There is a growing number of people in Newport-Mesa who don’t understand a couple of things about the way the school board operates.

The first is how they can award the superintendent an additional $34,450 (Merry Christmas!) and rate his performance “exceptional” when there is a mountain of mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility on his watch.

The second thing they don’t understand is how the school board doesn’t see what they see. The latest example is the announcement of the superintendent’s undeserved bonus, followed in the same breath by the news that there isn’t enough money to finish the swimming pool at Estancia.

You connected the dots right away, but the seven members of the board did not. They didn’t even have the smarts to put some distance between these two announcements so that the community would have forgotten about one while reading about the other.

This is the most poorly run administration I have witnessed in the 31 years I have lived here. Beyond the lack of accountability, the fiscal irresponsibility, and the absent transparency is the sheer arrogance of doing what they want without regard to the consequences or public opinion.

We saw it during the process to draw new area boundaries in the selection of Mystery Map G, which was not favored by those in the know and we just saw it again in the decision to adopt the so-called “collegiate calendar” without a single shred of evidence that it would improve academic performance or enhance the lives of students, parents, and teachers.

That evidence would have been easy to get. All it would have taken was a few brief interviews with school districts that have adopted the calendar to learn how it has been positive for the aforementioned constituencies. Four or five 15-20 minute interviews probably would have sufficed.

But they didn’t bother to gather any evidence because it didn’t matter: The fix was in on this new calendar from day one and providing solid proof was just a waste of time. As with all of the other fake community meetings and phony committees set up to do the superintendent’s bidding, doing the heavy lifting for taxpayers was not on the radar.

The bottom line – and the bad news – is that we are responsible for electing the seven current members of the board.

The good news is that four seats are up for grabs next year: Franco, Davenport, Metoyer, and Yelsey. Here is what we know so far:

Franco: Not running. There is the possibility that she will quit early so that the school board can hand pick a successor who will then be able to post “school board member” on the ballot. If they do, they’ll go through the motions with fake interviews just as they did with Snell.

Yelsey: Hasn’t said whether she is running, but it would be one of the great hypocritical moments in district history if she does: It was Yelsey who declared in her initial 2006 campaign that 12 years as a school board member is enough. (She also decried the rubber stamping, but that’s another column.)

Davenport: Has not declared. Davenport should not run. He is the school board’s Clarence Thomas – rarely saying anything and never making any recommendations for improvement. When I ran for a school board seat in 2014, I asked many people about his presence in the area and he was best described as a “ghost.” He now qualifies for the supreme health care benefit so perhaps he’ll move on. The Westside schools deserve better.

Metoyer: Has not declared. Also should not run. She has brought nothing to the party and cannot find the courage to ask the tough questions or challenge recommendations. Of course, there is always the possibility that she doesn’t know the questions…

BTW, if you want to call or text the school board members to express your outrage over the superintendent’s bonus, the Estancia pool fiasco, or any of the other bunglings, here are their direct lines as listed on the district’s website:

Metoyer cell: 714-313-7257
Snell cell (Hey, that rhymes!): 714-904-1253
Fluor cell: 949-933-4151
Black cell: 714-390-8247
Davenport: cell: 714-404-6333
Franco home: 949-675-2603
Yelsey cell: 949-500-4051

The super’s bonus, the Estancia pool, sewage smell, and baseball poles, Swun Math, the prom draft, the Timothy Lai grade hacking attempt, the bloated bureaucracy, the hostile work environment lawsuit by two former respected employees, the firing of whistleblower John Caldecott, rats in schools, failing schools (83% of the 11th graders at Estancia failed to meet state math standards), Paying an executive not to retire, big, bloated, do-nothing bureaucracy, toxic work environment that has teachers afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation, third world conditions at CM High/Middle, the Mystery Map adoption, converting to a new calendar with no scientific support, and more.

This is what passes for “exceptional” in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Now more than ever, we need new people on the board.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD