Last night’s school board club meeting brought parents and teachers out to view and comment on the district’s plan to teach math. I will leave the specifics of the plan to others with more knowledge and focus on the process – or lack of – because that is still a serious problem in the N-MUSD.

It was standing room only as the meeting started. After a carefully choreographed “Report on the District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC),” Assistant/Deputy/Associate/Whatever Supt. Russell Lee-Sung got up to present a “Report on School and Workplace Safety.”

I doubt I was the only one in the room who considered the irony presented on the slide showing that there would be in-person training on sexual harassment and hostile work environment avoidance. The irony is that in January, 2016, the superintendent, specifically, and the district, were sued by Ann Huntington and Laura Boss, two respected former employees who claimed that the superintendent “… created a workplace culture of fear and intimidation” (Daily Pilot 1/29/16).

In their lawsuit, they claimed that:

  • “…they were put on the spot and embarrassed by Navarro in front of colleagues during meetings”
  • “… in one of their first conversations, Navarro asked Boss whether she had any dirt on a colleague and if she would help him fire her.”
  • “In January 2015, Navarro allegedly waved his hands and shouted at Boss during a meeting in front of her peers.”

No word on whether the super will be receiving any of that in-person hostile work environment training.

Lee-Sung’s presentation was void of any depth. It was a superficial summary of what has happened and failed to address at least one major campus safety issue, which is intruder origin.

The district is on a slow track to make schools safer and is focusing on preventing intruders from entering. There are fences and gates, sign-in sheets, and the possibility that students may be asked to wear ID badges and that guests will be asked to show a photo ID.

There was and will be a lot of hand-wringing about badges and photo IDs, but that concern is senseless: Anyone determined to shoot up a school could not care less whether they have to show a photo ID. “You want to see my driver license so I can get on campus? Sure!”

And I wondered about those student badges… Does that apply to athletes? I can just see a shortstop turning a double play with a badge flopping all over his or her uniform. And don’t get me started on water polo players.

Seriously, though, it’s ridiculous. Create all the badges you want. Start fingerprinting guests or conduct retina scans. Have at it. The truth of the matter is that if anyone is going to shoot up a school it is quite likely to be someone who has a perfect right to be there and will go about his or her business completely under the radar.

This whole idea of an intruder hopping a security fence with two AK-47s under his trench coat is going the way of the fax machine. The problem is that the district has once again demonstrated little insight or foresight, despite the presence of several highly-compensated “expert” bureaucrats who were hired in part to do just that.

Everything is connected. Everything.

There is a way to increase security on campuses that doesn’t involve all of the physical changes that have been completed or are being considered. These methods supplement the fences and gates and sign-in sheets but there was no mention of them last night. Why? Because the district does not employ people who can provide the necessary and appropriate information to the school board club, despite their designation as “experts.”

School shooters have a profile. It’s quite specific and reliable, yet, there was no mention of training to ID these people or to establish protocols if they are identified.

Which leads me to a travesty. These shooters need help. Ideally, there would be a robust campaign in the district to enable them to get the help they need. But the (fairly) new district homepage has no mention whatsoever of the resources available to someone with challenges or for the friend or family member of such a person.

This applies not only to potentially violent people, but to teens with other troubles such as teens who are bullied and teens who are crumbling under tremendous academic and social pressure. Six months after the tragic suicide of CdM student Patrick Turner, the district has not even taken the simple action of posting a suicide prevention hotline number.

Oh, and while Lee-Sung was speaking, club members Snell, Metoyer, and Fluor were passing a note back and forth. I’m telling the teacher!!!

About those math protocols…

John Drake presented the district’s math plans to the board. Before I get into the reactions, I want to repeat something I reported a long time ago. Before I do, take a look at these two images:

 

NMUSD1

NMUSD2

These are images of slides from last night’s math report presentation (sorry about the poor quality). On top, you see a serious violation of presentation rules, which is to show a long paragraph of text. Bad. On the bottom, you see a flow chart. At least, I think it’s a flowchart. Not sure. Could be the new game-day strategy for the struggling Angels. I don’t really know. All I know is that it hurts to look at it.

The point is this: In all of the school board club meetings I have attended, I can count on one hand the number of effective PowerPoint presentations I have seen.

For the benefit of the school board club and the public, I repeat, the book “Death by PowerPoint” should be required reading.

Following Drake’s presentation, a few of the school board club members took turns to offer some criticism. Two of them, Charlene Metoyer and Karen Yelsey, are up for re-election this year and their comments appeared to be more campaigning than constructive. Among other too little, too late, comments, Yelsey said, “Maybe the community should have been involved a little earlier.”

Gee, ya’ think???

Then it was the superintendent’s turn. Well aware that the assembled masses and school board club were not happy with the math proposals, the super tried to distance himself from the plan and said – make sure you are sitting down – “I’m just a consumer of information.”

Smack! That was the sound of Drake being thrown under the bus by his boss.

Civility? I don’t need any stinkin’ civility!

Following the math meltdown, it was time for public comments. Club president Vicki Snell said that there were 48 people who wished to speak and she then asked the audience which of two options they favored. Someone in the audience mentioned a third way that made more sense and Snell said something in reply. When the audience member said yet another thing that made more sense than what Snell had proposed, Snell shut her down with some hollow words about civility and rudely told the person that she was not going to have a back-and-forth with her.

This civility comment was uttered by someone who once scolded someone from the dais, who once cut someone off at exactly three minutes with no chance to finish a sentence, then ordered the security guard to take her away, and who stormed out of a secret special meeting yelling, “You should be ashamed of yourselves” to taxpayers who took the time out of their days to attend. (Those were voices of the public whose input the school board club claims they want to hear.)

Oh, and she also wrote in an e-mail that activist and writer Sandy Asper is “losing it.”

Civility? Out of all the school board club members and the district personnel who attend these fake meetings, Snell is the least civil.

Then it was time for a break and I had to leave.

Wrap up

Folks, this is all business as usual: The super not taking responsibility for anything, Bad presentations, lack of public input, rude treatment of guests, all of it and more is just business as usual in the N-MUSD.

The only solution is to vote in new trustees this November. There are four seats up for grabs and I will make recommendations as we get closer to election day.  In the meantime, here are some resources:

Newport-Mesa Community for Students – Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NMactivism4education/

Web: nmc4s.com

John Caldecott: https://www.caldecottinfo.com/

Costa Mesa Brief (scroll through):  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIkdW4i7qzhxGhSSHtb38VA

Steve Smith

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