Call it Act II, the sequel, whatever, but John Caldecott may be demanding that the school district release more documents under a second California Public Records Act (CPRA) request. These docs are supposed to show, among other things, clear evidence of a hostile working environment.

I’ve written before that hostile working environment claims don’t do much for me and have kidded that I’ve worked in an ad agency and if there is any more hostile business, it’s news to me.

At that agency, I wrote a campaign for a new client that include a brochure about his business. At the time, I was on the Creative Director’s (CD) you-know-what list for a reason I can’t remember. One day, the CD walked into the cube I shared with three colleagues, held up the brochure, and asked to all of us, “Who wrote this?” The CD knew darn well I wrote it, but I raised my hand anyway. The CD then walked over to my desk with arms held out and the long edge of the brochure pinched between the fingers and said, “As far as I’m concerned, this is a tear-up.” And just as the CD was about to do just that, second thoughts prevailed and the brochure was simply  thrown on my desk before departing the cube.

My colleagues and I muffled our laughs in part because the display was so childish and also because we knew that in this particular case, the usual protocol had not been followed and the client had already seen and approved the brochure before the CD could see it. In fact, the client loved it.

I could have filed some sort of grievance over that incident – and others – but my colleagues and I knew better. Life would only get worse once the grievance had been filed so instead we just laughed it all off.

We did a lot of laughing.

But that environment is not the same as working in another type of business or in a school district and if superiors use the threat of retaliation or termination to manipulate people – directly or indirectly – he or she should be terminated, no ands, ifs, or buts.

There are many people who work for the N-MUSD who do not speak up about abuse or hostility because they fear retaliation. There are some managers in some organizations who like that environment and foster it because it provides them with a false sense of respect.

But the long-term result of that type of management is turnover and low productivity due to low morale. Managers can tell the staff how great they are and tell the same to outsiders, but the staff knows the truth.

The bad stuff rarely trickles down to the school board. Teachers don’t want to rock the boat because they fear they’ll be reassigned to an undesirable position and folks in the administration don’t speak up because they just saw what happened to John Caldecott, a respected 10-year member of senior management. If Caldecott can be fired for speaking up, it can easily happen to them, too.

So the school board winds up living in a bubble of their own making. They don’t press the superintendent or anyone else for much of anything – they just attend their meaningless study sessions and school board meetings and smile while they spend millions of tax dollars based on recommendations of the staff. (Side note: Study sessions are meaningless for this board because all they’re going to do is rubber stamp every recommendation the staff makes. So why bother?)

I have no clue as to whether Caldecott’s claims of a hostile working environment are true. What I do believe, though, is that if his second CPRA request is granted and the documents show factually that a hostile working environment did or does exist, this will go down as the worst school district administration and school board I have seen in the 28 years I have lived in the area.

The CFO of a large company once said of his staff, “I don’t care if they love me, I want them to respect me.”

To which I replied, “Why not have them do both?”

Steve Smith