When the American Academy of Pediatrics reported last year that kids who start school a little later in the day show improved academic performance, I reported it to you here and recommended that the district try it. That was about a year ago. (I also wrote about it long before that in my former Daily Pilot column.)

A few days ago, Daily Pilot columnist Patrice Apodaca reported it. You can read it here: http://www.dailypilot.com/opinion/tn-dpt-me-0906-patrice-apodaca-20150905,0,6929528.story

It’s bad enough that a paid columnist for a Los Angeles Times newspaper is reporting something from a year ago, but what is really troubling is this paragraph:

“So Newport-Mesa Unified School District, I’m calling on you to do what’s right. Solicit input from teachers, administrators, parents, medical professionals, students and others in the community. Be open-minded and creative but mostly be determined to set the school clocks back to more reasonable hours.”

It’s the “solicit input” part. Well, there’s the comical “Be open-minded,” too, but let’s focus on input for now.

We don’t need to solicit input from the community. There are schools in the U.S. that start later. Just call them. Ask them the three “best practices” questions I repeated during my campaign:

  1. What’s working?
  2. What’s not?
  3. If you could start all over, what would you do differently?

Second, when you make a request to solicit input and ask everyone to be open-minded, you should not then insist that your goal “to set the school clocks back to more reasonable hours” is pre-determined. That’s the idea of input: To gather information to make an informed opinion BEFORE you make a final decision.

Besides, the track record of the district’s community input efforts is dismal. Anyone recall any results reported? I didn’t think so.

This is another case of a best practices opportunity gone to waste; a low cost, high return proven method of boosting academic performance that will not be acted upon because of laziness or because someone doesn’t like that Apodaca or yours truly is the source or some other ridiculous reason. (The other recent low cost, high return best practices opportunity gone to waste is the improved performance due to stand-up desks in classrooms. I wrote about it a month or so ago. You can read about it in Apodaca’s column next year.)

Test the later starts. One school.

Later starts won’t be tested at even one school, nor will stand-up desks, because of the district culture that has evolved under Supt. Fred Navarro. Instead of Apodaca’s open-minded attitude, which I support, there is a culture of hierarchy and fear in which innovation and entrepreneurial thinking take a back seat to maintaining the status quo with as little boat rocking as possible. And as the super finalizes his efforts to insulate himself from any potential missteps or scandals, this culture is becoming more evident.

But as I wrote not too long ago, there is one inescapable fact: Everything that happens in the district, ultimately, is the responsibility of the superintendent.

Steve Smith

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