The new area voting for trustee seats is one reason why there are seven challengers for the four open seats. Area voting makes it easier and cheaper to campaign.

Another reason is that some of these challengers believe they can do better than the two incumbents, or better than the two trustees who have decided not to run.

At Tuesday’s school board club meeting, there was a good example of the frustration felt by some of the challengers and by many members of the public.

In the early minutes of the meeting, there was a presentation on the progress of the AVID program at Rea Elementary. The presentation was full of education speak, with such terms as:

  • Commitment to Student Success
  • Instructional strategies
  • Educational experience (We used to call this just “school”)
  • Strategic planning tool
  • And more…

It was a very nice presentation, except for one thing: There was not a shred of data presented to show whether the program is working. Nothing. Nada. Zip. We saw lots of nice slides of smiling kids and colorful binders but no numbers.

When it was all done, Trustee Charlene Metoyer conjured up her inner Steve Smith and courageously asked, “Has the data backed up the work?”

The reply started out to be a dodge, but then we heard, “We’re seeing 80% of our students in [kindergarten] have strong foundational reading,” and “We’ve more than doubled what the proficiency rate is for [English learner] students at Rea [vs. district proficiency rates].”

Great news. Unfortunately, that’s all Metoyer had. There was no follow-up question such as, “How often do you track progress?” or “How do our numbers compare to similar school environments in other districts?”

Here’s what you’re probably asking:

  • Why wasn’t this critical information included in the presentation?
  • Why did it have to take a trustee to ask about data?
  • What took this trustee so long to come to the data party?

The answers to these three questions are the same: They don’t think that way.

This is no reflection on the well-meaning, hard-working people who presented the information on Tuesday. They are simply mirroring the attitude of the superintendent and the board, which is that data is secondary to making sure that everything has the appearance of a well-oiled machine:

  • Smiling kids: Check
  • Exciting campus pictures: Check
  • Colorful student drawings: Check

Data? We don’t need no stinkin’ data!

It’s no reflection because I have been railing against the absence of data for years; telling the N-MUSD community that the public is being told only what the district wants them to know.

And in this case, they want you to know that “[The students at Rea] are walking with more dignity.”

So when Metoyer asked her data question, I nearly choked on my Jujyfruit. I have attended the majority of school board club meetings since she came on board and have no recollection of her ever asking a question about an icky subject like data.

So, as I do in these circumstances, I asked myself, “Why now? Why after nearly four years as a trustee is Metoyer suddenly concerned with data?”

There is a two-word answer: Michelle Murphy.

Murphy is Metoyer’s lone challenger in Area 2. She is a formidable challenger; a highly-qualified candidate who will make data questions a routine part of her queries for any program.

It was a good try, but Metoyer’s attempt at holding someone accountable was too little, and way too late.

Murphy Head ShotHere’s where you can find more information on why you should vote for Michelle Murphy and why you should encourage your friends, family, and co-workers in Area 2 to vote for her, too:




Oh, and just a small note… One of speakers in the Public  Comments portion of the show ran over the three-minute mark. School board club President Vicki Snell let her talk for an additional 15 seconds.

Eye roll

School board club President Vicki Snell

Snell did not rudely interrupt her or wave her arms to get her to stop, or ask the security guard to haul her off to district jail. Why? Because she spent her time saying nice things to the panel, that’s why. (Note to speaker: It’s Swun, not Swan.)

There was more, which the Daily Pilot covered today. This concerns a proposal for a charter school in the district.

Curious to me that the Pilot covered this, but has not written a word about the two public complaints in two meetings on the egregious leak of confidential student data and the plans of an attorney to contact the state dept. of education unless it is resolved. This is a scandal involving a trustee candidate, Karen Yelsey, and her qualified challenger, Dr. Gina Nick, whose daughter’s records were compromised.

Yelsey has said nothing, preferring to let surrogates do her talking for her. Nick, on the other hand, is actively pursuing the matter so that it doesn’t happen to other families.

Yelsey has broken her original campaign promises of 12 years in office and reduced rubber stamping and does not deserve to be returned to office. It’s time for someone else to try and Dr. Nick will be an excellent replacement.

Gina Nick To learn more about Dr. Nick, click here:

If you live in Area 4, I urge you to vote for meaningful change and vote for Dr. Nick. Tell your friends, family, and co-workers to vote for her, too.

It’s either that, or suffer through four more years of underwhelming trustee performance.

Steve Smith