You may have heard the news that there is an early proposal to convert 260 charter schools in the Los Angeles Unified School district to charter schools.

According to the story in the Los Angeles Times, which you can read HERE, “… Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other charter advocates want to create 260 new charter schools, enrolling at least 130,000 students.”

The Times story quoted LAUSD board member Monica Garcia as saying, “We must reflect the urgency that exists in our district to do everything we can do to support more learning and achievement for our youth. The thing I want to extinguish is illiteracy and poverty.”

“Support more learning and achievement for our youth.” That’s it right there. That’s the thing; the goal that should be set in every school district in every state. Unfortunately, there are side issues such as politics, egos, and fear that interfere with this type of progress. And at the end of the day, this mix of childish irrelevancy results in nothing beneficial for students.

Here, there, and everywhere

The case in point here is the dismal performance of many Costa Mesa schools. This is not about Common Core. Common Core served only to put an exclamation point on a problem that has been festering for decades. The fact is – one supported by hard evidence of poor academic performance – that the school board doesn’t know how to turn around any of these failing schools. (It’s either that, or they don’t want to turn them around and I’m giving the benefit of the doubt.)

What LAUSD’s Garcia said about supporting more learning and achievement doesn’t apply here because, as she also mentioned, there is a sense of urgency there where there is no sense of urgency here. The predominantly Spanish-speaking parents on Costa Mesa’s Westside are not activists – they won’t be crowding the district’s boardroom anytime soon and there is no one person on the Westside who represents the position of these parents – someone who will stand before the board and demand action. This is a docile constituency that is being ignored by the school district administration and the school board. The admin and the board don’t care because they think the parents don’t care.

But how do they know this? Actually, they don’t. During one of the several Westside community meetings I attended during my campaign last year, N-MUSD Trustee Walt Davenport was described as “a ghost,” meaning that he was not a presence among the parents in the area. I learned from many parents, sometimes via a translator, that they care deeply about their child’s education.

Costa Mesa Trustee Vicki Snell has had the temerity to challenge a few administrative recommendations from time to time, but she does not have the experience required to jolt the administration and the board into action.

Costa Mesa is also represented by two other trustees, Charlene Metoyer and Dana Black, neither of whom is going to recommend any substantial changes anytime soon. After having served on the board for almost 20 years, I can understand that Black may have some complacency about her duties. That’s not an excuse, it’s just the reality. But Metoyer is new and thus far has contributed absolutely nothing to her constituency or to the district and it is highly unlikely that she ever will. We have seen her board personality and it’s just more business as usual, even as the Costa Mesa schools continue to promote kids who are not ready for the next grade level.

The education establishment even has a cute name for the problem. They call it the “achievement gap,” which is a watered-down version of the reality, which is that Costa Mesa’s schools are suffering from is an “inaction gap.”

Doing the math

So that makes four Costa Mesa representatives on the school board. Four out of seven. So, let me do the math here, and… hey! That’s a majority! That means that the four Costa Mesans could start pushing hard for some turnaround proposals and see them through to fruition. So why don’t they? Because they like being in office more than they like the thought of challenging the status quo.

Once again, kids lose.

By this time, you may be thinking, “So where’s the superintendent in all of this?” It’s a legitimate question and the answer is that he is no more likely to create any strategic turnaround plan for Costa Mesa’s schools than I am. The super may not be able to come up with such a plan because he may not know how. His performance as the superintendent in his prior district, Lennox, was a bust – no achievement milestones to write about. So, it figures that he won’t create a plan because he can’t. We are stuck with a Superintendent who seems to be quite satisfied just to get through each day without any controversy or problems and head back to his home in Long Beach.

Money for Nothing

The other highly paid admin people won’t recommend a plan because they don’t want to rock the boat. They’re smart people. They’ve got high-paying, cushy jobs with few demands and as long as they keep their mouths shut and do as they’re told, they will continue to collect their $15,000-20,000 or so each month, plus benefits. These people remember very well how the super handled the last guy who spoke up: He was a ten-year N-MUSD employee making well over $200K named John Caldecott and he was fired last January.

So, there you have it: Tax money for nothing. Of course, if you live in certain parts of Newport Beach, you probably looked at those Common Core scores and aren’t too thrilled, either. But enough to tell the school board? Apparently not.

We can, or I can, rail about the complacency in the administration and on the school board all we want but in the end, they take their cues from us. They don’t care because we don’t.

And that’s a fact, too.

Duds and suds tonight

Tonight the seven rubber stampers on the school board will fly through the agenda, which consists mostly of approving the spending millions of your tax dollars. No one will challenge anything, and the admin and the board will all go home believing that they have actually accomplished something when all they have done, really, is to perpetuate a bureaucracy that continues to ignore thousands of little kids on Costa Mesa’s Westside.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Steve Smith

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