This blog has a substantial number of new readers, some of whom may benefit from the following recap of the many scandals and bungled operational issues plaguing the district. This will be followed by a higher level view of the challenges facing taxpayers and N-MUSD employees.

This is the most poorly run administration I have seen in the 30 years I have lived in the area. The scandals and mismanagement issues from the last year include:

  • Budget deficit – The school board club and the administration want you to believe that they are fiscally prudent. But twice a month, the members of the school board club rubber stamp millions of dollars in your money without having a clue to where it’s going or what it’s for. It was not all that long ago that the budget was in the red.
  • CdM cheating scandal – Has anyone heard about the increased security measures implemented since Timothy Lai and his gang broke into CdM High to change grades? I didn’t think so.
  • Common Core – Poor scores and no plan to correct them. No plan to organize other districts to tell the California Dept. of Education to reverse their support of Common Core. That takes leadership and we don’t have any on Bear St.
  • Adams Elementary fence – Parents were told of one plan, but another was implemented. When asked why, the district representative said, “We changed our minds.” I was at the meeting.
  • Poor academic performance at Westside Costa Mesa Elementary Schools. No plan. Just leave teachers to deal with the mess they inherited.
  • Fields – Youth sports needs more of them, but the N-MUSD administration is too stingy to let more kids play on school fields. A feeble attempt at a sideways endorsement of fields at Fairview Park backfired.
  • John Caldecott lawsuit – The district lost the fight to reveal documents about which the public has a right to know and it cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
  • Bus fees – After running millions of dollars in the red for years, the Bear St. brain trust decides that it’s time to raise bus fees to twice the price.
  • Boss/Huntington lawsuit – They’re claiming a hostile working environment. So are some teachers, but they haven’t sued. Yet.
  • Banning Ranch conflict of interest – To help survey a piece of property adjacent to Banning Ranch, the district hired the same company doing the survey work for the Banning Ranch developers. When this was exposed, the district’s reply was, “There is no legal conflict of interest.”
  • Gold Ribbon award application – See my post from May 24.Teachers are claiming “discrepancies, mischaracterizations, and dishonest statements in Mariners’ application for the Gold Ribbon Schools program.”
  • Lack of accountability – If you are in the N-MUSD Bear St. administration, congratulations. In exchange for your undying loyalty, you get a job for life. Academic success or failure, you’ll still be employed.
  • Paying the Deputy Supt. hundreds of thousands of dollars not to retire.
  • Dump Trump T-shirts – Like a deer caught in headlights, the school experts did not know what to do. First they banned them, then they didn’t.
  • Air conditioning rain leaks
  • Stadiums – The development of not one, but two planned stadiums has been so badly mismanaged that it is hard to find a resident anywhere around Costa Mesa or CdM High Schools who is pleased with the progress.

Unfortunately, there is more. But the worst offenses committed by the school board club and the administration are not tied directly to specific events.

Despite their rhetoric, the school board club does not care about the welfare of the teachers in our district, does not care about what the public has to say about anything, and does not care to hold anyone in the administration accountable for their actions, particularly when it comes to spending hard earned tax dollars.

Twice a month, the school board club meets to rubber stamp whatever is presented to them by the administration with very little questioning of what is happening and why. When a school board club member does ask a question, it is usually a softball – something presented to give the appearance of genuine concern, but has no substance.

In almost 20 years of watching the N-MUSD school board club, I cannot recall a single time when a program was presented and a club member asked about benchmarking progress and intervals for assessing progress.

In any private sector organization and even in other bureaucracies, these questions are so standard that they are built into the initial report. But here, there is no accountability precedent so no one feels the need to hold himself accountable.

The latest example of this is the apparent testing of stand-up desks at Mariners. Whether this test has or has not been executed is vague, according to a letter from the N-MFT to the board, but the real issue is this: Stand-up desks were proposed in this space last year as a low cost, proven way to help improve academic performance at some of Costa Mesa’s schools. Implementing the program at one high achieving schools is not a true test of the efficacy of stand-up desks. Unless the test is conducted in a way that the results can be tied directly to implementation, nothing is learned. Mariners, to its great credit, needs the stand-up desk program far less than some of Costa Mesa’s schools and because it is already performing so well, it is unlikely that any measurable improvement can be attained.

That method of operation starts at the top with the superintendent.

For the record, I do not believe that our school district should be run like a private enterprise. But I do believe that there are private sector principles and protocols that should be adopted in order to provide greater efficiency and accountability.

Greater vigilance is required. The parents and other taxpayers from the both cities need to make education accountability a higher priority and they must show greater support for our teachers.

Welcome, new readers.

Steve Smith

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