There is always more. And there is more “more,” so to speak, these days as each month seems to bring a startling new revelation about the waste, the lack of transparency, the fiscal irresponsibility, and the staggering absence of any sort of accountability in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Blowing $100,000 in the blink of an eye with the monumentally bad decision to close the Estancia pool revealed to many more people just how much the school board has lost its grip over the administration they are supposed to be overseeing. It revealed to more taxpayers what the rest of us have known for years, that is, the administration staff is not always making decisions in the best interests of its constituencies, which includes the trustees.

The hypocritical approach to fiscal responsibility was highlighted yesterday with one bureaucrat referring repeatedly to “taxpayers” and relating district actions over the pool to some responsibility to them. When this type of talk is heard just a few months after the pool was closed and moments after we heard that it will take another $100,000 to reopen it, one has to wonder why the school board don’t see what we see.

We saw and heard it yesterday from Trustee Martha Fluor, who expressed outrage at the disconnect between what the board was told about the pool and what they had just learned at yesterday’s special meeting. She was “irate,” but the rest of us knew that it was business as usual.

The pool debacle should be the “Aha!” moment for the board; a time when they start to understand that the trust they have placed in the administration is misplaced, not just for the pool mess, but for many other issues as well, dating back a long time.

The Estancia pool events should be a catalyst for change. It should be used to initiate a different and more comprehensive way of delivering important information to the board. By “comprehensive,” I mean including far more input than what is provided by the staff. They can start by reaching out to the speakers at the school board meetings who are critical of their conduct and speak to them in a frank discussion without any administration personnel present.

But even that may not help. Over the past ten years, I have met many times with many school board members. In every case but one, I was the one who initiated the contact. Why haven’t they reached out to us? Because the board is just not interested in what you or I have to say. They rely instead on the staff – who would NEVER mislead them or let them down! – for all of the information they need to make their decisions. They get tours at schools that are polished and scripted and that leads them to think that everything is just peachy.

Perhaps after yesterday’s revelations, they will realize that it’s not. There are serious problems in the management of the N-MUSD. According to the Daily Pilot story on yesterday’s secret meeting, “Supt. Fred Navarro said the district is investigating who gave the OK to drain the pool, but he said that information would be confidential because it is a personnel matter.”

Here’s where that “investigation” is going to go: Nowhere. If it happens at all, it will be dragged out until sufficient time has passed and the pool has been reopened and no one will remember what the fuss was all about. That’s what they did with the fake Mariners investigation. No one will be fired or reprimanded or disciplined in any way and I am so sure of this that if I am wrong, I will to donate $100 to the Estancia water polo program.

How can I be so sure? Because the superintendent is the person who is ultimately responsible for closing the pool and he will NEVER admit his role.

Through this blog, I have gained tremendous insight into the way business is conducted at the N-MUSD. So what does it say when a blogger has a more reliable finger on the pulse of the N-MUSD constituency than either the school board or the administration?

Someone in the district ordered the pool closed and maybe that name cannot be shared but there is another option: If you are that person and you are reading this, you can step forward on your own. You can admit your mistake and tell taxpayers that you have learned a very good lesson and that it will never happen again. Oh, and you can say, “I’m sorry.” Not “It was an error in judgment,” or “I apologize,” or any of the other euphemisms that pass for true remorse. You have to use the words, “I’m sorry.”

Yeah, that’ll happen. It’ll happen just as soon as the superintendent returns his $34,450 fake bonus and says he doesn’t deserve it.

The person who ordered the pool closed won’t step forward because he or she has sold out. He or she has decided that their salary and benefits and title trump their moral responsibility and that there is too much at stake personally to do the right thing.

But I will say this to that person: If you do step forward, I will be among the first to say “thank you” for setting an example for your colleagues, for taxpayers, and most of all, for the district’s students.

And at the end of the day, isn’t that what this is all about? Shouldn’t we all be concerned about the message we are sending to our students when a colossal mistake is made and no one steps up to own it? Of course we should. But in the N-MUSD, self-preservation rules. That’s what we’re teaching kids.

It is no less than disgusting behavior. And you – sir or madam who gave the OK – should be ashamed of yourself for not stepping forward and owning this.

Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop in which to swim…

One of the forgotten consequences of the stupid idea to drain Estancia’s pool is that of the lost water. A reliable source told me yesterday that the pool’s capacity is about 100,000 gallons of water. For the sake of an argument, let’s cut it by 25% and say that the capacity is “only” 75,000 gallons.

That is a lot of water. In a drought, which is our current status even if the governor has not declared it so, that makes the water even more precious.

75,000 gallons of a resource more precious than gold – poof! Gone as though it were the flushing of a toilet.

Do the right thing, person, and step forward.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD