One of the expected responses to the latest school board scandal is the emergence of attempts to deflect attention away from the accusations against Superintendent Frederick Navarro toward others. There is one example in the comments section of the latest Daily Pilot story and I recently received a private one.

The one I received was not about John Caldecott, it was about declining an invitation to visit an underperforming Costa Mesa school. Initially, I accepted the invitation, then had to withdraw it a few days later due to a drastic change in my schedule.

The scathing e-mail all but blamed me for the fact that Costa Mesa’s schools have been neglected for years by the school board. It read:

“there you go again…blasting [deleted] without having the slightest idea what you are talking about. You hide behind your computer screen and post ridiculous commentary on this pathetic blog that no one reads (Why do I even read this crap? Am I a glutton for punishment? Or is it because I can’t look away from a trainwreck?) I know you will not even publish this comment, as you didn’t publish my last one…because you do not welcome opposing views. You are the definition of an “internet [sic] troll”. And the sad part is, you didn’t even have the courage to accept our offer to tour [school] and see for yourself what amazing work our students are doing. Shame on you, Steve Smith. You are definitely not a friend of CM schools.”

That’s how it works. The school is underperforming (the politically correct term for “failing”) but somehow it would help if I visited the school. It won’t. What I would have seen is what I have seen on my other school visits and what the N-MUSD administration and trustees see every time they visit: Everything is great. It’s a wonderful environment, kids are happy and the classroom is spotless.

But there is a bottom line that this person or anyone else can’t escape: Academic performance is woefully short of where it should be. Those kids are not doing amazing work because if they were, I’d see the results. I can’t fix that, I can only try to get those in power to fix it. But somehow, because I refuse to drink the district Kool-Aid, that makes me “no friend of CM schools.” It does not matter that I ran for a school board seat in 2014 to try to be a change agent on the board. Nothing matters because I declined an invitation to visit a school.

Here’s the reality: No one else in Newport-Mesa has consistently raised the subject of the neglect of Costa Mesa’s schools and the lack of progress in academic improvement and the lack of teacher support, particularly in the elementary schools on the city’s Westside. And in the 15+ years I have been writing about schools, I have never had anyone tell me I was wrong; that the schools are doing just fine. Why? Because they are not. Worse, the district administrations and school boards over the years have been unwilling or unable to do anything substantive to try to improve performance. Instead, we get education spaghetti being thrown against the wall to see if it sticks – classes (not a “program,” as the district would have you believe) in Chinese to kids who are having trouble figuring out English.

It was only a matter of time before it happened to John Caldecott. Instead of focusing on three respected former members of the administration and their accusations, we’re starting to see people in the deflection mode, trying to draw attention away from the accused and toward the accusers. It’s standard operating procedure in cases like this.

I was also recently reminded that Laura Boss and Ann Huntington, who are suing the district, were not the only ones to leave. I wrote a year ago about former district official for something-or-other Chuck Hinman, who left his $238,000 sweet job in the N-MUSD for a job in (wait for it)… West Covina.

Nothing against West Covina, you understand, it’s just it’s not every day that one leaves a very well-paying, high-profile, high responsibility position in until recently what was one of the most respected districts in the state for a job there.

The Hinman note read:

“Steve, One wonders if Navarro fired Caldecott because Caldecott had gone after Navarro when he was the Principal at CMHS; (referring to comments in the DP article from an employee who states she complained to Caldecott about Navarro’s bullying of employees at CMHS.) Let’s remember that Navarro left CMHS and went to work in the District Office as a Director in the Secondary Education division and later lost his bid for the job as Ass’t Supt. of Secondary Ed. to Dr. Chuck Hinman. Hinman later left for a position at another District after Navarro became Sup’t at NMSD. Makes you wonder if Navarro wasn’t a bad apple for all those years. Let’s all hope that more people come forward with factual representations of how Navarro mistreated them.”

This note is a reminder to anyone who still believes that I am an Internet troll who has nothing better to do with his time. This blog represents a lot of people – almost all of whom do not want their names published when they write because they fear retaliation.

I’m not out to change minds. There isn’t anyone in the administration or on the school board who is suddenly going to have a light bulb go off over head while thinking, “Gosh, Steve Smith is right.” The purpose of this blog has always been to educate those who have been unaware of how complacent things have gotten; of how an entrenched bureaucracy can manage to stifle educational progress while mismanaging precious resources.

The accusations of Caldecott, Boss, and Huntington are not the problem. Frederick Navarro is not the problem. They are all symptoms. The problem is a series of administrations that has had too little oversight and too few demands for accountability for far too long, aided and abetted by trustees who place being the importance of being one of the seven members of the school board club far above the importance of doing the right thing.

And if saying so makes me an Internet troll, I proudly wear the label.

Steve Smith.

 

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