There is a scene in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which mean, old, Henry Potter calls protagonist George Bailey into his office and tells him that Bailey has been a thorn in his side or a boil on his neck for long enough. “You have beaten me,” George,” he says. Potter then offers Bailey a job working for him at $20,000 a year, which was a huge salary 70 or so years ago.

About three weeks ago, I received a call from a district official high up in the food chain. It was a bit cryptic, but not so much that I couldn’t figure it out. The phone call was followed moments later by an e-mail with a link to a job posting. I was told on the call that the job would not be listed very long, which was code for saying that it would be listed only as long as they needed to satisfy legal requirements.

The job is a new position with the title “Senior Assistant Communications Director” and the duties include developing further relationships with particular segments of the cities of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, including, specifically, more involvement with each city’s CEO or manager and the members of the city council.

It was made clear to me that I should apply for the job. So, I did.

About thirty minutes ago today, I received a call from this same district official telling me that I had gotten the position, pending the usual approval process.

In other words, yes, I am going to go to work for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

It’s a smart move by the district and a comfortable one for me. The district gets rid of the thorn in their side and I get my $20,000 a year, so to speak. My actual salary – which I will now disclose because you’ll find it easily very soon – is $184,000 a year.

George Bailey would not be proud of me. He turned down Potter’s offer on the spot and stormed out of his office, calling him a “scurvy little spider.”

I don’t have that luxury. $184K is a lot of dough, and besides, there is a big part of me that believes I can contribute to a cultural shift in the organization, one that will help them understand that it’s OK to admit failures and mistakes. What is most important is that people know you have good intentions and are, at the very least, trying.

For example, had I been on the payroll about three weeks ago, I would have advised the powers-that-be to admit that there is/was a rodent problem at Costa Mesa High that was so bad that the Orange County Health Dept. closed the kitchen there while the problem was fixed. I would have advised it because it’s the right thing to do and because I knew that it would be published in the Orange County Register within a week, which it was. Better to stay in front of these things than to have some boil-on-the-neck blogger reveal it.

That’s just one example.

If my decision is a disappointment to some, I make no apologies. I ran for a school board seat in 2014 at about $400 a month to do the very thing they’re now going to pay me over $15,000 a month to do.

Still, there are people who will say that I am selling out and I would not deny that element of my decision.

But, hey, $15,000 a month? It is indeed a wonderful life.

Steve Smith

 

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