I’ve been waiting for some gooey public relations memo from the superintendent’s office or the board president or the “entire N-MUSD family” – anything that wished us happy holidays, a happy new year, or peace and prosperity. Some year-end message about how Amazing! 2016 was and how 2017 is going to be an Amazing! year.

But we got nothing. Apparently, everyone on Bear St. failed to seize an opportunity to send out the grandest PR notice of the year – one that thanks everyone for being so Amazing! and tells us how we have the best teachers and staff in the state even though we try to stiff them each negotiating period while we add more bureaucrats and increase the compensation of the ones we’ve got.

So why wasn’t it sent out before the new year? There are only two possibilities, neither of which is very pretty:

  1. They forgot
  2. They didn’t want to

I’m leaning toward and hoping it was no. 2. If that is the case, then they score points for being honest because the fact is that 2016 was a lousy year for the administration and the management of the district. Shall we recap? Let’s!

  1. Swun Math – When teachers stand up and openly challenge the effectiveness of a program, the chances are good that it’s time for that program to go. But in response, the administration is digging in its heels and executing a protracted workaround just to save face. $TATU$: Ongoing
  2. Estancia Poles – Hey, here’s a great idea! Let’s erect about twenty 80′ poles around the baseball diamond at Estancia high school to correct the major goof we made by placing solar panels behind the backstop where lots of foul balls are hit. Oh, and let’s not tell the residents on JoAnn St. who live just a few feet away and will have to suffer declining property values as a result. Great idea, huh?! The poles were placed and removed at the cost of many hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars. But the foul ball issue still exists. The latest solution floated is to spend even more of your money to move the baseball diamond. $TATU$: Ongoing
  3. John Caldecott Revelations – We found out that your tax dollars went to pay Deputy Super Paul Reed not to retire.  In his farewell comments, Reed mentioned that it was “… one of the great fortunes of my life to serve Newport-Mesa.” I’m nominating that for two categories: “Understatement of the Year” and “Best 2016 Comment Made on the Way to the Bank.” Caldecott is not done and each time the district challenges his efforts to let you know what’s really going on, it costs you money. $TATU$: Ongoing
  4. Gold Ribbon Application – Teachers claim 17 instances of “untruths” or “inaccuracies” in the application by Mariners El for Gold Ribbon status. The principal there is reassigned, the school’s new principal is taken from a school where he is revered, and the investigation into the incident will take at least nine months – the same amount of time it took the Warren Commission to determine that Lee Harvy Oswald acted alone when JFK was assassinated. (Side note: OBTW, the ETA date of the investigation completion I was given is March 17, 2017, which happens to be two days after administration contracts will be rubber stamped by the school board club. But I’m sure that it’s just a coincidence. It is, isn’t it???) $TATU$: Ongoing
  5. Laura Boss/Ann Huntington Lawsuit – Two respected former members of the administration are suing the district and the super, claiming some really bad behavior. $TATU$: Ongoing
  6. CdM High Stadium – What a mess. Yet another example of the district’s policy of “Ready! Fire! Aim!” $TATU$: Ongoing
  7. Costa Mesa High Stadium – See CdM High Stadium. $TATU$: Resolved with your money.
  8. Rats! – Part of CM High shut down in March due to a “rodent infestation” and Newport Harbor now battling the same problem. It’s so bad at NHHS that the rats are in classrooms. It’s a rat race there and the rats are winning. $TATU$: Ongoing
  9. Money for Nothing – From the OC Register in November: “Three of the top 10 paid school employees in Orange County in 2015 came from the same school district – Newport-Mesa Unified – and all 10 received more than $300,000 in salary and benefits.” Wouldn’t be so bad except for… Well, just see numbers 1-9. $TATU$: Ongoing
  10. Disgraceful – In October, custodian Rodrigo Ospina died on the TeWinkle MS 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.” So how was this beloved and respected 26-year employee celebrated by the folks on Bear St.? They adjourned a school board club meeting in his memory. That’s it. It was shameful and disgraceful. Despite all of the other incredibly inept things that have occurred this year this was the low point. $TATU$: A pitiful response to a 26-year career.

There’s more but you get the idea.

All of these messes except number 10 cost money to resolve – lots of money. That’s YOUR money. That’s money that could go to raise the compensation of teachers and classifieds, or to help improve academic performance.Instead it’s going to waste because we are suffering under the most poorly managed era in the 30 years I have lived in the area.

And while number ten would not take any money to fix, it would take something more important – something in short supply on Bear St. It would take a conscience.

I’d say “Good riddance, 2016!” but nothing will change in 2017. How do I know? Remember… past behavior is the best predictor of future performance.

Happy New Year!

Steve Smith

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