When Mariners El received the Gold Ribbon award from the state Dept. of Ed last year, the district administration made a big deal out of it. They created a press release announcing the award, which was one of 12 in the district, which you can read here:


And as one might expect, they also posted a notice of the award on the school’s website. Curiously, though, that mention was yanked a long time ago. You don’t suppose it had anything to do with claims by the union of “untruths and inaccuracies” in the application and a subsequent investigation, do you? Nah, can’t be. Must be some technical error.

The administration and the school board have successfully completed their goal of diffusing the controversy by delaying the inquiry, creating a scapegoat, and refusing to make any public comment about the scandal, despite the fact that the superintendent’s signature was on the application. He signed off on the “untruths and inaccuracies” and was punished by the board for his role by receiving a review grade of “exceptional” and receiving a lot more money.

Everything is pushed into one convenient pile, which has been neatly swept under the district rug.

Except for one loose end. Oh, yes, there are some parents and a few activists who know the truth, but the district knows their interest will fade over time. The memories they can’t erase are those of the Mariners’ teachers – you know, those people the district claims to care so much about.

Plenty of teachers had a front row seat at this drama and many of them did not like what they saw. Maybe they liked the eventual scapegoat, maybe they didn’t, but either way, they know that she was not the only administrator responsible for this mess. Among others, they know that three people from the county signed off on the application and they know that the super did, too.

So, try as the admin might to re-write Mariners’ history, or erase it, there is a living legacy of what really went down.

If the superintendent had the right moral compass, he’d own his part and take the lead in returning the award. He’s visit the school and tell teachers he is sorry.

But he won’t. The mindset of weak leadership is that strong people never apologize. Strong people never give their critics any ammunition.

The fact is that strong, confident leaders know that more than anything else, setting a good example is the best way to get everyone to act in the manner they’d like. So when you stifle, stall, and stymie an investigation, when you refuse to clean up the mess you made, when you don’t have the backs of the people who work for you, you’re going to get a team of people who will act accordingly.

Teachers are not robots. They are hard-working, bright people who expect high standards of conduct from the administration. What they have seen from the district in the last few years, however, is series of examples of how not to behave.

They can erase a website mention, but they will never erase teacher memories of this tragedy.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD