There is a board meeting tonight. As usual, the agenda was posted late Friday afternoon so that you won’t have enough time to determine whether you want to go. I’ve been promoting this prime example of organizational dysfunction for years and once got the board to discuss some improvement but nothing has happened.
And nothing will.
The agenda includes a lot of contracts for various services. Most of the trustees have no clue as to exactly what these people and companies are paid to do. For them, staff approval is all that matters. Besides, it’s a lot easier to just rubber stamp stuff and go home around 9 p.m. than it is to be a fiscal watchdog on behalf of taxpayers.
Trustee Ashley Anderson is almost the only trustee who asks questions such as “Why…” and “What…”
I reviewed the check register submitted for board approval and found about $50,000 payable to a law firm. Ask the district how much they’ve spent in legal fees to date and you’re likely to get the shuffle, stall, and stymie. It’s a sensitive topic because in some cases, legal fees can be avoided through good management, such as not preventing the union president from entering the NHHS campus for a week.
But district management is in a shambles, as anyone can see from reviewing the list of blunders, which you can read here:
The list hasn’t been updated for awhile but it makes the case nonetheless. The case these days is more money for the super, whether it is a raise, the tax-deferred annuity of his choice that he gets to pick every year, or some increase in benefits.
He’s going to get more taxpayer, dough, despite the protestations of a board minority and despite the fact that the district’s CFO said not too long ago that the district is “financially stretched.”
Not only should the super not receive any more dough, his contract should undergo a drastic revision to delete all the squishy requirements of his job (“report,” “ensure” “oversee,” etc.) and replace them with actual goals… Improve academic performance by XX%, reduce hate incidents by XX%, decrease spending by XX% without affecting academic performance or employee morale, etc.
That’s how the rest of the working world operates.
Save the date. Or don’t.
The super’s latest self-inflicted mess is a message he recently sent to parents and the community regarding a change in the school calendar for 2020. It’s a do-over of the letter he sent in July. Here is what he wrote:
“The purpose of this letter is to clarify the facts sent in a communication on July 3, 2019 regarding the student start date for the 2020-21 year. As stated in the prior letter, it is anticipated the start date for students will be August 24, 2020. Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) and the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers (NMFT) began negotiations regarding a revised teacher work calendar in March and continue to meet.
“To reiterate this was a recommended start date by the Calendar Review Committee in the winter of 2017. As you may know, the Committee was comprised of certificated and classified staff, parents, district administrators, and employee bargaining units, and recommended starting school prior to Labor Day beginning with the 2020-21 school year. The Calendar Committee identified multiple benefits to students and families. All other unified school districts in Orange County have implemented a Collegiate Calendar.
“An overview of the student benefits with a Collegiate Calendar is attached and available online – Collegiate Calendar: Student Benefits.
“The 2020-21 calendar will be posted online when negotiations are completed and the calendar is adopted by the NMUSD Board of Education.”
Both communications are blatant attempts to manipulate public opinion in favor of the new calendar which, BTW, about 2/3 of those surveyed do not want. The best way to understand the misrepresentation of the so-called Collegiate Calendar is to watch this video featuring N-MFT president Britt Dowdy:
OBTW, the super’s letter was posted on the district’s website yesterday.
It would seem that the issue is the calendar, but it’s not. The calendar is a symptom. The problem is the district’s development and seeming appreciation of an adversarial relationship with the N-MFT. Time after time, the district negotiators have treated union leadership – and by proxy, all member teachers – as the enemy.
The task of the Task Force
Concurrent with the board mulling over more money for the super, the district’s Human Relations Task Force has been meeting to help develop a program that will create more inviting and inclusive environments on our campuses.
The real challenge is not the program development – you can do that. The challenge will be the stickiness of the program, that is, ensuring that it is in force year after year. Until that is set in stone, all the talk about making this a forever endeavor is just that – talk.
Make no mistake, the Task Force is a welcome development. But without some sort of permanent oversight, it is like steam: There is a burst of energy, then it disappears.
So, yes, there is a meeting tonight, but no, I do not expect anything other than business as usual.