… But I’m hesitant to publish most of them because the folks who write them may not be aware that their name will be attached to something that a muckety-muck in the district may not like. That could lead to a transfer to Siberia.

So, I don’t publish them because I don’t care much for anonymity. But this one is important because it brings up a salient point in the question of why eight people would hire Fred Navarro as superintendent when his academic performance record at Lennox was nothing to write – or e-mail – home about.

The message reads:

“Hi Steve, Again, thanks for your coverage of the Navarro debacle. I’m sure you are aware, but just in case….. Navarro worked for NMUSD as a high school principal many years before he was hired to replace Rob Barbot? I wonder why they brought him back? I think they knew what they were getting into!”

Actually, I was aware, but I completely forgot about this. And the reader raises an important question: If they knew of his past behavior – which is often a key indicator of future performance – why did they hire him?

Again I come back to the emotional decision-making process vs. the rational one. There is far more emotional decision-making at the district level than rational thought and it has stymied progress.

Emotional decision-making accounted for the superintendent’s decision to send out a recent memo to the entire district staff encouraging to achieve an “amazing breakthrough” and get struggling third graders to read at the fourth grade level in less than four months. Ignoring all of the elements of what is required for lasting educational success and without providing teachers with any additional substantive resources, the superintendent’s message was just a feel good exhortation – a cheerleading exercise that did more harm than good and revealed poor leadership skills.

It was an emotional decision, not a rational one.

Emotional decisions are OK when we’re buying clothes or deciding on a place to take a vacation. But it has no place when making decisions about the fate of young students who depend on adults to create the proper learning environment.

In the case of Costa Mesa’s underperforming schools, the rational decision would be to take at least one school and give the reins to a person or people with proven turnaround skills. Those people are out there and they could and should be hired. Instead, though, the district shuffles existing principals and other administrators around in a feeble attempt to crack the academic performance code in Costa Mesa.

It hasn’t worked and it will not work. But emotional decision-making prevents those in power from admitting that they don’t know what to do. If they really knew how to fix Costa Mesa’s schools, they would have done it a long time ago.

I see that internal promotion process all the time, particularly in health care, where someone who started at the front desk gets promoted to office manager, then gets put in charge of marketing, even though he or she has no marketing experience. They get that promotion because someone above them likes them and figures that all skills are transferable.

They are not.

Thanks for writing.

Steve Smith