It’s hard for bureaucracies to get their arms around this transparency thing. After all, it means that all of their business, save for those personnel issues, will be made public without taxpayers having to ask or dig for it.


The case in point is the PowerPoint presentation used in the first two meetings to reveal the options for new Area boundaries. I’m not sure it was posted last Friday as promised, but let’s give the administration the benefit of the doubt and say that it was.

The problem is finding it. Sleuther Laurie Smith discovered it. To see the presentation, one must first click on “Trustee Area Boundary Adjustment,” which appears prominently on the home page. So far, so good.

Clicking on that takes you to the Area Boundary page. but from there, one must look for the Compliance Reports header and click on “Current Trustee Area” which will take you to the PowerPoint.

“Current Trustee Area?” It’s hard to believe that with the supposed benefit of the brains earning the multi-million dollar payroll in the district office that “Current Trustee Area” is the best name they could create for the PowerPoint presentation.

Maybe it’s just bad creative work, or maybe they don’t want people to find it. Either way, it’s another example of how little attention is paid to the care and feeding of local taxpayers. Anyone who wanted to assist taxpayers in finding it would have renamed it appropriately and/or put a link directly from the home page in a drop-down menu from “Trustee Area Boundary Adjustment.” But they don’t think that way because they really don’t care.

Case in point: At the two Area meetings, forms were distributed for people who wanted to comment on the three Area options. I’ll bet a Big Cookie dessert at Sgt. Pepperoni’s that the results/comments are never posted on the district’s website. Why? Once again, because they don’t care what you think. Transparency is not in their DNA. Accountability is not in their DNA, unless you are the scapegoat for some scandal.

I’d love to be proven wrong. I’d like for someone to show me when and where the results from any of the community input meetings over the past several years were posted on the district’s website. All those forms, all those silly easels with sticky dots attached, amount to nothing more than a show.

And how about the embarrassingly low tech execution of this input gathering? While they’re distributing Chromebooks like Halloween candy and teaching students so that they become essential to the “global economy,” the district is still handing out paper and using easels with markers and colored sticky dots to collect opinions.

Here’s an idea: Open up a page on the website a la Facebook. Let taxpayers post their thoughts and encourage respectful exchanges. Saves paper, saves staff time, and – OMG! – it’s completely transparent.

(Yeah, right, Steve.)

But, wait! There’s More!

Attendees at the Area meeting in Costa Mesa were told by the district’s legal counsel that the Settlement Agreement for resolving the Area boundary issues is a public document and it’s therefore OK to post on the district’s website. It was requested at that meeting that the Settlement Agreement be posted.

But I learned today that the district has no intention of posting the Settlement Agreement on the website. If you want a copy, it will be made available to you – all you have to do is request it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this: “Wait a minute. If they’ll provide the Settlement Agreement to anyone who asks, why not save a lot of time, trouble, and taxpayer dollars and post it on the website?”

The problem with that is that you’re using that “logic” stuff again. Doesn’t work that way.

I requested the Settlement Agreement, read it, and frankly, other than the $105,000 taxpayer dollars going to the law firm that started the whole thing, it’s pretty tame. The only reason I can think of for not posting it is that – wait for it – transparency is not in their DNA. It doesn’t occur to them to make it easy for you because they don’t really want you to read it. If they did, the Settlement Agreement would have been uploaded as soon as it was received.

The N-MUSD is not a private company. They have an obligation to transparency and it is only the lack of strong leadership that prevents them from understanding that every desk, every stapler, every paperclip in the district was paid for with taxpayer dollars and that taxpayers deserve far more respect than they are getting.

Sorry – that list of taxpayer office items does not include those paid for by teachers with their own money. Another item in the Hall of Shame.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD