If I had to boil down all of the comments I have received over the years, whether it was from my Daily Pilot column or this blog, the summarization would be astonishment over a school district that goes along its merry way with little or no regard to costs or perceptions.
And I tell them the same thing every time: “They don’t care what you think. And they keep operating this way because they know that few people care about school stuff.”
But people do care about waste and they care about how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent.
Which brings us to a discussion of the latest scheduled school board meeting. No, it’s not the regular one next Tuesday at 6 p.m. That’s the twice-monthly dog-and-pony show that has been on the calendar for months.
The new meeting is tomorrow at 8 a.m. Notice of this meeting was posted on Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. Who wants to bet me a Bronx Bomber pizza at Sgt. Pepperoni’s that they knew about this meeting for at least a couple of weeks? How do I know? Easy: That’s the way it has been in the past and past behavior is the best predictor of future performance.
Ah, but there’s a problem. If you go to the district website and move your cursor to Jan. 11 (tomorrow), you will see information on a fake community meeting about fencing at Mariners, but you won’t see any information about the secret meeting at 8 a.m. To get that information, you have to scroll down to “Board of Education Meetings” and click on that.
Why isn’t it posted on the calendar? For the same reason you were not told about a scheduled meeting when they thought of it: They don’t want you to attend.
The school board is used to holding these secret meetings with no one in attendance and they like it that way because its neat and tidy and doesn’t have any of that icky community input to contend with and can we go to lunch now?
But, now you know that there is a meeting and even though I know you can’t attend, at least the board knows that there is at least one person in the district who knows what they are doing.
But wait, there’s more.
WARNING: If you have an ulcer or are prone to stomach issues when you read about how your tax dollars are being wasted, stop here.
The agenda for tomorrow’s secret meeting is: “Consider Options for Funding Estancia High School Pool and Aquatic Center Improvements and Provide Direction to Staff”
There are a few problems with this. First and most obvious, the trustees rarely if ever provide direction to staff. It works in reverse: The staff provides one option to the board, which they rubber stamp.
Next up is why they have to have this meeting at all. The answer is because like so many other messes the district has created either through bad decisions or no decisions, they screwed up: They emptied the pool at Estancia before they had a construction bid in place and now the pool is useless unless you want to turn it into a skateboard park.
(Note: I was recently told that the pool pump is in operating condition, contrary to what I reported. So, that is noted, however, it does not affect the larger issue, which is that Estancia’s water athletes cannot use the pool on their campus.)
Next – and I know you’re ahead of me on this – is why they need a secret meeting for this. Why, you wonder, isn’t this included with the regular meeting agenda scheduled for next Tuesday.
The answer is that scheduling this secret meeting is standard operating procedure for controversial items. In this case, discussing it at a regular meeting would expose the district blundering to a lot more people and it’s better for them to keep it on the lowdown, especially since this is an election year and four seats are up for grabs.
So instead of transparency, taxpayers get obfuscation. The trustees fulfill their legal obligations with a minimum of attention.
Finally, this. Hold on to your TUMS.
In the “Current Considerations” section of the agenda, there is this sentence: “It is recommended that the Board of Education use this opportunity to gain the input of staff, the pool consultant, and the cost management consultant to consider the options for re-opening the existing pool as well as the funding and phasing of the new pool and related aquatic center improvements.”
Pool consultant. Cost management consultant. Both will be making presentations tomorrow morning. Why? Because of the district’s mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility on this project. My question today is, “Is there any project that can be handled by the highly paid bureaucrats without having to pay extra tax dollars to consultants?”
I know what you’re thinking: Why do we have multiple Assistant Superintendents and others making a collective millions of dollars in compensation if all they’re going to do is hire a consultant to make a decision for them?
The answer is that by hiring consultants, no one has to take responsibility for anything. All they have to do when something goes wrong is blame it on a consultant’s recommendation.
I knew I should have gone to consultant school…
Remember all this come the fall when you have to cast your four votes to fill the trustee seats. Do you want someone who doesn’t believe in accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility, or do you want a new person who does?
P.S. Don’t bother attending any of the fake community input meetings this week about school fencing at three schools: The district already knows what the fencing layout and appearance will be and these meetings are just for show. How do I know? Because they ignored community input for the fencing at Adams, stating at the time, “We changed our minds,” and because they ignored community input over the so-called “Collegiate Calendar.” That’s how I know.