At some future school board meeting, I may decide to count the number of times I hear hear the trustees use the words “exciting” or “amazing” when describing something they saw or someone they heard. (Trustee Charlene Metoyer used each word during her comment time.) Regulars at these meetings are used to this gushing, but it may be amusing to those who do not. I may add “fabulous” to that scorekeeping, too.

At last night’s amazing and exciting school board presentation, John Caldecott spoke for more than his allotted three minutes, testing the patience of board president Martha Fluor, who showed ample restraint and respect. Caldecott pushed the envelope because he wanted the trustees to know – again – that they may have not gotten all of the information they needed – and should have requested – before Caldecott was terminated in January.

You can read the Daily Pilot’s summary of his comments by clicking here. What I want you to know is what I saw and what happens next.

Last night he peeled the curtain back just a bit to let the Trustees know that there is more to the story than what they had been told. During his comments, all of the trustees paid very close attention to him. The out-of-town superintendent did not. Supt. Fred Navarro of Long Beach barely looked up at Caldecott and had no comments when Caldecott was done.

And there lies my concern. After Caldecott was done, not one of the trustees asked him anything – not a single question. If asked why, they may tell you that it’s a legal matter, blah, blah, blah, but there are a number of questions they could have asked that would not have directly reflected on the case. But they did not.

After Caldecott spoke, three taxpayers expressed their concerns with Common Core. One of them, Ruth Fant, sent the trustees a link to a video of a prominent teacher describing Common Core’s failings. I will get that link and post it shortly. These speakers were followed by someone requesting more attention to the campus at Early College High School (which is coming), and wrapped up by Nicholas Dix, the Executive Director of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, who questioned the out-of-town superintendent’s decision to add more upper management at a time when the district is using its reserves to pay its bills. Dix got a response – more on that below.

There were no questions or dialog with the three Common Core speakers, and no questions or comments for Dix – sort of. The out-of-town supt. had a response for Dix and he should have given it to him when Dix was at the podium, but in an attempt to be clever, he waited until the very end of the meeting when it was his turn to talk to tell Dix that, in short, the new hires would not affect the budget. (I’m skeptical of that, but let’s put that on hold.) Once he finished, the meeting was adjourned. No dialog with Dix, end of story.

Except that’s not the end of the story. Not only will there be several sets of eyes watching these new hires and their budget impact, there are now more people who understand that this is not a superintendent who seems to want to engage people. As long-time, successful senior manager, I can tell you that the worst way to resolve any conflict or confusion is to stifle conversation about it. But that’s exactly what Navarro tried to do. The out-of-town superintendent (who, BTW, does not seem to know what a QR code is) waited until the end of the meeting to tell Dix what he should have told him an hour earlier because apparently he was not interested in dialog, he was interested – and is interested – only in advancing whatever is on his agenda. Unfortunately, the trustees, whose string of 7-0 votes continued last night, aren’t challenging him. For Navarro, it’s a perfect arrangement. For taxpayers, eh, not so much.

Last night we also got a summary of a trip to Nashville by Metoyer and fellow Trustee Vicki Snell. Nashville was the location of a meeting of the National School Board Assn. Snell was “impressed” by the workshops and speakers but taxpayers were not told by either attendee how this trip and the resulting expense would directly affect student academic performance. Though I believe in this age of technology that these conferences are dinosaurs, I have no objection to them if a line can be drawn from the attendance to improved academic performance. Otherwise, as far as this taxpayer is concerned, conferences are a waste of money.

So let’s recap the current scandals and controversies:

Budget – The district is operating in the red and no specific plan is yet in place to balance the budget. New programs and hiring continue, and why shouldn’t they? There’s always more taxpayer money to pay for things down the road.

CdM Cheating Scandal – There is no public statement of the district’s cyber security program and until taxpayers are informed otherwise, grade hacking could occur on any campus at any time.

Common Core – This new academic program will be tested using a new test, not the old STAR test, which means that they are testing nothing. Even though the state has eliminated STAR testing, it is still available for use by individual districts, according to my recent conversation with someone from the state Dept. of Ed. So how will parents and taxpayers know if Common Core works? They won’t.

Adams Elementary – A fence will be surrounding the entire school, unlike the fence at a similar school in Newport Beach,  and contrary to what residents/taxpayers were told last year. (When asked about the design flip-flop, Susan Astarita, Assistant Superintendent, Elementary Education, replied, “We changed our minds.”) There’s also the failure to attract more Mesa Verde parents to this school.

Westside Costa Mesa Elementary Schools – Academic performance still suffering from years of neglect, despite a talented, dedicated team of teachers.

Fields – Despite a request from Snell in January, the district has not produced a report showing which youth athletic teams are using (our) school fields, when, and where. They encouraged Costa Mesa’s Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee to find a solution.

John Caldecott – Have you ever tried to pull a toy out of a dog’s mouth? That’s how mightily Caldecott is holding on to his case in his pursuit of justice.

Then there are contract negotiations with teachers. That story is just beginning.

In the meantime, the board will continue to hand out feel-good awards at many meetings and act concerned when taxpayers speak. It’s an exciting and amazing time.

 

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