There was another secret special meeting last week – on Thursday – and you weren’t invited. Neither was I, but I crashed it anyway.

It’s one thing to post the notice of these meetings with only a few hours to spare for the legal deadline, it’s quite another to bury the notice deep in the website. To get to the agenda for this meeting, one first has to know where to click. Agendas are eventually found under the “Board” tab and it takes three clicks to get there.

It should take one.

The N-MUSD website should have a button or tab labeled “Next meeting” which when clicked will take the visitor to the agenda, which always includes the date, time, and place.

But the district doesn’t make it that simple because they don’t care if you attend. Actually, no, it’s worse than that: They don’t want you to attend.

For as long as I can recall, public input has been a nuisance; a thorn in the side of the district when it is required by law – as it is for all regular and special meetings – barely tolerated at the twice-monthly regular board meetings. Public input got to be so painful for the board that during the Swun Math debacle, the rules were changed to restrict input.

So, I showed up on Thursday at a couple of minutes before 8 a.m. for a meeting that was announced at 3:48 p.m. on Tuesday.

The purpose of the meeting was stated as “Public Employee Evaluation: Title – Superintendent” so you can imagine my surprise when I walked into the board room and saw that this meeting was not about the super’s evaluation at all, it was something else entirely.

Instead of the usual seating format for regular and special meetings, there was a U-shaped format and each position had some materials in preparation for what I guessed would be some sort of deep discussion.

I found out later that there was, in fact, no evaluation process that day. This meeting was some sort of 2019 goal-planning session.

First: Ugh. Planning for 2019 should have taken place six or so months ago, maybe more.

Second: If this meeting was not about evaluating the super, why wasn’t the real purpose listed? This time around, there are only two answers: Either the administration lied, or they are incompetent. That’s it – just those two options.

That hard line would not be justified if this were the first time that the posted agenda did not match the real purpose of the meeting. In that case, it could be the result of a simple oversight. But this has happened before, so it’s either deliberate or it’s bad execution.

Either way, the superintendent is responsible, just as he is responsible for everything good or bad that happens on his watch. Unfortunately, we do not seem to have a superintendent who understands this basic leadership principle.

With apologies to Elton John and Bernie Taupin, for this administration, sorry seems to be the hardest word.

I spoke anyway. I pointed out that the last four meetings were all posted with only a few hours to spare. I mentioned that someone new to all of this might get the impression that they don’t want people to attend – no! – and I said that this was not the first time I’d addressed this issue: I spoke to them about it in March, 2018 and in July, 2017.

What I said won’t make a difference. They don’t care and they don’t want you to attend. They also don’t care what you have to say at their fake public input meetings which have a history of ignoring what the public wants in favor of what the district prefers. That’s not just one time, folks, there multiple examples of that.

I don’t worry about or spend time trying to fix things I cannot change. I’ve mentioned the meeting notices enough times to know that things are the way they are because they want them that way.

The only way to change the status quo – something over which we do have some power – is to get new board members elected in 2020.

Steve Smith

 

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