Lost in my recap of Tuesday’s school board club meeting was an opportunity to thank the parents who showed up to support the teachers at Mariners. In almost 20 years of covering school issues, I cannot recall such a turnout.

During his three minutes at the podium, N-MFT Executive Director Nicholas Dix asked those in attendance to stand up if they were there to support teachers. Most of the audience rose.

It was impressive and marked a turning point in teacher attempts to reduce the demoralizing environment in which they work. That demoralizing atmosphere is not just blogger-talk, it has been mentioned publicly by at least one union official in the past.

The challenge, as it has been for many years, is that the school board club is unlikely to take any action to thoroughly and impartially investigate any accusations of a demoralizing or hostile working environment, despite the fact that the district is currently being sued by two respected former employees  “…alleging that [Supt. Frederick Navarro] created a workplace culture of fear and intimidation that compelled them to leave their jobs after the board of education failed to investigate their claims,” according to the Daily Pilot report, which you can read here: http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-0130-navarro-lawsuit-20160129-story.html

The school board club did not investigate these claims and will not, just as they did not investigate the claims of ex-HR head John Caldecott, who asserted that “…Navarro allegedly created a hostile work environment for employees, many also pertain to Caldecott’s allegations that salary reports to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System or STRS, were completed incorrectly and could inflate pensions.” (Daily Pilot 12/10/15 http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-1211-caldecott-20151210-story.html)

They do not investigate these and other allegations because they know that time is on their side. Their M.O. during any scandal is to say as little as possible, do nothing, and wait for it all to blow over. It has always worked in the past and there is no reason to believe it will not work in the future.

Want proof? After all of the revelations provided by John Caldecott’s demand for public records, including evidence that the district “…paid $339,346 in tax-deferred money to its chief business official through checks and a separate retirement fund over the past decade,” (Daily Pilot 4/16/16, http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-0417-reed-20160416-story.html) what has happened? Has anyone been fired? No. Has anyone even been reprimanded? No. Has there been any public statement that this and other practices will end? No.

It’s business as usual on Bear St. The school board club and the administration know that with a few exceptions, the only people who are truly outraged by all of this mismanagement are very small pockets of parents with kids in the schools. And they know that eventually, when their kids leave the schools, interest in district shenanigans drops to about zero.

So, time is on their side and they will do nothing about any of this unless ordered by a court or other powerful force to do so.

The latest proof is the study recently commissioned to investigate redrawing of the areas that serve our schools and serve as the districts for the school board club members. This was not some sudden urge to right a wrong, it is in response to a threatened lawsuit.

That’s why it was so encouraging to see so many parents at the meeting on Tuesday.

How does this end? It takes new faces on the board, that’s how – people who aren’t afraid of being ostracized because they disagree with the status quo and who are determined to right wrongs and set a new course for the treatment of all district personnel. Oh, and some better fiscal management would be nice, too, because, as school board club member Judy Franco said years ago about the money embezzled by Stephen Wagner, the multiple legal fees the district is now paying is “… money that was intended for the education of children.”

Thanks again, Mariners parents.

Steve Smith

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