At today’s 8:30 a.m. almost-secret meeting of the school board club, the superintendent let the six taxpayers in attendance know that the closed portion of the meeting would not include any discussions of salary.

Why he went out of his way to mention this is a mystery. Oh, wait! Maybe it’s because the agenda item reads:

7.a. Public Employee Evaluation: Title – Superintendent

Anyone who has conducted or has been on the receiving end of an evaluation in the private sector knows that these meetings always include a discussion of salary. Sometimes you get more money, sometimes you don’t. So if the superintendent is so concerned about misrepresenting the nature of this meeting, it may behoove him to be clearer about the process.

Not that it would have mattered to me, of course – I probably would have showed up anyway to give my two cents.

Trustees Judy Franco and Walt Davenport were not at the meeting.

In the public comments section, Cynthia Blackwell offered some cogent thoughts on accountability. It fell on deaf ears, of course, because it was addressed to a superintendent and a school board that have failed to hold themselves accountable for any of the massive blunders that have occurred over the past few years.

But it was a good segue to my remarks, which were:

Well, here we are again at a special meeting with very little notice. I’m not here to chastise anyone or to have a discussion on how to stop this inconsiderate behavior, I’m here only to ensure that a protest gets into the video archive.

Second. If you are in fact going into closed session to conduct an evaluation of the superintendent, I want to remind you of the following events that have occurred on his watch:

  • Rats in schools. We still have rats in schools – I received two more reports this week.
  • The prom draft
  • Grade hacking
  • Skyrocketing legal fees
  • A lawsuit by two respected, former employees alleging that the superintendent created quote a workplace culture of fear and intimidation that compelled them to leave their job end quote
  • The Estancia baseball poles
  • The ruined aquatics program at Estancia
  • The absurd delay over new athletic facilities at CdM
  • Swun Math
  • Failure to abide by the CVRA
  • Mariners Gold Ribbon application – which he signed
  • And finally, half of all of the students in the district failed to meet the 2017 state standard for math

As with the posting of the agenda, I’m not here to change anyone’s mind, I want only to ensure that there is a video record that no one can access online because the superintendent also failed to comply with the ADA.

Thank you.

I missed a few scandals but got the big stuff. I think. There are so many, I can’t be sure.

Laurie Smith was next. In a very civil tone, she talked about respect and trust and a leadership style. Great stuff. But when the timer hit EXACTLY three minutes, board president Vicki Snell cut her off. Ironic? Yes, because Smith had just made comments about respect. Hypocritical? Yes, because speakers are frequently allowed to go over the three-minute mark. At the board meeting on February 27, one speaker was allowed by Snell to speak for an additional forty seconds. When that bee-boop timer sounded, Snell said nothing and the speaker kept right on talking. When she was done, she sat down.

What this says is this: If the board president likes what you have to say, you can speak until the cows come home. If not, you have exactly three minutes.

Smith was followed by Erica Roberts, who is almost solely responsible for the successful movement to rid our elementary schools of Swun Math. If you are a teacher, she is the one to thank.

In her remarks, Roberts mentioned Patrick Turner, the district student who took his life in January. At the mention of Turner’s name Snell became visibly upset. After Roberts sat down, Snell and trustee Karen Yelsey verbally chastised Roberts from the dais.

You read the headline of this blog post. You read the (partial) shopping list of major problems in the district problems. I read them to the trustees. I mentioned that I had received two reports of rats on campuses. Did the superintendent or any of the trustees ask me where the rats are located so that they could address the problem? Nope. Why? Because they don’t care. When I called them on the late notice of today’s meeting, did anyone offer an explanation? Nope. Why? Because they don’t care.

When the Estancia pool was drained, putting a major crimp in the school’s aquatics programs, did anyone apologize? Nope. Why? Because they don’t care to, that’s why. And that is true for all of the blunders I mentioned today and which are listed above.

But mentioning the student? OMG, the horror! The outrage and how dare you and I know the family and you have a lot of nerve and shame on you and more!

Save it.

Any board member upset by public comments should either:

a) Keep it to his or her self

b) Make a comment and provide the speaker the opportunity to return to the podium to reply.

Neither of those were done today. Instead, we got emotional outbursts and storming out of the room with a snarky side comment by Snell.

Roberts was followed by activist and former school board member Wendy Leece who reminded the board that this is still the United States of America and that public comments are protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Leece then added that comments from the dais to Roberts amounted to bullying and intimidation. Leece also spoke about an opportunity to make a change,” that “[the board sees] what we see but do not accept what we see as valid.”

“You can do better,” said Leece. Eh, I’m not so sure. I believe it’s too late for hope for this school board. Too set in their ways.

That’s why we need new leadership – new trustees – starting in November with the four seats that are up for grabs.


Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD