That about sums up last night’s Estancia Zone school information event. I got there right around the starting time of 7 p.m. to find about 16 people in attendance. Deducting the three trustees in the audience – Martha Fluor, Dana Black, and Ashley Anderson – makes it about 13, give or take. More on the crowd in a moment.

Seated at the top table were, in order, Board President Charlene Metoyer, Trustee Vicki Snell, and the principals of Early College HS, Estancia HS, TeWinkle MS, Adams El, and California El.

Metoyer started off with an overview of the board’s responsibilities and the structure and it seemed to me to be out of place and somewhat condescending but I am not typical of many of the people who were there. Some folks probably appreciated the insight.

Metoyer was followed by Snell who described the value of the School Accountability Report Cards that are available online for each school in the district. Snell’s too many “ums” and “uhs” and awkward pauses (In my line of work, we call them “yips”) would have been reduced or eliminated had she taken a few minutes to study what she was reading before she read it to the 13. It was not her finest hour, but I don’t know that she has ever had one so give her points for consistency.

Then it was principal time. Each of them talked about the wonderful, exciting things going on at their schools, but one person stood out. During his few minutes, Estancia Principal Mike Halt addressed the elephant in the room, which is the continued absence of many Mesa Verde kids from the N-MUSD schools. This should have been covered at the outset by Metoyer, but it wasn’t and Halt deserves much credit for addressing this.

So, except for Halt courageously opening the door to the real reason for the event, it was pretty much the standard district line.

Then it was time for the Q&A. We were asked to submit questions by writing them down on index cards. Why? Beats me.

There was a question about Early College, then a question about that elephant in the room. That started a discussion which, to her credit, Metoyer allowed to proceed without the formality of the cards. (And a note to Metoyer and anyone else who takes questions from the audience: Always, always, always! repeat the question that is asked before you answer it.)

So, back to the crowd as promised. Of the 13 +/- people who were there, only two had kids in the district. The rest were older and past that point. The crowd seized the topic of transfers and Newport resident Laurie Smith and Mesa Verde resident Marti O’Meara pointed out the obvious: There is no long-term strategic plan to improve the academic performance in the schools.

There was no resolution on anything.

Then, just when we thought it was safe to end the Q&A, Snell started talking. To anyone who listened, the takeaway from her remarks is this: Mesa Verde parents don’t send their kids to Adams El because students are being bused in from Costa Mesa’s Westside.

I’d heard Snell say this before – about four years ago when I ran against her for the seat she occupies. The remark was insulting and offensive then and it’s insulting and offensive now.

Worse, it’s incorrect, and it’s an excuse for many years of underperformance.

I should know: I am a Mesa Verde parent who sent his kids out of the district many years ago.

So here’s the what for for Snell: Mesa Verde parents don’t care about kids being bused in from the Westside. You could bus kids in from Timbuktu and Mesa Verde parents wouldn’t care as long as one thing is covered: All they care about – the only thing – is academic performance. I guarantee you that if Adams were performing well, you’d have to add classrooms and teachers. So stop shifting the blame to parents who want a good education for their kids and start doing your job.

(Oh, just a special note to Snell: That remark is dangerously close to an accusation and you may want to stop saying it.)

I applaud the district for participating in this event. While it was not particularly compelling, at least they tried. In the future, however, they may want to consider an organized, strategic marketing campaign to attract more of the people they need to reach.

But before they do that, it may be a good idea to work on that academic performance thing.

Steve Smith