(Note to new readers from Costa Mesa Public Square and Costa Mesa Voice. This blog began as a communications tool for my school board campaign of 2014. Back then, I promised that win or lose, I would continue. Comments are welcome and all are printed anonymously unless you provide approval. This is done to protect teachers from possible district retaliation for speaking out.)
Agenda item No. 9 for last night’s special meeting of the school board was labeled “Discussion/Action Calendar” and focused on the selection of one of two options for new trustee area boundaries, perhaps the most significant issue placed before the board since its inception. Bigger than any academic program, bigger than term limits.
But there was no discussion.
Ten people spoke during the public comments section and were met with board – or bored – indifference. Four of the trustees routinely paid little or no attention to the speakers. The trustees made no comments to the speakers and anyone who went three seconds over the three-minute time limit was approached by the security guard and asked to stop – this on a pre-arranged signal he was looking for from board president Karen Yelsey.
Most of the board paid no attention to the speakers because they did not care what they had to say.
After they suffered through the public comments section, several members of the board proceeded to read from prepared remarks about why they favor “Mystery” Map G over the community-preferred Map B. Then they voted unanimously for G.
No discussion. Little attention to and no dialog with the speakers. Prepared remarks. A special session instead of adding this to the regular board meeting. Short notice of this very important meeting. No trustee discussions at any of the “public hearings” held to gather community input. Going outside the established process to create a new map.
Add it all up and you have a sham – the most subverted action this board has taken since I have been writing about them, which is three presidents ago.
And as if pounding the community into submission were not enough, it was reported to me that following the meeting, two board members made highly inappropriate comments to a taxpayer.
During their comments, a few of the trustees wanted the audience to know how much attention they have been paying to Costa Mesa’s Westside schools. They want you to know about the events they attend, the staged tours they take, and the overall time they have invested. (Has it not occurred to any trustee over the years that it’s a little strange that during these tours, there is never a hint of any bad news?) Why, Yelsey even offered that she spends more time on Westside matters than on issues in her own area! And trustee Metoyer even spoke a little Spanish! Yay! Trustee Dana Black mentioned the ELAC people who were invited to Sacramento!
Listening to these Westside comments, and more, I could not help but feel a condescending attitude, as though the board wants us to know that they are watching out for, as the late Leona Helmsley may have said, “the little people.” And there lies the root of this problem.
So let’s see what all of that time and attention has gotten students. According to the results of the 2017 Smarter Balanced Assessments, here is the percentage of 6th grade students who have NOT met the standards at three Westside schools:
Deplorable. (Note to the board: As long as the scores are this miserable, I wouldn’t be crowing about all the time and attention you’re paying to the Westside. Bad for business.) The Westside has been suffering with poor test scores for decades, and despite their claims of more attention and time spent, they have not figured out how to crack the code. That alone is enough to advocate new faces on the board.
Oh, and there were three people from a law firm present, too, at least two of whom are lawyers. One of them got up and spoke for nearly ten minutes, giving us a history of the entire process. He wanted us to know, among other things, that the board has seven members and that each are elected to a four-year term and that the terms are staggered by two years. Just in case you didn’t know that. Neither of the other two people spoke but I am sure taxpayers will be getting a bill for their time. (BTW, and he pronounced “Rea” – Ray – as “Ray-uh”)
Trustee Judy Franco told us she would not be running for re-election next year, and offered that this should bury specific criticism over Map G.
This was not a special meeting, it was a formality.