Tonight’s school board meeting was uneventful. Business as usual, as usual. The superintendent, a master at staying out of the limelight, actually got out of his chair to review the extremely important topic of language changes in the district’s facility use agreement.

I spoke during the public comments section and tried to capitalize on the outrage expressed last Thursday morning when some board members realized that the information they had been given on the Estancia pool situation did not match what they were hearing from other sources. This is what I said:

“I want to help you understand something very important about the closing of the Estancia pool.

“The sequence of events that led to this costly mistake are not the problem – they are merely a symptom. The problem is that you are consistently not receiving the information you need to make timely and informed decisions. It is a chronic problem. Let me give you some examples by asking you three rhetorical questions:

  • Knowing what you know now, would any of you have voted to close the Estancia pool?
  • Knowing what you know now, would any of you have voted to erect the poles at the Estancia baseball field?
  • Knowing what you know now, would any of you waited years to end Swun Math? 

“In each of these cases, information was either missing or was grossly inaccurate. And in each of these cases – and more – it was the community that brought the problem to your attention, not your administration.

“There is a pattern here, and where there is a pattern, there is a problem.

“The problem is a breakdown in the leadership of the administration in this district. A well-managed organization of any type, public or private, is proactive and takes steps to avoid errors that could affect the budget or the mission.

“You do not have that proactive leadership in your administration.  For example:

  • The district should have been in compliance with the CVRA years ago. Instead it took a lawsuit to effect change.
  • There are now no archived meeting videos because the administration failed to comply with an old ADA regulation.
  • There was no intention of dumping Swun Math until the hue and cry became so great the administration had no choice.
  • There was no investigation into the Mariners Gold Ribbon application until the union raised the question of untruths and inaccuracies.

“Which leads me to my final observation. Another component of this problem is the failure of anyone in the administration to take ownership of serious mistakes. In the case of the Gold Ribbon scandal, I want to point out that Laura Sacks no longer works in this district, but the superintendent, who approved the Gold Ribbon application [holding up a copy of his signature on the application], was just rated exceptional and was just given a bonus.

“This is the type of disconnect that dismays a growing segment of the community. Throwing $100,000 at the pool and allowing the fox to run an investigation of the hen house doesn’t solve the problem, it only makes it worse.

Thank you.”

So there you go. I did not expect any response and none was given. The purpose of my remarks was only to have a public record during a school board meeting of the failings of the current administration under this superintendent.

As fate would have it, however, I caught a break. Just before the public comments section is the time in which the students representing various schools give their reports. They let the board know about what’s going on in their school and when the last one is done, they leave.

Tonight, for whatever reason, they stayed. They stayed and got hear a member of the community express outrage at how things are being run. My expectations are low here too, that is, I don’t expect students to start picketing Bear St. anytime soon. But it was nice to offer a contrast to the happy talk they’re so used to hearing.

There was nothing of note to report from any of the board members or the bureaucrats in the cabinet, designated in the agenda as “Associate/Assistant Superintendents and Executive Directors.” Those designations of the various bureaucratic positions are all you need to know about and administration with a major case of mission drift.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD