Most readers are unaware of the details of the Swun Math program in the district, that is, how and why it got here, why it took years to dump, and why it is still hanging on by a thread.

Which leads me to this: The school board is not always given the information they need to make an informed decision. Their blind faith in the administration, in this case, has resulted in countless students, parents, and teachers suffering with this program for years.

That’s not a defense of the board – they should have been asking substantive questions but they did not. Why? Because they counted on the wrong people to tell them what they needed to know and because it is not in their DNA to question the actions or recommendations of the staff. Ultimately, though, the buck stops at their desks.

Which leads me to this: This morning, I thought seriously about reaching out to a particular board member to meet to offer some information that may make a difference in the decision-making process. But I have not and will not because it won’t matter. It just won’t matter.

Which leads me to this: I can write until doomsday about the district’s failings but it won’t matter. Nothing will change. The only way to end the cycle of this entrenched bureaucracy and effect meaningful change (greater transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility) is to elect new people to the board next year. Not just anyone, but people who understand the core issues and who are not afraid to challenge the status quo.

Symptoms vs. Problems

Swun Math is a problem, but it is also a symptom of a greater problem, which is the failure of the school board and the administration to listen to the teacher-student-parent community.

Last Tuesday, it was again the failure of the school board to listen to the community – a committee hand-picked by the superintendent to deliver an area map recommendation – when they suggested a map different from the one that was chosen. So why form the map advisory committee and waste all that time? Because it was all for show.

This is for show, too: Last month, the district held another community input meeting. The announcement read: “The Newport-Mesa Unified School District is currently seeking input from the TeWinkle Middle School community regarding the qualities and attributes you would like to see in the next school principal.”

No one in the district reads these silly announcements, all they do is change the name of the school and post the notice. And what is so different about the “qualities and attributes” we’d like from school to school? Nothing. You could take the original community input from a similar meeting of ten years ago for another school and you’d find that what the community wanted then is what they want now.

Still, they go through the motions. Why? Because there is no real leadership, that’s why, there is only bureaucracy. Bureaucrats will do what they have always done until someone tells them to do it differently, but no one is telling them to do it differently. And no one is going to stick their neck out to recommend change or question anything because they know what happened to John Caldecott when he did that.

Another Recommendation!

A better community meeting would have been to get input on why academic performance at TeWinkle in 2017 is worse than it was in 2016. The Smarter Balanced percentage of all students who did not meet the standards in 2016 for English and math are 42% and 58%. This year, they are 59% and 69%. Big differences. But is there anything being done to change the trend? No. A new principal is not the answer. It may help, but ultimately, the person chosen will be someone who will be certain to avoid rocking the boat.

Perhaps instead of spending time on Facebook trying to discredit her critics, or at least one of them, Trustee Vicki Snell – in whose area TeWinkle is located – can spend the time organizing that TeWinkle academic performance meeting. Or, how about this: At the school board meeting next Tuesday, how about asking the highly-paid bureaucrats why TeWinkle is going backward?

The bottom line (once again): Nothing will change until there are new people on the board. There are four seats open next year. Thanks to the new area voting process, challengers have a far better chance. If you are interested in running, or know someone who is interested, please contact me – There are people, including me, who can help get you/them off to a good start.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-USD