Several reputable sources, including the Center for Public Education and the American School Board Journal, state that one of the common traits of successful school boards is their genuine (my word) desire to seek and act on the desires of the community.

The N-MUSD claims to want that, too, but in many cases – too many – they have either ignored community input or failed to seek it. We have seen it recently in the selection of the new principal at Estancia, and the merry-go-round selections of principals for Mariners and Newport Coast, the latter being yet another case in which a beloved principal was transferred – this one from College Park – without notice or full explanation.

Now, the district is seeking input on the characteristics of the principal who should lead at College Park.

In each of these cases, poor leadership has led to the turmoil. Seeking community input is only a way to quiet the outrage and give parents and others the impression that their insight is welcome. It is not. In the end, the district will put in place whomever they want. I know this because I rely on the adage I’ve written many times before: Past behavior is the best predictor of future performance.

Now there is an attempt to stifle input at another level. In a reaction to recent extensive, justified criticism of the district’s elementary math program, the school board club is enacting adopt the “Roberts Rule,” which limits the number of speakers on any one agenda item at six and forbids speakers to cede time to another speaker.

Your input is not welcome, despite attempts to convince you otherwise.

What is good for the goose should be good for the gander. I’d like to see club members limit their own comments at the end of each meeting to three minutes, too, just as they ask the public to do. Nearly all of the club member comments are insignificant and unimportant – usually just a recap of community events and the the schools they visited and the shows in the classrooms that were put on while they were there. It’s boring and unproductive and is nothing more than a way for each school board member to let his or her colleagues know that they actually did something, even if that something didn’t contribute a whit to improving education.

I haven’t heard anything worthwhile from any of the club members since Karen Yelsey raised the issue of “rampant drug use” by kids in Newport Beach. That was over two years ago.

And who gets to determine who speaks during the public comments section? Apparently the current club president has that power.

Speaking of power, the new rule is an abuse of it.

You should have gone to law school

This Tuesday, the school board club will rubber stamp the approval of another $500,000 of your tax dollars in legal fees. Here’s what they make:

Rates for 7/1/2017 to 6/30/2018
Partners:  $265 per hour
Associates:  $225 per hour
Jr. Associates:  $210 per hour
Law Clerks/Paralegals:  $140.00 per hour

Rates for 7/1/2018 to 6/30/2019
Partners:  $275 per hour
Associates:  $235 per hour
Jr. Associates:  $210 per hour
Law Clerks/Paralegals:  $140 per hour

Yes, you should have gone to law school. Or even Law Clerks/Paralegals school.

All this and term limits, too.

Karen Yelsey advocated them. She supported 12 years as the limit. But now, buried at the very end of the agenda Tuesday night, when nearly all the people in attendance have either gone home or fallen asleep, the school board club will “Receive Information from District’s Legal Counsel and Provide Direction to Staff on Term Limits”

The recommended motion states, “It is recommended that the Board of Education receive information from District’s legal counsel pertaining to Board of Education term limits and give direction to staff on a proposed four term limit (16 years) service on the Board of Education.” More lawyers telling them what to do. Just think of all the tax money we’d save if we elected only lawyers to the school board…

But spending your money is not the news here. The news is that the board will support term limits of 16 years, not 12. I am sure Yelsey will express her outrage at this development. Not.

And there is this “tell” in the Comments section of the agenda item (bold print):

“The Education Code permits term limits to be established by an election.  The election is required to be held at a regularly scheduled Board election.  The election can be called either by the Board of Education or through the initiative process.  

Currently very few school districts have term limits for school board members. (Education Code reference section 35107)

That’s less a comment than a hint on how to vote on this.

The reason that very few school districts have term limits for board members is not because they have all conducted a thorough examination and determined that term limits would be detrimental, it is because the taxpayers in those districts have not raised the issue the way it is being raised here.

The mistake for the school board club would be to compare the N-MUSD with other districts when determining the fate of term limits. We are not funded like most other districts and we are more engaged than other districts.

But that “logic stuff” is often ignored when it comes to preserving the status quo in the N-MUSD.

We need term limits here. Twelve years, not 16.

Lipstick on a Pig

There is no good time to bury the capsule and reveal the logo: There is so much bad news coming out of the district for so long that anytime these things were done they would be called a distraction regardless of when they happened.While Swun Math takes a swan dive, save for the sixth-graders who must suffer with it for awhile longer, while legal fees skyrocket, while principal turmoil continues – and more – the superintendent and the school board club find it is a good time to bury a time capsule and talk up their new logo.

Right now, there is yet another worthless community process to gather input on the qualities the folks in the College Park area of Costa Mesa would like to see in a new principal.

What was wrong with the old principal? Nothing. But for a reason known only to a few who will never tell, she was transferred.


The district will do what they want, not what the community wants, as they did recently at Mariners and as they did at Estancia. Still, they have to put on the dog-and-pony shows for the sake of appearance.

And when we think about it, do we really need a discussion on the qualities or characteristics of a new principal? Why aren’t we just looking for someone with the same characteristics as the best principals in the district. Or, we could use the Boy Scouts as a model and look for someone who is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”

Back to the distractions… Note to public speakers: If you’re going to speak outside, do not wear sunglasses unless you’ve got early stage glaucoma or have recently had eye surgery.Logo 2

That’s the new logo behind the superintendent. Not really sure what those darts are supposed to represent – birds, perhaps, or as Trustee Martha Fluor said in a recent Daily Pilot article, maybe they’re boomerangs. In the Pilot story, district spokesperson Annette Franco said that the icons “could be viewed as ‘arrows, fish or birds,’ she said, but it’s meant to symbolize individuals working together toward a common goal.”

Here’s what I know: This “common goal” theme could apply to any organization or business. It is terribly generic and fails to do what the icons in a logo are supposed to do. The icons in the new logo should have had some relationship to or representation of education.

Oh, and they should have bought a tag line, too.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD