If you’re in, you are the parent of a student at Mariners El and you recently received a message from the “Newport-Mesa Unified School District” regarding the “Gold Ribbon Application Investigation.” If you’re out, you’re just a taxpayer and the district doesn’t care about keeping you informed. All they ask is that you keep paying your property taxes so they have money to spend.

The memo reads:

Dear Mariners parents,

As you may know, in the spring of 2016 the District received a complaint from the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers (NMFT) on behalf of teachers at Mariners Elementary School. The complaint alleged that an application for the California Gold Ribbon Award, submitted by previous Mariners administration, contained inaccurate information. The District takes allegations seriously and in this circumstance retained an independent investigation firm to provide a thorough and impartial review of the allegations. The review process is complete and the complainants and administration have been notified. Based on facts and evidence included in the findings, the District will take any necessary actions related to this matter.

We are held to a high standard of confidentiality, and ensuring the privacy rights of employees. Therefore in order to ensure confidentiality we are not at liberty to discuss or disclose information related to personnel matters.

We act in the best interests of our students, parents, staff and community when making decisions. We ensure privacy rights and will continue to do so. What is important now is that we maintain focus on providing high quality education and ensuring that we have the best people and programs for the success of our students.

So here’s what…

This memo was sent just before ski week in the hope that you will just go away for awhile and when you get back you will have forgotten this whole mess.

Unfortunately, the mess will be here when they return because there is unfinished business. More on that in a moment.

First… I copied and pasted the entire memo, save for the subject line and if you re-read it or look closely, you’ll find that two important elements are missing:

1) There is no name attached to the memo. It’s from the district, not from anyone in particular and certainly not from anyone who chooses to take a leadership position on this important issue.

2) Customary in this type of messaging is some contact information in case readers have comments or questions. Typically, it reads, “If you have any questions or comments concerning this matter, please contact yada, yada, yada.” But there is no contact information because the district doesn’t want you to contact them because they don’t care what you have to say. This matter is closed, that’s it, and they’re moving on.


Eh, not so fast. In all likelihood, there will be a request for the report under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). Perhaps multiple requests. The district will spend more money to fight it/them, only to lose. So in the end, the memo will look foolish.

About that unfinished business… The memo reads, “… the District will take any necessary actions related to this matter.”

Hmmm, I’m afraid that’s not quite vague enough. I mean, it actually could have read “may or may not” take any necessary actions. There is no mention of “discipline,” just “necessary actions” which leads me to believe that this whole thing is about to be swept under the rug with very little disciplinary action, if any.

Eh, not so fast. If the investigation found that they Gold Ribbon application contained “untruths and inaccuracies” (Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers) or “lies” (OC Register), someone or some people should be disciplined. But perhaps the district plans to borrow a page from the handling of the mortgage crisis of nine years ago, you know, the one where people did bad things but no one was punished.

Oh, and the Gold Ribbon award should be returned. That’s the right thing to do, but it won’t happen.

Those in power are trying hard to minimize the damage resulting from a long list of mistakes and bad decisions from the current administration. They range from the small – the handling of the “Dump Trump” T-shirts – to the large, which is the management of the Swun Math program.

Admitting the truth about the Gold Ribbon application would be admitting failure and I think that the school board club has had enough of that for awhile, thank you very much.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD