“A drop in the bucket” is what Trustee Vicki Snell called the $200,000+ travel allocation in the 2014-15 N-MUSD budget.

So I’m guessing that she and her school board club colleagues would have no problem allocating about $7,500 to N-MUSD teacher Brian Ristow, who is the recipient of a 2016 Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching which, according to the Daily Pilot report, is “a highly competitive honor sponsored by the U.S. State Departments Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs that enables teachers to examine educational practices abroad and share that knowledge in their home communities.”

Ristow and his family are headed to New Zealand next month where they’ll stay through June while he does his research. Then he brings it back here and we all benefit.

The problem is that the Fulbright award doesn’t cover all of his expenses. No, that’s not the problem.

The problem is that despite spending hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars to fight legal challenges that good leadership would have prevented, despite throwing away hundreds of thousands more erecting then removing 80′ poles at Estancia High, and despite a nightmare of a math program that is costing hundreds of thousands more, the Newport Mesa Unified School District doesn’t have $7,500 to give to Brian Ristow.

Ristow is bringing honor and positive attention to the district at a time when they really need it. He is going to conduct meaningful research that could benefit our students. But somehow, he is being ignored. There isn’t even a mention of his award on the district’s website.

So, a couple of things, both remedies…

  1. The N-MUSD should create a line item in the budget to reward teachers who win grants such as Ristow’s but who need a little more dough to close the gap. This money is easily found. All they have to do is drop their opposition to the current and future CPRA requests by John Caldecott and they’ll save a ton of legal fees. Caldecott has won all of his CPRA battles so far so it’s not like the district is saving itself from anything. Oh, and if they do this they can trumpet how transparent they are. A win-win!
  2. If you eat at Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza next Tuesday from 4 – 9 p.m., you will be contributing to a grass-roots funding campaign to support Ristow and his research. The restaurant is located at 2300 SE Bristol St # F, Newport Beach, CA 92660. Phone: (949) 852-9500. 

It’s encouraging to see the fundraising effort. But it shouldn’t be necessary. Shame on the N-MUSD for not taking better care of one of its own – one of those teachers they continually profess to appreciate so much.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD