I thought of this excellent movie when I learned from a friend whose wife is a teacher that her first day of school was Monday.

For the rest of us, it will seem like we are in an endless summer.

Not that the M-MUSD isn’t trying to change that. They want to start school several days earlier next year, adhering to the so-called “Collegiate Calendar,” which is supposed to be advantageous for students who are applying to colleges.

They tried to spin it as an advantage to the kids who don’t want to go to college but it’s a collection of weak arguments.

The name is a tell. Despite their feeble attempts to prove otherwise, the district is still wired on that old “everyone can/should go to college” nonsense.

So here’s what: I have a new client whose business is dependent on new and remodeled commercial projects. During my initial interview with him on Tuesday, I asked him if he was having trouble finding skilled labor. “Yes,” he replied, “and so are the other subcontractors on all our projects.”

I have been hearing this from the construction folks for about four years. One former client told me that he was so desperate for experienced roof installers that he was paying 50 percent more in wages just to get jobs completed.

The construction industry is no different than others in that it is subject to the usual laws of supply and demand. Right now, workers have the leverage – big time – and that is not going to change for the foreseeable future. Even if the number of construction jobs decreases 20%, the labor pool is still small enough for workers to demand top dollar.

How top? Before I tell you, let’s go back to my new client. The work he does not require a college degree or a high school diploma. It can be taught over time to anyone who has an eye for detail, a commitment to quality work, and a good work ethic.

For that, he is paying his crew $68 an hour.

But here we are, still sending kids subtle messages that unless you go to college, you have failed.

The district can start by changing the name of the “Collegiate” Calendar. I’m not sure what to call it – maybe they can hire a consultant to come up with a name. After all, it’s only (your) money.

More hogwash

In the current iteration of the district’s priorities, there is this bullet point:

  • Enhance and implement comprehensive communication plan

Keep that in mind as I unfold the latest double-talk…

On June 6, I reported on another of the district’s fake meetings designed to get community input, but which is really just for show. Go back among these posts for several years and you find many examples of these fake meetings.

The fake meeting in June was held at CM High to provide the public with an opportunity to tell the district what characteristics they would like to see in the new principal at Costa Mesa Middle School.

I came so close to going. Had I gone, I would have doubled the attendance:

Actual photo of the attendance at the fake meeting in June. (photo by Barry Friedland)

Yep: One parent came to the meeting.

So, what did the district muckety-mucks do in response to this debacle?

  • Did they schedule and hold another meeting? Nope.
  • Did they promote a new online survey to get the fake desired input? Nope.
  • Did they hold a meeting to pin down exactly why this effort failed and create new protocols to ensure that it doesn’t happen again? Nope.
  • Did they hold anyone accountable for this waste of resources? Nope.

What they did was choose a principal on July 26. No second attempt at another fake meeting. No additional online outreach. No nothing.

Why? Let’s say it together: Because they don’t want your input. The meetings and surveys and communication are just for show.

This blog is not going to stop the fake meetings. All it can really do is expose the fact that at least one person in the area is wise to them; to let them know that Lincoln was right: You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

But I have to acknowledge one honest thing the district did in this regard: In the new 2019-2020 version of their priorities, the communication plan bullet has been deleted.

School starts this week

School starts this week, not for students, but for teachers, many of whom are getting classes and curricula ready for the official 9/3 start. (BTW, it would be helpful if on the district home page there were this prominent but simple statement: School starts Sept. 3)

Each classroom that kids will enter on 9/3 is days and weeks in the making. It’s just one small element of the larger list of duties of a school teacher. A few days ago, I attended a meeting in which a former teacher described the typical N-MUSD school day and semester.

I had some sense of what it was like, but the description was so clear and detailed that I started to wonder why anyone would take this job.

Teaching in the N-MUSD is not a job for the faint of heart. Long before the kids arrive and long after they’re gone, teachers are prepping, responding to countless inquiries from parents and district bureaucrats, and taking care of class business such as grading papers, handling disciplinary problems, attending (too many) meetings, and more.

In return for this monumental effort, they are told by many people in America that their pensions are too expensive, that their health care program costs too much, and that they are responsible for nearly everything involving a child’s failure to maintain a decent academic performance or behavior performance in the classroom.

Couple this with the understanding that NO ONE in the current administration has their backs and you get worse than burnout, you get a firestorm. It is getting so bad in parts of America that teachers are leaving to take those $68/hour construction jobs.

Can you blame them? On that construction job, you start at 6, 7 or 8, go home at 2, 3 or 4, and leave everything on the job site: No e-mails to answer, no phone calls to return, no prepping for the next day.

Thank you, teachers.

One of the most important district priorities is not listed in the old or new version, which you can read here: http://web.nmusd.us/pf4/cms2/news_themed_display?id=1565000503339 is something related to providing support for teachers.

Much of my work involves training people in customer service protocols. I’ve been doing it a long time and I know that a successful customer service program is only as good as the support it receives from the top. The more the owners and managers are invested in the success of the program, the greater the likelihood of success.

When I meet with the staffs of these businesses, either on the phone or in-person, I often end the session with this question: “Do you have everything you need to succeed?”

The answers tell me everything I need to know about the enterprise that is paying me to improve their business. When I don’t get a “yes,” I know there is a problem in the chain of command. The sad part is that when the staff member replies “No” or “Not really,” the thing they need is usually easy to provide. Small stuff.

But they don’t speak up because they know that the bosses don’t care or they may be retaliated against so what’s the point.

Sound familiar?

Steve Smith