One of the hallmarks of the current mismanagement of the N-MUSD is the extremely poor communication, both internally and to the community. The low staff morale is due, in part, to the poor communication coming from the top.

Communication is not just a memo or a speech, it is action, too.

Where the superintendent should be maintaining a high profile, he has chosen instead to let others speak. For at least a couple of trustees, that means active Facebook posts.

Nothing wrong with that. I’d rather have trustees communicating on Facebook than not at all. But when it becomes a substitute for the superintendent’s voice, it is detrimental to morale and progress. Taxpayers need to hear from the superintendent in addition to the trustees, not instead of them.

There is very little taxpayer communication coming from Bear St. these days. Staff gets a weekly “DOTS” memo from the superintendent that does not often contain any topic of substance and when it does, there is few if any opportunities for meaningful follow-up. Some readers may recall the absurd call for an “amazing breakthrough” to help get students to read at grade level in four months. No added resources, no additional training, just a wish.

Then there was the ruminating about a theory that intrigued the superintendent. Last October, I wrote, “The theory was presented by an attorney and Navarro wrote, ‘Ms. Papillon posits that the students who live in poor neighborhoods, where crime and violence are regular occurrences, may in fact suffer changes to their DNA that alters the working of their brains. Furthermore, she stressed that addressing these changes to a person’s DNA can take up to three generations to correct, and then, only if you can successfully remove families from the oppressive conditions under which they live.’

“About the theory, he also wrote that he has ‘much more to learn about this theory’ and that the theory is ‘one that we need to explore more deeply.'”

Who wants to bet me a Godfather sandwich at Pandor in the Westcliff Shopping Center (Yes, a shameless plug. But an amazing sandwich.) that the theory has not been explored “more deeply?”

Words are promises. Words are powerful. When they appear in print, they have the power of permanence and the promise to be fulfilled. When the N-MFT wrote to the district almost a year ago that there were “untruths and inaccuracies” in the Mariners Gold Ribbon application, that wasn’t just a letter, it was a call to action. It stood for something substantial and was a serious, meaningful attempt to get the district to understand just how disturbing was this incident to the teachers at the school and throughout the district.

Now, however, we are in the early stages of an attempt to completely whitewash the whole Gold Ribbon affair. Witness:

  1. The announcement of the report came just before ski week, ostensibly to give everyone a chance to forget all about it.
  2. The ripples of the Gold Ribbon investigation have touched other schools and substantial taxpayer dollars were spent to create it, yet the announcement was sent only to the parents at Mariners.
  3.  Regarding any punishment for the person or people who may have committed “untruths and inaccuracies,” the memo is so vague as to be toothless: “Based on facts and evidence included in the findings, the District will take any necessary actions related to this matter.” Huh?

The most efficient, successful organizations have many common traits. Chief among them is a high level of meaningful communication. And it’s not enough to say it, you have to live it.

A case in point is from the “Mariners Final Report” that was issued by the district last June It’s a nine page document that said a lot of things but is most likely collecting dust on a credenza on Bear St. The last paragraph has a lot of bureaucratic gobbledygook but the intent is there:

“It is imperative that a transparent, open, and sequential process for change of program and procedures that are inclusive and systematic including ongoing, open communication, training as necessary, and incremental and purposeful implementation that is analyzed and accessed regularly and appropriate adjustments are made to ensure success.”

Gee, ya think?

Here’s a final perspective: Over the past 32 months, this blogger has produced almost 450 written communications to taxpayers on school district affairs. I’ll bet another sandwich that’s at least 10 times more than they’ve heard from the superintendent.

Steve Smith
N-MUSD Taxpayer