That’s not me talking, that is the fact-based opinion of Jeff Trader, the district’s money man. Specifically, his PowerPoint slide read, “N-MUSD is Financially Stretched.”

So on top of everything else – on top of all the blunders, scandals, and wasted resources that have been the hallmark of this administration, we learned on Tuesday night that we’re also running out of money.

Oh, and enrollment is declining, too.

Oh, also, there is a charter school set to open up, which will absorb approximately $2 million revenue from this “financially stretched” district.

Oh, also, and plus, the district’s bus drivers are seething, as we learned from a few of them Tuesday night.

This administration is a train wreck, plain and simple.

The superintendent heard as much on Tuesday, but he refused to look at any of the speakers who dared to challenge his leadership.

As if all this weren’t enough, early arrivals had to stomach the presentation of the “Superintendent Character Trait Awards.”

“This is one of my favorite events of the year,” the super said, “because we get to recognize our students not so much for what they have accomplished, but what the [sic] kind of human being they are. You know, it’s about their character, it’s about their essence of being.”

Recognizing their essence of being is so important to the super that he then turned over the introductions and award presentations to district employees. He did not come down from the dais to shake the hands of the five recipients or take a photograph with them.

Next, we heard informal reports from the super and the cabinet, heard about LCAP – yikes – and heard about our dismal financial future.

Then we head from the public.

The school bus drivers took the district to task for changes in their benefits that could make health insurance unaffordable.

“We got a notice on May 10 that instead of a benefit week, we’re going to have a benefit month. We had a benefit week for 18-plus years and now they’re going to a month so most likely all of our premiums are going to rise.”

“We’re going to be paying $313.50 to $470 more a month. We have single moms with kids.”

There’s more, but you get the idea. The issue is also one of the classification of the drivers as part-time workers vs. full-time.

“We have the most sensitive job in the school district. We have 70 kids on a 40-foot bus driving around Newport Beach and … people are really aggressive.”

“I work a full-time job and I get paid part-time.”

Britt Dowdy, president of the teacher union spoke about district priorities and mentioned that while the PTA and the student representatives are part of each meeting agenda, the employee associations such as the CSEA (classifieds) and NMFT (certificated) are not, despite the fact that approximately 90% of the budget goes to their salaries and benefits.

Good point.

So how did the super respond? Did he make an attempt to build a bridge or look for some common ground on which to make progress? No, he did not. Instead, he looked down the dais at the trustees and put the blame for stalled labor negotiations squarely and solely on the back of the union.

Then the show started. Here are excerpts from the comments of the members of the public who spoke:

“You need to video the board meetings video and have them streamed on Channel 26 multiple times a week, just like the Costa Mesa City Council does.”

“You need to change your format and have us speakers at the beginning. There is no reason to wait for three hours. Put the speakers back in the front.”

“Dr. Navarro, ultimately all of this is your responsibility because you run this place. I hear you manage by fear and intimidation. Do some research and you will find that in the long run, that management style does not work. It only creates dissent, apathy, low morale, and burn out and ultimately harms our kids.

“Dr. Navarro, I would like it if you would look at me during this presentation. The last presenter got no looks.”

“Fred Navarro has been showing us who he is for a long time and tonight I would like to speak to his ethics and honesty. He has shown us that he has little of either one.”

Kids spoke on Tuesday, too, and made excellent presentations.

“Through this process, it became clear that our district leadership team is dishonest, intimidating, deliberately hides information and is not capable of leading our children’s education.”

“We have seen enough and are making the decision to move our kids out of the district.”

“Real true leaders own [their mistakes] and try to improve them and ask for input on trying to improve them and I just don’t see that here.”

“The best and worst moment of tonight was when the representative of the teachers spoke and Dr. Navroo gave bad excuses and Mrs. Metoyer said the right thing – ‘we want to work with you.’ It was the message that a leader would say and she was the leader.”

“During every speech that has been given tonight – we’ve had bus drivers, we’ve had teachers. we’ve had parents – Mr. Navarro hasn’t looked at anybody. All of you [trustees] have looked at everybody and I can only think that he’s embarrassed or he knows that he’s wrong.”

It could also be that the super didn’t pay attention to any of the speakers because he just doesn’t care. The trustees have led him to believe that his contract has been renewed for another year because they did not give him 30 days’ notice of expiration as specified in his contract so he’s probably feeling comfortable right about now.

Oh, wait, didn’t I mention that contract clause? I’m sorry. Here it is:

8C. In the event such notice is not given by the board to the Superintendent, the Agreement shall be automatically renewed for one additional year under the same provisions.

The contract expires on June 30. So with no public hearing or input – everything about as under the radar as it can get – the super’s contract is renewed.

That’s bad enough, but there is every reason to believe that in addition to this mismanagement of the contract, a majority of the trustees will eventually vote to give him more money, despite the fact that their own CFO has just told them that the district is “financially stretched.”

Can’t wait to hear the reaction from the bus drivers when they learn that their benefits will cost more and the super is getting more money.

Steve Smith