It’s a tired, old story, but one that you must keep reading because it is only through repetition that you will begin to understand the magnitude of the complacency of the current administration and the school board.

Once again, last night’s meeting was notable not for what was said, but for what was not said. More accurately, it was notable for the topics that were avoided.

The highlight for the B&B (That’s shorthand for bureaucrats and board) was the back-slapping all around for their “sold out” State-of-the-Schools (SOTS) breakfast on 9/30. The SOTS was the love-in on 9/30 that was paid for with your tax dollars. Attendance just prior to the event was so inadequate that they extended the deadline for registration. Then, voila! it was “sold out.” Amazing how that works.

The rubber-stamping hit a small bump in the road when Trustee Vicki Snell pulled two items from the rubber-stamp calendar for discussion. The items were related to the recent failure to get a decent bid for repairs and improvements to the field(s) at Newport Harbor. The bids received were high by about 30%.

Snell asked what happened and Deputy Super Paul Reed replied with an answer that sounded like the agenda item because he offered no new information. In a way, it’s his fault there were no insights and in a way, it’s not. The problem was that Snell asked her question, listened to Reed, and did not ask the two follow-up questions that would have given her and the rest of us the answers we wanted to know:

  1. How did this happen? A 30% discrepancy between what was budgeted and the final bids is huge and it indicates a problem. But Snell didn’t ask, so we still don’t know how this occurred.
  2. What is being done to ensure that this does not happen again?

Reed should have offered the answers to these two questions, but he plays his part well and if you don’t get specific, you should not expect any additional information beyond what you requested.

Snell has pulled items from time to time to ask questions, but there is usually no follow-up; no questions that would reveal whether there is a system problem or a people problem, or even no problem at all. Sometimes people just make mistakes. That’s understandable, but Reed should have owned the problem – I mean, it’s not like he’s going to get fired. But Reed owned nothing. No apology for anything.

The bidding trainwreck will delay the improvements for three months, which creates a ripple effect for team sports.

The big moment for me was something that I’m guessing most people missed. Early in the meeting, the Super actually spoke up. And he said, “Blah, blah, blah, tremendous investment in taxpayer money.”

Excuse me? The Super is concerned about taxpayer money? When did this happen and why? It’s nice to hear, but until it translates into some concrete action, it’s just more noise.

So the fields items were pulled, the B&B did their little dance, and then they everything was passed 7-0. All the votes last night were 7-0.

The board member comments… Ugh. More “Here are the ribbons I cut and the smiling student faces I saw.” Trustees Franco and Black used the word “kudos,” Snell went to the Chili Cook-Off in Costa Mesa, and Walt Davenport avoided any discussion of the failing schools on the Westside. Again.

Charlene Metoyer “really enjoyed” the SOTS breakfast and muttered something about how the SOTS video shows how the district will “get our kids ready for the 21st century.”

Um, I hate to be the one to break the news to Metoyer, but we’re already 15 years into the  21st century and we should have started getting them ready for it about 30 years ago.

Yelsey said nothing or whatever, as did Fluor, but she took more time doing it.

The Super made a strange comment, though. Referring to the SOTS video, he said that it “lets us know what it is happening in our classrooms.” They have to know what’s happening in classrooms by watching a propaganda video? On second thought, no, that comment isn’t strange, it’s scary.

When Navarro speaks, he does not look at the taxpayers and others in the audience, he looks down the line at the Trustees. That’s because those seven people are his constituency. All he has to do is keep those seven people happy and his job is secure. So, he ignores the rest of us.

Kirk Bauermeister, who is in charge of something, told the board about some principal meetings and data gathering and that “by this time next year, we should know which students are not doing well, why, and how to intervene [to correct the problem].”

A year from now? Data gathering? You want to know which students are not doing well? Here’s a better idea: Ask teachers. It’s really quite simple – try it. It’ll take you a week instead of a year and save taxpayers a lot of money. which we now know is really important to the Super.

Then, in a flash, the meeting was over. 1 hour, 45 minutes. More millions spent without any Trustee asking anything about any of it. I did some rough calculations and determined that during each meeting, taxpayer funds are spent at an average of about $91,000 per minute.

Kudos, anyone?

Steve Smith

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