Here is a recap of the waste, incompetence, and bureaucratic bungling that has dominated the most mismanaged year since I have been covering school issues, which dates back to 1998.
This was the introduction of the dual language immersion programs in two Costa Mesa schools, neither of which is a program but just a class. And one of the languages being taught is Chinese. Why Chinese? My take: Teach them better English before you go teaching them a language they’ll never use. Proof that this program is a loser: Not a word about it has been mentioned since.
On the 8th, I reported the feeble, disguised attempt by the school board – represented in a letter signed by Superintendent Frederick Navarro and then-board president Martha Fluor – to get the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee (FPCAC) to recommend the construction of athletic fields at Fairview Park. In their letter, they arrogantly claimed that the fields are “school district property,” forgetting that every field, every school bus and every paper clip was bought and paid for – and is owned – by the taxpayers of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. OBTW, the FPCAC had been meeting for 18 months prior to the writing of the letter from Superintendent Frederick Navarro and Fluor.
January 13th. Superintendent Frederick Navarro requested the district conduct a “review the needs of the district and ask if our current structure is the most effective and efficient in supporting the work done in our schools.” Little did we know that this was merely a diversion tactic to justify adding more bloat to an already bloated bureaucracy.
On January 28th, I reported the termination of John Caldecott, which the board tried to hide as an agenda item and just rubber stamp without discussion. It didn’t work and the Caldecott case was completely and totally bungled because there wasn’t a spine present in any of the trustees – not one person who had the courage to say, “Are we doing the right thing?” January also presents my quote of the year: “Something tells me Caldecott is not going down without a fight.”
Two words: Swun math.
This month saw one of the most popular posts of the year. It was my column on how to be an effective leader. Here’s the link: https://stevesmith714.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/good-leadership-is-easy/
This month saw the introduction of “TOOTS,” an acronym for “The Out of Town Superintendent.” Frederick Navarro, you see, lives in Long Beach and has no idea what daily life is like in the school district that will compensate him about a million dollars over the next three years.
TOOTS bungled the job postings for a couple of bureaucratic spots, noting that they report to a position that had not yet been created. I wrote, “Is this any way to run a school district.” And, he was expanding the bureaucracy in a year in which the district was in the red.
In March I reported on the mediocre test scores in the Lennox school district while Frederick Navarro was the superintendent there. One look at those scores will leave you scratching your head in wonder over how the trustees could hire someone with such a poor record of academic performance.
I recapped the partial list of scandals and controversies that had occurred thus far on Frederick Navarro’s watch:
- Budget deficit
- CdM cheating scandal
- Common Core
- Adams Elementary fence
- Poor academic performance a Westside Costa Mesa Elementary Schools
- John Caldecott
Add to this the failed dual language immersion classes, the failure to attract Mesa Verde parents back to Adams, and more.
I reported on the purchase of a life insurance annuity for then-superintendent Jeffrey Hubbard. This “life insurance annuity” was later converted to a merit pay raise in violation of education code sections 22119.2(b) and 22119.2(f).
Then there was the surge of bureaucrats added to an already bloated bureaucracy at taxpayer expense. “It’s musical chairs, musical titles,” I wrote, “and musical bureaucracy.” No one bothered to tell taxpayers how adding people and moving others around and creating new positions would improve academic performance – they just did it. Why? Because they know you don’t care.
The post of May 18 showed the mediocre test scores from the Lennox School District when Frederick Navarro was the super there. Yet, he was hired unanimously by the trustees of the N-MUSD.
I offered a bona fide tactic to improve academic performance – a low cost, high return method that has been proven elsewhere. The concept is to have students working at standing desks rather than having them sit down. It works. I quoted this from Science Daily: A study from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health finds students with standing desks are more attentive than their seated counterparts. In fact, preliminary results show 12 percent greater on-task engagement in classrooms with standing desks, which equates to an extra seven minutes per hour of engaged instruction time.”
So why aren’t our students at stand-up desks? Why isn’t at least one school being tested with stand-up desks? Because the administration and the board didn’t think of it, that’s why. All that bloated bureaucracy and not one overpaid whiz kid on Bear St. thought to recommend this.
In June, I aske what happened to the page on the district’s website that honored those N-MUSD students who chose military service over college or a job. I was told it would be back up but it’s still MIA. Shame on the district for dishonoring the people who protect our freedom – including the district’s freedom to waste tax dollars.
Then there was the revelation that the district knowingly engaged in a conflict of interest: “The work that Dudek was going to do concerns the property adjacent to the environmentally-sensitive Banning Ranch, for which there are plans to build homes and for which there is substantial community opposition.
“The problem is that Dudek is also doing work for the developer. According to [Steve] Ray, Dudek is ‘conducting biological consulting for the Banning Ranch Development.’” Oops. But did Deputy Super Paul Reed apologize and say he’d correct the situation immediately? Nope. Reed admitted that he knew about Dudek’s double dipping but recommended them anyway, claiming at the board meeting that, “There is no legal conflict of interest.” Vicki Snell helped him out of the hole he’d dug for himself, then muttered that the district could find another company to do the work.
Despite the usual touchy-feely claims about wanting community input on the characteristics of the new principal at Estancia – going as far as to post the survey on the website – the admin and the board hired a new guy without listening to any input at all. Shut up and eat your cake, taxpayers.
A money grab – a shameful, disgusting, salary increase that was, I wrote, “…not tied to performance improvement, cost of living, or any other standard by which employees usually get more money. This was a handout, plain and simple.” Rubber-stamped 7-0 but that probably doesn’t surprise you. Still, the increase for the superintendent was not enough to help him make more than his subordinate, Paul Reed.
And all of that while union negotiations dragged on with the district telling the union that they can’t afford what the union wants.
Movement on restoring the page for the “military students,” or so we thought. I wrote, “After some off-line memory jogging, it was determined that there was indeed a page and that it would be restored. No timetable was given, but at least we have been told it will happen.” So far, this page has not been restored.
Drug sniffing dogs on campuses. (How about training dogs to sniff out taxpayer waste and placing one in district HQ?)
This month, the board approved a 100% increase in bus fares to help plug a program that has mismanaged taxpayer funds for years – $6 million this year. A waste of time because so many of the students get free or reduced fares and the extra money is what Trustee Vicki Snell would call “a drop in the bucket.” The increase was just for show so everyone could look responsible.
Grade hacker Timothy Lai gets a year in jail and five years’ probation. And still, taxpayers have not been told that data is secure. If hackers can breach Target, Home Depot, and other supposedly secure locations, I’m betting that grades and test scores in the district are easy targets. But we don’t know because they refuse to tell us.
“… 83% of the students at College Park El failed to meet the state Common Core standards for math and 80 failed to meet them for English. At Whittier El, 83% failed both.” So at College Park, some kids are being taught in Chinese.
A storm causes extensive damage to three schools that were getting air conditioners installed. It was a the accident that never should have happened and caused a major disruption in the teaching of a lot of kids. But in what may be the quote of the year, Trustee Charlene Metoyer said, “There was a positive attitude reverberating around what could have been a real opportunity to be negative.”
Pass the Kool-Aid.
Ticket sales for Superintendent Frederick Navarro’s chief propaganda tool the “State of the Schools” breakfast were lagging, so the district moved the deadline in the hope that they could sell more tickets and declare the event a sell-out. They “sold” tickets alright – at least one-third of the attendees were district employees who took taxpayer-paid time off to hear nothing of substance. This was a dog-and-pony show posed as fundraiser for the Newport-Mesa Schools foundation, which got a few thousand dollars. Next time, forbid district employees from attending this sham so they can spend more time trying to turn around Costa Mesa’s schools. Ah, but that would mean they would actually have to work.
The achievement gap between the schools in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. Probably the biggest challenge facing the district and the one getting the least attention. No surprise there.
There was a feeble attempt to embarrass me. I wrote, “Someone in a position of authority recently made an inappropriate attempt to undermine my credibility with the Newport-Mesa Schools Foundation (N-MSF). The attempt was sneaky and unprofessional but it was consistent with my perception of this person’s personality.”
In L.A., they’re looking for a new super. One qualification: “Experience in an urban district would help, especially if students in that system have performed well or at least made strong gains.” A good idea for here, too.
I shined a light on the incredibly poor quality of the writing in Superintendent Frederick Navarro’s meekly weekly “DOTS” memos.
Superintendent Frederick Navarro gets his third raise in two years, despite the failures in Common Core testing throughout the district.
Ground is broken for about a dozen new homes in Mesa Verde but the chances are good that if any kids move in, they won’t be attending Adams or TeWinkle. Why? Because academic performance is poor and there are alternatives.
I reported on the decline of our local schools noting that Montgomery, Ala., Mobile, Ala., Fresno, Stockton, and east L.A. all have a national blue ribbon school in 2015. We have none.
In his DOTS memo, Superintendent Frederick Navarro urges teachers to achieve an “amazing breakthrough” and magically get underperforming elementary school kids to read at grade level in less than four months. There is no plan to achieve this, no additional resources offered, just a wish. Maybe if he clicks his heels three times and repeats, “There’s no place like Newport-Mesa…”
Caldecott wins his case against the N-MUSD and taxpayers finally get to see what the fuss is all about. Were any laws broken and if so, will criminal charges be filed? I guess we’ll find out in less than 90 days. Taxpayers lose because this costs the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
But wait, there’s more!