The Orange County Register reported yesterday that (presumably, the kitchen at) Costa Mesa High School was closed last Thursday due to rodent infestation – and we’re not talkin’ squirrels here.

Despite the fact that this is a very important health and safety issue about which parents should have been informed, no such campaign was mounted.

What should have been done?At the least:

  • The school principal and the admin on Bear St. should have issued alerts through whatever communications channels they have.
  • A notice should have been posted on the school’s website
  • A notice should have been posted on the district’s website

But none of this was done, which is consistent with the district’s lack of transparency and their policy of consciously burying any bad news unless compelled by law to do so.

The information about the rodents was not the district’s to keep. It should have been broadcast immediately and as widely possible so that parents could make their own decisions about their child’s health.

Instead, the district put their own PR concerns ahead of the health and safety decision-making options for parents.

The big question is why? Why would they not want to protect students and allow parents to decide for themselves how to handle the situation?

It’s because bad news is not received too well on Bear St. I can just imagine the principal having to phone a rodent infestation and permit revocation into the superintendent. And because teachers and other school-based staff know the consequences, they do their best to stifle negativity. They know that this working environment fosters an “every man for himself” attitude and that no one on Bear St. has their back.

This approach starts at the top. As the leader of the district, the superintendent should be setting examples of leadership and we willing to take the heat. But he has failed this test several times during his tenure.

A few months ago, I went to a donut store in a nearby town with someone I will call “Pat.” Pat and I had been to the shop before and liked the donuts. That day, however, I saw a cockroach in the donut case. I declined to buy anything but Pat went ahead and bought something and has been back several times since. I have not.

That story is perfect illustration of the power of information. My guess is that most parents who would have read of a rodent infestation at CMHS and would have read about the same-day permit reinstatement would have shrugged the whole thing off. Some would have told their kids not to eat the food for awhile and some would have told them not to eat it ever again.

But until now, they couldn’t make that decision because, as with so many other decisions, the district doesn’t really care what parents think.

Steve Smith

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