Once upon a time, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District was held in high regard throughout the state. Despite the fact that many of the district’s Costa Mesa schools were underperforming, there was still much good news.
The district was a safe place in which to work if you were a teacher and safe for kids. That is still mostly true, though it is disturbing to learn of hate incidents on campuses.
Money was not an issue. Despite several financial blunders, the district has been able to operate sufficiently. Improvements to schools have largely been due to the funding provided by two bond measures (taxes to you and me, despite the spin you’ll hear from others). Today, however, despite the fact that we are “financially stretched,” the trustees are about to give the super more money for a mediocre performance. Some administrators have recently received more compensation and the process was not as transparent as it should have been.
The other half of the district – the Newport half – was performing well, academically. While it’s still doing relatively well, it’s not what it used to be. See past posts for the new numbers of kids who did not achieve the state thresholds for math and English.
So, there is all that. What’s different is the environment. Teachers do not want to speak up for fear of retaliation, and there is an ongoing struggle to create our identity and reclaim our once-proud status. Today, we are middlin’ – that’s the best we can say:
That’s us – smack in the middle of all the school districts in the county. But you won’t see this fall from grace being addressed by the board majority or the administration because it’s bad news and they don’t like to talk about bad stuff.
Here we go again
I thought of all this as I read the news of the latest Nazi-salute in a local school. This one, captured on video, was performed by students from Pacifica High, part of the Garden Grove USD.
Here’s a link to the video: https://www.thedailybeast.com/pacifica-high-school-students-sang-nazi-song-and-gave-hitler-salute
There are a couple of things to note in the eight seconds of footage. First, I see what appears to be one student getting up and walking out during the salute. If so, good for him. Second, the guy in the far corner appears to be an adult. Can’t tell for sure, but it looks like an adult to me.
None of this is really news anymore – it goes on ALL THE TIME. I reported last May that in an interview, Trustee Karen Yelsey said “I did not know [hate incidents] was so prevalent in our schools” and “This has been happening for a long time – 25-30 years.”
That was one of the most honest and revealing statements I’d ever heard by a trustee. It revealed the fact that if Yelsey didn’t know this after being a trustee for 13 years, the information was kept from her, and possibly from her colleagues.
We only hear about these incidents when a school district can’t hide it from our view. For example, the Pacifica video was shot in November, 2018 and made available to the GGUSD last March.
So why are we hearing about it in August? Because that is the school district M.O., which is to avoid at all costs publicizing any bad news. Better to wait for it to be revealed – and hope it doesn’t – than to get out in front of any problems and keep the public informed.
We can’t blame the GGUSD or the NMUSD as that approach has worked for decades. The difference now is that some of these things are a lot tougher to hide. Back in the 90’s for example, every student was not equipped with a camera and the ability to upload footage for millions to see in just minutes.
That’s a game-changer, but transparency has never been the hallmark of the N-MUSD or most other school districts. They like to play it closet to the vest.
So, here we are, one week from the next board meeting and despite the fact that there has been a break of several weeks between meetings, there is no agenda post online – not even a draft agenda.
We’re also one week past the latest secret special meeting. That one had one item on the agenda: “Public Employee Evaluation: Title – Superintendent (Pursuant to Government Code Section 54957)”
It’s all a set-up for handing out more money to a super who does not deserve it. Not until we’re better than middlin’.