When the Mariners Gold Ribbon scandal first broke, there was a coalition of teachers, parents, and community members who were outraged that such a thing could happen at such a good school.

In response, the school board club and the administration quickly went to work to do what they have always done in times of crisis: Arrange the smoke and mirrors to look and sound like they are taking action when in reality they are just putting out another brush fire.

There were meetings, statements, and even an investigation that took nearly a year to complete – all part of the stall, stifle, and stymie M.O.  – orchestrated by the superintendent – that has worked so well in the past. Once again, as we saw with John Caldecott’s dismissal, the fox was allowed to run the henhouse.

In the end, the principal took the fall for everything and resigned, that being the lesser of two bad options. The report and the scandal have not been mentioned at a school board club meeting by any of the trustees, preferring instead to let others get their hands dirty.

So, away goes the scandal, wiped clean from the school’s website and filed neatly with the prom draft, the CdM break-in, the Estancia pole debacle, and more, including the Swun Math controversy.

Except for one teensy detail – a permanent record filed with the Orange County Dept. of Education that will always be available for interested parties to see – a not-so-small footnote in what could have been an opportunity to show leadership but revealed instead the depths to which the school board club and the administration will go to protect their image.

That detail?… The superintendent signed the Gold Ribbon application for Mariners.

In the real world – the one in which most of operate where mistakes are answered to a greater or lesser degree with consequences – the superintendent would have been called upon to explain why he signed an application filled with 16 incidents of what the teacher union called “untruths and inaccuracies.”

The answer can be only one of four possibilities:

  1. He did not read the application and confirm the contents
  2. He read it and took everything as gospel
  3. He read it and knew it contained errors but signed it anyway
  4. He was forced to sign it

Pick one. Doesn’t matter which one you choose, they are all bad. But instead of being called before the board to explain why he signed the application, the school board chose to give him a raise and rate his performance as “exceptional.”

The scandal may be gone in the minds of most people in Newport-Mesa. But there is some solace in knowing that at least a few people know the truth and that the superintendent knows he did not fool all of the people this time.

Ranting and Raving

In the eight days since club member Vicki Snell told meeting attendees that she was being paid only about $400 a month (conveniently forgetting to mention her generous health insurance coverage) and did not appreciate criticism (my take), I have received numerous private messages from readers who are flat out appalled and disgusted (my words again) with Snell’s outburst, which was supported by applause from fellow club member Dana Black.

OK, so Snell can’t take the heat and should get out of the kitchen. But there’s more behind what she said.

About two weeks before Snell’s bad PR move, Oklahoma congressman Markwayne Mullin told his constituents at a town hall meeting that that the idea that they pay his salary is “bull****.”

“You say you pay for me to do this,” Mullin said. “Bull****. I pay for myself. I paid enough taxes before I got [to Congress] and continue to through my company to pay my own salary. This is a service. No one here pays me to go.”

These are two examples of the mindset of public servants who believe they are doing us a favor by occupying their posts. And because they feel under-compensated, they also feel justified in doing things the way they want which, in the case of the N-MUSD, is not always in the best interests of taxpayers.

These people need to find other things to do with their time. We need public servants who understand and emphasize the term “servants” – not people who believe we are grateful for their presence in whatever bureaucracy of which they are a part.

The 21st [C]entury Way

Activist and parent Erica Roberts finally received the internal documents she requested from the district – a stack of paper 8″ high.


Now combine that image with what occurs at every school board club meeting: The entire well-compensated cabinet sitting at their tables taking notes, not with a tablet or laptop, but with a pen and paper.

The district has been pushing for students to be competitive in the “global economy,” the “21st [C]entury economy” or whatever it is being called these days. But until the district starts walking the walk, it’s talk. Roberts’ documents should have been put on a thumb drive, which would have saved time, taxpayer dollars and part of a tree. Instead, they were handed over the old-fashioned way.

The cabinet is doing the same thing, month after month, laboriously writing and presumably transferring needed notes to a… computer. So, you ask, if some or all of those notes are going to be entered into a computer, doesn’t it make sense to be more efficient and enter them into a computer as they are being written?

Of course. But there you go again using that “logic” stuff.

And besides, they’re not being compensated enough for you to tell them what to do.

Steve Smith
N-MUSD Taxpayer