Time seems to be of great importance to the school board club. The three minutes allotted to each member of the public is supposed to be applied to everyone, but there are many instances – some of which have been noted here – in which speakers have gone on far past the three-minute mark.

Allowing someone to go past the limit is at the discretion of the club president.

Last night, there was a discussion about changing the rules regarding public speakers. Should they be allowed to cede time to someone else? If they speak on an agenda item, should they be forced to wait for that item to come up on the agenda? And more.

These discussions amount to fiddling while Rome burns – hand-wringing and worry about the wrong things. Want to stop the policy of ceding time to someone else? Fine. Go ahead. In all the board meetings I’ve ever attended, it has happened so few times that it is not worth mentioning.

But the school board club thinks it’s a big deal so it got agenda time.

Meetings will also end at 10:30 p.m. instead of 11. As if that ever mattered.

$8K for Birds and Fish

There was also a lot of time spent on the district’s new logo. Here are the options presented:



After seeing these options, there was a lengthy discussion on the symbolism and a reading of the definition of a brand by club member Martha Fluor, who also wondered about how the logo would appear on their lapel pins.

Club member Judy Franco likes the starfish that is currently on their business cards.

Club member Dana Black tried to get her colleagues to present the new logo options to the community for input but she did not succeed. For this, we need community input. For all the other pressing matters, we do not.

And – make sure you’re seated – club member Walt Davenport spoke on the logo issue. Silent on just about everything else for as long as I can remember, Davenport chose this extremely important matter to offer his two cents.

I like the font they chose, though the tracking (space between the letters) on the non-hyphenated version is too much. The graphics, however, miss the mark. I guess one is supposed to be birds soaring up in the sky and the other is supposed to be a digital school of fish, though I can’t be sure.

In forsaking all of the traditional graphic elements of a district logo, they have come up with options that need to be explained. And that’s the rule: If you have to explain it, it’s wrong.

This is not surprising, though. This is a topic so important that a committee of concerned citizens was formed to discuss what the logo should look like to provide guidance to the agency that created it. The committee should have consisted of two people: A graphic artist and the school board club president. Instead, taxpayers got the proof of the old adage about the camel: A horse that was designed by a committee.

And get this: The debate on this super-important topic was so intense that the final vote was 4-3 in favor.

So while legal fees rise and accountability for a disastrous math program remains elusive, among other things, the school board club found this to be worthy of a public committee and division among the ranks.

Recommendation to the club: You may think this is a big deal, but it’s not. Pick one and let’s move on.

Oh, and there was a phrase on the screen around this time that I wrote down but haven’t a clue as to what it was connected to.  The phrase is “relationship-driven school communities.”

I have no clue as to what that is. Just another example of edu-speak.

Speaking Up and Speaking Out

I spoke last night. This is what I said:

“Mrs. Snell, two meetings ago, you complained about a lack of respect for some or all of the trustees.

Here’s another story about disrespect. This is the story about a parent in this district who has spent hundreds of hours and sacrificed critical family time to replace a math program none of you questioned when serious problems arose shortly after it was implemented. And she has done this without getting a six-figure salary or $450 a month and a generous health plan.

But in response to all of her hard work and persistence, she has been ignored and insulted, her records requests have been delayed for months, and she has been forced to jump through so many hoops that most people in this room would have given up a long time ago.

Instead Erica Roberts kept pushing, and finally, there is progress. Without her persistence, there is a very good chance that our students and teachers would be suffering under the old math program this fall.

“You may not like Mrs. Roberts. You may not like the way she works. Maybe it’s not the way you would do it or the way you’d like to have it done. You may think that she is a pest or a nuisance. But to thousands of students, teachers, and parents, she is a hero.

“Despite countless opportunities, not one of you has taken time to publicly acknowledge what she has done or thank her for all her hard work. Instead, you focused on whether she was speaking for three minutes.

“I suggest that if anyone on this board or in the administration wants to get respect, start earning it tonight by donating part of your comments time to thank her for what she has accomplished on behalf of the elementary school kids, and their teachers and parents.

 “Thank you.”

No one took me up on my recommendation to thank Erica Roberts, and I did not expect them to. School board club meetings are carefully orchestrated to avoid any dissension (the logo debate was a rare exception) or bad news. This is a group that had to come kicking and screaming to area representation (and called it a “shakedown”), they are coming kicking and screaming to term limits, and they came kicking and screaming to replacing the math program.

They don’t like outsiders interfering in their business, despite the rhetoric about wanting community input. Outsiders only mess things up. So when Erica Roberts – with a big assist from her husband, Jeff – started sticking her nose in the math issue, it was met with the usual stall, stifle, and stymie.

Roberts was the catalyst for replacing the current math program, but her work has been scrubbed clean from all presentations and comments. In the end, as with so many other events, the new math program will be the brainstorm of a forward-thinking administration.

The rest of us know the truth.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD