Two days ago, I published a comment from a reader who offered information at odds with what many parents and taxpayers believe. One of the two main paragraphs offered reasons why one should not vote for at least two of the challengers to the school board club incumbents and the other paragraph cited statistics about Swun math.

Since then, I have received many messages from well-informed people who offered information that dilutes or outright refutes some of the comments from October 26.

If I published everything I have been sent or told, this post would be quite long. Too long. So, I will respond to the Oct. 26 comments with  this…

First, The qualifications of the challengers are far less important to me than what they will bring to the table. Many of the people who have served on the school board over the years had little or no experience in school matters when they first ran, yet, the electorate saw something in them that said “change.”

In the dissection of the candidates, the commenter left out the fact that not only do none of the current school board club members have kids in N-MUSD schools, they do not have any K-12 kids of their own at home. I’ve never thought that having kids in district schools was a key requirement of one’s candidacy – to me it was only a plus – but that’s just me. I know that having kids in our schools is an important qualification to a great many people.

What is most important to me are the goals and the attitudes of the candidates.

I want someone who is willing to challenge the status quo, and who understands that oversight, accountability, transparency, and trust are severely lacking in the N-MUSD and must be restored.

I want someone who will end the rubber stamping of agenda items and have the courage to vote “no” if there are items on a calendar that he or she does not understand, disagrees with, or has not had the time to digest.

I want someone who has the strength of character to admit mistakes and apologize to taxpayers.

I want someone who will start communicating directly with taxpayers by establishing a blog or a website that provides more transparency, background and follow-up that we are currently getting, which is near zero.

I want someone who will raise the bar at meetings by making best practices a routine component of all program presentations by asking important questions of presenters, including:

  • Where has this been tried before?
  • What were the results?
  • If they could start all over, what would they do differently?
  • What is the follow-up plan?
  • How will will we know if the program is working or failing (benchmarking)?
  • What is the Plan B?

These questions are standard operating procedure in every successful enterprise for which I have ever worked or consulted and I don’t believe it’s too much to ask to make them part of the culture at the N-MUSD.

Had these questions been asked three years ago, we may have avoided the debacle that is Swun math.

And speaking of Swun math…

There is a tremendous amount of reliable data the refutes the claim of the Oct. 26 writer. Swun math should never have been implemented. Today, even the powers-that-be are conceding that it needs to go but are dragging teachers and students through an overly complicated process until such time as the decision to drop Swun math becomes theirs, and not that of angry parents and teachers.

But as I have stated previously, Swun math is not really the problem, it is a symptom. We must consider how this program got implemented in the first place and put in place safeguards or checks and balances or higher standards to help ensure that our students and teachers are never again saddled with a similar burden.

That’s hard to do when the superintendent of the district – the district CEO, so to speak – was pushing hard for the program. What we needed then, and what we need now, is someone who will tell the emperor that he has no clothes.

I make no apologies to the Oct. 26 writer. This is my blog and I will always have the last word. But my goal is not really to get rid of Swun math or have the Estancia poles removed or have the CdM stadium conform to the wishes of Eastbluff residents, though I want all those things. The real goal is to get everyone – everyone – to do more: To act more, to think more, and to be more.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD