I thought it was about air conditioning! Seriously. When I went to the N-MUSD website home page to review something, I noticed that three of the five entries under “District News & Announcements” were surveys.

The other two notices were about the district’s plan to climb out of the red and about how they are going to stop the work environment that promotes fear and retaliation. Just kidding.

Two of the three surveys are asking taxpaying parents for their input in an Elementary Schools “Climate” Survey and a Secondary Schools Climate Survey. Curious, I clicked on one, confused about what information the district could possibly want from parents about the temperature in classrooms.

Silly me! Turns out that the climate they want to know about is whether everyone at the school is nice. Here are two samples of the ratings opportunities:

  1. I feel welcomed at my child’s school office.
  2. I feel listened to by the administration.

The other questions aren’t much better:

  1. I feel proud to be a parent at this school.
  2. My child’s counselor cares about my child.
  3. My child is treated fairly by administration.

In my career, I’ve conducted many surveys and focus groups. In the surveys, we’re trying to find honest answers to challenges and try very hard to craft questions and ratings so that we get honest answers to critical issues. The N-MUSD questions are softballs lobbed at parents that measure nothing.

And on top of everything else, there is nothing carved out for specific school issues. If you are a parent of a CdM student, for example, you are answering the same questions as a parent of a student at TeWinkle. Really.

So as a CdM parent, you are not being asked your thoughts on what to do about grade hacking or a new stadium or student parking, you’re being asked about ambiance. That’s the “climate” they’re referring to, not heating or cooling, which would have been far more constructive.

This is more lightweight leadership from lightweight leaders. Not unexpected, I suppose, but then taxpayers have to foot the bill for someone’s time to monitor and tabulate this nonsense.

And is there anyone out there who wants to challenge my prediction that the results will show that every school is loved by the parents of students there?

I didn’t think so.

The other survey ask parents for their input in the decision-making process for a new principal at Estancia. There are a couple of issues here.

The first is that the survey has only four questions, only one of which relates directly to input on a new principal. That question is, “What leadership qualities and characteristics do you wish to see in the new principal in order to support the strengths and deal with the needs/critical issues indicated in your previous responses?”

Taxpayers are shelling out millions of dollars in compensation for a small group of people in the N-MUSD administration. It seems to me that for that kind of dough and for all the relevant experience they have, they should not need the input of people who have no experience running a school.

Second, it apparently has not occurred to anyone on Bear St. that Estancia already had a really good principal. But someone decided to take him off the campus and stick him behind a desk at HQ where his talents are severely underutilized. The district doesn’t need a survey to find the new Estancia principal. Just get someone like Kirk Bauermeister. Or, let Bauermeister make the decision.

Surveys are the smoke and mirrors of the N-MUSD. They are a deflecting tactic to make taxpayers believe they have input when they have none. I will be wrong about this when I see the survey on grade hacking, John Caldecott, hiring more managers during a budget deficit, operating a school bus system at an outrageous loss loss for many years without raising fees, or any of the other mismanagement issues that concern taxpayers.

In the meantime, I’d like to see a survey about air conditioning.

Steve Smith

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