The whoosh of air you may hear tonight from around the corners of Baker and Bear Sts. is the district administration and the board majority exhaling for having made it through to another long break.

Tonight’s board meeting is the last one before they disassemble for the summer and return on August 27. Kids return to school on Sept. 3. Next year, the new Collegiate Calendar start date is Aug. 24.

So the question now is whether 20-21 school year will start without the school board being back in session. That would not be a good way to start the school year. To avoid that scenario, the board would have to meet on Aug. 11, 2020, which could encroach on the vacations for all the bureaucrats.

Too bad.

Tonight’s meeting will feature a report on the progress of the District’s Human Relations Task Force and the presentation of Phase I recommendations.

I have attended every Task Force meeting.

The board will also approve the spending of several million tax dollars to install more air conditioning at seven schools. Let’s hope there are no hiccups and that all systems are operational before kids start school in the summer heat next year.

The question really is why, after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in bond money starting almost 20 years ago, has it taken so long to complete the air conditioning installations?

Items 11a. and 13 are reports from the superintendent, the first one “informal,” and the second one just a regular report. The difference won’t matter to me because I won’t be paying attention. The super ignores many speakers when they speak, including moi, so I will ignore him when he speaks. Ignoring him is no loss – over the years, I have found very little of substance in anything he has to say.

OBTW and FWIW the Public Comments section is bookended by the superintendent reports. The informal one is just before and the formal(?) one is right after. I wonder why that is… No, I don’t really wonder. Let’s put it this way: It’s not a coincidence.

The board will approve the purchase order list, which includes another $20,000 in legal fees to one firm and another potential (up to) $200,000 for another. That’s on top of the legal fees they’ve already spent.

That’s YOUR money, folks.

The total of the purchase orders is 3,180,042.88 for which there will be little, if any discussion, even about spending $3,000 for food from Newport Rib.

I have nothing against Newport Rib. Love the food, and the Ursini family has contributed much to the community. But the food isn’t cheap and it seems to me that if Jeff Trader, the district’s financial guru, is telling the board and the administration that the district is “financially stretched,” they ought to figure out a less expensive way of catering an event. One suggestion: Sgt. Pepperoni’s in Newport Beach. Great pizza and other food (try the Bronx Bomber pizza and the Big Cookie for dessert) and it’s run by the folks who led the charge to dump Swun Math.

If we’re going to reward good community behavior, let’s spread it around.

Oh, and Trader’s “financially stretched” remark applies to raises and bonuses for all the bureaucrats, too.

Another expenditure on the agenda is $5,000 to Orange County Human Relations. They’re the folks who are leading the Task Force Workshops. This money is for implicit bias training in the district.

That training is going to cost you $1,250 an hour. Here is the bottom line from the copy of the contract buried in the agenda for tonight:

Nice work if you can get it.

Then there are the contracts with the Anti-Defamation League for “anti-bias training.” This training is a bit less, coming in at around $625 an hour.

More nice work if you can get it.

I could go on. And on. The problem is not so much these contracts, though someone should raise an eyebrow over training at $1,250 an hour, the problem is the same one the plagues the entire administration: There is no accountability. Nowhere in any of these contracts does it state any data supporting the way things are now, and there are no projections or estimates for what is supposed to happen – not even guesses.

It works like this: Let’s say that in the last school year there were a hundred reports of hate incidents or bullying or whatever you want to call them. It would be nice if taxpayers had some idea of what they are going to get for their money.

Are the incidents expected to drop as a result of the training? One would hope so. If so, how much? Five percent? Ten? Twenty? Beats me. No one knows because no one in the district has asked. The projection is less a guarantee than it is a goal. As it is, everything is squishy, as usual.

Creating well-defined, measurable goals is not in the DNA of this administration because it’s not in the DNA of the superintendent. In any project, there must be specific, achievable goals, otherwise, there is no way to know whether the program worked.

But like the super’s contract, the implicit bias training goals are not really goals, they are objectives. Squishy objectives:

Want to know what squishy looks like? It starts with words such as “define,” “understand,” “examine,” and “acquire.” See above (and sorry about the fuzziness).

Saving the best for (almost) last

Item 15.e is the latest draft of the document listing the district’s priorities for 2019-20. There are a lot of things missing, including nothing in the Community section about fostering increased communication or seeking additional input, stakeholders, robust, blah, blah, blah. The closest it comes is this: “Solicit input and build two-way communication with advisory councils for students, parents, certificated and classified employees.”

This is such gibberish that it makes the Voynich manuscript look like a recipe for meat loaf.

Solicit input. Build two-way communication (as opposed to… one-way communication???). Advisory councils – these are the committees that the district forms to make recommendations, then ultimately rejects when they don’t agree with what the administration wants to do.

But it’s this one line that really irks me. In the Behavior section, there is this bullet:

● Support the Superintendent’s Human Relations Task Force in promoting
safe, respectful and inclusive school environments.

The Superintendent’s Human Relations Task Force? Seriously? The guy was not at the last meeting. When he has shown up, he has contributed NOTHING. He’ll either sit in the back schmoozing and/or working his phone, or walk around eavesdropping on subcommittee conversations.

The Task Force may have been created with his name on it, but he does not deserve its legacy.

From day one, the super has treated the red cup video like the prom draft or the Mariners Gold Ribbon mess, or any of the many other goofs on his watch with the same three-point strategy:

  • Throw a committee at the problem
  • Ride out the storm
  • Return to business as usual

His name deserves to be associated with the work of the Task Force as much as mine deserves to be associated with sugarcoating one’s opinions.

Steve Smith

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