On September 19, I asked a question of the school district. It was a simple question, really, requiring only a number as a reply. There was nothing financial about the answer so it didn’t have to go to multiple departments and get calculated by multiple educrats. And it didn’t require revealing any names, either – just that number.

My request was kicked upstairs on Sept. 22, after I questioned why I hadn’t received a response.

The responses from the district since 9/22? Zero. Nada. Zip. Not even the courtesy of a reply acknowledging that my request had been received and was being processed or “taken under advisement,” or any of the other bureaucratic gobbledygook they use when they need to stall.

But do they need to stall on my answer? It’s like Donald Trump’s tax returns – the longer it takes, the more suspicious we become.

But we’re not talking billions here, we’re talking a single digit. One number for my answer.

And I wouldn’t care as much, except for the rude behavior that is the district’s lack of acknowledgment of my question by at least one of the top salaried educrats on Bear St.

But in the N-MUSD, there is no accountability – certainly not by the school board club, which allows these people to do whatever they want and gives them carte blanche to spend taxpayer dollars as though they grow on a tree behind district headquarters.

Most of these people wouldn’t survive a day in the private sector. And speaking of the private sector…

Oops.

It’s hard to get over the blunder that school board club member Vicki Snell made at the candidate forum on Sept. 21 when she compared the fat salary paid to Supt. Frederick Navarro with the salary required to attract a top CEO in a corporation.

I’ve said repeatedly that though a school district cannot be run like a corporation, there are definitely some private enterprise principles that can and should be applied to the business of running a school district.

One of them is responsiveness. In a private enterprise, it is essential that customers receive prompt and thorough replies to their inquiries. At the N-MUSD, the policy toward questions is “stifle, stall, and stymie.” No one at the N-MUSD seems to want to answer tough questions posed to them, and who can blame them? Answers mean accountability and accountability is trouble. Accountability means they may have to explain why they took a certain action.

Or in the case of my inquiry, why they haven’t.

The very few people on Bear St. who understand responsiveness – of taking care of customers – don’t have the power to do anything. It’s the upper echelon that has decided to stifle, stall, and stymie.

There is no incentive on Bear St. to serve taxpayers. Jobs are more secure than Trump’s hair and you have to get caught doing something really bad to be fired. In fact, I can’t recall a single termination of any member of the bureaucracy in the 30 years I’ve lived here, save for the vote to fire ex-super Jeff Hubbard in 2012 after he was convicted of two felonies. And I’ll bet there was a lot of hand-wringing in the room that day over whether it was the right thing to do.

Oh, wait, there was another termination. It was back in 1992 when Stephen Wagner was fired for embezzling money.

In the private sector, people work at a certain level, in part, to keep their jobs. One of the functions of those private sector people is taking care of customers, whether it is in person, on the phone, online, or via e-mail.

customer-service

Some of these businesses reach out to us and ask us about our experience. When was the last time that the N-MUSD surveyed taxpayers to determine its level of service? Answer: I can’t recall ever being asked to rate their level of service.

Why haven’t taxpayers been asked to rate their level of service? Because they don’t care about what you think, that’s why. If they did, they’d ask you. But there’s no incentive whatsoever to improve their service so asking you is not on their radar. In fact, to them, providing better service is a negative. The better the service, the more they’ll have to take care of those pesky taxpayer inquiries.

Better just to stifle, stall, and stymie.

I didn’t bring up the private sector analogy, Snell did. But since she did, I’ll be reminding the school board club of the differences from time to time, thank you very much.

Sandy Asper nails it

Sandy Asper has a refreshing style of writing that is clear and direct. In today’s Daily Pilot, she summarizes her position with, “We cannot afford this [school] board as it stands, fiscally or morally.” You can read the entire column here:

http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/opinion/tn-dpt-me-1009-commentary2-20161008-story.html

The problem with the members of the school board club is that they see the challenges to the three available seats as a personality contest, as Asper alludes. They cannot seem to get their arms around the fact that the reason there are challengers this year to each of three seats is not because people like or dislike the incumbents, it’s because the incumbents are not doing a good job.

They’re not doing a good job because they are relying on people in the administration who are not doing a good job. Ahh, this is too confusing. Read Asper’s column – she’ll explain it better.

Steve Smith
N-MUSD Taxpayer

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