As a candidate for a school board seat last year, I was invited to a meeting to learn about the workings of the district. It was made clear to the candidates in attendance that with the exception of the Trustees, everyone reports to the superintendent. In this case, that would be Fred Navarro, who lives in Long Beach.

Navarro, we were told, reports to the board.

As I recently reported, Vicki Snell was stiff-armed in her Jan. 13 attempt to get to the bottom of which youth sports organizations are using which school fields and when. She was told by Paul Reed, “We’ll come back to it.”

Well, it’s three months later and no one has come back to anything. In the meantime, kids pay the price.

All of that is bad procedure, bad reporting, and bad chain of command. But it wouldn’t be so bad if it were just that one incident. Unfortunately, it happened again at last night’s school board meeting. Snell asked (Snell again – is there a pattern here?) about whether the timetable for the new sign outside of Early College High School could be moved up while the rest of the campus is undergoing a modernization.

Her reply from Reed (Reed again – is there a pattern here?) was “We can certainly look at that.”

Huh?

Those two replies are the equivalent of a pat on head. They are condescending responses to legitimate requests by an elected representative of the taxpayers of Newport-Mesa. But instead of challenging Reed, Snell said nothing. Here’s what she should have said/asked:

1) When will you come back to it? (Look at it?)

2) Who will be doing the research?

3) How will the work be conducted?

No questions were asked because the tail (administration) has been wagging the dog (board) for as long as I’ve been covering their proceedings, which is about 15 years. The district administration is so used to operating without any meaningful oversight by the board that it spills over into public meetings. Imagine the CEO in the private sector being told by a subordinate, “I’ll get back to you on that.” The subordinate would not have to get back to the CEO because he or she would be fired the same day and would be replaced by someone who understands that when the boss asks you to do something, you do it. Or you quit – either one. I’m not in favor of running a school board like a private enterprise but that doesn’t mean there aren’t private sector principles and policies that can’t be adopted. Let’s start with reinforcing the chain of command.

Last night’s meeting was another set of unanimous votes in favor of staff recommendations, which means that in about 4.5 months, not one board member has disagreed with any staff recommendation. (And to think that I got looks when I called them “rubber stampers” during my campaign last year…)

There may be one recommendation that the board would like to take back. That’s the one in January when it was recommended that they approve the termination of John Caldecott without a hearing.

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