Oh, the hypocrisy…
At the board meeting of Sept. 12, attorney Robert Tyler spoke to the board regarding a breach in security that allowed the confidential student records of the child of a district parent to be made public.
Tyler was less diplomatic. He claimed that someone purposely looked up the child’s records in an effort to uncover dirt on Dr. Gina Nick, who is opposing school board club member Karen “Flip-Flop” Yelsey for the seat in Area 4.
(Note to new readers: Yelsey supported 12-year terms when she ran in 2006 and she is listed in the sample ballot as supporting Measure H, which provides for 12-year terms. But she is running this year to make it 16 for herself. See for yourself in this pic.)
Tyler’s comments were interrupted by school board club president Vicki Snell when he tried to connect the campaign to the security breach. After a pause to check the rules, Snell asked him to avoid any references to campaigns, elections, candidates, etc. by saying:
“Excuse me, uh, we’re… as her attorney… we don’t… we can’t, uh, have you speak about anything having to do with the election.”
OK, so even though I believe the Constitutional right to free speech trumps a school board’s policy, I understand the policy, which is a good thing. School boards should not get mixed up in partisan politics or support any particular candidate due to the consequences it may have or the public’s perception of the board.
The CSBA thinks so, too, and with this board, whatever the CSBA says, goes.
That is, unless you are Snell – then it’s OK to actively support a candidate for mayor in the city in which you live while declaring that you are a member of the school board while doing so.
Yes, that is exactly what she did on Oct. 18 and you can read it here:
Make no mistake: If Snell wants to support a candidate, she has every right. But she must do it as Private Citizen Vicki Snell, not as Trustee Vicki Snell. She violated this rule when she wrote, “As a Newport-Mesa school board member,…”
Oh, and if she used a district computer to compose the op-ed, or asked a district staffer to proofread it, or used a district pen to make notes, she has committed a serious violation. On that, the rules are crystal clear.
A couple of days after Tyler spoke, the superintendent responded to an e-mail inquiry about handing out flyers on campuses. In his reply e-mail, he cited the rules, then closed with this:
“Your cooperation will be greatly appreciated and will ensure that NMUSD remains a neutral entity regarding political activity and issues.”
Yeah, fine, but Snell didn’t remain neutral as a trustee, she supported a candidate for mayor of Costa Mesa while clearly declaring her status as a school board member. Her mention of her position as a trustee could make any reader believe that she is advocating the candidate on behalf of the board.
But wait, there’s more!
OK, so endorsing a candidate while declaring that you are a trustee is bad enough. Then there are these excerpts:
“Discussing commonalities as well as differences leads to discovering better solutions, and working together in a professional manner leaves everyone feeling heard and part of the outcome — even if they don’t always agree.”
“I strongly believe that an effective board/council isn’t made up of like-minded people but with those possessing different points of view.”
And this doozy:
“The ability to model civility and respectful behavior toward others, listen with an open mind to ideas, operate in an ethical manner, and share the credit for successes with the team is essential in a [sic] effective leader.”
“Model civility and respectful behavior toward others…” Oh, puh-lease! Snell is the last person in Newport-Mesa qualified to discuss this. Her tenure as president has been a series of rude and insensitive comments, including the attempted bullying of a blogger.
Yeah, that would be me. That gif at the top of this blog? Snell posted that on Facebook in response to a comment I made. A civil comment. Realizing that she crossed the line, she deleted it but not before I captured it.
It’s not just Snell. At the last board meeting, none of her colleagues took the time to let her know that mentioning her trustee status in her op-ed was inappropriate, or wrong, or anything. No admonishment from anyone.
The biggest issue here is that Snell may have done some damage to the district’s future relationship with the city of Costa Mesa. Oh, yeah, I know, the winning candidate is supposed to be neutral and want what’s best for the kids, yada, yada, yada.
But that’s a wish. Chances are high that if Snell’s candidate loses, the winner may remember the endorsement of her opponent and make someone pay. Could be via field allocation or any number of district and city relationships.
The sad part of this for Snell is that the Daily Pilot mentioned her status as a trustee when it wrote her tag at the end of the column. So, she broke the rule for nothing.
Power to the people
The Pilot recently reported that, “Trustees unanimously approved the suggested cooperative agreements, which specify that the city would contribute 100% of the costs for design and construction of field improvements at Kaiser Elementary and Davis Magnet schools.”
The article goes on to provide some details and ends with this final paragraph:
“The city is taking the lead on the CEQA process because it is their project — they’re paying for it,” said Kirk Bauermeister, NMUSD’s executive director of secondary education. “But we are hiring all the consultants, we’re hiring all the architects. We are the project manager because the project is on our property.”
Did you catch it? No? Bauermeister said the project is on “our property.”
So let’s make something crystal clear: There is no “our” property. Everything in the N-MUSD – every desk, stapler, paperclip, and field, was paid for by the homeowners in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.
We own it, not the school district. The school district is merely a caretaker for these properties and if taxpayers – the landlords – don’t like the way the managers are running things, we’ll get new managers. That’s what we’re trying to do this election cycle because things have been going too badly for too long.
Vote for positive, meaningful change, and ask your friends, family, and co-workers to do the same. Vote for:
Michelle Murphy in Area 2:
Dr. Gina Nick in Area 4:
Michelle Barto in Area 5:
Ashley Anderson in Area 7:
With these people as your trustees, you have folks who truly understand that civility and respectful behavior are not just words in an op-ed. Oh, and they like all that accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility stuff, too.