I’ve been saying “drain the swamp.” Perhaps you like “time to clean house.” Your preference for a summary of the need for new faces and new attitudes on the N-MUSD board is your choice, the bottom line is that we get it done.

You know the drill – I’ve been writing about it here and in the Daily Pilot for so long that three presidents have served in the White House. Nothing has changed since I started writing about the mismanagement of your tax dollars. The rubber-stamping, the bungling, and the arrogance are still part of the district’s DNA. If you need recent examples of the arrogance, look at the bus that was set up to take Costa Mesa’s Westside Latino residents to an Area boundary meeting that affects them the most. Look at the reason for these meetings – many years of stiff-arming the California Voting Rights Act and being forced to change things only when the threat of a major lawsuit came about.

Look at the process: These are not “meetings,” they are being called “public hearings,” – a matter of semantics being used so that trustees do not have to participate. Imagine… What is arguably the biggest decision in the history of the school district and the trustees declined to take questions or have discussions at any of the meetings.

Look at the map that will be approved tomorrow (more on that meeting below), a map whose suspicious origin was originally raised not by me, but by a growing collection of people like me who are fed up.

Look at the huge waste of money to erect poles with netting at Estancia’s baseball field without checking with neighbors to see if it was a good idea. And why were the poles and netting needed? Because the school board rubber-stamped the position of solar panels, which just happened to be located in prime foul ball territory, causing damage to the expensive panels.

Look at the enormous amount of money spent on legal fees – so much of which could have been avoided through even slightly better leadership.

Look at Swun Math – a program so bad that teachers denied their usual fear of retaliation by the district and spoke up for years about major flaws. It was only until a dedicated group of parents provided additional support that the board had to scrap the program. That took years and even now, the process is not complete.

Look at the stink at Estancia that has been going on so long that my 25-year-old son remembers it when he was at the school. People complained and some got sick but the district did nothing.

Look at the recent musical instrument scandal – a situation so disgusting that some media outlets still cannot describe it exactly. Who ordered those instruments or chose to participate in the program? Has this person received any disciplinary action?

Look at the firing of whistleblower John Caldecott. Look at the notice for many of the “special sessions” which have been posted just 24 hours prior – the minimum required by law. Look at rats at CM and Newport Harbor High Schools.

Look at authorizing payments to a former district official so he wouldn’t retire, using the excuse that no one else could do as good a job. But according to the public comments from the board members, we seem to be doing just fine without that guy. So, where do we go to get our tax dollars back?

Look at the “F” the board gets in communication. Google anything related to “keys to a successful school district” and one item is sure to be “community involvement.” Taxpayers don’t get community involvement here, they get a district that holds public hearings or community meetings just for show – going through the motions so they can claim they are reaching out to the community. The truth is that they don’t really care what you have to say. If they did, none of aforementioned issues would have happened.

There is so much more. I could write for another 30 minutes about the board’s bungling, mismanagement, and lack of accountability and I still would not be done.

So, Vicki Snell, before you begin another failed attempt to pin the Estancia swimming pool disaster on me, or blame me for the poor performance at Adams Elementary because I never took a tour (A recent independent analysis: “Test scores at this school are about the same as the state average, though still below the top-performing schools in the state. Because test scores in some states are so low, many students at this school may not be performing at grade level.”), or before you try to put the monkey on my back for whatever else is wrong, address each of the issues I’ve listed and tell us why you did nothing.

Tell us why you chose to be on the board if you’re not going to bring any new ideas to the district or consistently raise your hand and question that which is presented to you. Tell us why you are better than just staying at home and allowing the secretary to automatically record your “yes” votes on nearly everything that has been presented to you.

You won’t tell us because you can’t. There is no defense for allowing students and teachers to become sick at school, or subjecting our youngest students to a failed math program for years, or for any of the other major issues in the district. You won’t tell us because you never learned that good leadership means taking ownership of mistakes. Instead, you used valuable board time last April to complain about the lack of respect you were receiving – respect you deserved because you are only making a few hundred bucks a month plus health care coverage to rubber-stamp everything.

(And you conveniently forgot to mention that you used approximately $21,000 of your own money to secure a position that pays her roughly $450 a month.)

The time has long passed for point out all of this, for noting the arrogance, the absurdity, the irony, the bungling, and the lack of accountability. We need new people on the school board. We need to clean house, drain the swamp, get a new broom to sweep it clean, or whatever you wish to call it. There are four seats up for grabs next year.

Two Superintendents

On August 22, Supt. Frederick Navarro fell and he has not returned to his desk. Moments after Navarro’s fall, the school board gave deputy Russell Lee-Sung a raise in pay that amounted to the difference between his wages and Navarro’s. The thought was that if he is going to act as the super, he should be paid for it.

I took issue with this at the time, arguing that in the private sector, this would not happen: When the no. 1 person is out, no. 2 steps in. That’s it.

But now, nearly two months and the wisdom of hindsight later, it has dawned on me that the board acted so swiftly giving Lee-Sung the raise because they knew Navarro’s condition was serious.

Taxpayers wouldn’t know because there has been no update on Navarro’s condition. At the very least, there should be a notice on the website. Well, Steve, what would you have done? Easy: I would post a notice on the website telling taxpayers his status. You can do that without violating any HIPAA or confidentiality rules. And I would have created a message board for him to receive well wishes from the community.

But the school board is so used to burying anything even close to controversial that they cannot think this way. Everything is scrutinized for damage control. What little communication does emerge is so scrubbed that it borders on the absurd, such as the late notification last year that a custodian died in an accident at TeWinkle. The official statement noted that he had “passed away.”

The superintendent (the real one) will be paid for a long time, having accumulated sick days for many years. This is not a bad thing. The superintendent, apparently, is very sick and that’s what this money is for.

The Almost-Secret Meeting

Tomorrow night at 6 p.m., the school board is holding a special meeting to approve Map G as the new Area Boundary map. That’s not what it says on the agenda, but that’s what is going to happen. I am as sure of that as I am that the sun will rise tomorrow morning.

But, you ask, isn’t it kind of soon? I mean, Steve, they just held the last public meeting only 8 days prior to the meeting tomorrow night. How can they make such an important decision without deliberating at length and in public? And how come they aren’t voting on this at the next regular board meeting, which is only 7 days away?

My answer: Start at the top of this blog and read again.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD