I realized last week that over the past several years, I have painted myself into a corner with regard to Trustee Judy Franco, who is leaving the board after 38 years. On the one hand, ignoring her departure would seem to some to be insensitive. But on the other hand, praise may seem to some to be dishonest.

There is no denying that I have not always agreed with Franco. Voting year after year to renew a super’s four-year contract, for example, is a good example of bad leadership. But there is no doubt in my mind that Franco played a key role in developing the stellar reputation that the N-MUSD used to enjoy.

With that in mind, I was trying to think of the best way that she should be honored for her long service. I had some ideas, but before I could finalize anything, the trustees came up with something of their own.

For her 38 years of service to the district as one of seven decision-makers – trustees – for the countless hours of time she spent in schools and in headquarters, for the many trips she has taken to conferences and meetings, for the time away from her family, for the many other unimaginable sacrifices she has made, for her contributions, whatever they may be, Judy Franco’s colleagues have decided to honor her with… a patio in headquarters named after her.

Seriously? 

But that’s just the start.

The announcement was made as agenda item 17.b on last night’s agenda. Last night’s meeting was sparsely attended – far more empty seats than occupied. It was almost as though her colleagues were throwing her a bone and trying to downplay the whole affair.

Whatever the motive, whether it was calculated or just massive insensitivity, they blew it.

Franco should have had a planned ceremony carved out of a regular meeting. Her family and friends should have been given notice so they could attend, and she should have been presented with a formal proclamation honoring her for her 38 years of service.

Oh, and they should have named a school after her, not a patio. And, no, you don’t have to wait until someone passes before naming something significant in their honor. That’s an antiquated protocol that denies the honoree the great satisfaction of the moment.

There are plenty of schools from which to choose: Any school named after a street, for example, is a candidate. Or perhaps the last two blocks of Bear St. – from Baker to its end at Bristol – could be renamed “Judy Franco St.”

I doubt that the city would mind renaming the street. Oh, wait – I just thought of something. School board club president wrote an op-ed in the Daily Pilot supporting Sandy Genis for mayor, but Katrina Foley won. Foley is a former trustee and was not well-liked by her colleagues during her time on the board. So, yeah, maybe the city will mind.

Good move, Snell. Thanks for nothing.

There’s that, and there’s this…

There was plenty of backslapping all around last night. Trustee Vicki Snell congratulating the two new board members, Michelle Barto and Ashley Anderson, and Trustee Dana Black congratulating Trustees Charlene Metoyer and Karen Yelsey for winning their contests.

No one recalled Trustee Martha Fluor’s “where were you” rant from June, 2017, in which she wondered where were people in the area were when she ran unopposed all those times and sacrificed birthdays, anniversaries, and other personal events to devote herself to improving education for the students in the district.

This year, seven people stepped up and tried to become trustees. They spent time and money and five of them got nothing.

So where was the appreciation for the also-rans? Fluor was absent last night but perhaps she will take a moment at the next meeting to comment on how much she appreciated the efforts of everyone who ran, not just the winners.

At the top

Before the Franco honor, one person spoke during the public comments section. Martie O’Meara has been up to the podium before and last night she chose to point out the district’s hyper-hypocrisy over campaign rules.

O’Meara brought up the district’s campaign policy, which is, “It’s OK if we do it, but it’s not OK if you do it.”

The highlight on the hypocrisy started when a few uninformed activists were putting flyers on cars at a school. When they were asked to stop, they turned to the super for a ruling. He cited some rules and regulations and closed his e-mail with, ““Your cooperation will be greatly appreciated and will ensure that NMUSD remains a neutral entity regarding political activity and issues.” 

Good. Great. “Neutral entity regarding political activity and issues.” Love it. As it should be.

Ah, but that was before trustees Charlene Metoyer and Karen Yelsey used district staff in their campaign materials. That was bad enough, but their mailings were timed to hit just before election day – before challengers could respond and before the community had time to understand that they violated the rules.

So last night, O’Meara called them on it and mentioned that even though they violated the policy he cited to the flyer people, he said nothing to Metoyer and Yelsey.

O’Meara also mentioned Yelsey’s personal attack on her opponent, Dr. Gina Nick, stating that it was the first time in any school board campaign that she had seen a personal attack.

While O’Meara spoke, the super ignored her, or so I thought. In what turned out to be a petty display, the super responded to O’Meara with some feeble defense of his double standard. He’d heard everything O’Meara said, he just didn’t want to look at her.

OBTW to the super: Save it. You said nothing to Metoyer and Yelsey because they are two of the four votes you need each year to get your contract renewal, your raise, and your tax-sheltered annuity. And that’s OK but only if you’re honest about it.

Speaking of which…

Last night at 8:33 p.m., the district posted the agenda for the next school board club meeting. That meeting will be held tomorrow at 4 p.m.

What?! you say? Barely 48 hours notice for a school board club meeting?

Yes, I say. Welcome to my world. Yeah, I complained about it, twice, in fact. But all I got was some chin-stroking and fake concern.

You see, they really don’t want you to attend their meetings. Any of them, even the regular big ones. Life would be better if you just stayed home and do whatever it is you do. They’ll take care of everything for you. Honest.

Ah, but tomorrow’s meeting is a bit different. First, there is a closed session at 2:00 to discuss two legal matters that pose “significant exposure to litigation” to the district.

Then there is the 4:00 open meeting at which time the board will rubber-stamp the denial of the charter school application by ISSAC.

How do I know they will rubber stamp the denial? It’s a staff recommendation, silly! Here’s the wording: “Based on its review and analysis of the ISSAC Charter Petition, the District administrative staff believes that approving the ISSAC Charter is not consistent with sound educational practice and recommends that the Board of Education deny the Charter and make written factual findings supporting the denial.”

Whether you support a charter school, you should be concerned about the process. 4 p.m. on a Thursday is not the time to hold a meeting of this importance to announce this crucial decision.

It could have been part of last night’s meeting, but it wasn’t. Or, it could be part of an upcoming meeting, but it isn’t.

It’s done this way to avoid the spotlight. It’s not very clever, but it works for them so they keep doing it.

Time to vote

Trustee Yelsey, who decried the board’s rubber stamping when she first ran in 2006, was one of the many 6-0 votes last night. Barely a word from any of the trustees on any of the items and when there was, it was of no consequence.

No one even protested naming a patio for the longest-serving trustee in district history.

Steve Smith

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