… there is a fired HR director.

It occurred to me today that some readers may not know what all the Caldecott fuss is about; that they are unaware that there are some serious allegations involved.

Here are some excerpts from an Orange County Register story from March 30 by Megan Nicolai, who was present at Caldecott’s scheduled court hearing yesterday. (Not one person from the district showed up.)

1) “John Caldecott, who worked at the district for a decade, said during the March 24 meeting that he thinks the district is regularly paying for work days one administrator didn’t complete. He also said he was asked to come up with a list of teachers based on seniority and asked to work with a ‘layoff expert.'”

2) “Caldecott also said he suspects the district is reporting incorrect salary information for certificated management employees to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System [STRS], which could inflate pensions. Certificated management employees are administrators whose jobs require an administrative credential.”

3) “Caldecott told the board that district Superintendent Frederick Navarro had come up with a proposed new salary schedule last year for certificated management employees. Caldecott was kept in the dark about why the new salary schedule was needed, he said.”

4) “Caldecott suspected employee pay, like merit pay or professional growth pay, could have been misreported for those employees to the STRS, which could inflate their retirement income. Caldecott said he called for an internal audit of that group but was ignored.”

•5) “Caldecott said he was aware of an administrator that was regularly credited for at least 20 days of work he or she did not complete. Caldecott did not name the administrator. He reported it to the board, but they took no action.”

So, here’s the deal… These allegations are not about someone looking at someone else the wrong way, or someone drinking a colleague’s soda from the district refrigerator. This is about money, lots of it: Your money. You give this money to the school district and trust them to spend it wisely. That’s why they’re called “Trustees.”

Unfortunately, the Trustees on the N-MUSD board don’t have or don’t take the time to get into the specifics of a lot of money with which they are trusted – all they do is rubber stamp whatever staff recommendation is before them. This is not an exaggeration: Since Katrina Foley left, I have not documented a single dissenting vote on anything.

What happens as a result is that the Trustees become detached from one of the two most important obligations as a school board member. Under certain circumstances, that would not have much of an effect on the average taxpayer, but the school district is operating in the red and is now facing the possibility that the person they hired to oversee everything – the super – may have done a few things that are improper at best and illegal at worst.

But, maybe the money involved is thought of the same way that Trustee Vicki Snell thinks of the wasteful travel budget. During the campaign last year, Snell called the travel budget, “a drop in the bucket.”

Interesting analogy considering that we are lacking so much water that California is in a drought. We also seem to be in a drought of transparency, accountability, and responsibility.

It is a shame that a court order is what it will take to determine whether there are actually any improprieties, as Caldecott claims. The best solution may be for Judge Geoffrey T. Glass to order the district to release the documents but redact anything that is not related to standards of conduct or potentially illegal actions.

As I have been writing for weeks, months, years: This is not about any one person. It was never about Stephen Wagner or Jeffrey Hubbard and it is not now about John Caldecott or Fred Navarro.

This whole case centers around a pertinacious school board culture that tries mightily to keep taxpayers out of their business; that fails to hold itself accountable, and feels no obligation whatsoever to explain anything with more than just the few words it will take to drop the subject.

This type of government is 180 degrees from the direction most other bureaucracies are headed. From sanitation to cities, governments are rushing to see who can be more open and acccountable. As I’ve written, transparency is the new black.

But the N-MUSD doesn’t see it that way. For them, the new black is battling it out in the courtroom. And yes, that, too, costs money.

Steve Smith

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