Recap: In a rambling statement at the school board club meeting of April 25, club member Vicki Snell complained about the lack of respect she is receiving as an elected official – a volunteer – who serves the residents of Newport-Beach and Costa Mesa. Snell complained about her low compensation relative to the time she is spending but did not mention that she is receiving generous health benefits and that she used approximately $21,000 of family money to secure a position that pays her roughly $450 a month.

So… Fast forward to Tuesday night’s meeting. Here’s what disrespect really looks like:


This is a picture of superintendent Frederick Navarro ignoring parent Erica Roberts during Roberts’ thee minutes of comments Tuesday night. Roberts has led the charge to get the district to change the elementary math program. Before Roberts’ involvement, teacher and parent comments to the district about the many errors in the existing program fell on deaf ears.

Roberts, with a big assist from her husband, Jeff, started demanding answers and accountability from an administration and a school board club that was not used to being questioned. Along the way, the Roberts’ probably did not make a lot of friends in the admin or on the board, but making friends wasn’t the goal: They wanted a new math program.

In return for their many hours of research and activism, elementary students in the district are being rescued from a math program that raised teacher eyebrows early in its launch. In return for all that time and effort, Roberts last night got the cold shoulder from the superintendent, as she usually does. He barely acknowledged her during her comments.

To an administration and a school board club that doesn’t like interference from outsiders, the Roberts are not saviors, they are an annoyance.

At the conclusion of an update on the math program evolution, there was a slide thanking all those who were involved in this massive undertaking. It was a thoughtful nod to a deserving group of people. But I could not help but feel that the list should have included Erica and Jeff Roberts.

The parents, taxpayers, teachers, and students in the district owe the Roberts’ a huge “Thank you!” for what they have done. That’s not why the Roberts did it, but they deserve it anyway.

Other People’s Money

One under-reported agenda item is 16.d, which is “Adopt Resolution No. 40-05-17 Regarding Layoff of Classified Employees.”

In the background section,  the agenda item reads “Classified employees can be laid off for lack of work or lack of funds. This resolution includes relevant education codes and services to be reduced or eliminated.”

The Governing Board of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District has determined that the following positions be abolished for lack of work and/or lack of funds pursuant to California Education Code sections 45117 and 45308:

Classification Title                   No. of Positions       FTE
Instructional Assistant                       2                   0.375
Reading Resource Technician           1                   0.450

According to a knowledgeable source, this means that three positions may be eliminated. Two of them work about 13-15 hours a week and one of them works about 16-18 hours a week. Combined, that’s about 45 hours a week.

The classified employees are the people who make the trains run on time. They drive district buses, maintain facilities, work in food service, provide safety services, and perform many other important tasks.

If there is a specific compelling reason why 45 hours a week of classified work needed to be cut, I am not aware of it. But that’s not the worst part.

The worst part is reading this agenda item and watching it pass while on the same agenda, the district is approving item 16.a, which is to adopt a resolution “Recognizing May 21-27, 2017 Classified School Employee Week.”

Why didn’t any member of the overpaid brain trust see how hypocritical this is? Why didn’t one of them say, “Hey, maybe we should wait until a June board meeting to float the reduction in hours resolution?”

Maybe one of them did. Maybe one of them did and decided that they were going to do it anyway. Either way it is bad. Combining those two resolutions on the same agenda is insulting to the many hard-working classified employees in the district.

But wait, there’s more!

As if cutting classified hours just before recognition week weren’t enough, there is agenda item 15.a.8. Make sure you are sitting down.

15.a.8 reads, “It is recommended that the Board of Education approve an increase to the budget allocation for Harbottle Law Group for legal services and authorize the Acting Chief Business Official to execute as approved.”

Here’s the rationale: “Due to the complexity of ongoing hearings for Special Education, it has become necessary to increase the budget allocation an additional $200,000, bringing the 2016-17 budget allocation to $425,000, to cover the legal expenses involved in these hearings.  Costs involved in Special Education hearings cover a variety of legal expenses such as; research of laws regarding Special Education students, preparation and review of documents, collection of student records or correspondence by attorneys on behalf of district and clients.” 

Yeah, $425,000 more for a year of legal fees. It’s a good time to be a lawyer for the N-MUSD.

So while the school board club is heaping raises on the superintendent and spending a lot more of your money on lawyers, they’re cutting classified hours.

Business as usual on Bear St.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD