… Or “ducks in a barrel,” as a co-worker used to say. He was one of those people who was funny without trying – always mixing words and phrases to say something odd, but not intentionally. Some of his gems:

About the cold weather during a Green Bay Packers football game: “I heard it was 20 below with the windshield factor.”

About getting some money out of a customer whose account was running behind: “I told him to give me a partial payment as a sign of good face.”

About how tough it was in the marketplace: “It’s a doggie dog world.”

That was then, this is now. The gobbledygook we hear these days is not from a salesperson who barely made it through high school, but from people with advanced degrees who are supposed to be smart. But reading all the nonsense they write, and watching their attempts to be clever while they insult our intelligence only supports my belief that those degrees they accumulate mean nothing without a moral compass and respect for the people who are paying your salary.

The Bear St. Bureaucrats and the school board club  need help in both departments. There is no other way to describe the flurry of last-minute, insulting memos and announcements that happened on or about the last day of school.

Let’s start with the biggest news, which is not news if you are employed by the district. It’s a rather terse message from Annette Franco, in the district’s public relations office that reads:


On behalf of Superintendent Dr. Fred[erick] Navarro, I would like to inform you that Susan Astarita, the Senior Associate Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer has announced her retirement. Please see attached for additional information.

The attachment was a hilarious notice of Astarita’s departure, hilarious because it doesn’t state why she is leaving and tells us that “Ms. Astarita is looking forward to having time to explore her family history, participate more actively in the local Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Orange County Society of Mayflower Descendants. She enjoys golf and is looking forward to having time to practice and play on a more regular basis.”

It’s hilarious because it was barely a year ago that Astarita was promoted to this newly created position and given a raise. And she is not leaving after a sufficient transition: Her last day is next Thursday.

Why now? Why so fast?

The next last-day-of-school nonsense is the “self-study” that was conducted by the panel of bureaucrats to find out what the heck is going on at Mariners. It’s nine pages and contains a lot of words that could fill a “Bureaucratic Bingo” card (aka Buzzword Bingo) and though I’ve read it, I need to read it again before reporting to you. One thing I did not notice that we were told would be in it was the ire of the parents at the on-campus meeting ten days ago. That’s the meeting in which one parent asked how we get a new superintendent. Maybe I missed it. In any case, here’s an image of an appropriate educrat bingo card:

Next up: A recap of the progress of negotiations between the district and the teacher union that was issued on the last day of school even though the two sides haven’t met since May 25. So why was it issued yesterday? Silly! It’s the last day of school. OBTW, the next position that should be created at Bear St. should be Grand Proofreading Poobah because a date in the memo that should have been “June 23, 2016” is listed as “June 23, 2106.” More gibberish from the folks to whom we’re paying millions of dollars because they’re supposed to be so smart.

Then there is all the administrative shuffling that happened in the final hours: The Mariners principal wants out, the California principal may go in (to Mariners) and it’s anyone’s guess as to who is going to California. Maybe another draft from Capo and why not set up a shuttle service between the two districts?

Ah, but you see, all this finish line activity is all part of the master plan. That plan, which was created many years ago by another highly educated person, says that the last day of school is a good time to make big announcements because no one will care. It was all predictable and nope, I don’t mind telling you or anyone else that I predicted it – not because I am beating my chest but because I want the bureaucrats on Bear St. to know that there is at least one taxpayer in the district who isn’t fooled by any of this.

And I will keep asking these questions until they are answered:

  • Who, if anyone, assisted the Mariners’ principal in completing the application?
  • Who reviewed the application for accuracy before it was submitted?
  • What was the application process at the 11 other schools that achieved Gold Ribbon status?
  • Who completed the applications at the 11 other schools?
  • Who reviewed the applications at the 11 other schools?

These questions should be answered in the investigative report that is being prepared by an outside agency using your tax dollars. Ah, but that investigation has been put on hold because…wait for it… it’s summertime.

That’s OK, we can wait. And maybe when they resume the investigation, they can speak to Astarita to see what, if anything, she knows.

OBTW… One voice on the Mariners developments we haven’t heard from is school board club member Dana Black, whose area includes Mariners. Black wasn’t at any of the meetings and has not issued a statement in response to the self-study. Why? Hmmm… let’s think for a moment. Let’s see… Black was re-elected four years ago, which means that she is up for re-election this year and… nah – she wouldn’t purposely stay out of this because it could damage her re-election bid. Never.

I’ll leave you with a repeat of a quote from my latest hero – the mayor of Oakland who announced the firing of the police chief she had recently hired:

“I made the decision to appoint Ben Fairow, I also own the decision to remove him,” said Schaaf in the statement. “I firmly believe that when you make a mistake, you need to own it, and act quickly to correct it.”

That’s what leadership looks like.

Steve Smith