One thing that is important to remember is that the Bear St. bureaucrats and the members of the school board club have been at this a very long time. They know the ropes and they know that today’s concerned parents are tomorrow’s busy parents – people who have moved on because their kids are out of the N-MUSD or otherwise occupied.

They know this and it has served them well over the years. The M.O. in nearly every case is to wait things out – just sit tight, drag things out and eventually it will all be a distant memory. Note that it has been over 5 years since any board member has penned an opinion in the Daily Pilot. During that time, we’ve read multiple opinions by several members of the city council of Newport and the city council and other agencies in Costa Mesa.

And who can argue with them? This approach has served them very well for decades.

The other thing they count on relates to an honest message I received a few days ago. It began, “I don’t care about the Newport schools…” and the writer went on to describe a Costa Mesa situation.

The reality is that the folks in Newport don’t care much about the Costa Mesa schools and vice versa. Drilling down even further, most parents at a school in Newport or CM, don’t care about another school in Newport or CM. They only want a good experience for their child. And that’s OK. But it’s also one of the main reasons why the lack of transparency, the wasted resources, the arrogance, and the failed leadership have perpetuated for so long.

I have been writing for a few weeks about a mess at Mariners El in Newport that most people don’t care about. There has been little coverage outside of this blog, even though it has triggered two investigations, the replacement of a principal, and an unprecedented letter from the teacher union claiming “untruths and inaccuracies” in the school’s application for a Gold Ribbon award.

But outside of Mariners, few care. And that would be OK in this case, too, except that the Mariners Mess has echoes far beyond the school. It has become a perfect example of the bureaucratic bungling that has been a hallmark of the current Imperial Superintendency and every taxpayer should be concerned.

This blog has had no larger objective than to try to get taxpayers to understand that what upsets them at their school is rarely confined to their school; that it is almost always a symptom of a larger problem.

But that’s a hard concept to get people to understand and appreciate.

Today’s case in point is a new notice from John Caldecott. Remember John? He has been waging a one-person battle for 18 months to improve the transparency and moral compass of the Bear St. bureaucrats and the school board club, and to see that if anyone is guilty of anything that they be held accountable. Caldecott was a ten-year employee of the district who came across some information that did not sit right with him and he spoke up. For doing so, he was fired via e-mail, with the school board club declining to let him tell his side of the story. The word they took was the person accused of the wrongdoing.

Caldecott recently announced that at tonight’s school board club meeting, the club will rubber stamp a contract extension for Deputy Something Paul Reed. This is routine. It’s not a good practice, particularly by a government body charged with the stewardship of your tax dollars, but it’s standard operating procedure for the N-MUSD.

What’s different this time is an issue that Caldecott raised a long time ago. It’s this thing called a “Tax Sheltered Annuity” in the amount of $40,414.55 and according to Caldecott, it’s the first time first time “‘Tax Sheltered Annuity'” or any specific dollar amount has appeared as an open session action item.”

So why is it suddenly listed on the agenda item. Because what John Caldecott has been saying all this time has been correct. The bureaucrats did not suddenly decide to do the right thing and list the annuity, they were shamed into it by Caldecott. Oh, yeah -they’re their covering their butts, too.

Also according to Caldecott, these rubber stamped contract extensionsion usually include a salary statement – a detailed list of the elements of compensation for the bureaucrat involved. This time, there is no statement.

A feeble attempt

Four days ago, the Daily Pilot ran a column by local activist Sandy Asper in which she renewed the call for a proper investigation into the Mariners Mess. In the comments section, school board club member Vicki Snell wrote, “Those that have served as trustees [should be “who have served – but that’s another column] know in order to make informed decisions, you must do research. It helps no one to listen to one side and act. Act in haste…repent in leisure. The community deserves trustees that [who!] remain calm until all sides are heard and all information is collected. To do anything else is just irresponsible.”

If you’re not highly insulted by this comment, you should be. The first part is support for what I’ve been writing to you for years. It’s the “Those that have served as trustees…” part. That’s it, you see – unless you are or have been a trustee, you can’t possibly understand this process. So here’s your pat on the head – now just go to your room while we take care of this for you.

I have news for Snell and the other club members: You didn’t invent the concept of listening to all sides. Not only did you not invent it, you don’t practice it. Just ask John Caldecott, who asked you repeatedly to just listen to his side of the story. Did you? No. And that decision may have cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight Caldecott’s resulting legal claims. So, please, don’t take the high road – not with me, anyway – I’ve seen too much of your hypocrisy and I know it when I see it.

This smoke-blowing is as common as the last-day-of-school notices we heard last week.

What did he know, and when did he know it?

So, taxpayers, as you fight your local battle for the truth, remember that what concerns you is only a small part of the larger problem of a lack of transparency and accountability and I urge you to become interested in that bigger picture

John Caldecott has his cause, I have mine. I want to know more about the Mariners Gold Ribbon application. Specifically:

  • 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?

If the teacher union is correct and there are “untruths and inaccuracies” in the application, taxpayers deserve to know who was involved and what consequences they will pay for their actions.

Tonight’s meeting is at 6:00 at 2985 Bear St. in Costa Mesa.

Steve Smith