After hearing of the outrageous tax-free gift to Supt. Frederick Navarro, his fourth in about two years, the question posed to me was, “How could they do this with all of the controversy going on?”

I replied with answer no. 24, the stock response to questions such as this:

The school board club lives in a bubble. They visit schools and see everything just so and hear how everything is going well, not realizing that the participants are putting on a show for them. They listen to people they believe are experts in their field when the truth is that these experts are failing in their most important job function: They are not making any significant improvement in the academic performance in Costa Mesa’s schools. And frankly, some of those Newport Common Core scores were a bit of a disappointment, too.

They go to study sessions that are supposed to educate them on issues but fail to place these subjects, and the subsequent votes into a larger context, that is, much of what they attempt is just education spaghetti being thrown against the wall to see if it sticks. Most of the time, there is no plan B, which taxpayers saw just after the low Common Core scores were revealed and the overpaid experts looked like deer in headlights.

And speaking of taxpayers, there is no accountability for the huge budget, not enough transparency, as the John Caldecott case has revealed, and not enough communication with taxpayers on what they are doing and why. Facebook posts about “exciting” and “amazing” new things do not count. (Note to one board member who has taken to Facebook: It’s “bobblehead,” not “bauble” head.)

The bottom line for all of this is that they really do not care about academic performance, they do not care about the careful allocation of precious tax dollars, and they do not care about communicating with the public. If they did care, they would not operate the way they do.

What they do care about is maintaining membership in the school board club and preserving the status quo. The trustees and the administration of the N-MUSD are a lot like the DMV: There is no competition so there is no compelling reason to do anything but continue business as usual. What taxpayers get in return is DMV-style administration: Foot-dragging, contemptuous attitudes, combined with a lack of a strategic, long-term, comprehensive program for anything.

They are propelled by the belief that taxpayers at large really don’t care what’s going on, and on that point, they are correct. It is the rare school board club meeting that is overflowing with upset members of the public protesting the latest gaffe. In-between, meetings are sparsely attended. They don’t care to be held accountable because taxpayers do not push them to be accountable.

If you need proof, read my post from yesterday on the criteria for the superintendent’s latest pay grab. There isn’t a single requirement tied to improving academic performance. The entire list is so full of squishy stuff that I could qualify for that job. Need a reminder? Here you go, with my notes in parentheses:

  • Be exceptional in promoting an environment in which staff members work together to make sure every child in the district succeeds. (I can do this!)
  • Succeed in communicating with the board, staff members and students and seeking input from each group. (I can do this, too!)
  • Be on campuses, in classrooms working with the teachers and principals. (I’d be delighted to do this!)
  • Communicate on a weekly basis with the board and other staff members by email. (No problem – I can do this, too!)

In fact, anyone reading this can do all of the above. What we can’t do, and what the superintendent was hired to do, is to provide continuous improvement in academic performance and in the judicious allocation of taxpayer dollars.

But the superintendent doesn’t do these things because the school board club does not push him to do them and does not hold him or his administration accountable for anything.

Actually, the DMV is one step ahead of the N-MUSD. Their new website is very user-friendly and… they even have a place where you can post your opinion of their performance.

Gee, what a concept.

Steve Smith