Back in 1978, president Jimmy Carter issued executive order 12044 – “Improving Government Regulations” which included this directive from section 2.d.5: The regulation is written in plain English and is understandable to those who must comply with it

Last night’s school board club meeting included the presentation of item 12.a, which was, “The Board of Education Receive Information on the Proposed Secondary Education Ethos, Pathos, Logos Academy for Estancia High School for the 2017 – 2018 School Year.” (Please see section 2.d.5 referenced above)

I could not get my arms around what it was they were trying to convey because the presentation was full of edu-speak terms such as “Vertical Pathways,” “Horizontal Favorites,” and “Digital Resources.” I have no idea what these meant then and no idea now. It’s just further proof of what I have been pointing out for a long time – that the education establishment doesn’t care to use plain English because they don’t care whether the people who pay the bills – taxpayers – understand what is being said.

So they load up their agendas and documents with a lot of acronyms and bureaucratic gobbledygook to help limit the amount of questions or input. Hard to ask a question about something if you can’t translate it into plain English. Unless, of course, the question is, “Can you please translate that into plain English?”

But that’s not all. The presentation was riddled with countless formatting errors and at least one standout typo: The word “decathalon” was spelled “decatholon.”

Both of the people who presented this have more than sufficient background to have avoided these mistakes – one of them is a high school teacher. It was sloppy, unbefitting the forum and, for this observer, severely detracted from the substance of their presentation. That presentation should have been spell checked and proofread, but it wasn’t. And this is not the first time I have seen this problem and pointed it out.

Teachers in a classroom would have marked students down a grade or two if the student turned in a presentation such as Tuesday night’s. But somehow, it’s OK for adults to make numerous mistakes before the governing body of our district – people who are in charge of a budget of $285 million dollars meant to teach our children how to succeed in the 21st Century [sic] economy.

There should be a written requirement that anything visual presentation made at any district meeting be required to have been spell checked and proofread prior to presenting it. If adults demand this of our students, they should expect it from themselves. School board club members should demand a higher caliber of communication.

Oh, and each presentation should be required to conform to executive order 12044, section 2.d.5.

As usual, there was little questioning by the club members. Trustee Walt Davenport, who is becoming the board’s version of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for his lack of saying anything, did not utter a word, as usual. Trustee Martha Fluor asked a good question about identifying English language learners for the program. At least one person was thinking about them – that’s a start.

But the answer she got was lukewarm. No concrete response detailing specific steps and no commitment to anything. And unfortunately, Fluor did not press for more.

Speak Up and Speak Freely

The highlight of the evening was the presentation by parent activists Erica and Jeff Roberts and their four small children. The Roberts have been spearheading the effort to get rid of Swun Math and their presence last night was groundbreaking. Among other things, they showed a poster of the three candidates running for school board seats against the incumbents and expressed their support, at which point they were interrupted with time left to speak. “This is not a political forum,” said Trustee Karen Yelsey.

There is nothing in the rules dictating what can or cannot be said. And there won’t be because that would abridge the freedom of speech preserved by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Taxpayers can talk about the weather, the Angels, or anything they wish, as long as don’t yell “Fire!”or their comments don’t spew hate or similar speech.

The Roberts verbalized to the school board club what many of us have believed for a long time – in the case of Swun Math, that they have been given false information.

But here’s the hypocrisy: Near the end of the meeting Trustee Martha Fluor expressed the desire to formalize the board’s support of Prop. 55. Fluor should be reminded that there are many people opposed to this proposition and that it is indeed a political issue. But somehow, it’s OK for the school board club to turn the meeting into a political forum, but not for speakers – the people who pay all the bloated salaries and who pay for everything else and who have had to suffer with things such as Swun Math, a current lawsuit bu two respected former employees accusing the superintendent and the district of creating a “hostile working environment,” John Caldecott’s revelation that they (We, actually) are paying one bureaucrat not to retire, and so much more.

But two people who wants to take 30 sec0nds of their allotted time to support opposition candidates? Gotta stop that now!

I haven’t seen them act as quickly on anything in a very long time.

And I noticed that no one stopped union president Britt Dowdy from urging support for Prop. 55. Why? Because it was his right to do so.

The Roberts also mentioned this blog, which was/is much appreciated. It serves as a reminder to you that if you find this blog informative, helpful, funny, whatever – whether you agree or disagree with most of it – I urge you to send the link to taxpayers and students in the district. I do not profit from this blog in any way.

Ho-hum, Business as Usual

Every vote last night was 7-0. It was rubber stamping at its finest. The consent calendar breezed through. The few questions were weak and there was no demand for follow-up from anyone, for example?

  • How will we know this is working?
  • What are the baselines you have determined to measure success or failure?
  • Where has this worked before?
  • When will you report back to us with a status report?

Basic stuff for any private enterprise, which Trustee Vicki Snell referenced at the candidate forum last week when she tried to justify the fat salaries of the bureaucrats and the superintendent in particular. As an example, these four questions should have been asked of the first presenters of the evening, the pair who described the “Ethos, Pathos, Logos Academy for Estancia High.”

These questions are not asked because the school board club doesn’t want to get involved in any of that icky accountability stuff. That means longer meetings and they like to get out around 8:30. 8:00 would be even better.

During the Resolution Consent Calendar discussions, Supt. Frederick Navarro said almost nothing – he just introduced people who then made presentations. I have noticed that the supt. doesn’t say very much at these meetings, with one exception. When it comes to Swun Math, it seems as though he has a lot to talk about, either to explain the program or defend it.

Bored Member Reports

The board member reports were all about the wonderful state-of-the-schools love-in, specifically the video showing 50 years of N-MUSD history, which will be on the district’s website tomorrow.

Most shocking was the state-of-the-schools comment by Snell, who said, “We worked on it for practically a year?” A year!!!??? That’s one year of staff time and resources going to what is nothing more than propaganda – something that does nothing to further the academic performance of our students, save taxpayer dollars, or fulfill any other responsible role.

A year… That is absurd.

The standout comments, however, were made by president Dana Black, who described what she called “living room meetings” in which she finally understood the Swun Math struggles of parents and students. Really? After all this time?

But I’m not sure she really gets it. At one point, she said, “Not every family has a math wizard.”

That’s not the reason why the Roberts and so many other parents and teachers want to dump Swun Math. This whole anti-Swun effort long ago stopped being about math proficiency and has turned into the poster child for an out-of-touch, inattentive, and complacent school board. Had the board done a long time ago what they should have done, that is, be better listeners and hold the right people accountable, the parade of ant-Swun parents and teachers never would have happened.

A Small Circle of Friends 

The addition of Luis Camarena to become the latest Bear St. bureaucrat continues the superintendent’s pattern of surrounding himself with former colleagues. This was sent to me yesterday:


Isn’t it amazing?… All of those applications for bureaucratic spots (22 for the seat Camarena got) and the best qualified people just happen to be former colleagues of the superintendent.

Wow – what are the odds?!

Steve Smith