One of the rubber stamped votes at the last school board meeting saved you a lot of money. Agenda item 18.c was passed thanks to a combination of election year politics and miscues by the superintendent’s office and resulted in no pay raises in 2016-17 for the class of district employees known as “Management, Confidential, and Supervisory.” These people include cabinet members, directors, principals, assistant principals, classified supervisors in departments such as maintenance, nutrition services, confidential admin assistants reporting to cabinet members, and… the superintendent.

It would have been hard for the board to give more money to the superintendent after another year of stumbling and fumbling through one mismanaged affair after another. Unfortunately, there may be some downstream people who deserved raises but will not get them, thanks to the turmoil.

I am happy to say that I was wrong about the school board club awarding a raise to the superintendent when he did not deserve one. There is still the matter of the automatic contract renewals, but that’s another battle.

The school board club also rubber-stamped approval of an agreement to pay employee groups – teachers and classifieds – a much larger share of benefits. At prior meetings, anyone who heard the occasional horror story of the part-timer who was being priced out of benefits and anyone who witnessed this – as I did – could not help but wonder how this could happen in a district that waves its solvency flag so high and pays its top brass so much.

So, what took so long? We have a school board club that is detached from the negotiations process. They will throw up their hands and tell you that’s just the way the system is set up, but the truth is that they like it that way. The detachment saves them the grief of going through what is one of the hardest processes in the district. Instead, they let the administration do the heavy lifting and just approve whatever is presented to them. It’s just business as usual.

Despite the club’s attempts to avoid anything that will create headlines, the superintendent’s office was working against them. Whether it was the Gold Ribbon scandal, “Dump Trump” t-shirts, intoxicated kids at a football game, Swun Math, and more, the headlines from the controversies in the past year have made the Daily Pilot look like the National Enquirer.

How do we avoid this nonsense in the future? There must be some action in Sacramento to reverse the rule that prohibits school board positions from being full-time. Unless we start to pay trustees a salary, we are going to get more of what we’ve always gotten. Paying salaries would open up the field of candidates to an entirely new class of people who would otherwise avoid running because they can’t afford to take the time off of work – good people with sharp minds and new ideas who can bring value to the process of academic performance.

And speaking of the Gold Ribbon report…

Was I? Oh, yes, I was.

Still no report, despite the fact that it was promised for early October. Even more curious… If you visit the district’s website and do a search for “Gold Ribbon,” you will get… Nothing. Not even the original announcement about the various N-MUSD schools winning the award. Weird, huh?

The cynical side of me says it’s being held until after election day, but they wouldn’t do that. Would they?

Well, too bad, this one’s not going away.

The status of the Gold Ribbon report is just one of the questions that will not be asked at the next school board club meeting. The others are:

  1. Why did the superintendent wait five months to make a public announcement of Paul Reed’s retirement?
  2. Have we paid Reed any part of his retirement stipend since he told the superintendent in April that he is retiring?
  3. If yes, shouldn’t taxpayers get a refund? (If taxpayers are paying a guy not to retire and he chooses to retire, we stop paying him the retirement money immediately, right? Right!)
  4. How many students were disciplined as a result of their behavior at the CdM-NHHS football game and what were the punishments? (Taxpayers need to know that these kids face the consequences of their actions.)
  5. What is the status of the Swun Math program and it’s replacement?

These questions, and many more, will not be asked because we do not have a single school board club member whose loyalty to taxpayers exceeds their loyalty to the administration. That’s that old tail-wagging-the-dog scenario.

Oh, and it would be really nice for at least one person (one person, I don’t care who) to make a statement apologizing to taxpayers for wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars – money that could have gone to help educate our children – for the installation and removal of the giant poles surrounding the Estancia baseball field.

That’s called doing the right thing. Don’t hold your breath waiting.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD

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