All of my guesses on the nature of this morning’s “Special” school board session were wrong. The “Superintendent’s Evaluation” was not an evaluation of Frederick Navarro, but his evaluation of others.

So, the principals get called in, they march in front of the board, tell them that everything is just fabulous and that they’re really excited and that they’re so thrilled to be a part of this wonderful effort.

The board listens to these respected people telling them it’s all good, and the board walks away believing it’s all true.

But there’s one problem… It’s not true.

Those who testified today are not stupid. They saw what happened to John Caldecott and a few others who dared to challenge the status quo or the authority of the authorities and they decided that it’s not a good day to complain. In the N-MUSD, there is never a good day to complain, at least not to the board or the administration brass.

And so the school board bubble lives on. The board believes everything is OK because no one tells them otherwise. And should anyone even hint at discontent, as N-MFT president Kimberly Claytor did last year during the negotiation process, it is rationalized away.

The timing of the meeting is suspect. One day after the Daily Pilot publishes a story about anti-retirement payments to the Deputy Super, for which people were interviewed well before the story was published, there is this phony “Special” closed meeting.

You can read the Pilot’s story on the retirement payoff here:

By declaring it special, the board doesn’t have to give the usual 72 hours notice and doesn’t have to allow those pesky members of the public.

So why was it called? My belief is that this was a dog and pony show to counter the increasing publicity and scrutiny surrounding the allegations raised by John Caldecott. After all, if all of these really nice people are telling the board everything is great and the super and deputy super are great and life is good, how can Caldecott possibly be right?

It’s a sham – a ruse to meant to dupe people who seem to be quite dupe-able.

The biggest issue here is what seems to me to be a flagrant attempt to circumvent laws that were designed to keep public meetings public.

There was another circumvent event concurrent with this meeting. In the Daily Pilot story disclosing the money paid to Reed so he wouldn’t retire, we read that “[Board president Dana] Black declined to comment further on Reed’s compensation, saying she is not allowed to discuss personnel issues.”

Um, excuse me, but this isn’t a personnel issue. All compensation is supposed to be transparent. If Reed was paid this money, the district has a legal obligation to report it. That is clear. But instead of showing some backbone by telling the Pilot that they are always very concerned about maintaining high standards of ethics and integrity and that they’d look into it and blah, blah, blah, she chose the default position, which is to hide beneath the personnel covers. They’ve been exploiting that loophole for years.

In closing, permit me to tell the school board what no one had the courage today to tell them:

  1. Morale is low.
  2. People would like to talk but they fear retaliation.
  3. No one has a clue as to how to prepare a comprehensive, strategic, long-term plan to improve academic performance in Costa Mesa’s schools.
  4. The cloud over the superintendent’s head due to the Caldecott affair is undermining the authority of the chain of command.

So, board members, you keep going to the ribbon cutting ceremonies and sit in classrooms that are sanitized prior to your arrival and convince yourselves that everything is fine. After all, that’s what a good bureaucrat does.

Steve Smith