About a month ago, Superintendent Navarro published a memo on the district’s website that sought to explain their major goof during a rainstorm. Perhaps you remember the storm that flooded classrooms in three schools and forced kids to learn elsewhere.

I’d like you to read the memo, which is so poorly written that, well, I’ll save my conclusion until after the analysis. Here it is in its entirety in bold, with my notes in italics:

Wednesday, September 9th at approximately 3:30 in the afternoon Mother Nature dealt our area an un-forecasted thunderstorm. “Un-forecasted” is not a word. How about just using “surprise?” And what’s with starting the sentence with “Wednesday?” Without a preposition, in this case, “on,” it is just gibberish.

It caught everyone by surprise and Newport-Mesa USD was no exception. No, it did not catch “everyone” by surprise, only the unprepared workers who were not monitoring the weather as they should have been. I knew it was coming and so did many people I know. That worker incompetency caused a major disruption. Besides, if it really did catch everyone by surprise you don’t have to state that the N-MUSD was no exception – it’s assumed. Duh.

We were in the process of installing HVAC at California Elementary, Killybrooke Elementary, and TeWinkle Middle School. Be exact. “We” were not installing anything – a company contracted to install air conditioning units was installing them. Oh, and don’t use an acronym unless you first spell it out – most parents wouldn’t know HVAC from HIV.

Because of this parts of the roof were exposed.  Here’s something you didn’t know: There is one roof covering all of California, Killybrooke and TeWinkle. There’s a comma missing, too.

The very unexpected occurrence of the rain storm then meant that water was allowed to enter those sites through the exposed roof.  The rainstorm took place after dismissal and at no time were students in any danger at our campuses. “Very unexpected” is a pleonasm and has no place in a memo created by someone with a doctorate making about $300K in tax dollars. “Then meant”… OMG, no. Sounds like a style of Girl Scout cookie.

I’m worn out. Here’s the rest. While you’re reading, try to determine what is missing:

As a result of the water damage we have had to move some students to unaffected instructional areas.  At California Elementary and TeWinkle Middle School we were able to move students that had classes in affected areas to different locations within those campuses.  At Killybrooke however we moved the entire student body and staff to Costa Mesa High School.  Our staff has been exceptional during this time.  They have adjusted to the changes creatively and collaboratively and have worked very hard to make sure that any interruption to student instruction was kept to a minimum. 

We will not allow students back in until facilities are clean, and that they meet all of the health and safety standards that we expect.  We will be bringing in professionals to assess the damage and monitor the repair process.  In the meantime students at the affected sites will continue to receive top notch instruction at locations throughout the district. 

It may take a week or two to get students fully back into classrooms.  During this time we appreciate your continuing support and thank you for your patience and understanding.

What’s missing is a simple apology for the disaster, something like, “I am sorry that this damage occurred and that your student’s education was disrupted. Rest assured that we are making every effort to return the classrooms to their former conditions as quickly as possible and are also taking steps to avoid future floods.”

But people who never make a mistake have nothing for which they need to apologize. You see, the Super wrote it in the first sentence: It was Mother Nature’s fault.

Reading this memo made me realize that perhaps the reason that Costa Mesa’s Westside schools are performing so poorly is because the district’s own bar for Costa Mesa is set so low. Perhaps they can’t expect more because they don’t know the difference.

It’s either that or it’s Mother Nature’s fault.

Steve Smith

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