In a presidential election year when voters have every reason to be cynical about our government, a local showdown has produced a reminder that ultimately, WE are the government.

Last night’s school board club meeting created a crowd so large that both the lobby outside the board room and the escape patio next to the board room were packed with people. See for yourself:

9-13-16-board-room 9-13-16-meeting-lobby

There were two key issues last night, both extremely important. One was the disgraceful delay in settling union contracts. Contract negotiation delays are nothing new, but this time around, the meager offering by the district (negative, actually) will loom large when the superintendent gets his fat raise and contract extension next month. My guess is that the new contracts will be negotiated before the superintendent gets his raise. Otherwise, the board will look pretty silly crying poor to unions while handing out money to a superintendent who doesn’t deserve it.

Where’s Frederick?

Before getting into some of the particulars of last night’s meeting, which was expected to be as lively as it was, it should be noted that Supt. Frederick Navarro was not there. I was already composing a pass for him on this blog in my head, figuring that I would not know the reason for his absence before I began writing it. I was believing that, knowing how crucial this meeting was, it had to be illness or some family emergency that was preventing him from attending.

But thanks to Deputy Supt. Paul Reed, I don’t have to guess. It was Reed who blurted out that Navarro was away on district business and could not attend. Yes, that’s correct, folks: “district business.” So what was last night’s meeting, a barbecue? I spoke to several people about this excuse during and after the meeting and not one of them is buying it. There is no district business more important than attending last night’s school board club meeting. In a way, we should be grateful he was not there because it showed the attendees and the board the caliber of the district leadership. Not that the board understands or believes that, but now the rest of us know.


Weak leadership has led to the disgraceful treatment of our classifieds and certificated personnel. The union supporters were there in great numbers to help a detached board understand that the district’s negotiating team is not conducting itself in a manner befitting the board’s professed love and appreciation of its employees. But the board will claim that their arms length approach to negotiations is the best scenario. In reality, it is a dodge – an excuse for not wanting to get their hands dirty. More weak leadership.

One speaker read a list of recent money wasted due to mismanagement and bad judgment. He claimed that the polegate – the installation and removal of giant poles and netting at Estancia High to protect ill-placed solar panels – is costing taxpayers between 1 – 1.5 million dollars.

His list did not include the hundred of thousands of dollars in legal fees for fighting lawsuits by John Caldecott and Boss/Huntington, all of which the board could have avoided had they chosen to hear these people out instead of ignoring them.

But hearing them out would have meant that they would have had credible testimony of some bad behavior by the superintendent and that, apparently, was too painful for them to endure.

All of that mismanaged money could be going to support better health coverage for district employees. Instead, it’s going to attorneys and others who are profiting from the board’s mistakes.

Swun Math!

If the board needed any more evidence that this program needs to be ditched asap, they got it last night. Parent Erica Roberts, who has been leading the charge to dump Swun math, asked a simple question about its adoption in the first place: Why?

Why, indeed. There is a missing piece to this Swun puzzle; something here that doesn’t add up. Just my spidey sense tingling here.

Final thoughts

We’re still waiting for that final report on the investigation into the Gold Ribbon application at Mariners.

We’re still waiting for an official opinion on area representation.

And I couldn’t help but notice something… The district is big on technology and computers and making sure our students are prepared for the 21st century economy, blah, blah, blah. But I could not help but notice that the four bureaucrats taking copious notes during the meeting were doing so with pen and paper.

(For ten points, guess what will happen as a result of all that note-taking. If you guessed “nothing,” you win.)

What a hoot.

Steve Smith