I was a late arrival at last night’s board meeting, having decided to skip the musical chairs portion of the show. That’s the annual change of leadership but all it really means is that everyone moves down one seat along the dais.

Charlene Metoyer is now the board president. The former president, Vicki Snell is now at the far end of the dais and that’s good news. Snell’s tenure as president will be remembered only for a new level of disdain and rudeness piled on the members of the public who took time to come and voice their opinions.

Metoyer is already better. I spoke briefly last night to correct her on a procedural violation she was making that technically voids all motions. Metoyer did it on multiple occasions last night so I informed her of the proper procedure and she thanked me for bringing it to her attention.

What I didn’t say was that her predecessor, Snell, made the same violation numerous times but that I didn’t bother correcting her. I also did not say that the violation I mentioned should have been addressed a l-o-n-g time ago by the $uperintendent, but he didn’t because he either was not aware of it or just didn’t care to bring it up. Either way, it’s bad.

And Speaking of the $uperintendent…

Today’s Daily Pilot has the story of the $uper’s annual Christmas gift from the board – a $29,500 tax-sheltered annuity that he does not deserve.

Story highlights:

  1. Snell stating that the $uperintendent, “suffered a head injury before the start of the 2017-18 school year, which caused him to miss work for about two months.” Not a Phi Beta Kappa comment from Snell, who may be unaware that the medical information she divulged may be protected information under HIPAA.  The $uperintendent is an employee and according to the law, employers (the board) are prohibited from revealing medical information about an employee unless there is a legitimate business reason to do so. But there’s more… Employers are also prohibited by law from asking a job applicant about past medical history, disabilities, etc. So, if one day the $uper decides that he wants to work somewhere else, the information about his head injury would have remained private. Until now.
  2. Snell saying that “… concerns about Navarro’s compensation are ‘voiced by a very small group of people.'” As if that matters. Let’s agree for the sake of the argument that Snell is right; that only a small group of people are upset about giving the $uper more money. So what? Does she mean to say that if more people had protested, it would have made the annuity wrong? It’s an absurd, illogical, irrelevant comment. Either the $uper deserves the money or he does not. (No, he does not.)
  3. Snell again. (Do you see a pattern here?) “People say that they value education, but they don’t seem to want to pay people what they’re worth,” Snell said. Those words are going to come back to haunt the board and the leaders at the N-MFT are probably writing “thank you” cards to Snell as I compose this. FWIW, I am happy to pay the $uper what he is worth, which would be a lot less than what he is making.
  4. And finally, this one from Trustee Martha Fluor: “I would challenge anyone to take a look at corporations and look at how [employees] are evaluated and how they are compensated,” Fluor said. “Many corporations provide salary increases. … I believe our system is quite weighty. We don’t sit willy-nilly and hand out numbers.”  Eh, not so fast.  In the corporate world, numbers are everything: Stock dividends (how much, how often), sales (up, down), market share, and profitability, to name a few. Key executives are promoted, fired, and compensated based on these KPIs. One reading of the $uper’s job description and the qualifications for a bonus, however, will reveal that there are no specific performance benchmarks in place – it’s all squishy stuff. There’s nothing like “Overall test scores must rise by XX%.” This annuity is a gift.

A breakthrough

Cabinet member Tim Holcomb gave an update on school safety progress and while I have some issues with what is being done – or not – I give him high marks for the presentation itself. Holcomb’s PowerPoint did not have complete sentences which he read aloud to the board and the attendees. Instead, he listed bulleted items which served as talking points to expand on a particular subject. That’s the way it should be done.

My issues with the school safety initiatives are three:

  1. Cameras. Holcomb talked about the use of cameras on campuses but failed to set expectations for them. Unless they are being watched constantly during school hours, the screens showing cameras images do not prevent an initial attack by an intruder. If they are not being watched all the time, and I doubt they will be, the best we can hope for is to identify the location of an attacker and possibly limit the damage. But cameras should not be considered preventive in the way most people believe. By not stating this, a dangerous false sense of security is created.
  2. Holcomb did not present any information about coordinating his safety initiatives with the mental health outreach of the Student Services Dept. These two are joined at the hip and the sooner the district understands this dynamic, the sooner we will recognize meaningful progress in school safety. Which brings me to point number three.
  3. There is still a fundamental avoidance or misunderstanding of the most effective way to prevent a shooter, so to speak, from harming students and staff. Yeah, go ahead and erect fences and install perimeter cameras. Have at it. It won’t prevent a determined shooter and that is a fact.

Money, money, money

The meeting also included a budget discussion. Bottom line: Revenue is up and so are expenses. It’s no wonder expenses are up when the board hands out undeserved annuities at Christmastime.

Steve Smith