Some readers may recall a recent post in which I stated that my attendance and comments at school board club meetings and dedication to this blog would be limited for a couple of reasons.

The first is that I have work demands that are consuming more of my time. Not a bad thing. The second reason is that while this blog receives a lot of attention for the information it provides, attending and speaking at meetings is a complete waste of time.

The school board club does not care what we think. That has been proven over and over and has been documented in this blog. And if they don’t care what we think, there is no point in trying to convince them of anything or informing them of issues to which they should be paying attention.

My time, and that of anyone who reads and supports the principles stated in this blog, is better spent trying to elect new people to the school board.

But not just anyone! We must elect people who are clearly at odds with the current management of the district; people who understand that accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility are not optional or seasonal, they are the new black.

Of the many scandals and episodes of mismanagement that have occurred in the last five or so years, the most glaring example of the district’s lack of concern is the  (mis)management of and reaction to Swun Math. This was a district math program that teachers identified early on as flawed. But when they alerted the appropriate district personnel to the problems, they were given the equivalent of a pat on the head.

It was not until years later and only when the community outrage became so great that the experts in the administration finally decided to stop using the program. In the meantime, we have lost count of the number of students who may have had trouble advancing in math – which could impact college eligibility.

This approach to the math program was standard operating procedure: Do what you have to do to get past the controversy and move on.

Tennis, anyone?

Anyone new to this forum need only read the district’s hypocritical Belief Statement to understand the huge divide between what they say and what they do. You can read the Belief Statement here:

Did we hear a hidden message?

A few days ago, I was alerted to the YouTube video archive of the school board club meeting of April 24. BTW, that YouTube channel idea came from a member of the community but as with so many community recommendations that come to fruition, the district has not thanked this person (not me) for this idea.

Before the regular meeting, the school board club and several members of the administration held a study session at 3 p.m., which is listed on the agenda as, “Discussion on Student Board Members’ Selection Process, Timeline, and Application Details for 2018-19.

Forgetting for the moment that it should be “Discussion of Student Board…,” (“on” is more relevant to a lecture) there are a couple of terrific examples of disconnect with the community.

This meeting was called to tackle the ultra-important topic of how to choose the student board members for the next school year, how to get them more engaged, what to do if they drop the ball, etc.

On that last subject, Assistant or Deputy Something-or-Other Russell Lee-Sung says the following at about 26 minutes:

“If I may, and I’ve seen this occur, because of the prestigiousness of being in that role, comes the responsibility and accountability that you’re talking about. Quite frankly, if [the students] do not fulfill that obligation, whether it’s in September or October, or January or February, I believe that if that person doesn’t show up and [doesn’t provide] a legitimate reason, they are removed and replaced with somebody else. To me that’s the accountability [we need].

 If they can’t fulfill their duties, just like any good leader, whether you’re an adult or a student, if the circumstances change and they can’t fulfill their duties, the right thing to do is step down and let the next person step up.”

Allow me to repeat what may be a signal to the district’s leadership: “can’t fulfill… adult or student… step down.”

Not to worry, though, it fell on deaf ears and no one is stepping down.

The meeting last about an hour and 15 minutes, during which time, the board and the members of the administration were relaxed and breezy. That was due almost entirely to the fact that there wasn’t a single member of the community in attendance.

How absurd is all of this? Here’s how: The district holds a separate meeting on a topic that is marginally important but ignores the study sessions they really need to have, such as:

  • Why are our legal fees so high and what can we do to reduce them so that we have more money to spend on educating our students?
  • How did the rat problem at Newport Harbor get so bad and how can we use this experience to prevent it from happening at other campuses?
  • Why did the NHHS rat problem become a public relations nightmare and what communications corrections do we need to make to prevent a district scandal from once again becoming national news?
  • Why are the 2017 test scores so dismal and what successful corrective methods are being done at schools outside our district that is working that we can employ here?

Here’s the link to the video of that meeting:

But wait, there’s more!

Remember that you just read that no one was in attendance was at that April 24 meeting? Doesn’t it strike you as just a little odd? I mean, if they’re going to have a special meeting to discuss how to engage students more in the process, wouldn’t it have been a good idea to include a few students?

Of course it would. But they scheduled the meeting for 3 p.m. and did not invite any students because (all together now) they just don’t care.

Lower bar? Yes!

Then there was the chest-thumping about Newport Harbor making the list of national high school rankings in the recent U.S. News and World Report article at no. 1,074 and the superintendent gushing about this accomplishment.

Rats in schools, union leadership banned from a campus, dismal test scores, massive legal fees, and on and on and no comments from the super. But this he decides is worthy of his thoughts. Number 1,074. That’s the new, lower bar for our once-proud district.

Oh, BTW, in California, we were thumped by schools located in districts close to ours. High schools in Inglewood, Hawthorne, Cerritos, and Cypress all made the top ten but there will be no recommendation to take a field trip to any of these schools to learn what they are doing that we may be able to apply here.

Why? Because the district doesn’t do field trips, they rely on our so-called experts and they pay money to consultants who then tell our own experts what to do. Unless, of course, that field trip is the attendance at one or more of the worthless meetings of California School Board Assoc. or similar entities.

Marching orders

This rant is toothless without a strategic purpose. Whether you are new to this blog or a long-time reader, you can sense the frustration.

For the first time in the history of the district, area voting is in place this November. This will relieve candidates from having to campaign in two cities and allow them to focus on defeating an incumbent on equal footing.

There are four seats up for grabs this November: Metoyer, Franco, Davenport, and Yelsey.

Nothing will change until and unless there are new people elected to the school board. Nothing.

This effort is ongoing and it may take two election cycles to achieve the majority needed to restore accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility. But that should not deter anyone from running. Even one new voice will be a revolution.

Please support and vote for those new voices in November.

Steve Smith