The comic relief at last night’s school board meeting came early. Trustee Karen Yelsey was praising the student board members for their service – a good thing – but then described their twice-monthly reports as “unfiltered.” Oh, puh-lease. I’ve sat through the student reports, too, and while it is great that the kids are involved, their reports focus solely on school activities, mostly fun stuff. Yelsey is right, the reports are unfiltered, but that’s because there’s nothing that needs to be filtered.

I’ve written before that the student board member attendance is a lost opportunity. The students know their place and steer clear of anything even remotely controversial and the board members do the same. During the dust-up about the prom draft at CdM High, there was no mention of it and no one on the board dared to ask the student representative for insight or an opinion.

What a waste.

The many awards and student reports were followed by the introduction of three new employees, two of whom are assistant principals.

Then there was more comic relief. Prior to the public comments section, which was expected to draw numerous remarks from the union folks in attendance, board pres Martha Fluor preempted them by commenting sideways on the contract negotiations that are underway with the N-MFT and the Classifieds.

Among her prepared remarks, Fluor said – get ready:

“The board has a fiduciary responsibility to the community”

and… get even readier…

“We need to live within our means”

This from the president of a board that is hiring more management people instead of shedding them and is operating a bus transportation system almost $6 million in the red for this year alone, with no fee increases in almost 20 years. But now, during contract negotiations, Fluor decides to remind the union folks of their “fiduciary responsibility.”

OBTW, the whole budget is in the red, too.

I can’t figure out whether the board members believe all this fiduciary nonsense or are just using it as a negotiating tactic. Either way, it is yet another example of the extremely poor leadership from which taxpayers have been suffering for years. Well, once again, there is at least one person in the community who recognizes the hypocrisy and is calling them on it, and will continue to call them on it.

Here’s a recommendation to the board: Try telling the truth. If you’re so concerned about your fiduciary responsibility to the community and living within your means, state the obvious. Tell us that even though you’re out of money and using reserves to make ends meet, you don’t have the courage to tell the Super that he needs to stop hiring management. Tell us that even though the bus system is deep in the red, it’s partially your fault because you haven’t taken the necessary steps over the years to prevent the massive deficit.

Yes, we can handle the truth, and we’d respect you for telling it. What we don’t respect is insults to our intelligence.

In any case, at least one union rep wasn’t buying it, either. N-MFT Executive Director Nicholas Dix referred to the “frustration in negotiations” amplified (my word) by the new “high salaried positions.”

The entire three hours was made worthwhile by a letter penned by a part-time classified who described the downward spiral of her life in great detail. As her letter was being read by a colleague or friend – I’m not sure – there was not a sound in the room. The moment was riveting – a reality check for all of us, but particularly for the board, which conveniently insulates itself from the icky negotiation stuff.

Handing out awards is a lot more fun!

A few more speakers, then it was time for the unanimous vote for the items on the consent calendar. I’m not happy to say I my prediction was correct – yes, it was passed unanimously, but I am happy to say that I was wrong about another prediction. Buried in the approvals was the aforementioned contract extension for Deputy Super and Chief Business Officer Paul Reed. Reed is the one who has presided over the massive transportation deficit for years and is now presiding over the red ink in the current budget. But for that, he gets a contract extension. Nice work if you can get it. I was wrong because no one spoke up to praise Reed or his performance. Interesting…

Resolutions vote time. Trustee Vicki Snell questioned why the lowest bidder on one contract was not accepted. She got a pat on the head from Reed, then approved the items with her colleagues. At least she asked, which is more than I can say for the rest of the board.

Next up was the Trustee recaps of the fabulous places they’ve been and the exciting things they saw. Not one word about how to resolve any of the controversies facing the district.

Then it was the Super’s turn. He presented plans to stabilize the bus transportation program, provide cyber security to prevent more breaches, improve employee morale, increase transparency, provide more accountability, and balance the overall budget.

Oh, no, wait… That stuff was in the dream I had while I was dozing off during his remarks of no consequence. Never mind.

Next meeting is June 23 at which time we’re supposed to get details on the budget for the next fiscal year.

I’m excited.

Steve Smith

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