For Our Teachers

Teachers may have favorite students, but students can have favorite teachers. In high school, mine was Yvonne Schwartz, an English teacher whose classes I had several times during my high school years.

When I had a chance to choose a few classes in high school, one of them was always reserved for whatever Yvonne was teaching.

I liked Yvonne’s classes because her teaching style suited my learning style. Plus, we grew close and she let me call her “Yvonne.” That was a big deal for a 17-year-old in high school.

Our last day of school was bittersweet. She was happy for me, but as she signed my yearbook, she was crying. She looked at me and said, “This is the last good class.”

There is a long story behind that comment, one that includes an earthquake, school days cut in half, and a lot of other dramas, but it turns out she was right. The school, Fairfax High in Los Angeles, was never the same after the class of ’73.

As Yvonne closed the yearbook and handed it back to me, she said, “You should be a writer.”

That would be nice, I thought, but I did not have a clue as to how to become a writer. And besides, my buddies were waiting for me…

Once my schooling was finished, I entered the business world and started writing all types of things, none of which had any importance – it was just business stuff. Then, in 1996, I wrote and sent a fax to a famous person and my life was changed forever. (I’m giving you the short story.)

At the time, I owned an import business and was doing well. Over the course of a week following that fax, however, I decided to become a writer.

I put all of my energy into trying to find writing work but I couldn’t get it because I had no writing experience. So, I decided to create my own work. I wrote and self-published a bad book but didn’t care too much because all I wanted to do was to be able to say that I had written a book.

Unfortunately, selling something back then was harder than selling something today and my income suffered.  In 1998, my income was only about $17,000. I was 43 and had a wife, two kids, a mortgage and a car payment. To help make ends meet, I took a job on the graveyard shift at Disneyland. I wrote during the day, slept from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., worked at Disneyland until 7:30 a.m, then started the whole thing all over again.

At the same time, I entered a contest to become a new columnist for the Daily Pilot. I won, along with a pair of writers who would share the column time and space. Those two were around for awhile, then they weren’t, and I ended up writing weekly columns for the Pilot for 15 years.

A month or so after I landed the column, I got my first freelance writing job at OC Metro magazine. I would continue to write for several of the magazines at Churm Publishing for many years.

In November, 1998, I caught a break and landed a great job as a copywriter for an ad agency and was able to quit my grueling job and schedule at Disneyland. I didn’t know beans about copywriting but I learned quickly and got over the learning curve in no time. I stayed at the agency for nine years, leaving as the vice-president, marketing.

Not long after I started at the agency, I was asked by the famous person to become the editor of a national magazine and to contribute articles. That was a great gig and I was very successful at it, so much so that one of my early efforts became the first and only sold out issue in the magazine’s history. On the wall of my office is a fax from the publisher to a print coordinator that reads, “We can not [sic] keep up with the demand for this issue – and we are currently running out of them.”

That fax is dated “8-2-00.” I had arrived. There are many more writing successes to report, including a letter that I wrote that generated $15 million in revenue over the three years it was used by the ad agency.

Through all of this – while I was scrubbing trams at Disneyland at night and interviewing people for articles during the day while trying to stifle yawns – through the good writing times and bad, I never doubted that I would be successful.

I never doubted it because my teacher, Yvonne, told me it is what I should do. Those five words she said to me on that last day of high school lay dormant for 25 years but when my time came, they were as loud in my head as any cannon shot. And I heard them every day.

Teachers, you may never know the depth of the influence you have on your students. And those whom you inspire may never reach out to you to say, “thank you.” But I am saying it to you today – and especially to Yvonne.

Thank you, teachers.

Steve Smith

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The Future of Education

Five months ago, I addressed the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees on the subject of teen cell phone addiction, which has been identified as a major challenge in the U.S.  This challenge has been supported by research showing that:

  • Half of all teenagers feel “addicted” to their phone
  • 78 percent of teens check their phones at least hourly
  • Teens who spend five or more hours per day on their devices are 71 percent more likely to have one risk factor for suicide, like depression or suicidal ideation.(Clinical Psychological Science)

That could spell big trouble for teens. Or, perhaps not.

When I spoke to the board in January, my research was thorough and my comments and urging were sincere. Since then, however, I have made a complete U-turn on the subject and believe now that teen cell phone addiction does not exist.

The reasons for the reversal are based on more research, some documented, some not, and my personal experience from having lived for 63 years.

Asking the experts

A couple of months ago – three, maybe? – I asked two questions of a small group of people whose opinions I respect. This group includes three PhDs, one person with two MBAs, and a few others whose intelligence is not reflected in advanced degrees – they’re just smart.

The questions were:

1) If in 20 years, everyone is using their phones as much as teens are today, do we in fact have a teen cell phone addiction problem at this time?

The unanimous reply was “no.”

2) Can you foresee a time when everyone is as dependent on their phones as teens are today?

The unanimous reply was “yes.”

What we are witnessing is not teen cell phone addiction, but a massive group of people who are previewing the future. Just as mankind moved from the grunt to the spoken word to the printed word, to the telegram, telephone, television, fax, e-mail, etc. (and on and on), we are now witnessing the latest evolution in communication.

Just as most of us did not fully understand what those past communication tools meant at those precise moments, most of us are unable to understand teen phone use vis-a-vis its place in communications evolvement.  In fact, many people reading this will scoff and point to a teen they know as anecdotal evidence of a major problem.

What has happened

In conversations with some of the members of the polling group, we discussed the distinct possibility that

  • The process of reading to gain knowledge may be all but obsolete at some point
  • Future generations will not need to have the extent of today’s vocabulary
  • Future generations will not need to know how to spell correctly

In the future, our children will be communicating through bite-sized bits of language whose vocabulary will be limited to a few hundred words, down from the 42,000 known by the average 20-year-old American.

This reduction will be driven in part by their decreasing interest in history. This is already occurring: A recent poll revealed that 40 percent of millenials are unaware that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust and two-thirds did not know what Auschwitz is. Fourteen percent of teens surveyed thought that we celebrate Independence Day to recognize our independence from France.

Are they stupid? Not necessarily. These young people may be telling us now what their priorities will be in the years to come and for the generations to follow.

What to do

The worst reaction is to declare this a major catastrophe and throw lots of money at research and counseling in order to fix the problem. But that is exactly what is happening. Schools have cell phone-free areas and times and some schools are banning them outright, which, for many teens, only makes them want to spend more time on their phones. There is a lot of hand-wringing and chin-stroking, all of which will lead to more of the wrong type of responses.

It’s a waste of time and resources and will only stall the inevitable, that being the start of an era in which all humans in developed countries will be communicating as teens are now. That form of communication may even be two steps beyond what we are now witnessing.

And readers, that is OK.

What the education establishment needs to do now is embrace the concept I have just explained and adapt teaching methods accordingly. Instead of banning phones, make them an integral part of the education process. (The Chromebooks that schools are handing out today like Halloween candy will be dinosaurs tomorrow. I am as sure of this as I am that the sun will rise in the morning.)

Most adults cannot see this evolution because they are too hung up on the past. Their memory of what has been done before and what worked for them and their generation has created a blind spot that is affecting the academic achievement of a growing number of students. What the education establishment needs now are people who understand what is happening and can develop the curricula and tools to meet this new way of communicating.

We are witnessing this inability to meet the demands of a new process right here in Southern California where the brand new LAUSD superintendent of schools announced some ambitious but vague program to make all students “college ready.”

Not only is this lofty goal unachievable, it is misguided. As our communication processes evolve the way I have described, the value of a college education will diminish. That is already happening. Other societal changes besides the communication evolution will change the higher learning education process. too.

I understand that this is a lot to fathom. And it’s harder to understand for those of us who want things to be the way they used to be because that is what we know and what worked for us.

The first thing to recognize is that these devices we call “phones” are not used by teens as phones. Once we understand that teens have declared that this is their preferred method of communication – now, and for a long time in the future – we will stop using a sledgehammer to prevent a problem that doesn’t even exist.

Teens are talking to us about this now. They may not express their preference verbally, but we can “hear” them by the way they have embraced the new communication options. And let’s be honest: There are plenty of adults who spend just as much time or more on their devices as teens.

The only difference is that adults will claim to have some justification that is beyond the reach of teens.

Teens are talking to us about this now but few are listening.

Steve Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Read It Here

Been saying for years that teacher dissatisfaction has far less to do with salaries and almost everything to do with respect.

Teachers hear society tell them about how important their work is, blah, blah, blah, then see the outrageous salaries of people in the public and private sectors who aren’t worth a fraction of what they are being paid.

They see the hero worship of athletes who are paid millions each year to play games. Or celebrities who make movies and TV shows.

They see a decline in their ability to manage a classroom and curriculum due to increasing oversight and constant testing.

They see our local school board handing out awards to teachers and gushing about how much they are appreciated, while the district administration fights teacher union attempts to bring equity to teacher salaries vis-a-vis the absurd compensation of the bureaucrats who hire consultants to make decisions for them.

Last time I checked, the average occupational lifespan of a teacher in California was only 5.5 years.

I am providing you with a link to a blog post that doesn’t wonder why teachers are walking out, it wonders what took teachers so long:

https://sethnichols.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/why-teachers-are-walking-out/

Locally, students were allowed to walk out to protest gun violence, but when a few teachers at Newport Harbor did the same thing to protest a rat infestation, they were criticized and the union president was barred from the campus for a week.

This year, we must work to get new trustees on the N-MUSD board so that we can course correct our priorities, which include more accountability from the district administration, more transparency, and increased fiscal responsibility.

The process may take a couple of election cycles, but given the importance of the goal, it will be worth it.

There are four seats up for grabs in November:

Metoyer – Had a chance, has done so little, needs to be replaced.

Franco – Not running for re-election. Watch out for another candidate hand-picked by the current board (a la Vicki Snell in 2014) to replace her and vote for someone else.

Davenport – Should not run, but probably will. Has done so little in eight years, needs to be replaced.

Yelsey – Said in 2006 that trustees should serve 12 years. This is her 12th year. She should stick to her commitment and not run but probably will.

Steve Smith

Ho, boy…

Some readers may recall a recent post in which I stated that my attendance and comments at school board club meetings and dedication to this blog would be limited for a couple of reasons.

The first is that I have work demands that are consuming more of my time. Not a bad thing. The second reason is that while this blog receives a lot of attention for the information it provides, attending and speaking at meetings is a complete waste of time.

The school board club does not care what we think. That has been proven over and over and has been documented in this blog. And if they don’t care what we think, there is no point in trying to convince them of anything or informing them of issues to which they should be paying attention.

My time, and that of anyone who reads and supports the principles stated in this blog, is better spent trying to elect new people to the school board.

But not just anyone! We must elect people who are clearly at odds with the current management of the district; people who understand that accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility are not optional or seasonal, they are the new black.

Of the many scandals and episodes of mismanagement that have occurred in the last five or so years, the most glaring example of the district’s lack of concern is the  (mis)management of and reaction to Swun Math. This was a district math program that teachers identified early on as flawed. But when they alerted the appropriate district personnel to the problems, they were given the equivalent of a pat on the head.

It was not until years later and only when the community outrage became so great that the experts in the administration finally decided to stop using the program. In the meantime, we have lost count of the number of students who may have had trouble advancing in math – which could impact college eligibility.

This approach to the math program was standard operating procedure: Do what you have to do to get past the controversy and move on.

Tennis, anyone?

Anyone new to this forum need only read the district’s hypocritical Belief Statement to understand the huge divide between what they say and what they do. You can read the Belief Statement here: http://web.nmusd.us/pf4/cms2/view_page?d=x&group_id=1518855655082&vdid=is1a5fa1sierxa

Did we hear a hidden message?

A few days ago, I was alerted to the YouTube video archive of the school board club meeting of April 24. BTW, that YouTube channel idea came from a member of the community but as with so many community recommendations that come to fruition, the district has not thanked this person (not me) for this idea.

Before the regular meeting, the school board club and several members of the administration held a study session at 3 p.m., which is listed on the agenda as, “Discussion on Student Board Members’ Selection Process, Timeline, and Application Details for 2018-19.

Forgetting for the moment that it should be “Discussion of Student Board…,” (“on” is more relevant to a lecture) there are a couple of terrific examples of disconnect with the community.

This meeting was called to tackle the ultra-important topic of how to choose the student board members for the next school year, how to get them more engaged, what to do if they drop the ball, etc.

On that last subject, Assistant or Deputy Something-or-Other Russell Lee-Sung says the following at about 26 minutes:

“If I may, and I’ve seen this occur, because of the prestigiousness of being in that role, comes the responsibility and accountability that you’re talking about. Quite frankly, if [the students] do not fulfill that obligation, whether it’s in September or October, or January or February, I believe that if that person doesn’t show up and [doesn’t provide] a legitimate reason, they are removed and replaced with somebody else. To me that’s the accountability [we need].

 If they can’t fulfill their duties, just like any good leader, whether you’re an adult or a student, if the circumstances change and they can’t fulfill their duties, the right thing to do is step down and let the next person step up.”

Allow me to repeat what may be a signal to the district’s leadership: “can’t fulfill… adult or student… step down.”

Not to worry, though, it fell on deaf ears and no one is stepping down.

The meeting last about an hour and 15 minutes, during which time, the board and the members of the administration were relaxed and breezy. That was due almost entirely to the fact that there wasn’t a single member of the community in attendance.

How absurd is all of this? Here’s how: The district holds a separate meeting on a topic that is marginally important but ignores the study sessions they really need to have, such as:

  • Why are our legal fees so high and what can we do to reduce them so that we have more money to spend on educating our students?
  • How did the rat problem at Newport Harbor get so bad and how can we use this experience to prevent it from happening at other campuses?
  • Why did the NHHS rat problem become a public relations nightmare and what communications corrections do we need to make to prevent a district scandal from once again becoming national news?
  • Why are the 2017 test scores so dismal and what successful corrective methods are being done at schools outside our district that is working that we can employ here?

Here’s the link to the video of that meeting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDOZ2wsDEME&list=PLIkJ1hyC4k6dQyo_XS0B1NkDMQur8Podt&index=4&t=1625s

But wait, there’s more!

Remember that you just read that no one was in attendance was at that April 24 meeting? Doesn’t it strike you as just a little odd? I mean, if they’re going to have a special meeting to discuss how to engage students more in the process, wouldn’t it have been a good idea to include a few students?

Of course it would. But they scheduled the meeting for 3 p.m. and did not invite any students because (all together now) they just don’t care.

Lower bar? Yes!

Then there was the chest-thumping about Newport Harbor making the list of national high school rankings in the recent U.S. News and World Report article at no. 1,074 and the superintendent gushing about this accomplishment.

Rats in schools, union leadership banned from a campus, dismal test scores, massive legal fees, and on and on and no comments from the super. But this he decides is worthy of his thoughts. Number 1,074. That’s the new, lower bar for our once-proud district.

Oh, BTW, in California, we were thumped by schools located in districts close to ours. High schools in Inglewood, Hawthorne, Cerritos, and Cypress all made the top ten but there will be no recommendation to take a field trip to any of these schools to learn what they are doing that we may be able to apply here.

Why? Because the district doesn’t do field trips, they rely on our so-called experts and they pay money to consultants who then tell our own experts what to do. Unless, of course, that field trip is the attendance at one or more of the worthless meetings of California School Board Assoc. or similar entities.

Marching orders

This rant is toothless without a strategic purpose. Whether you are new to this blog or a long-time reader, you can sense the frustration.

For the first time in the history of the district, area voting is in place this November. This will relieve candidates from having to campaign in two cities and allow them to focus on defeating an incumbent on equal footing.

There are four seats up for grabs this November: Metoyer, Franco, Davenport, and Yelsey.

Nothing will change until and unless there are new people elected to the school board. Nothing.

This effort is ongoing and it may take two election cycles to achieve the majority needed to restore accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility. But that should not deter anyone from running. Even one new voice will be a revolution.

Please support and vote for those new voices in November.

Steve Smith

 

Is there a hidden agenda?

Writer and activist Sandy Asper is a Patch pro who has just posted something interesting about the board and the teacher union.

The public is often left to speculate about certain issues because the current school board club is not as transparent as they can or should be.

In this case, Asper makes a compelling argument that a hidden agenda may be behind some recent club comments. Here is the link:

https://patch.com/california/newportbeach/board-education-vs-britt-dowdy-what

Steve Smith

 

 

Excuse me?

If you had to point to one event that proved why the Newport-Mesa community needs new school board members, it happened over a period of days starting last Thursday, May 10.

On that day, Trustee Vicki Snell posted a notice on her district Facebook page stating, “We have scheduled a Special Board Meeting Friday, May 14 at 10 am for the NMUSD Board to receive an overview of the Challenge Success School Program with questions and answers to follow.”

Shortly after reading this, I noticed Snell’s blunder – yet another one – and wrote that May 14 is a Monday, not a Friday. The post was quickly corrected to read “Monday” and no acknowledgment of the source of the correction was given.

That’s the small point. The larger point is that the school board and the administration conspired to prevent the public from attending a meeting that was special only in that it was not part of a regular meeting. There was no urgency to this matter and no reason at all why it could not be included in the regularly scheduled meeting of May 22 – only eight days later.

Instead, the board and the administration conducted business as usual and gave taxpayers less than two working days’ notice.

The short notice is standard operating procedure. Twice last year, I attended one of these instant special meetings and asked them politely to start providing more notice. At one instant special meeting, Trustee Martha Fluor started a conversation about options for providing more notice.

Clearly, nothing has changed and I have stopped calling them on this insensitive scheduling because it is a waste of time. The current school board club will not change this habit.

But wait, there’s more!

The challenge is not just the short notice, it is the unbelievably huge disconnect between the school board club and the public. I expect the short notice. What I didn’t expect was a public declaration of the disappointment in the lack of attendance.

In the Daily Pilot of May 16 covering the meeting, reporter Priscilla Vega wrote, “Newport-Mesa trustee Karen Yelsey said she wished leaders of the district’s teachers union had attended the special meeting since some items, including a pending proposal to start the school year earlier, would be negotiated in the union’s contract.”

Ho, boy. Really? Is the trustee bubble so great that there is a complete failure to understand that most of the rest of us are working or otherwise committed to things and we cannot just shift gears and attend an instant special meeting with so little notice?

It is not just insensitivity to the community that drives this behavior, it is ingrained. The short notice for these instant special meetings has been going on for years because they like it that way. Contrary to what the school board club may say, they really don’t want anyone attending these instant special meetings. If they did, they would provide more notice. It really is that simple.

So it’s rather amusing to read how the district places a major scheduling hurdle in front of the union, then read Yelsey’s disappointment over the union’s lack of attendance.

Vega also wrote, “Britt Dowdy, president of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, said Monday that he didn’t know there was a meeting.”

And there you have it. Nothing has changed and nothing will change until new trustees are elected.

Switching gears

Work commitments have pulled me away from blog activity, but that’s not the only reason why the posts have slowed. A few weeks ago, I came to the realization that speaking to the board and informing them of certain facts or opinions was a complete waste of time.

Sometimes, I would appear at these instant special meetings or speak on something just to let the school board club know that there is at least one person in Newport-Mesa who can see behind the curtain.

That, too, was a waste of time. They do not care whether I attend a meeting or whether I have anything of substance to say when I speak. That is apparent in the aforementioned scheduling discussion with Fluor and also in some remarks I made to the school board club at a regular meeting a few months ago.

Back then, long before it became big news, I told the school board club that I had recently received two reports of rats on campuses. No one – neither a trustee nor a member of the administration – bothered to ask me which campuses so they could address the problem. No one stopped to consider why Steve Smith was getting these reports instead of the school administrators or district personnel.

Why didn’t they ask or consider the process? Because they don’t care. If they did care, they would have asked. But they did not ask and their indifference was rewarded with rat problems at Newport Harbor so bad that students and teachers walked out and the infestation made the regional news.

And yes, there are still rats on that other campus but no one will ask me which one.

What to do

Now, it’s my turn for indifference. I will no longer beat my head against the wall trying to effect change within the current school board club. Instead, the bulk of my energy will be spent promoting the candidate or candidates who will be running against the incumbents. I will write, walk precincts, hold meetings, and do whatever else it takes to elect people who are not satisfied with the status quo and who will restore the concept of respect with regard to those of us who live here and are tired of the shabby treatment of so many groups of people here, including teachers and classifieds.

So if I do not attend many more school board club meetings or write about yet another blunder, or two or three, it is not because I do not care, it is because my energy is better spent making a difference where it counts. It is an investment in the future that is meant to benefit students.

There are four school board seats up for grabs this November. They are currently held by:

Walt Davenport – Represents the area most in need of a revolution. Anemic academic performance has gone on far too long. Teachers need far more support than they are receiving. Davenport rarely speaks at meetings and has offered no solutions to raising academic performance.

Charlene Metoyer – Has brought nothing to the party and the only difference between Davenport and Metoyer is that Metoyer will speak up at meetings to let us know which school plays she has seen and which ribbon-cuttings she has attended.

Judy Franco – Has declared she is not running again. Be mindful of a hand-picked candidate who will embrace the status quo.

Karen Yelsey – Despite declaring 12 years ago that 12 years is enough for a trustee, my guess is that she will run anyway. But if there is any proof that we need to elect someone more sensitive to the community, it is in the Daily Pilot quote about her disappointment at the union leadership’s failure to attend the instant special meeting. Oh, and when she first ran in 2006, she also decried the board’s rubber stamping…

It has been said countless times that people are afraid of change. I’ve never believed that. I don’t think people are afraid of change, they are afraid of the uncertainty that change represents. The school board club needs change and if that comes with uncertainty over the future, so be it.

Everyone in this district deserves that type of change.

Steve Smith

Three Important Links

In the 32 years I have lived in Costa Mesa, I cannot recall a time when our school district made the news beyond the Daily Pilot and the Register as many times as it has in the past five years.

Whether it’s the prom draft, grade hacking, tainted musical instruments, rats on campus, and more, the string is unprecedented.

It’s occurring because we are experiencing a crisis in leadership, one that can only be corrected by electing new trustees with no allegiance to the existing trustees or the status quo.

In the meantime, here are links to three key clips you should watch:

CBS:
Costa Mesa Brief:
Sandy Asper:
Steve Smith

What does it mean…?

What does it mean when, instead of inviting a dialog with the president of the teacher union, the district bans him from a high school whose environment he was trying to improve?

What does it mean when the surrounding community has more concern over campus conditions than the school district?

What does it mean when no one in the district administration or on the school board is willing to accept full responsibility for the absurd number of blunders made over the past five years?

What does it mean when things get so bad that teachers and students have to take their grievances to the street to get any results?

What does it mean when neither the school board or anyone in the administration can’t thank or even acknowledge the recommendation of a community member, even after that recommendation has been put into place?

What does it mean when the community cares more about tour teachers than does the school district?

It means that time’s up. This school board crew has had their chance; ample time to improve Westside Costa Mesa academic performance, improve teacher morale, stop the hemorrhaging of money toward legal fees, and so much more.

It means that the four trustees whose seats are open this year must be filled by people who are not satisfied with the status quo, who do not accept everything the so-called experts on the staff tell them, and who understand that the money that funds everything in the district is paid for by people who have worked hard to earn it.

That’s what it means.

Steve Smith

Pitching a Small Tent

Many years ago, I had the great fortune to work with Kip Tindell, the Chairman and former CEO of The Container Store retail chain. Tindell and I would cross paths three or four times a year for a few days at a time as we were both involved in importing and promoting a line of home organizing products. Tindell was selling the products through The Container Store and I was the sales manager for the western United States.

That was in the late 80’s. Tindell’s company was about 10 years old but it was clear that he and his partners had created something special – not just the products, but also the corporate culture.

The more we spoke, the more I realized that his beliefs were a model for any organization.

I won’t do Tindell’s philosophy justice, but here goes… Tindell believed that if employees were happy and fulfilled, they would be more productive and revenue would grow because the staff believed in what they were doing. The staff knew that they were appreciated and that their work had meaning beyond collecting a paycheck.

For Tindell, this wasn’t some strategic means to an end, the end being making lots of money. Tindell believed that if you first put this philosophy to work, the money would come later.

And it did. The Container Store generated a lot of money and grew to the point where it went public about 10 years ago.

I’m providing you with a link to a brief interview with Tindell from a few years ago. It’s only about 3 1/3 minutes long and he describes “Conscious Capitalism,” which is the basis for his corporate philosophy. As you watch it, substitute all of the business references with references to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. If you do, you will understand the type of leadership required to restore the district to its once-proud status.

For example, late in the interview, Tindell talks about making sure everyone gets heard and he says, “You’d pitch a really small tent if you didn’t let any sinners in.”

That quote reminded me of the district’s recent letter to N-MFT President Britt Dowdy, who was banned for one week from the campus of Newport Harbor High.

Please watch this:

https://www.facebook.com/themotleyfool/videos/10153381873097796/?t=214

Steve Smith

Solving the Wrong Problem

Britt Dowdy, President of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers was at Newport Harbor High last Friday, trying to get someone to get rid of the rats on campus. Because of his advocacy on behalf of students, teachers, and staff, he has been banned from the campus of Newport Harbor High School  for one week because he, according to the official letter, “… disrupted the orderly operation of school activities and interfered with the peaceful conduct of campus activities, specifically you caused students and teachers to leave their classrooms during regular hours of instruction on April 27, 2018.”

This is so absurd, I hardly know where to begin.

First… Britt Dowdy did not disrupt anything. Any disruption was caused by an inept school district administration that has failed to solve a rat problem that has plagued the school (pun intended) for at least two years. Had the rats been dealt with in a competent manner when complaints first started, Dowdy would have not been on the campus.

Second… Britt Dowdy did not cause anyone to do anything. Anyone who left the campus to protest did so of their own free will because they are sick and tired of seeing rats and wanted to get some attention drawn to getting rid of them.

Third… What on Earth is a one week ban supposed to accomplish? Why a week? Why not a day, a month, or until June 21 when school is over and everyone will forget about the problem? Why a week?… Because this is not discipline, it is retaliation. And what happens after a week? Will Dowdy return from some re-education camp as a reformed union activist who has seen the error of his way?

No, he won’t. He’ll be just as active, perhaps even more so. Besides, Dowdy is showing the spine of leadership that teachers have been seeking for a very long time and they like what they see. Finally, someone has their back.

Fourth… How about the many more students who recently walked out to protest gun violence? No student was reprimanded or suspended because the district gave them the leeway to protest, then return to class. But Dowdy… well, we have to throw the book at him for wanting to take firm action to stop a serious campus problem.

The letter was signed by NHHS principal Sean Boulton, the latest person to be left by the superintendent to fend for him or herself when the going gets tough.

The letter and the ban are a joke – solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist. What is serious is the rat problem at NHHS. But rats don’t read and I doubt they’d leave for a week if we asked them.

Instead of denying Dowdy his right to meet on campus with union members, the school district should have met with him to try to understand why students and teachers are willing to walk out over this problem and to try to find a solution.

But that means using the “logic” stuff…

Sandy Asper covers it nicely in her recent Patch.com commentary, which you can read here: https://patch.com/california/newportbeach/what-fred-navarro-should-have-said

Remember: Work diligently between now and November to elect four new trustees to the school board – people with no allegiances to the current trustees or the status quo.

Steve Smith