Area representation is supposed to help increase ethnic diversity on the board. There are other benefits, but the whole thing came about because Costa Mesa is about one-third Latino and there has never been a Latino trustee.

Area representation is not likely to change that and I expressed this to the attorney who brought the case before the board. The real problem is that people cannot afford to take time off of work to be on the school board. If trustees were paid a living wage, you’d see a lot more people running. That change has to come from Sacramento and it’s unlikely that the needle will move anytime soon. Sacramento is another bureaucracy and just like the N-MUSD, they like things just the way they are, thank you very much.

Term limits, on the other hand, are put in place to prevent complacency and there is no better example of how we will benefit from term limits than the recent Swun Math debacle.

What we now know is that problems with Swun Math were apparent early on and despite numerous complaints up and down the chain of command, nothing was done, save for a tactical approach that was the equivalent of Whack-A-Mole: Every time some mistake was uncovered – and there were many – the district threw money and teachers at the problem.

What should have happened – and what is more likely to take place with term limits – is a summit meeting on the program in the early stages, what a former mentor would call a “Come to Jesus” meeting.

What happened instead was nothing. Inaction. Complacency. It was not until parents Erica and Jeff Roberts took up the cause that the serious discussions began. Swun Math will no longer be taught through the fifth grade.

And I disagree with anyone who tells me that sixth grade teachers either like Swun Math or are ambivalent about dumping it. Their dislike of the program is so intense that it recently spilled over into a public setting.

I’m keeping the details of that expression of dissatisfaction to myself out of concerns of retaliation against the teacher who chose to speak up. And that’s another problem. Suffice it to say that this teacher was not alone. Not by a long shot.

So why is Swun Math still in the sixth grade? Theories abound. But a logical review tells us that it makes no sense whatsoever. If the math program is so faulty that it had to be pulled for all other elementary grades, there is no sense whatsoever in retaining it for the sixth grade. Now imagine that you are 11 years old and entering the fifth grade in an N-MUSD school in September. You will not suffer through Swun Math. But unless something changes, a year from September, you will be right back where you started.

Is this in the best interests of students? No, of course not. But for some reason, all bets are off with regard to this math program. The trustees, who should have directed the superintendent to eliminate Swun Math from the sixth grade too, decided instead to sit on their hands.

It’s that complacency thing. Term limits won’t cure it, but they’ll help.

It’s Ba-ack

The Brown Act specifies that prior to holding a special meeting of the school board, 24 hours notice must provided to the public in certain ways.

There was a special meeting yesterday at 2:00, this one to hold an evaluation of the superintendent. The public announcement came at precisely 2:00 on Wednesday, exactly 24 hours prior to the meeting.

I showed up yesterday to protest and reminded the trustees that it was just four months ago that I showed up to protest last minute notices. I told them that this offers the impression that they do not want people to know about the meeting.

In his/their defense, the superintendent offered that the special meetings following our March exchange were held with more notice. That is true of those two meetings. But the suspicion that there was a deliberate attempt to conceal the superintendent’s evaluation is not mine alone.

I was given an explanation and I made a suggestion as to how to avoid future short notices. Do I expect anything to change? No.

At the end of my remarks I told the board that the Brown Act tells them what they must do, it does not tell them what they should do.

Here’s the link to the video:

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD