Due to some professional commitments, I arrived at last night’s school board meeting around 6:30. On my way in, I stopped for a moment to chat with John Caldecott, who spoke to the board that night. Caldecott gave the board a weather report – a high surf advisory, actually – warning them of an impending tsumani based on records that he has or is about to obtain and reveal.

Caldecott told me outside that I’d missed the “fireworks.”

Inside, the board was already into their personal reports – you know, the few minutes they each have to tell us where they’ve been since the last time they told us where they’ve been. It was the usual inconsequential blather: Karen Yelsey gushing about an foreign exchange program and how the Japanese teaching model is so different from ours. There, according to Yelsey, kids learn by lecture and in the U.S. students and teachers have more “collaboration” and that the Japanese students liked our model.

Hmmm. Interesting. But unfortunately, this is just another emotional approach to educating our kids and is not based on any scientific evidence. In fact, multiple studies show that that kids in Asian countries – which lean toward the old-school lecture model – are thumping our kids in math and science.

According to one report released last year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Japan ranked fourth in the world in math and science. The U.S. ranked… 28th.

So, please… No more feel good stories about what kids want and what we THINK is the right way to teach. Success has already been achieved in other parts of the world. Try using a best practices approach and test what is already working elsewhere.

Oh, and Charlene Metoyer wants you to know that she went to the Spirit Run, Walt Davenport mumbled something, Vicki Snell went to three (count ’em!) elementary schools and Dana Black spoke about some auto shop thingy, at UCI, I believe.

Then it was time for Superintendent Frederick Navarro, followed by his deputy, Paul Reed. Navarro had only one comment. He wants you to know, in response to Caldecott, that the district got a “clean audit” last year from CalSTRS. What he didn’t tell you was that the audit did not cover the period in time that is being investigated by Caldecott.

Then Reed remarked on “the skewed presentation by someone I used to think of as a friend.”

So there you have it, two of the leaders in our district who held their responses for a time when the room was far less than half full, and when the speaker had left. Instead of saying these things directly to John Caldecott when he was presenting his facts, they waited and lobbed their hand grenades when further discussion was impossible. That’s not leadership, folks.

But then, what do you expect from a group that continues to offer almost nothing to us twice a month in the form of specifics to improve academic performance at Costa Mesa’s schools and has spent far more time trying to work out compromises at the new CdM High stadium than they do discussing alternatives to the current teaching methods at CM schools.

I’m thinking maybe the foreign exchange went in the wrong direction.

Steve Smith

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