The easy thing to do is dismiss John Caldecott’s records request of one year ago as the work of a disgruntled employee or, on higher level, of someone who believed that a person or person in the administration was/were about to get away with something that was wrong.

Perhaps he is both of those, either, or neither. To focus on the records request or even on the financial wrangling of which he is accusing the district misses the monumental leap that Caldecott has taken in exposing a school district and school board culture that has systematically limited success in several of Costa Mesa’s schools, has repeatedly blocked or downplayed attempts to improve academic performance, and has limited Latino representation on the school board.

The Caldecott case has exposed the School Board Club, akin to an appointment on the Supreme Court in that the job is yours for life or for as long as you want it.

Board member Judy Franco has been a district trustee since Jimmy Carter was president. That was 36 years ago.

Board president Dana Black was elected in 1996 – 20 years ago.

Martha Fluor has served on the board for 24 years.

So far, that’s three members serving a total of 80 years.

Karen Yelsey – 9 years

Walt Davenport – seems like forever, but it has been about 13 years, if my math is correct.

Snell and Metoyer are new.

I have lived in Costa Mesa for 29 years and do not recall a Latino on the school board despite that fact that about a third of the city is Latino.

If you live in Newport Beach, it’s hard to understand the significance of the lack of Latino representation and how this has negatively affected the performance of several of Costa Mesa’s schools. You want to believe, for example, that when you voted to elect Walt Davenport as the trustee for the area including Costa Mesa’s Westside schools that you were electing a good person; someone with knowledge and experience who will be a good steward of tax dollars and academic performance.

Instead, you voted for neither. And the people who are suffering the most – the students – have no say. And nothing will change as long as board members are elected by residents of both cities instead of by the residents in the area they wish to represent. That, readers, is injustice, plain and simple.

There is no sense of urgency on this board. There isn’t a fire in the belly of anyone on the dais – no outrage at the lack of academic progress, and no natural curiousity to find out what other districts are doing that may work here. There is none because the culture does not demand it.

Instead the culture insists on silence in the face of controversy. It insists on resisting attempts at transparency through the use of legal means for as long as possible and damn the cost, and it insists on complete, utter allegiance to maintaining the staus quo of the School Board Club.

And at the end of the day, there is no respect for tax dollars and no respect for the families on Costa Mesa’s Westside schools because the administration and the school board just don’t care.

Talk to me all you want about the trustee dog and pony show school visits, about all the study sessions and experts and whatever else it is you want to talk about. None of it is working and it has not worked for many years. It’s all just that: Talk.

That is the real lesson that the Caldecott case has taught us.

Steve Smith

 

 

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