Or in the case of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District versus John Caldecott’s ongoing battle for transparency, sometimes you never win.

Yes, the district lost again. Yes, they spent more education dollars on legal fees to fight it. Yes, they won’t learn any lessons from this and will continue to fight transparency, making lawyers richer, and reminding me over and over that I really should have gone to law school.

The case in point involves the Mariners Elementary School Gold Ribbon mess. Thanks to Trustee Karen Yelsey’s recent Daily Pilot column mentioning me as a “blogger,” – she makes it sound criminal, just short of stealing candy from a baby – there are a lot more readers so I am taking a moment to provide some background for this debacle. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version in five easy steps:

1. Mariners team submits an application for Gold Ribbon status. It is signed by the principal, Laura Sacks (now Canzone), as well as the superintendent.

2. The teacher union writes a letter to the district claiming there are 17 “untruths and inaccuracies” in the application.

3. The district starts an investigation and issues a report. Simultaneously, Sacks/Canzone is given the heave-ho (the district won’t characterize it that way, but that’s what happened) and the super is given a raise – or raises – and a bonus last December.

4. Enter John Caldecott, known in these parts as “Mr. Transparency.” Caldecott sues to get the final report issued. When he gets it, it’s full of redactions, so many that he files another suit claiming that the redactions are excessive.

5. Judge Linda Marks agreed and voila – the report must now be reissued with a reduction in redactions, so to speak. The Daily Pilot story reports that, “After reviewing the report filed under seal, Marks found the redactions ‘exceeded those necessary to protect the privacy of third parties’ and instructed the district to black out ‘only to the extent they identify employees, staff or students,’ according to minutes dated Sept. 4.”

Here’s the link to the Pilot story: http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-mariners-report-20180907-story.html

And here is a must-read report on this and more at Caldecott’s website: https://www.caldecottinfo.com/

All of this involved staff time and lawyer time – lots of it. And the district still hasn’t learned two important things:

  1. Stop fighting John Caldecott because the district hasn’t won any of his challenges. His lawyer and his cause are mightier than theirs and all they are doing is giving money to lawyers that should be going to educate students
  2. It’s OK to be transparent. Really, it is. It’s actually refreshing because you never have to think for a moment about what is the right thing to do. All you have to do is make everything available to everyone. (Except, of course, that which is really and truly protected by law).

There is no hope whatsoever that the current batch of trustees will ever learn either of these lessons. They will keep doing as they have always done and will keep getting the results they have always gotten.

Which is why I support a complete turnover of this entire school board through the voting process. Send all of them packing over the next two years. All of them.

NOTE: I am sorry for the awkward text break-ups below. I tried to fix them and I can’t.

Gina NickIt starts this year by replacing Trustees Karen Yelsey in Area 4 and Charlene Metoyer in Area 2. Yelsey is opposed by Dr. Gina Nick, an entrepreneur, among other qualities, who understands that district money needs to be spent on kids, not on lawyers. For more info on Nick, visit: https://www.facebook.com/DrGinaNickNMUSD/



Michelle MurphyMetoyer is opposed by Michelle Murphy, who has kids in the district, is an active member of the community and who will be an overdue advocate for advancing education.

Here’s a link to Murphy’s website:  https://murphyfornewportmesa.com/#about

Both will make excellent trustees – better trustees than the incumbents.

In the other two areas up for grabs, there are no incumbents – more on those races later.

You can call this process “draining the swamp” or “throwing the bums out” or “ousting all incumbents” (which is a national movement) – I don’t care. The focus is not on the label but on restoring transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility to our school board.

It’s about putting “trust” back in public trust.

Steve Smith

P.S. I’m guessing about a third of the readers of this post are asking, “What is Reader’s Digest?”…