One of the many reasons why the N-MUSD administration is no longer held in such high esteem is because the formerly effective public relations efforts are now a colossal failure.

There appeared in the Daily Pilot a couple of days ago, two stories that furthered the notion that things are falling apart at the seams. The first story is about the rat infestation at Newport Harbor High School, complete with a shocking image of two rats caught in traps in a classroom.

Here’s the link:

In the old days, someone at the district would have cranked up the propaganda machine and put out a response that would have cut off any criticism at the knees. Instead, readers discovered that “Officials at Newport Harbor High School say they will use the upcoming winter break to try to end a string of rat sightings in classrooms at the Newport Beach campus.” 

And… “Rat sightings in Dodge Hall, where math and world language classes are held, have been an issue for a little over a month, [principal Sean] Bolton said Thursday.”

Yes, you read it correctly: The school district has known of a major rat problem for at least four weeks but is waiting five weeks before taking any action. In the meantime, kids, just deal with rats crawling all over the school.

Anyone want to guess how long they’d wait to take action if those rats had been discovered at district headquarters on Bear St.?

In the old days, the message would have been something like, “We are aware of the problem and are taking interim steps to reduce the rodent population until the school is empty on Dec. 22, at which time, we will launch a complete extermination program. In the meantime, we are making every effort to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff.”

Now THAT’S a statement!

But we don’t get that anymore because the leadership is rudderless. Just like the prom draft, the Gold Ribbon mess (reminder: report is due mid-March), the CdM cheaters, and every other botched effort we’ve had to endure over the past three years, the superintendent has left the communication to subordinates who, while they may mean well, don’t have the same force of their convictions as the boss would have had.

The superintendent doesn’t speak on these issues because he doesn’t want to.

The other story is about the departure of Deputy Super Paul Reed. The history behind his special payments not to retire and the superintendent’s failure to make a public announcement of Reed’s retirement when he was told last April is not pretty. Now, there is the news that Reed will be collecting a pension of $22,194 per month, thanks in part to the generosity of the N-MUSD trustees who voted to fatten his payout, as we learned through the efforts of former N-MUSD HR head John Caldecott.

Here’s the link:

So is there a statement from the super on this story? Nope. Board President Dana Black speaks up justifying the money, but it’s not enough. In all of these stories, what is missing is one unifying voice – one person who consistently delivers the right message. But we don’t have that because that takes experienced leadership and it takes someone who is willing to take a few body blows from time to time because it’s part of the job. It’s why they’re making the big bucks.

And I could not help but chuckle at Reed’s quote in the Pilot: “I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you all for your kindness the past 14 years,” Reed to the board Tuesday. “I sincerely mean it when I say that it is one of the great fortunes of my life to serve Newport-Mesa.

A great fortune, indeed: $22, 194 a month of your tax dollars each month.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD