That’s what school board club member Martha Fluor wants to know. Channeling her inner Vicki Snell, Fluor wasn’t feeling the love and wondered last night where were you when she ran unopposed all those times and sacrificed birthdays, anniversaries, and other personal events to devote herself to improving education for the students in the district and how dare you bring your term limits stuff here when I’ve been working so hard for you for so long.

In an effort to combat the growing sentiment toward establishing term limits, she wondered for about 10 minutes, providing a 20-year history of each election, focusing mostly on the school board members who ran unopposed. It was as furious a commentary as I’ve ever seen on the dais.

But it fell on deaf ears. Those remaining in the audience who are not employed by the school district had little sympathy for Fluor, just as they had little sympathy for Snell when she channeled her inner Rodney Dangerfield and told us back in April how she don’t get no respect.

Three club members made it clear that they support term limits. Snell and Charlene Metoyer are OK with 12 years. Karen Yelsey would like to see term limits of 16 years, despite advocating 12 year term limits when she first ran for office 11 years ago. So, do the math: Yelsey supported term limits of 12 years, minus the eleven years she has been in office – two minus one… – and, OMG! she is up for re-election next year. Yes, 16 years would suit her just fine.

Back to Fluor. The rant was interesting from a psychological or sociological perspective, but it had little to do with the value or point of term limits. The school board club’s inability to connect the dots is astounding. Seven otherwise intelligent people who simply cannot understand or appreciate why all of this is happening at this time.

And after all of that, Fluor said, “I’m OK with term limits, but somebody has to show up.” [somebody has to run for office]

So, in the end, that rant was just a way for her to let off some steam.

“Why now” is the question they should be asking, individually or collectively. They will be unable to answer it themselves – the forest for the trees thing – so they need to ask some of the people who pushing hard for term limits. They should seek out these people and have an honest discussion not about whether term limits are good or bad, which was the focus last night, but “why now?” Why not ten years ago, or even five? Why now? I’m happy to have that thoughtful discussion with any club member or anyone else in the administration.

Term limits are not about Martha Fluor, or Vicki Snell or any of the other club members. OK, you’re a nice person who devotes a lot of time and whatever. Great. Thank you. Despite all that, we still want term limits.

Why now?

She’s Ba-ack

One of the highlights for me was the return of former Trustee Wendy Leece, who last served over ten years ago. Under the new “Roberts Rules” of speaking at the club meetings, Leece offered her thoughts on three separate occasions, eclipsed, I believe, only by N-MFT president Britt Dowdy, who strode to the podium four times.

Here’s another history lesson. Leece served for eight years, which is what she now advocates for term limits. During that time, her trustee colleagues treated her with disdain and disrespect, going as far as to pass over her for board president when it would have been the traditional time for her to serve.

They didn’t like Leece because she held views that were not in sync with the rest of the board. They did not like Leece because she did her homework and came prepared to meetings and had the audacity to question staff presentations. I distinctly recall one of her colleagues rolling her eyes at the start of yet another Leece question.

When Leece was on the board, 6-1 votes were common.

Leece made the meetings run longer that 90 or so minutes and they didn’t like that, either. (Note to Yelsey: Your new speaking format? It’s making your meetings run longer, not shorter. But that’s what you get when you enact rules to punish one person instead of thinking about the greater good.)

When Leece speaks, there is credibility, regardless of whether you agree with her, and I did not agree with her on a few key issues, notably the tax generated by the first bond floated in 2000.

I respect Leece because she worked hard, communicated well, and was not looking for anyone to pin a medal on her.

Butt out

In an apparent effort to deep-six the whole term limits idea, the superintendent spoke on the subject, offering that term limits would not do anything to promote diversity on the board.

Another one who doesn’t get it.

Connect the dots, again. Let’s see, the board has just responded to a threatened lawsuit by switching to area representation. Now, the public is overwhelmingly supporting term limits.

Why now?

Connect the dots.

Unsolicited advice to the superintendent: Stay quiet on the issue.

Bits and pieces

  • Due to the number of people wanting to speak on term limits, the allotted time per person was cut to two minutes. During one of the club member ramblings, more than one person in the audience yelled, “Two minutes!”
  • Charlene Metoyer and Vicki Snell committed to serving no more than 12 years. Don’t take that to the bank – Yelsey wanted 12 years, too.
  • Snell downplayed the recent survey in which 95% of the respondents supported term limits. Snell said, “I don’t like surveys.” A short time later, the district’s attorney recommended a survey.
  • The attorney was there for hours. If he is a partner, he makes $265 an hour. If he’s an associate, he makes $225 an hour. When he got up to speak on term limits, he read some background information that anyone could have downloaded from the Internet. Later on, he provided some important clarity, but that took less than five minutes. But you paid big bucks for those few moments.
  • Why did he need to be there? Didn’t anyone think about saving hundreds of tax dollars by patching him in remotely when he was needed for those few minutes instead of paying him to sit and wait? That technology is ancient and it could have and should have been used last night. But then, save for money man Jeff Trader, all of the cabinet is still taking notes by hand.
  • When speakers were limited to two minutes a surprising number used far less. A few went over a bit and club president Yelsey allowed them a few more seconds to finish, as she should have. Well, except for one speaker. The moment that time was up – at 121 seconds – Yelsey asked speaker Erica Roberts to stop. That’s what Roberts gets for having the audacity to force the district to change its elementary math program.

Petty is as petty does.

Dollars and Sense

Speaking of money and Mr. Trader… Last night, the 2017-18 budget was presented. It’s a thick book that details where the money comes from (you) and where it goes. In his executive summary, Trader wrote, “With all of it considered, I’m pleased to reiterate Mr. Paul Reed’s mantra that we are ‘solvent and moving forward.'”

Trader also got praise heaped on him for his assistance in the development of the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP).

Apparently, Trader is doing a good job. So, why, you may be asking, did the board pay former finance guy Reed a lot of your money so he wouldn’t retire? Good question. The answer is term limits.

Past performance is… you know the rest

True to form, every vote last night was 7-0. And after all that discussion, there was no decision on term limits.

That’s in keeping with what I recently wrote about making sure that the district gets credit for any new idea, innovation, or policy change.

Term limits were not on the agenda last night because the school board club woke up last week and thought, “Gosh! We should be discussing term limits!” No, the subject was on the agenda because people demanded it.

The school board club doesn’t like that. They don’t like to be told what to do and would rather put some distance between uproar and action so that the change seems like it was their idea. We just saw it with the elementary math program and we’re seeing it again with term limits.

But term limits are not a math program. Term limits would mean a fundamental change in the status quo and this bureaucracy works very hard to keep things just the way they are, thank you very much.

So don’t look for any epiphany or moment of clarity on term limits. If term limits do make the ballot, the club will take their ball and go home by making them 16 years instead of 12 or 8.

Outta here

I left the meeting at 9:45 when the club member comments began. Not only did I not want to hear about all the wonderful and exciting things the club members have seen and done in the three weeks since they told us about the last batch of wonderful and exciting things, I could not stomach the thought of listening to more than two minutes of it, which is what was allotted to term limits speakers last night.

Trustees: Walk your talk. Limit your comments to three minutes. Two would be even better.

My answer to Martha Fluor

Mrs. Fluor, here’s where I have been: For over 15 years, I have been writing about and attending school board meetings. I ran for a seat on the school board in 2014, spent about $4,000 and got 33% of the vote.

I have been writing this blog for three years and have made countless recommendations for improvement, some of which, I have been told, have been quietly implemented.

I have a full work schedule. I manage a 4-bedroom home, commit time to the city (just applied for a another committee position), and have made myself available to meet with anyone at anytime if it will help the city or the district.

I have NEVER expected anything in return – not money, praise, or even a “thank you.” I do it because it’s the example I want to set for my kids, because I want to help those less fortunate, and because it’s just the right thing to do.

When you first ran for office, all you wanted was to do the right thing, too. I truly believe that. But lately, the seat is getting hotter. Things are changing, and some of those things are not in your control. It’s frustrating – I get that.

But at the end of the day, it’s not about what we want or why we’re doing this. We serve others, and glady. And if there comes a time when we see events moving faster than we can keep up, that’s the time to step aside.

This is not a resignation request. It’s just a way, hopefully, to get you to understand that more than ever, your experience and expertise are needed to help guide the district to the next phase in its development.

We don’t need that Martha Fluor that showed up last night. We need the Martha Fluor who is the only current board member who ever asks critical questions or consistently provides worthy perspectives that are valuable to the decision-making process; the Martha Fluor who has earned a reputation as a devoted and concerned public servant.

We need the help of that Martha Fluor now, more than ever.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD