Someone read the recent post about the N-MUSD resistance to transparency and their constant fights – and losses – against John Caldecott’s records requests and asked, “Why?”

There are two questions there. The first is “Why don’t they want everyone to know this information?” and the second is, “If they keep losing these court battles, why do they keeep fighting them?”

I’ll answer the second one first.

The district fights John Caldecott’s records requests because there is no downside to doing so. They have the money in the form of your tax dollars and they are going to get more of it each year so it’s there to spend. In the real world, many businesses would settle out of court because it’s cheaper. In the N-MUSD, settling out of court would only mean that they have to send some documents to someone. There is no expense whatsoever, save for whatever staff time it takes to create and send the e-mail.

But resisting costs money – a lot of money. $158,000 and counting since Caldecott began. Unfortunately, there is no incentive to saving money. Think about it: With the gazillion feel good awards the district hands out each year, not one of them rewards an employee for an idea that saved taxpayers money. Yet, that award exists in many private enterprises.

But, again, we’re not talking about a private enterprise where people are promoted and/or compensated based on merit, we’re talking about a large bureaucracy that knows only one way to do things and that one way is to do what they’ve always done.

So when a new records request comes through, the bureaucracy reacts by resisting, never stopping to think for a moment that maybe the better course of action is to just hand over the documents without lawyers.

It’s just the way the N-MUSD and every bureaucracy is wired. Think of the post office. A dinosaur, right? Why? Because when UPS and FedEx and and e-mail started encroaching on their business, they did what they’ve always done in reaction to competition: Nothing.

Now, when you mention the post office, people roll their eyes.

They also roll their eyes at the California DMV. In this case, however, the DMV has no competition so there is even less resistance to change or improve. Many DMV services can be done online – most of the popular ones, in fact. Yet, people show up at DMV offices to get stuff done, either because they didn’t know they could do stuff online or because they don’t have access to a computer.

Each DMV office should be equipped with 20 computer workstations so that people can do their business online. But because there is no incentive to improve, the status quo is preserved. Think about this: The last in-office innovation at the DMV was the ability to make an appointment. And that happened a very long time ago.

When did the N-MUSD test for online school registrations begin? Only five years ago.

The N-MUSD is no different than the post office or the DMV.

As to why they don’t want the records revealed, well, the answer is almost the same. Almost. They don’t want the records revealed because they are afraid that some of their legal but shaky dealings will be made public and people will complain.

One recent example of an attempt to hide things happened late last year. At the last minute, a special meeting of the school board club was called. The announcements fulfilled the legal requirements but the day and time of the meeting was a failed attempt to hide what should have been conducted in broad daylight. I got wind of the meeting and showed up. I was the only one who showed up, not because no one else cared, but because they applied the least amount of effort to keeping taxpayers informed.

Yet, after all the resistance to revealing the documents Caldecott is requesting, what has been the fallout? Has anyone been fired? No. Has anyone even been reprimanded? No. Has anyone quit in disgrace? No? Indicted? No. All of the incumbents even got re-elected last November!

The fact is that despite having to reveal many unflattering documents, there hasn’t been a single consequence because the who sit on the board like things just the way they are, thank you very much. Yet, despite ZERO consequences, they continue to resist.

Why do they resist? Because that’s the way they’ve always done it and there is no incentive to doing anything differently. They don’t care about saving you money, they don’t care what you think of them, and they don’t care to change.

Area representation is the latest threat to the status quo. It is the current elephant in the room and the district is doing everything it can to drag out the process, hoping that you and I and the attorneys who may threaten a lawsuit, will just forget all about it.

The N-MUSD is not special. It’s a run-down, antiquated bureaucracy in the same league as the post office and the DMV.

Actually, the DMV is ahead of the N-MUSD: I haven’t had to go into an office in ten years or more, and when I did, my appointment was met almost immediately.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD