A few posts ago, I wrote that I would describe a key element of the State of the Schools pep rally that was missing – something so significant that any reasonable person attending would wonder why it wasn’t addressed.

Superintendent Fred Navarro, who lives in Long Beach, introduced himself at the 13-minute mark. I did not hear any applause but that is the smaller point. The larger point is he spent the next three minutes offering nothing of substance and telling a couple of self-deprecating jokes that bombed. (Note to presenters: Avoid such jokes. They aren’t as funny as you think they are and serve mainly to diminish your stature.)

The Estancia High Jazz Band then played for three minutes and that was followed by six minutes of Navarro introducing various district people – people who were being paid by your tax dollars to attend the $32 breakfast. Thankfully, he did not introduce all of the approximately 70 district employees who attended. Yes, that’s right: At least 70 district employees attended the pep rally at your expense.

At the 25-minute mark, there is a joke that mentioned Mario Lopez that also bombed. Then the video starts and for the next millennium, attendees are being told about the new initiatives and construction in the district.

Just before the 30-minute mark, Deputy Superintendent and Chief Financial Something Paul Reed says this about the N-MUSD: “We treat it as a business. The board of education is very serious about being financially prudent. We are solvent and moving forward.” He said that with a straight face.

I know of no business that is run like the N-MUSD and I’ve worked and consulted for large businesses and small ones. As a business, the N-MUSD would fail. The only reason it survives each year is that unlike a private sector business, their revenue is guaranteed each year, that is, regardless of well they perform, their budget is secured, year after year after year. Other businesses have to work at earning their revenue. They have to be conscious about making a profit and about taking care of customers. If the N-MUSD were a business and the parents on the Westside of Costa Mesa were their customers, those customers would have left for the competition a long time ago.

But those “customers” can’t leave because they don’t have the money to send their kids to private schools. But the parents in Mesa Verde do have the money to send their kids to other schools and they have dumped Adams Elementary like a hot rock.

Oh, and Reed failed to mention that last year, the district was not solvent. But hey! What’s a few million taxpayer dollars between friends?!

Following Reed, there’s some video about technology and health services. It is here that I am announcing the winner of the first annual Gibberish Award (aka GA because I know how much the education folks love their acronyms), which goes to the district representative who says the most incomprehensible thing. Here it is: 

“Positive Behavior Intervention Support is a systemic framework that builds upon a system of tiers that supports our students behaviorally and academically.”

Say, what???

The name of the person is not important. I have never met the person who said this contortion. It doesn’t matter. The larger point is that this type of speech is typical of the education establishment. It’s the type of speech that says nothing of substance but it meant to make the listener feel as though progress is being made when in fact, this type of program is often just more education spaghetti being thrown against the wall to see if it sticks.

Or, it makes the listener feel stupid because they have no idea what was said and they think that everyone else understood it perfectly. I’m a pretty bright guy but I’ve read that quote a half a dozen times and I don’t have a clue as to what it means.

At approximately 39 minutes, Deputy or Assistant or Vice Superintendent of Something That I Can’t Recall and am Too Lazy to Look Up Susan Astarita said, “In the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, academic achievement is our highest priority.”

That’s the perfect segue into today’s headline about what you missed. Not once during the entire breakfast pep rally – either when anyone was speaking or during the video – was there a single piece of data revealing any academic improvement whatsoever. Nothing. No one drew a line from any of the touted signature academies, the new computers, the health program or anything else, to higher grades or test scores.

If this were a typical business and the people in charge could not produce that information, they’d likely be reprimanded, given a warning to improve, or terminated. Instead, the raises continue with no accountability for anything. As Diane Keaton said in a good movie many years ago, “Well, la-di-da, la-di-da.”

la di da animated GIF

In the end, the pep rally breakfast – which just happened to have been held right before the Super’s review – was more of what taxpayers have come to expect from this administration and this board: Show up, tell everyone that everything is great, skip any attempt at accountability and go home.

La-di-da, la-di-da indeed.

Steve Smith

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