The Daily Pilot newspaper has a history of editorials by local leaders who write to promote programs, defend positions or attack someone or something.
One group that is conspicuously absent from the editorial option is the N-MUSD Board of Trustees. According to my research, the last time any member of the school board penned anything was in September of last year.
The column last year was written by Trustee Karen Yelsey, who took me to task for a major issue, something so important that it moved her to break a multi-year silence. The subject? Steve Smith was wrong when he said the district did not intend to post the 2014 State of the Schools video on the district’s website.
The last contribution before that was almost five years ago in February, 2011 when Yelsey wrote to criticize columnist Bill Lobdell for recommending that the board place embattled superintendent Jeffrey Hubbard on administrative leave.
At the time of Yelsey’s column last year, the district was awash in controversies. The CdM prom draft debacle was fresh, as was the sentencing of Timothy Lai for his involvement in the CdM cheating scandal. Common Core was rearing its ugly head as parents in other parts of the country began to question its efficacy. The district budget was running in the black.
But with all of those important issues, and more, facing taxpayers, Yelsey chooses to write about her version of the events surrounding a video on a website. And a few years earlier she wrote to criticize another columnist.
This is not about Yelsey. At least she wrote something. The real issue is the consistent absence of any community voice from the administration or the board. Even when Costa Mesa’s dreadful Common Core test scores highlighted the huge achievement gap between the so-so scores in Newport Beach and the poor performance in Costa Mesa, the superintendent and the board chose to remain silent. The only statement on the test results was from the superintendent who wrote on the district’s website that the district was “encouraged” by the lackluster Common Core scores.
Avoiding public statements is standard operating procedure. The admin and the board have continued their code of silence because it works. It’s not responsible and it’s not consistent with the rest of the nation’s trend toward greater transparency, but those have never been high on the district’s list of priorities.
When she ran for a school board seat in 2006, Yelsey was quoted as saying: “I think there are a lot of issues, but basically we need new voices. We need to be more than a rubber stamp, meaning we need some fiscal oversight and accountability that has not been there.”
The superintendent or a board member has a duty to let parents know through a Daily Pilot column what specific changes, if any, the district plans to make to help boost the Common Core scores in 2016. And it would benefit everyone else in the area who depends on good schools to attract new families or young couples to rent or buy, which helps sustain our local economy. Real estate agents would like that very much.
But that column won’t appear in the Daily Pilot because it opens up a can of worms the district would like to remain sealed. It’s that “accountability” stuff about which Yelsey complained in 2006 that prevents them from completing this duty to taxpayers.
When she first ran for office, Yelsey committed to 12 years on the board which means that she is in her final term with three years to go. Plenty of time to develop that new voice she mentioned nine years ago.