Awhile back, I gave up all hope of the school board club trying to change its ways. Actually, I am embarrassed to admit that it less than a year ago that I realized that hope was futile. Nothing will change unless and until we get some new trustees.

That realization is liberating. I no longer write about the board or speak to them with any expectations at all. I may still make recommendations, but they are strictly for the record; so that there is a public statement of another way to do things or a public record of outrage.

It was with this in mind that I attended another almost-secret “special” meeting of the school board club yesterday at 1 p.m. Yes, once again that would be a special meeting held while you are working or otherwise too busy with your life to attend.

This almost-secret special meeting was not posted on the district’s website calendar and the agenda was posted only last Friday at 3:24 p.m.

Why isn’t it on the calendar and why did they wait until Friday to post the agenda? Because they don’t want you to attend, that’s why. They don’t care about what you have to say and so it doesn’t occur to them to be more thoughtful about scheduling meetings or providing adequate notice, that’s why.

There was nothing special about this meeting, either. It was billed as an evaluation of the superintendent but that’s just for show. At this time, the school board club is going through the motions before rubber-stamping another raise for him. That would be on top of the bonus of $34,450 he got last December.

And why do they keep throwing money at him? Because they are fiscally irresponsible, that’s why. That’s what accounts for the many consultants they hire, the exorbitant legal fees they’ve racked up, and the failure to fully think things through, which has resulted in tremendous wastes of your money, as in the Estancia pool draining, the Estancia pole construction, the failed math program, and more.

The superintendent’s original 4-year contract is renewed each year, resulting in what is called an “evergreen” arrangement. In a true evergreen contractual agreement, there is an automatic renewal. In this case, the board has to vote on it each year, but that is a formality.

The most important consequence of this type of arrangement is the resulting lack of accountability, which has never been more apparent than in the last six years. Despite a huge number of blunders, financial waste, and legal woes, the contract is renewed, year after year.

Nice work if you can get it.

Some people have had enough and they have organized a group called Newport-Mesa Community for Students. Unlike past education activist groups, most of the people in the core of this group do not have kids in Newport-Mesa schools. They’re just fed up with the lack of accountability, the lack of transparency, and the fiscal irresponsibility and they’re trying to do something about it.

The Newport-Mesa Community for Students group has started with a Facebook page, which you can visit here:

The latest Facebook post is a list of evaluation criteria developed by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), whose tagline reads, “The School Superintendents Association.” It seems to me that there is an apostrophe missing there, otherwise it should be “The Association for School Superintendents.” Otherwise, Part II: The AASA is not the only association for school superintendents, so the AASA’s self-designation of “the” association is inaccurate. Among many others, there is the National Association of School Superintendents. So the AASA tagline should really read, “An Association for School Superintendents.”

But I digress…

I spoke at yesterday’s almost-secret special school board club meeting. This is what I said:

“I am opposed to any additional compensation for anyone in this administration who is responsible for academic performance until a reasonable and specific set of goals for academic performance improvement is established and achieved.”

That’s it in a nutshell. No more money until the academic needles are moved at least a reasonable amount. At this time, half of the district’s students failed to meet the 2017 state standards for math.

Change is coming because more and more people are concerned about fundamental issues, the same three that have been mentioned here over and over. They are accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility.

For decades, we have been hearing that people hate change, but it was not until I began my career in marketing that I realized that is not true. One of the best examples is Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, which included the slogan, “Change you can believe in.” Aside from the bad grammar, it included the word “change.” If enough people were really that afraid of change, Obama might still be in the U.S. Senate.

At least two current school board club members were elected because they were outraged and wanted to change things. Over 20 years ago, Trustee Dana Black was so upset over the fiscal irresponsibility of the district that she demanded a forensic accounting of its books. The basis of Trustee Karen Yelsey’s campaign was her support of term limits (12 years) and an end to the rubber stamping.

Yelsey is now rubber stamping with everyone else and she is in her 12th year as a trustee. Despite this, Yelsey will run again, creating some fake rationale for why she needs to continue on the board.

I believe that what people fear is not change, but what change represents, and change represents the unknown.

Change will come to the school board club not organically, that is, not through the long tradition of running candidates who will perpetuate the status quo, but through disruption and upheaval this fall. The change may be incremental, or it may be sudden.

Four seats open this year: Yelsey, Franco, Davenport, and Metoyer.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD