RECAP: John Caldecott was fired last January after serving for ten years as the district’s HR head. Caldecott’s employment during that time was exemplary. He was terminated by a unanimous decision of the school board, which took the recommendation of the superintendent – the very person he accused of improprieties. Caldecott was fired without a hearing and without an exit interview. Caldecott is suing to get the release of documents he claims will support his accusations.

On November 19, the case of Caldecott vs. the N-MUSD advanced to the next round of appeals. Both sides presented their cases before a three-judge panel and you can watch the video produced by Costa Mesa Brief by clicking HERE.

The link is to an unedited, 36-minute video. But you don’t have to watch it all or watch any of it to understand just how wrong the board has handled this case. What it comes down to is this: The school board did not allow Caldecott to present his side of the story.

Is that how it works in the U.S. these days? Last time I checked, everyone was entitled to tell their story – everyone. Shoplifters, car thieves, and murderers all get the chance to tell their story. The only exception, it seems, is if you are employed by the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and do not have the support of a union. In that case, you’re on your own and you have to rely on the judgment of seven politicians.

Several months ago, I wondered how each member of the board would feel if their spouse or son or daughter were fired from their job after 10 years and after being accused of not properly performing his or her job – without any opportunity to tell their story. Just shoved out the door with your final paycheck. No chance to say goodbye to the people you worked with, and no chance to salvage your damaged reputation.

How would each board member like it when that son or daughter or spouse goes to look for a job and has to write on the employment application that they were fired?

The board members wouldn’t like it all. They’d be outraged. They’d wonder what happened to due process and the opportunity to face one’s accuser. They’d wonder what happened to the United States they were taught about as a schoolkid – the country that was unlike any other in history because everyone was entitled to fair and equal treatment.

Apparently, the board believes that all of this fairness stuff does not apply when it has the potential to damage their reputations or the reputation of someone they like. And that’s really what it comes down to: The only reason that Superintendent Fred Navarro was hired and the only reason he remains in his job is because they like him, not because he’s improving academic performance, which is his top priority. One look at the dismal Common Core scores will tell you that. One look at his recent absurd exhortation to “… get our third graders to read at a fourth grade level by April” without providing any plan or additional resources to accomplish this Herculean task will show that he is not capable of the leadership needed to improve performance, particularly in Costa Mesa’s schools, which highlights the achievement gap between the district’s two cities.

All that stuff doesn’t apply because if the board had listened to Caldecott and realized that “Omigosh, he may have uncovered something,” you’d have to tell the public that you chose the wrong guy for the Super job and there’d be bad press and all that icky negativity to deal with. Nah – better to reject all of the tenets of the Constitution of the United States of America and fire Caldecott so they can save face.

Forget about whether John Caldecott is right or wrong. You don’t really care and that’s OK. But what you should care about is due process. You should care about fair treatment, and you should care about common decency. And you should care about the next person anywhere in this country who is treated just as shabbily because it may in fact be your spouse, your son, or your daughter. Or you.

And that’s why you should care about what happens in the case of Caldecott vs. N-MUSD.

Steve Smith

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