The New York Times has one. So does the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register and just about every other responsible news reporting agency.

What they have is a notice of any errors they have made in their reporting. Some call it a “Dept. of Corrections,” others just name it “Corrections.”

This blog does not have any claim to complete accuracy, however, what is reported here is based on current news stories, archived news, and information passed on to me by reliable sources. When I receive information from a source, it is identified as such, but I do not name sources because many of them fear retaliation.

If you see a factual error, please let me know and I will correct it, anonymously if you prefer. But if you read a factual error and do not inform me, then complain about it to others, you have no claim to righteousness.

So what constitutes a fact? Let’s take the Estancia pole disaster as an example. For those who do not know or need a refresher, the school district erected many 80′ tall poles around the varsity baseball diamond at Estancia High School. The poles were meant to protect the solar panels in the parking lot next to the diamond – panels that should not have been situated there in the first place. The poles were placed without informing the JoAnn St. residents along the third base line, whose property is just a few feet from the field. The residents complained, rightly, that the poles are a major eyesore and reduced the value of their property. Apparently, the district agreed because they paid to have them removed.

The estimates I heard for the placement and removal of the poles ranged from about $650,000 to $1.5 million. Frankly, I do not recall what I reported and do not care to look it up. But if I reported a figure that is incorrect and you know the truth but do not tell me, that’s OK. But by not giving me the opportunity to correct the error, your license to complain about it is revoked.

That’s one example. In the case of the poles and in the cases of all of the other incidents that have plagued the current administration over the past three years, I will always seek to keep readers focused on the bigger picture. How much it cost to have the poles placed and removed is a close second to the real problem, which is an administrative legacy of ready, fire, aim. Those solar panels were placed in the wrong part of the large parking lot and those poles should have been discussed with the locals before a spoonful of dirt was shoveled.

$650K? $1.5 million? It should have been $zeroK. More important, the JoAnn St. residents and the tens of thousands of taxpayers in the district should have received an apology  for wasting the money and resources.

Some people don’t like to say “I’m sorry” because they see it as a sign of weakness. But as I reported not too long ago, saying “I’m sorry” is actually a sign of strength. In all my years of covering school district affairs, however, after the countless scandals that have occurred, many preventable, I have never heard or read any school board member or member of any administration say, “I’m sorry” or “We are sorry.”

The lack of apologies for mistakes is not a small item. It is indicative of insecurity and has a ripple effect through the entire district. Among other ill effects, it results in low employee morale because employees know that the higher-ups will not take the proper responsibility for mistakes and do not have their backs. That results in a failure to report problems.

The post started out as an invitation to keep this blog as factually tight as possible but has wound up revisiting the number one problem faced by taxpayers, which is poor leadership.

And that’s a fact.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD

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