For over two years, I’ve been wondering what qualifications the board saw in Supt. Fred Navarro when they hired him. After all, his track record of academic performance in his previous position as the super in Lennox was mediocre at best. (See the numbers here:

And since he has been the super here, the district has faced more controversies than I can recall in the 28 years I’ve been a resident of Costa Mesa. Worse, on his watch, the district is now operating in the red, with no public plan to right the ship.

Maybe he’s a nice guy, I don’t know. We’ve met only once, briefly, so I have no clue. Frankly, I don’t really care. As a taxpayer, I want to see three things:

  1. Improved academic performance
  2. A balanced budget
  3. Superior communication

That’s what I want. That’s probably what you want, too. And if the super happens to be a nice guy, great. But I don’t really care. I’m not paying for personality, I’m paying for performance. And so far, the performance is poor.

But I finally figured out why his performance is so lackluster – tripping over the reason when I was looking for something else.

It turns out that taxpayers are paying for Navarro’s on-the-job-training.

On October 9, 2012, the school board voted on item no. 23a, which states:

“Approved Agreement with Dr. Robert Barbot to Serve as an Advisor to the Superintendent in the Areas of Governance and Management of a School District.”

What the board did with your tax dollars was authorize up to $27,000 to have former super Robert Barbot show Navarro how to do his job.

But wait, there’s more!

Not only did they set aside up to $27K, this agreement goes on for – guess… A year? Nope. Two? Nope. It’s a three year deal. Three years! In fact, the agreement isn’t up until October.

The money is one thing, although the board would probably echo Trustee Vicki Snell’s campaign comment about travel expenses that it’s a “drop in the bucket.” The real problem here is that the board hired someone who was not ready for the job.

Barbot didn’t need an advisor, neither did Jeff Hubbard. But Navarro does. So why did they hire a guy with a mediocre track record who needed an advisor for three years? Got me. My guess is that as with so many of the votes by the Trustees, it was not a rational decision, but an emotional one. They liked him a lot, so he got the job.

But at least now it all makes sense. Now I understand why we still have underperforming schools on Costa Mesa’s Westside, why communication is so bad, and why we don’t have a balanced budget.

I do wonder about a few things, though.

Did Barbot advise Navarro to terminate John Caldecott without a hearing?

Did Barbot advise Navarro that it was OK to operate the transportation system at a nearly $6 million annual deficit and that it was OK to operate the entire budget in the red?

Did Barbot advise Navarro that it was a good idea to hire more managers when the district is operating in the red?

Has Barbot advised Navarro to avoid public discussion of any substantive issues facing the district?

If so, I want my money back.