This blog is approaching its 180th entry, keeping a promise I made when I ran for a school board seat last year that win or lose, it would continue.

Each post is subject to errors in syntax, grammar, and punctuation, and may contain missing words. That is because I proof my own work, which is not a good idea. This morning, for example, I stumbled on a missing word in a recent post that would have had a profound change in the meaning of a key sentence.

For whatever errors you may read, I am sorry.

I take solace in the fact that despite the imperfections in the posts, neither the school board or the district administration has a level of communication even close to what is being provided here. And as I wrote last week, newspaper staff shortages have reduced education coverage to district press releases, 99.9% of which are good news. Or in district parlance, “amazing” or “exciting” news. The district’s approach to anything close to bad news is to say nothing, and issue a statement only if asked.

That leaves two people – Sandy Asper and me – in a community of about 200,000 to report what the mainstream media can’t or won’t. Sandy reports via interviews at and in an occasional column in the Daily Pilot or the Register. If this blog and Asper’s interviews are important to the community, please forward the links to anyone you know who may be interested. I do not profit from this blog, nor does Sandy prosper from her website.


With all of the activity in the district – I’ll get to Timothy Lai in a few moments – one concern dominates my thoughts. It is a serious challenge the district has had for many years but which has never been strategically addressed, nor are there any plans to correct this travesty. Unfortunately, there are few people in Costa Mesa, and almost none in Newport Beach, who care about this problem. You probably don’t care about it, which is OK, but it’s not OK if the board and the administration don’t care.

The problem is the low performance of four schools on Costa Mesa’s Westside. It is not a coincidence that these schools happen to be predominantly Spanish-speaking but that should not be a barrier to progress. The lack of performance improvement is bad enough, but the district’s indifference to the problem is a disgrace.

Anyone can govern in good times. Real leadership means that the most difficult problems are addressed and a long-term strategic plan is developed to fix whatever is wrong.

In the private sector, General Motors is a good example of the good that can happen when serious problems are faced and resolved. GM’s stock hit it’s 5-year high in March of last year. As you may recall, the company was facing intense scrutiny for not addressing serious car defects and was even accused by some of purposely ignoring them. Since then, the stock is doing well and though it’s not at its peak it’s still solid.

That performance is the result of one thing: Communication.  A CEO steps up, states the problem, takes ownership of the whole mess, and details a plan not only to correct the immediate concern but also to prevent it from reoccurring.

That’s what a leader does. Anyone else is just a bureaucrat and bureaucrats are a dime a dozen.

There is no long-term strategic plan for the four Westside schools because the board and the administration simply do not care enough to do anything. (Please do not remind me of the sham that the district calls a “dual language program.”) The board’s representative for the zone, Walt Davenport, has done nothing to address these schools, or anything else, for that matter. But he goes to the twice-monthly meetings, sits in his chair, contributes almost zero while rubber stamping everything that is presented. And each year he has been representing the zone is another year that kids are promoted who are not ready for the next level.

But he is in good company. Except for Karen Yelsey acknowledging that there is a rampant drug problem in the area, it has been a very long time since a sitting school board member has piped up about any problem. And by “problem,” I do not mean the state of the five-foot fence at Adams Elementary.

The seven rubber stampers do what they do because it’s easy. Consistent with human nature, they seek to avoid confrontation and take the path of least resistance. That’s the way most of us operate and it would be OK except that we’re talking here about kids – little kids – who are relying on these elected officials for help. Instead, they are ignored.

Hack some grades, go to jail

Timothy Lai – the leader of The Gang That Couldn’t Hack Straight – gets a year in jail and five years of probation. Whether this sentence is just is beyond me – I have no precedent on which to base an opinion. But I do know that the district would like us all to forget about the whole mess as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, at least one major problem exists, one that was addressed by CdM principal Kathy Scott, who said, “This [hacking scandal] damaged the academic integrity of CdM and devalued the perception of the CdM diploma.” (DP 8/4/15)

Until the district reveals its super secret cybersecurity policy, all students will suffer. Until we receive verifiable reassurance that no other hacking has occurred at any other school and that the proper security measures are in place, all diplomas are devalued. But as you know by now, no statement will be made and nothing will be done.

It’s not just human nature, it’s worse – it’s the district’s standard operating procedure.