There is a school board meeting tonight. Item 14.b.4 is the recommendation of the staff to “receive Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) Williams Legislation Fourth Quarter Summary Report representing review activity conducted by OCDE in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District from April through June 2015.”

Of course, the board will approve this item. There will not be any questions by any of the Trustees, most of whom have no idea what the Quarter Summary Report says and don’t care to know. The staff recommends it and that’s good enough for them.

But the report prompts the start of one of our favorite games, “Connect the Dots.”

Today, we are going to connect two dots, one between tonight’s rubber-stamped recommendation to receive the OCDE report, and the upcoming March “investigation” by the state Dept. of Ed. You can read about that “investigation” by clicking HERE.

Here’s the background on tonight’s item, according to the agenda:

Background:
Per Education Code Section 1240, the County Superintendent is charged with the responsibility of assembling a team of county representatives to visit all decile 1-3 schools. Newport-Mesa’s current decile 1-3 schools are:  College Park, Pomona, Rea, Whittier and Wilson Elementary Schools.  OCDE’s review affirms sufficiency components of the Williams Legislation requirements in the areas of:
– Sufficiency of Instructional Materials
– Posting of Required Williams Uniform Complaint Procedure (UCP)in classrooms
– State of Facilities
– Accuracy of School Accountability Report Cards (SARCS)
– Teacher Assignments
In addition, local boards of education are required to share the information received from OCDE in a public meeting.

Current Consideration:
In the fourth quarter of 2014-2015, OCDE completed teacher assignment monitoring for schools in deciles 1-3.  OCDE reviewed N-MUSD’s teacher assignments and found them to be in compliance.

Me again. I bolded the last sentence, which explains why the March inspection is just more wastes of time and tax dollars.

The OCDE visits were to schools in the district that are “decile 1-3,” which is education-speak for “failing.” But they can’t say “failing” because nothing in the district ever fails and so failure is not an option even if something really does fail, in which case they call it something else.

The question is, “How could the OCDE visit these failing schools and find anything in compliance?” The answer is the revelation I had a couple of days ago and reported here: The bar is set so low that failure really is not an option. The recent Common Core test scores are not an aberration – these schools have been failing for years. I know because I’ve been reporting it. Worse, the prized multimillion-dollarly compensated administration has no clue as to how to right the ships. But at least they’re trying: At College Park El, kids are being taught in Chinese.

So, back to the March “inspection.” The district will pass this inspection with flying colors because:

  1. As with the OCDE “review,” this inspection is a system of bureaucrats inspecting bureaucrats, an arrangement guaranteed to avoid any hint of controversy.
  2. The district has over five months to spit polish the schools. That’s plenty of time to bring in shiny new equipment, scrub the campuses, and get everyone’s story straight.
  3. A blind man could see that the schools in Costa Mesa need help. He could also see that the current crew is quite satisfied with the status quo. But having escaped scrutiny for years, there is no chance of a miracle with this “inspection” team.

The key thing to remember here is that the academic standards of the admin and the board are not the same as yours. Whereas you and I looked at the recent Common Core test results and wondered how this could happen, they looked at the debacle and celebrated. There was not one word of disappointment, not one thought of mobilizing a task force of non-bureaucrats to find a solution, and no study session to investigate why years of tweaking has not produced any measurable results. In fact, at Adams El, in the heart of the upscale Mesa Verde neighborhood, things are worse.

The admin and the board have had a lot of success with the strategy of doing nothing. I’ve attended many board meetings over the years and the lack of community outrage is astounding. They know that there is no pressure to do anything, so they don’t. Instead, they spend their time handing out endless awards, rubber-stamping each other’s proposals, blame the English-learners for the failure, and congratulating each other for a job well done. But a strategic plan to turnaround failing schools? Gosh, that’s a lot of work and I have a lot of paper to push so I’m not sure when I can get to that.

The other interesting item on the agenda is the recommendation to “Reject All Bids for #106-15 Newport Harbor High School Davidson Field Upgrades.” Why? Because the difference between what they budgeted and what they got is different by 30%. Yep, that’s right, all of the high-salaried experts at the district could not even come close to a realistic budget for this project. So now, the project goes back out to bid and the construction companies have more information than they had before, in other words, they know where their bid needs to be. One possible scenario is that the new bids will come in at or below that new figure and “Oh, gosh, there are things we didn’t anticipate so here’s a few million dollars in change orders.” Sorry, taxpayers.

The meeting is tonight at 6 p.m. at the Bear St. HQ. I did not notice any awards being handed out so it should be another swift Groundhog Day meeting: Meet, rubber stamp millions of hard-earned tax dollars in projects, talk about how exciting things are, go home.

Oh, there’s one more interesting item that will be rubber-stamped. It’s 14.c.3. which is “Approve Correction to the Agreement of Employment with Annette Franco, Dated September 8, 2015 to Correct Position Title to Read “Communications and Public Relations Officer,” No Other Changes to Agreement for Employment”

This is the stuff they worry about: Change the title of a bureaucrat but ignore failing Westside schools.

Steve Smith

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