Great burgers. And a very good example of a business that is hyper-focused on its mission to provide high-quality, good tasting food with superior service.

The price of a Double-Double burger at In-N-Out is $3.49. The typical cost of a Big Mac is $3.99.

So how can In-N-Out provide such a superior product at a price about 15% lower than its massive competitor? Because In-N-Out is not trying to be all things to all people.

(There is a school-related point to all this. Wait for it…)

At In-N-Out, there are no fancy coffees, no budget menu items, and no “lite” foods. In-N-Out’s menu is limited to a few items, which allows the chain to do (almost) one thing really well. So well, in fact, that when I recently asked my out-of-state son what he missed most about California, the second item on his short list was “Double-Doubles.”

The district’s Human Relations Task Force is an admirable first step in addressing what I believe is the greatest challenge ever to face the N-MUSD. But the task force is drowning in its attempt to accommodate every view.

That, too, is admirable, but it’s not administratively effective. And the reality is that when the task force is all done and its recommendations have been made, some viewpoints will not be included.

The task force is lacking focus and direction. That is the reason why I recently recommended that the task force quickly create a mission statement to help guide members through the process.

I support mission statements because they create focus. Strong leadership determines whether a recommendation is in line with the mission statement and allows it to proceed and process, or determines that it is not relevant to the declared mission.

The mission statement should have been created many weeks ago.

The task force is composed of anyone who submitted an application. While that, too, is admirable, it is also one of the main reasons for its brontosaurus-like pace.

The task force is McDonald’s when it should be In-N-Out.

Early on, the N-MUSD superintendent should have assumed almost daily control of the task force, whether in this form or another. He should have insisted on making this a daily part of his schedule and should have been in front of a massive community communications machine that constantly delivered information to let people know the seriousness of this issue. That alone could prevent future hate incidents.

Instead, we get meeting recaps, the most recent of which did not accurately reflect the growing frustration of the task force’s approximately 50 members.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in 17 days. There was talk at the last task force meeting of extending the meetings until November.


The superintendent should have been on this from day one, but he wasn’t. He delegated the responsibility to some well-meaning people – very good people who are trying to make a difference – and in return, we got what we always get: Plodding, unfocused progress that will be all but meaningless by the time we’re through.

By the time we are through, much of the public will have forgotten why the task force was formed.

The failure to lead the task force is one of the reasons why I showed up this morning to speak at the secret special meeting on the super’s evaluation. I said:

“According to the results of the 2018 testing, 40% of the district’s students failed to meet the state standards for English and 49% failed to meet the standards for math.

“These may be acceptable numbers elsewhere, but they should not be acceptable here, and I think you will all agree with that.

“Please do not extend the superintendent’s contract or award any more raises or bonuses until specific, measurable goals have been achieved in academic performance, teacher morale, and fiscal responsibility, which means doing more with less.

“Thank you.”

I was the only member of the public in attendance today. I’m telling you that not because I want a medal but because it is proof of the hypocrisy of the current administration, i.e., the super’s office.

The administration has to have public input. It’s mandatory for two of the three types of board meetings they hold and it’s good PR for other times. In every case, however, that community input is driven by events, whether it is providing us with information on a new calendar (and disregarding committee recommendations), a new trustee area map (and disregarding committee recommendations), or a new fence at Adams El (and disregarding committee recommendations).

These meetings, committees, and task forces are carefully orchestrated to maintain control of the process. The only times that the process is out of control is when lots of people – dozens – show up at a board meeting to protest something like the failed math program to which the district clung before it ran out of fingers on its grip.

And even then, the board tried to control the process by changing the rules of the public speaking component of their board meetings. Yes, that is correct: In response to the community input they claim to want so much, they put further restrictions on the public’s ability to express their opinions.

I don’t care whether the super thinks he is not responsible for the bad math program, the rats on campuses, the premature draining of the Estancia pool, the Gold Ribbon fiasco, or any of the other many troublesome incidents that have occurred on his watch.

As the person in charge, you don’t get to pick and choose, you own all of it, good and bad.

Right now, I see a lot of bad. I see failed leadership on the task force, failed leadership on the charter school response, failed leadership on teacher morale, and failed leadership on the huge issues of transparency and accountability.

No more money and no more contract extensions – nothing – until specific goals have been created and achieved.

It won’t hurt his financial situation… He’s already got plenty of money for all the Double-Doubles he desires.

Steve Smith