In any relationship, there is a defining moment, one event that reveals to us the true nature of the other person.

I have described such moments with my late wife and my son, both of whom rose to the particular occasions and provided me with wonderful memories for life.

Those defining moments are not restricted to one-on-one relationships. As long as I have been covering school board club activities, I thought I’d seen it all until respected, 10-year district employee John Caldecott was fired a combination of a text and an e-mail from Superintendent Frederick Navarro.

That told me all I needed to know about the superintendent.

But it got worse. Collectively, the school board club denied Caldecott a hearing to tell his side of the story. This was not just a mistake that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses, it was a bad moral decision.

All Caldecott wanted was his day in court, but after serving faithfully for ten years, it was denied.

And just when I thought it could not get any worse, TeWinkle custodian Rodrigo Ospina died on campus in an accident. According to the Los Angeles Times report, “The 26-year employee of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District died of blunt-force injuries to his head that were the result of a fall, according to the Orange County coroner’s office.”

And, “[TeWinkle principal] Hurst wrote in her Sept. 2 message to TeWinkle staff and parents that Ospina’s ‘kind nature and sweet sense of humor will be deeply missed … Our sincerest thoughts are with Mr. Ospina’s family, loved ones, and to the community in which he was a beloved member.'”

For this 26-year employee, a beloved member of the community who had a “kind nature and sweet sense of humor,” the district decided that the only tribute worthy of him was to adjourn a meeting in his memory. And they had to be shamed into doing even that. No statement from the superintendent, no fundraiser for his family to help with funeral expenses, no nothing.

That’s who we’ve got on the board. That’s our defining moment.

If you work for the district, as many of you do, use Ospina’s death and the lack of recognition of his service as a lesson. Talk is cheap, action is everything, and despite what you may hear about how much you are appreciated and are part of the district family, you should not expect treatment better than was given to John Caldecott or to the memory of Rodrigo Ospina.

Steve Smith
N-MUSD Taxpayer