaries with no accountability.
And so it begins…
To Barto and Anderson: Thank you for stepping up to this responsibility. I wish you well.
Steve Smith

Sandy Speaks

One of the reasons I like to read what Sandy Asper writes is that she is clear and direct, which is just the way I like it.

A few days ago, Asper wrote a Patch.com column covering Monday’s school board club meeting. There are some excellent angles here and I urge you to take a few moments to read it:


Steve Smith

Money for Nothing

First, there was the rescheduling of a meeting that was supposed to be held tonight. That’s the rule: Second and fourth Tuesdays of each month for regular board meetings.

Then there was the placement of the agenda’s most sensitive item, #19.e: It was buried so far that it was really and truly the last item before Giggle Time, aka “Board Member Reports.”

Last night’s meeting was so sparsely attended that district employees outnumbered the members of the public. Just how they like it. Trustee Judy Franco was absent.

But that didn’t stop a core group of people from speaking up about the club’s plan to hand the super another $29,500 of your tax dollars. The folks who spoke pointed out the many mistakes made on the super’s watch and how undeserving he is of yet more money.

One of the speakers was Erica Roberts, a true unsung hero who has been shunned by district decision-makers after she dared to challenge a faulty math program. Roberts was relentless and the district finally changed math programs but not after rewriting history to make it appear as though it was their idea all along.

When Roberts spoke on the travesty of giving the super a bonus, she was aided by former trustee Wendy Leece, who held a visual aid.

In many other circumstances, perhaps even most, the top person would want to know what caused people to be so upset. He or she would wonder why they decided to speak up by coming to a meeting on an irregular schedule. That top person would connect at least a couple of dots.

Ah, but this is the N-MUSD and logic does not always apply. During Robert’s comments, as well as the comments of every other speaker who dared to criticize him, the super ignored them by pretending to be doing something really important. Maybe he was counting his money. Here’s a shot of Roberts and Leece being ignored by Supt. Frederick Navarro of Long Beach:

Roberts 11.26.18

I spoke as well. This is what I said: “A review of the board meeting of November 15th showed that there were at least four violations of the Brown Act. These violations are ongoing. By now, the superintendent should have advised you of the needed corrections, but he hasn’t because he is unable or unwilling.

“This is just a small example of how undeserving he is of the additional taxpayer dollars you are about to give him.

“The larger example is that the period of time for which you are rewarding him has been notable not for its successes but for its costly blunders.

“It’s too late for anyone in this room to stop you from giving the superintendent more money. All we can do – all you are inspiring us to do – is elect trustees who understand the value and importance of increased accountability, transparency and fiscal responsibility.”

That was it. No chance of changing any trustee’s mind, just a few words to let them know that there are at least a few people in Newport-Mesa who see that the emperor has no clothes and are willing to shout it out.

Speaking of shouting – or gasping – have you heard about the most recent price tag for the new CdM stadium? It’s now up to $14 million. But there’s some irony there: That massive amount of money does not include upgraded bleacher seats like the ones at Newport Harbor, which are Alaska Yellow Cedar. At CdM, you’ll have to park yourself on plain ol’ aluminum.

$14 million just doesn’t buy what it used to.

When the speakers were done speaking, school board club president Vicki Snell, who never misses a chance to express herself in the poorest possible light, read some gobbledygook about the process of selecting a superintendent and confidentiality and whatever. On and on she droned, reading so deep from a document that she failed to realize that she had completely missed the point.

The point, in fact, is so far over her head that she will never see it.

Oh, BTW,  as I mentioned I count at least four Brown Act violations from the 11/15 meeting. It could be five – I’m waiting on a decision on the fifth. The Brown Act is serious stuff but neither the super or any trustee reached out to me to find out what they are so they could be corrected.

Why? Because they don’t care, that’s why.

Process? We don’t need no stinking process!

For a district so fond of trotting out “the process” whenever it suits them, they seem to have no problem shredding the process when it’s convenient. We saw that recently in the double standard of slamming a few people who were placing flyers on car windshields in a school parking lot. Those people were read the riot act by the super, who closed his e-mail with the statement that, “Your cooperation will be greatly appreciated and will ensure that NMUSD remains a neutral entity regarding political activity and issues.” 

But the process to keep the district neutral in political activities ceased when Snell wrote an op-ed in the Pilot endorsing a (losing) candidate for mayor, and when Trustees Charlene Metoyer and Karen Yelsey used district personnel in their campaign materials.

To them, the super said nothing.

In the end the vote was so predictable that they could have e-mailed it in. No need to meet. The super’s outrageously undeserved tax-sheltered annuity was rubber-stamped, 6-0.

Steve Smith


Franco Elementary

I like that name. I like the way it rolls off the tongue when it is spoken. Most important, it is a fitting tribute to the longest-serving trustee in district history.

Just after the last post, I received a comment supporting Judy Franco’s contributions and her legacy. It read:

Another thing that Judy Franco did was truly superlative! It’s in regard to Scholastic Sailing. The East Coast is replete with School teams in both public & private schools. They dominated. Judy, with the help of [name], campaigned the District to include Sailing as a school sport. It took a lot of work & time, but she accomplished it. It set the pattern for all West Coast schools to follow.

Just look at the N-M sailing programs. They dominate Nationwide, and the top Collegiate schools are eager to grant them scholarships (and places). Bravo Judy! We all thank you for this remarkable achievement.”

Judy Franco makes me think of better times in the district. Not perfect times, just better. Yes, there were problems, say, 20 years ago when Franco about halfway through her time as a trustee, but there seemed to be a firmer grip on things. Today, it seems like Bear St. is leaping from one blunder to the next.

Franco deserves an elementary school as soon as possible, while she can appreciate the honor, just as she appreciated the patio recently named for her.

Hello, legal fees!

At last Thursday’s secret special meeting, the board voted unanimously to support resolution 11-11-18m, which outlines the case for the rejection of the most recent charter school petition. Before the vote, there were no trustee comments or questions, despite the importance of this issue.

Michelle Anderson, the regional manager of the California Charter Schools Assoc., (CCSA) spoke at the meeting and made it clear that a decision in favor of the resolution would prompt an appeal to the Orange County Dept. of Education (OCDE).

That appeal will fail. It’s in the vault. Sealed. When the OCDE rejects the appeal, my guess is that the folks at the CCSA will keep pushing and ultimately this will be a legal matter. Well, it already is a legal matter, but after the OCDE rejection, it will be a significant legal matter.

The N-MUSD still doesn’t understand what they are dealing with. There is a lot of money behind the CCSA: Political spending in 2015 and 2016 was about $18 million and they are funded by a lot of people with very deep pockets.

What that means for the rest of us is that this may be a good time to be a lawyer for the N-MUSD.

Steve Smith

P.S. to the trustees: The next time you’re all set to rubber-stamp an important resolution like this, make up some questions or comments before you vote. Anything. That will promote the appearance of open-mindedness instead of the perception you all had your minds made up before you sat down.




I realized last week that over the past several years, I have painted myself into a corner with regard to Trustee Judy Franco, who is leaving the board after 38 years. On the one hand, ignoring her departure would seem to some to be insensitive. But on the other hand, praise may seem to some to be dishonest.

There is no denying that I have not always agreed with Franco. Voting year after year to renew a super’s four-year contract, for example, is a good example of bad leadership. But there is no doubt in my mind that Franco played a key role in developing the stellar reputation that the N-MUSD used to enjoy.

With that in mind, I was trying to think of the best way that she should be honored for her long service. I had some ideas, but before I could finalize anything, the trustees came up with something of their own.

For her 38 years of service to the district as one of seven decision-makers – trustees – for the countless hours of time she spent in schools and in headquarters, for the many trips she has taken to conferences and meetings, for the time away from her family, for the many other unimaginable sacrifices she has made, for her contributions, whatever they may be, Judy Franco’s colleagues have decided to honor her with… a patio in headquarters named after her.


But that’s just the start.

The announcement was made as agenda item 17.b on last night’s agenda. Last night’s meeting was sparsely attended – far more empty seats than occupied. It was almost as though her colleagues were throwing her a bone and trying to downplay the whole affair.

Whatever the motive, whether it was calculated or just massive insensitivity, they blew it.

Franco should have had a planned ceremony carved out of a regular meeting. Her family and friends should have been given notice so they could attend, and she should have been presented with a formal proclamation honoring her for her 38 years of service.

Oh, and they should have named a school after her, not a patio. And, no, you don’t have to wait until someone passes before naming something significant in their honor. That’s an antiquated protocol that denies the honoree the great satisfaction of the moment.

There are plenty of schools from which to choose: Any school named after a street, for example, is a candidate. Or perhaps the last two blocks of Bear St. – from Baker to its end at Bristol – could be renamed “Judy Franco St.”

I doubt that the city would mind renaming the street. Oh, wait – I just thought of something. School board club president wrote an op-ed in the Daily Pilot supporting Sandy Genis for mayor, but Katrina Foley won. Foley is a former trustee and was not well-liked by her colleagues during her time on the board. So, yeah, maybe the city will mind.

Good move, Snell. Thanks for nothing.

There’s that, and there’s this…

There was plenty of backslapping all around last night. Trustee Vicki Snell congratulating the two new board members, Michelle Barto and Ashley Anderson, and Trustee Dana Black congratulating Trustees Charlene Metoyer and Karen Yelsey for winning their contests.

No one recalled Trustee Martha Fluor’s “where were you” rant from June, 2017, in which she wondered where were people in the area were when she ran unopposed all those times and sacrificed birthdays, anniversaries, and other personal events to devote herself to improving education for the students in the district.

This year, seven people stepped up and tried to become trustees. They spent time and money and five of them got nothing.

So where was the appreciation for the also-rans? Fluor was absent last night but perhaps she will take a moment at the next meeting to comment on how much she appreciated the efforts of everyone who ran, not just the winners.

At the top

Before the Franco honor, one person spoke during the public comments section. Martie O’Meara has been up to the podium before and last night she chose to point out the district’s hyper-hypocrisy over campaign rules.

O’Meara brought up the district’s campaign policy, which is, “It’s OK if we do it, but it’s not OK if you do it.”

The highlight on the hypocrisy started when a few uninformed activists were putting flyers on cars at a school. When they were asked to stop, they turned to the super for a ruling. He cited some rules and regulations and closed his e-mail with, ““Your cooperation will be greatly appreciated and will ensure that NMUSD remains a neutral entity regarding political activity and issues.” 

Good. Great. “Neutral entity regarding political activity and issues.” Love it. As it should be.

Ah, but that was before trustees Charlene Metoyer and Karen Yelsey used district staff in their campaign materials. That was bad enough, but their mailings were timed to hit just before election day – before challengers could respond and before the community had time to understand that they violated the rules.

So last night, O’Meara called them on it and mentioned that even though they violated the policy he cited to the flyer people, he said nothing to Metoyer and Yelsey.

O’Meara also mentioned Yelsey’s personal attack on her opponent, Dr. Gina Nick, stating that it was the first time in any school board campaign that she had seen a personal attack.

While O’Meara spoke, the super ignored her, or so I thought. In what turned out to be a petty display, the super responded to O’Meara with some feeble defense of his double standard. He’d heard everything O’Meara said, he just didn’t want to look at her.

OBTW to the super: Save it. You said nothing to Metoyer and Yelsey because they are two of the four votes you need each year to get your contract renewal, your raise, and your tax-sheltered annuity. And that’s OK but only if you’re honest about it.

Speaking of which…

Last night at 8:33 p.m., the district posted the agenda for the next school board club meeting. That meeting will be held tomorrow at 4 p.m.

What?! you say? Barely 48 hours notice for a school board club meeting?

Yes, I say. Welcome to my world. Yeah, I complained about it, twice, in fact. But all I got was some chin-stroking and fake concern.

You see, they really don’t want you to attend their meetings. Any of them, even the regular big ones. Life would be better if you just stayed home and do whatever it is you do. They’ll take care of everything for you. Honest.

Ah, but tomorrow’s meeting is a bit different. First, there is a closed session at 2:00 to discuss two legal matters that pose “significant exposure to litigation” to the district.

Then there is the 4:00 open meeting at which time the board will rubber-stamp the denial of the charter school application by ISSAC.

How do I know they will rubber stamp the denial? It’s a staff recommendation, silly! Here’s the wording: “Based on its review and analysis of the ISSAC Charter Petition, the District administrative staff believes that approving the ISSAC Charter is not consistent with sound educational practice and recommends that the Board of Education deny the Charter and make written factual findings supporting the denial.”

Whether you support a charter school, you should be concerned about the process. 4 p.m. on a Thursday is not the time to hold a meeting of this importance to announce this crucial decision.

It could have been part of last night’s meeting, but it wasn’t. Or, it could be part of an upcoming meeting, but it isn’t.

It’s done this way to avoid the spotlight. It’s not very clever, but it works for them so they keep doing it.

Time to vote

Trustee Yelsey, who decried the board’s rubber stamping when she first ran in 2006, was one of the many 6-0 votes last night. Barely a word from any of the trustees on any of the items and when there was, it was of no consequence.

No one even protested naming a patio for the longest-serving trustee in district history.

Steve Smith

What it all means

The political discord in the nation is not new, despite media attempts to tell you that it is, or that it is at some new, higher level. The truth is that Americans have been divided for as long as we’ve been a nation and the only difference today is the major increase in the ways each side can communicate their frustrations.

The Founding Fathers did not envision Twitter or Facebook. But if they had, they would have assumed that like the newspapers and the town crier, the communication would remain civil.

It is one of the very few areas in which they exhibited such nearsighted judgment.

People have always been upset. “Drain the swamp!” “Throw the bums out!” and all the other references to a change in the scallywags are ancient. Back in 1964, Robert Kennedy said, “About one-fifth of the people are upset with everything all the time.”

But that’s where the conundrum begins: Multiple reputable surveys over the years have shown that while people are sick and tired of the bums in Washington or Sacramento or in Newport-Mesa, they think their own representative is OK. Not all the time in every election, but most of the time in every election.

This year in the N-MUSD races is no different. In Area 2, as of this writing, incumbent Charlene Metoyer holds a 381 vote lead over challenger Michelle Murphy. Metoyer has been in office four years and while she has not distinguished herself in any meaningful way, she has also managed to avoid any major missteps, save for her votes supporting the most poorly run administration in memory.

But another truth is that most people voting for school board seats don’t know beans about what’s going on in the school district. So it is remarkable then that Murphy could do so well.

Or, perhaps not. Perhaps Murphy’s strong showing is part her well-run campaign, and part the anti-incumbent fever coursing through the nation.

Murphy’s campaign is even more remarkable when you consider that she did not resort to the usual campaign playbook moves and attack the incumbent. Nothing. Even when Metoyer violated district policy and featured district staff on a late mailer – at least two of whom did not give their permission – Murphy continued to run one of the cleanest, most respectful campaigns we have ever seen. She is to be respected, admired, and appreciated for the example she set, which will be something she should be proud to share with her children and grandchildren.

Thank you, Michelle Murphy.

Then we have Area 7, where incumbent Karen Yelsey won with 69% of the vote. What will be lost on Yelsey is the fact that Dr. Gina Nick, a complete unknown and a relatively new resident in the area – got almost a third of the vote.

Nick showed very well despite Yelsey resorting to personal attacks on Nick. Nick made no personal attacks in response and while that may have cost some her some votes, she, too, can hold her head high.

Yelsey, on the other hand, should be embarrassed at the lengths she went to cling to her office, but she won’t be.

Thank you, Gina Nick.

The biggest lesson of all will be lost on both Metoyer and Yelsey. That lesson is the monumental victory of Measure H, which limits trustee terms to 12 years. As of a few minutes ago, it passed with 84%.


Let that sink in for just a moment…

Passage by 84% and the re-election of two undeserving incumbents means that the surveys are right: People are fed up but think their trustee is doing at least OK.

The school board status quo is changing and the pace of change is accelerating. In about 18 months, campaigns for the other three trustee seats will begin in earnest and we’ll see new challengers bringing new ideas and new leadership to the board.

The time for change has long past. Taxpayers, parents, and anyone else in N-M have suffered too long with the arrogance and ineffectiveness of the current trustees.

This is not a job for life.

Steve Smith




It’s all over…

A guy is driving down a two-lane road in his minivan when he sees a truck off to the side. The truck driver is waving and all around him are a dozen penguins waddling about.

The guy pulls over and before he could say anything, the breathless, frantic truck driver says, “You gotta help me. My truck broke down and triple-A won’t be here for two more hours. You gotta take these penguins to the zoo.”

The guy agrees and they load the penguins into the minivan.

A couple of hours later, the truck driver gets to the zoo but there is no sign of the penguins.

So, he starts driving around town. Ten minutes later, he sees the guy walking out of the theater with the penguins right behind him.

“What are you doing?!” yells the truck driver. “I told you to take them to the zoo!”

“I did,” says the guy, “but I had a little money left over so I took ’em to the movies, too.”

Time’s up!

That joke is a diversion – just something non-political to lighten the moood.

It’s all over except for the shouting. If nothing else, voters in Newport-Mesa have gained tremendous insight into the people who will be running our district for the time being.

Of the nine candidates, only the two incumbents dared to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the rules that prohibit employee and/or district resource involvement.

One candidate, an incumbent, decided to hang her hat not on the specifics of her 12 years as a trustee but on the past financial troubles of her opponent.

When I first heard of this, I was tempted to write about the list of very famous and successful people who went through trying personal and financial times and came out just fine. Abraham Lincoln was on the list – first, actually. Lincoln was the 19th century equivalent of bankrupt – so broke that he had to sell his horse to pay his debts.

I never wrote the post because it would not have mattered to the people for whom it was intended: Those who read this blog and support the incumbent.

It is a law

I believe that over the course of one’s life, everything comes back around. Or as my old boss used to say, “The chickens always come home to roost.”

In the end, the scale is always perfectly balanced and we leave as we entered – with nothing. It’s a law.

But there is one exception.

As adults, we leave behind our reputation. It is ours to make and all we ever completely and truly own. No one ever truly gets away with anything. They may have fooled some of the people some of the time, or even all of the people all of the time, but they cannot evade that law.

Life is about harmony and being at peace with those who are not at peace with themselves. It is those people who most deserve our attention, our sympathy, and our support.

That’s not a law, but it should be.

Steve Smith






Cheaters, and Today’s Quiz

The Education Code of the state of California is very clear on the subject of using local (taxpayer) resources to promote a bond, measure, or candidate. The California School Board Assoc. has rules on this, too.

They are also clear on when employees can and cannot campaign for a bond, measure, or candidate.

But that did not stop Trustee Charlene Metoyer from sending out a fresh, last-minute mailer featuring her in multiple photos of her standing with a total of four school principals and two members of the superintendent’s cabinet.

The cabinet members did not know that their images were going to be used in the mailer.

I sent an e-mail to Metoyer asking her about it, namely, whether it was a mistake or if she did it on purpose. Copied the super.

No reply.

So, I waited two days, then sent it again. Copied the super again. No reply from either one.

Film this!

A couple of days ago, I was alerted to a series of short videos featuring four N-MUSD teachers expressing their admiration for Trustee Karen Yelsey. Each one appears to have been shot in a classroom each one ends with a big, colorful “Vote for Karen Yelsey” image.

Forget for the moment that this breaks the rules and is a serious violation. Forget for the moment that the superintendent, despite having read the riot act to a couple of people distributing campaign flyers on school grounds, will not say one word of admonishment to either trustee.

Instead, think about the terrible position they have placed these six district employees. Think about the ramifications of their future interactions with parents who may have voted for the challengers. And think for a moment about what could happen when the incumbents lose and the challengers a become decision-makers.

I’ll bet none of that occurred to either Metoyer or Yelsey – all they were thinking about was clinging to office.

Yelsey, in particular, has shown her true colors to us this fall. She became the first sitting trustee I can recall who has launched a personal attack against an opponent and the first trustee I can recall who has created videos featuring district staff and what looks to be district resources (classrooms).

In a convoluted sort of way, both Metoyer and Yelsey have done everyone a favor. They have delivered to us the proof that they are not worthy of re-election to office.

Oh, and then there was Trustee Vicki Snell’s weak defense of Metoyer’s mailer. She actually tried to downplay it by claiming in an e-mail to me that “Most of the community do [sic] not know who [cabinet member] is or what [cabinet member] looks like. Certainly a picture that is obviously a group shot does not imply everyone in the picture endorses that candidate.”

The first sentence in the reply is immaterial and the second is outrageous.

And the super? He’s doing the smart thing and laying low until Nov. 6 when he can take a new trustee head count.

Oh, and speaking of Nov. 6, here’s the first quiz question: What is significant about the appearance of Metoyer’s mailer?

Answer: It’s very close to election day. So close that there is no time to put the toothpaste back in the tube, even if she could. She, too, is laying low. I get that – it’s the smart thing to do. Not the ethical thing, though.

And here is your second quiz question: What is the difference between Karen Yelsey, Charlene Metoyer, Dr. Gina Nick, challenger to Yelsey, and Michelle Murphy, challenger to Metoyer?

Answer: Neither Nick nor Murphy has launched any personal attacks and neither has used district resources or personnel in their promotional materials. In fact, none of the seven challengers has done this, only the two incumbents.

If you haven’t voted, if you’re sitting on the fence, or if you know someone who hasn’t voted, I urge you to vote for Nick and Murphy. Even if you don’t agree with them on all the issues (no such candidate exists anywhere), you will be assured of people who treat others respectfully and who play by the rules.

Vote for Nick in Area 4 and Murphy in Area 2.

In Area 5, vote for Michelle Barto and in Area 7, vote for Ashley Anderson.

And tell everyone you know to vote for them, too. When you do, you will have contributed to the passing of the torch to a new group of trustees who have great ideas and who do not rely on the old ways of doing things.

They will restore accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility to this once-proud district.

And they won’t cheat.

Steve Smith




This will just take a minute

Actually, it will take two, but it’s worth your time. In this brief video, you will see a time capsule of many of the things that have gone wrong over the past five or so years in the N-MUSD.

The list and mentions on the video are not pretty. In fact, it’s ugly. The list is long and there are too many blunders to include them all.

But what is uglier is the total failure of the seven members of the current school board to hold anyone accountable or to come up with some alternative way of managing the district so that these colossal mistakes don’t happen again.

But they do. Over the past few years, it seems as though once we finish with one blunder, another one pops up. We’ve been playing Whac-A-Mole with these blunders and using taxpayer dollars to bang them out of sight.

If you have read this blog for any period, you will recognize the name Jeff Roberts, the parent featured in the video. Jeff has tremendous credibility and is respected by people all over Newport-Mesa.

Please watch and share. Click here:    https://youtu.be/QByODrGh0EI

MC4S Video Image

Thank you.

Steve Smith