Some readers may not be aware of John Caldecott or his ongoing efforts to bring the N-MUSD out of the darkness and into the light of transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility. In case you don’t, here is a summary:

Caldecott was a 10-year, respected employee of the district, employed as the head of the human resources dept. Late in 2014, Caldecott was fired for, well, here is how the L.A. Times wrote it:

“Newport-Mesa Unified fired its human resources director Tuesday, less than a week after he asked a court to compel the district to release documents related to a complaint he filed against the superintendent.”

In story, Caldecott is quoted as saying, “The complaint against the superintendent involves multiple occurrences of unethical behavior on the part of the superintendent and the board of education.” 

No way! Really? Wow…

But it’s not just the fact that Caldecott was fired as he was about to expose the shenanigans, it was how he was fired: He got a text from the superintendent – the same one he accused of unethical behavior – telling him to check his e-mail. In the email, Caldecott learned that he had been fired.

Caldecott could not be fired by the superintendent without the board’s approval, which was unanimous. Trustee Dana Black made the motion to support the superintendent’s recommendation to fire Caldecott and it was seconded by Trustee Walt Davenport.

The board did not even allow Caldecott to address them to let them know what he had found.

Caldecott is still fighting the good fight. His website has an important update on his ongoing effort to promote board transparency and you can read about it here:

Now fast forward to the Mariners Gold Ribbon fake investigation and the new fake investigation into who authorized the shut down of the Estancia pool.

Guess who was/is in charge of those two? If you guessed the superintendent, you win a copy of my new book, “Stall, Stifle, and Stymie: A History of the N-MUSD.” OK, there is no book, but you get the idea.

No investigation into any wrongdoing will ever result in a fair and impartial conclusion as long as the N-MUSD administration – particularly the superintendent – is directing it or is in anyway involved. That is simply not going to happen.

And don’t count on the board to have a mass moment of clarity and understand this point. After all, these are the people who just rated his performance as “exceptional” and gave him another $34,450 of your tax dollars, a bonus, by the way, that was not approved in one of the twice-monthly board meetings. Doing that would mean that the board would be transparent and that is not standard operating procedure.

The credibility of the school board has suffered greatly over the past five years. They have placed their trust in an administration that makes the Keystone Cops look like a well-run organization. (I’m dating myself here… From Wikipedia: ‘The name [Keystone Cops] has since been used to criticize any group for its mistakes, particularly if the mistakes happened after a great deal of energy and activity, or for a lack of coordination among the members.”

Despite a pattern of missing or inaccurate information, the trustees continue to rely on the members of the administration to deliver appropriate recommendations. Is it any wonder why a growing group of people is disgruntled and disgusted with the actions of the board? It shouldn’t be, and unfortunately, the board does not know how to distance itself from the mess they have created. But I have a recommendation.

The trustees can take a huge leap forward to restore their lost credibility by removing the superintendent and any members of the administration – all of them – from any involvement in the pool investigation.

They should instead hire someone with no financial interest in the district,  someone who:

  • Is not and has never been employed by the district, whether full-time, part-time, or as a contractor
  • Has a broad and deep knowledge of the district
  • Has a history of important civic involvement
  • Has experience in interviewing, investigating, and reporting
  • Will perform the investigation at no charge
  • Will sign a non-disclosure agreement or confidentiality agreement
  • Can probably complete the investigation in less than a week
  • Has no agenda other than reporting the truth

I know someone with these exact qualifications. But the board will not move to engage this person because that would mean a vote of no confidence in the super and they can’t do that just after they told us he is exceptional.

Besides, the board is not interested in knowing who closed the pool. If they were, they would have given the superintendent specific instructions on how it is to be conducted and when it is to be completed and they would have assigned it to someone as described above. But they did not, choosing once again to let the fox run the hen house.

This fake pool investigation will be stalled for at least two months until the pool reopens. At that time, everyone will be happy to be back in the water and this massive blunder that cost $100,000 and wasted tens of thousands of gallons of precious water will have been forgotten.

These people wouldn’t last a day in the private sector…

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD