At some point or points in each life, we are tested. These moral and ethical tests, while challenging, are also opportunities to assess who we are or who we need to be.

In college at age 19, I passed my first true life test. I was tested again at age 23 and passed that one, too. At age 27, I failed a test, choosing to protect my great job and salary versus doing the right thing.

Some tests are so subtle that we’re not aware of being tested until later.

The N-MUSD superintendent is facing the greatest challenge of his seven years at the helm. The challenge began on March 2 with the reveal of the so-called “red cup” video.

You know that story. It is what has happened since that has exposed the inadequacy of the N-MUSD leadership.

As usual, a citizen committee was thrown at the problem. This time around, it is a task force (TF) established to “make recommendations to the school board.” Over two months later, it is plodding along, unable to get out from under the weight of its roughly 50 members to advance anything meaningful.

The TF is well-meaning, to be sure, but that’s not enough. I could write for an hour with blow-by-blow meeting recaps, thoughts, opinions, etc., but the bottom line is that the whole exercise lacks leadership.

That leadership should have come from the superintendent, who should have championed this cause from day one and quickly established a framework for the process.

Instead, he delegated the responsibility.  Again.

The superintendent should have stood up at the first meeting – not the one last week that was declared the first meeting, I mean the REAL first meeting five weeks ago – and told everyone his vision for the TF.

He did not do that because, I am guessing, he did not have one. Maybe he does now, but if so, he’s not sharing it. So, here’s my vision:

I would like the TF to develop a comprehensive tolerance program complete with training, curriculum, transparent communication, and specific goals with benchmarks. This program should be replicable so that it can be used by districts across the country. This will be our lasting contribution to education.

Too lofty? Too much to ask? I don’t think so. When I look around the room at TF meetings, I see a lot of people I know, all of them really smart – action people who like to get things done. People like Sandy Asper, Kimberly Claytor, Wendy Leece, and Laurie Smith. And when I hear comments from the people I don’t know, they fit the same description.

The red cup video is a test of this school district. I am part of the TF and so I am being tested, too. And I will not stand by and allow this monumental challenge to be met with the equivalent of “meh” from the district administration. If the superintendent doesn’t know how to make things happen, he should have the good judgment to step aside and let others try. If he doesn’t, the trustees should ask him.

I have no power in the TF or over it. All I can do is raise my hand and question things and make recommendations, which I am doing now and will continue to do.

That is my response to this test.

Steve Smith

P.S. There is a board meeting tonight at 6 p.m. The agenda does not contain a report on the status of the progress of the TF. I don’t mean those “Informal Reports” or the “Superintendent Report,” I mean a specific, carved-out agenda item providing an update and plans.