A Crisis Ignored

Teen suicide is claiming an average of over 100 lives each week. According to the Centers for Disease Control:

  • The suicide rate for girls doubled from the years 2007 – 2015
  • For boys, the increase was 30% in the same period
  • On average, more than 1 out of every 12 young people in our nation attempted suicide in the previous 12 months

As the so-called “Silent Epidemic,” it does not reveal itself until it is too late.

The January 27 suicide of CdM student Patrick Turner should have set off alarms up and down the chain of command of the district, starting with the superintendent.

Instead, students and parents are witnessing yet another attempt to sweep a major problem under the rug. But in the district’s effort to move on as quickly and efficiently as possible, they may be jeopardizing the health of the approximately 2,200 N-MUSD students who need mental health counseling.

In many of those cases, the students just need someone to talk to – someone to whom they can be, as I recently heard, “authentic.”

 

One would think that with this tragedy hitting so close to home that the superintendent and the trustees would drop everything and create a task force not to study the issue, but to take meaningful action right now to help prevent any more deaths.

That’s not happening. Yes, the Student Services department has policies and procedures in place, but it’s not enough. And it is alarming to see the lengths to which the trustees are going to avoid any discussion of the epidemic.

On March 2, a parent at board meeting was scolded from the dais by two trustees because she dared to broach the subject. Trustee Karen Yelsey told her not to do that again. On her way out, Trustee Vicki Snell – the current school board club president and the person who is supposed to be setting the best example – stormed out of the boardroom and condemned the members of the public, including yours truly, for speaking up.

Those are not the words and deeds of people who wish to overcome a problem.

Right now, at this very moment, the superintendent should be sounding the alarm and yelling, “All hands on deck!” Actually, he should have done that on January 28. But he takes his cues from the school board club and that is not how they choose to respond.

So what should they do? Here’s my short list, all of which are easily executed:

  1. Create a confidential suicide hotline strictly for N-MUSD students or partner with an existing one. Blast the hotline number everywhere, permanently, to let students know that there is someone to whom they can talk about their darkest thoughts – someone who won’t judge and can help.
  2. The superintendent should star in a video that is posted front and center on the district’s website. In it, he avoids the fluff and provide specific direction to troubled students and their parents.
  3. District messaging should be modified to stress the confidentiality of all mental health counseling opportunities. This should include specific messaging to parents to let them know that this counseling will not affect their child’s college or job opportunities.
  4. The superintendent should drop everything and visit all middle and high schools. Now. Students should gather for an assembly, during which the superintendent will describe the problem, tell them about the district’s resources, that they are confidential and that we really do care about helping them.
  5. Approach former students who have benefitted from the district’s counseling program and ask if they will get involved as a spokesperson.
  6. The number one barrier to treatment is stigma – stigma felt by students and by parents who attach counseling to their failure as a parent or who attach counseling to a “black mark” on their child’s record. Revise existing messaging to address the sigma barrier.

In the slowly grinding wheels of the N-MUSD (just ask teachers about the progress on campus safety), there would usually be some study sessions, discussions, and general wheel spinning before hiring a consultant to advise them.

This sound advice is free.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD Taxpayer

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Teachers flex their muscles at fake meeting

They are billed as meetings of the N-MUSD board of education but they are more akin to coffee klatches. Except when teachers show up.

That’s when, all of a sudden, the school board club members become attentive and show these concerned looks on their faces and promise to take everything under advisement and blah, blah, blah.

They are fake meetings, held only to satisfy legal or other requirements and to provide an opportunity for each school board club member to tell the others at the end of the meeting about the school plays they attended, the ribbons they cut, and how marvelous everything is.

Unless teachers show up en masse.

Last night teachers showed up to express concern about campus safety and to demand that more be done – and faster – about protecting themselves and their students from potential outside threats. At one point, many of the teachers held up signs stating how many other teachers they represent as part of their union roles. This was meant to tell the school board club that there is a lot of clout in the room. It looked like this:

Teacher signs

One victory at last night’s fake meeting was the opportunity to witness school board club president [sic] Vicki Snell’s poor management of the Community Input portion of the show. Here’s how that went…

Teachers were not at the fake meeting because they had nothing else to do, they were there because the district’s campus safety plans – such as they are – are moving at a snail’s pace. While the school board club seems to have no trouble expediting raises and bonuses for the superintendent, they cannot get campus safety in gear.

One community input speaker went over the allotted three minutes, at precisely which time Snell made the very bad decision to cut her off completely. Interrupting her, Snell said something to the effect that there were a lot of people who wanted to speak and it was not fair to them to allow anyone to get extra time. She also referenced the 20-minute rule,  aka BB 9323, which states that, ” …there is a maximum of 20 minutes per topic.”

Having run many meetings, including meetings for the city of Costa Mesa, I am sympathetic to Snell’s point. No one should go over three minutes, even when the room is empty, unless of course they are granted extra time, which is what Snell should have done in that environment.

Instead, she cut off the speaker, who then started to demand more time, which Snell refused to do. There was some heated back-and-forth, then Snell ordered the security guard to remove the speaker from the podium. Here’s what that looked like:

 

Guard

I am sorry for the fuzzy image, but I am not an experienced photographer. Similarly, those people last night were not experienced speakers and Snell should have handled the situation with a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer, particularly in front of a hostile crowd.

At the moment the speaker went over the limit, Snell should have said, simply, “You have an additional 10 seconds (or 15 or 20 or whatever) to finish your comments.” That is the respectful thing to do and it does not impact the total amount of time because only a small percentage of the speakers go over three minutes.

But it’s not just what we say, it is also how we say it. In fact, how we say something is often more impactful than what we say. The folks at Disney understand this, and according to their Cast Member training, 55% of successful communication is based not on what we say, but how we say it. Snell addressed the speaker tersely, which served only to cause more resistance to her command.

In the end, the amount of time Snell spent trying to chase the speaker from the podium was probably equal to or greater than the time this person needed to wrap up.

There are other, more effective ways to get a speaker to stand down, but Snell either does not know them or does not care to use them. Her command to the speakers who ran over was rude and inappropriate. But that’s not the first time she has handled them that way.

The ridiculous part of this whole mess is that it was this same school board club that voted to implement the 20-minute rule and at any time during the Community Input section, a club member could have made a motion to extend the 20 minutes to 30 or 45.

But they did not. Why? Because, as I have written countless times and supported the position with concrete examples, they are not really interested in community input, despite any protestations to the contrary.

They have a Community Input section on the agenda because they have to, not because they want to.

The value in the exchanges last night was that the members of the public got to see Snell’s unwieldy wielding of presidential power.

Talking it up

In an effort to highlight the need for a greater discussion of teen suicide prevention, I told the board that not only are they not doing enough, their silence may be harmful. I said:

“One week ago, the Orange County Register ran the second in a series of articles about teen suicide. In this one, there are pictures of Patrick Turner, quotes from his family, and quotes from his letters, which are now widely available online.

“The author of the series, David Whiting, wrote, “Patrick’s mother wishes her son talked about what was bothering him, that he sought help. But he didn’t and now he never can.” It is possible that stigma is one reason why Patrick Turner did not talk about his troubles.

“The scolding of a concerned parent at the March 2nd board meeting and the district’s apparent desire to sweep Patrick Turner’s suicide under the rug is undermining the efforts of Student Services and perpetuating the air of stigma attached to counseling.

“This is not the prom draft. It is not the premature draining of a swimming pool, and it is not a falsified gold ribbon application.

“By not encouraging an open and frank discussion of this challenge, you have told parents and students in the district that mental health issues are not something to be discussed publicly; that silence is the best approach.

“There are troubled teens who are depending on your leadership to help reduce the stigma of seeking help. The failure to clearly and directly address teen suicide may be doing tremendous damage to the approximately 2200 district students who are estimated to be candidates for mental health counseling, but who are now receiving more messaging that, to them, is the equivalent of “Get over it.”

“And that is the real shame here.”

That last line was directed at Snell, who stormed out of the boardroom on March 2 and said to one member of the public, a parent of N-MUSD kids, then to the rest of us, “You should be ashamed of yourself. All of you.”

Also on March 2, club member Karen Yelsey told that same parent from the dais, ““I feel really strongly about this because I know that family – I know what’s going on – and unless that family has told you to speak on their behalf or on their child’s behalf, please don’t do that again.”

Even if the Register had not written about Turner, I would have mentioned him again, despite Yelsey’s request. I did it last night, not because the Register let the cat out of the bag, but because I believe that is what Turner would want us to do.

One of Turner’s letters was addressed,  “To my family, friends and whoever else reads this.” In the letter, he precisely described the state-of-mind of many high school students, and also described larger societal problems. I do not believe he wrote that letter to have it remain a forbidden topic. I believe that letter was a plea to do something; to take some action to either change the status quo or to do more to help kids get the counseling they need.

But as I wrote, the school board club will have none of that. Out of the many meaningful things they can and already should have done to respond to Turner’s plea, they have done nothing.

This does not include the excellent work of the district’s Student Services dept. They are doing so much good work and would do so much more, provided the resources. This is about the lack of clear and direct communication from the superintendent and the school board club. It is about, as I wrote, the desire to treat this as another storm to ride out. In doing so, students and parents are receiving mixed messages that may prevent some from seeking help.

Welcome to the party

One of the highlights of last night’s fake meeting was the appearance of another side of Trustee Charlene Metoyer. In an ineloquent but highly effective way, she expressed the frustration felt by the teachers in the audience who felt that there is not enough progress being made to protect our campuses. Last night, we got a sample of the board member we thought we voted for a few years ago.

Among other things, Metoyer requested a safety update at each subsequent board meeting, then turned to the superintendent to ask what needed to be done to make it happen.

As usual, the superintendent replied with bureaucratic nonsense, then handed off the topic to a member of the cabinet to finish up whatever it was he was trying to say. During this discussion, I heard bureaucratic bingo phrases such as, “processes and procedures,” “best practices,” and “work together to…”

So what became of Metoyer’s update request? The superintendent said he would schedule a meeting to discuss it. In other words, nothing.

Once the public comments portion of the show was over, the club moved to the rubber stamping portion of the show, also known as the Consent Calendar, at which time I left, along with most of the people who showed up.

So, what will happen as a result of last night’s meeting? If it is true that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance, expect little. I’m guessing that the district will hold a few of those meaningless community input meetings and pretend that they care about all this when what they really want is to be left alone so they can go about their business without pesky interruptions from the public.

Tennis, anyone?

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD

P.S. If these school board club actions or inactions trouble you, remember that there is an effective solution: Vote for four new trustees in November. Seats up for grabs are Franco, Metoyer, Davenport, and Yelsey.

Better to remain silent…

The old saying is, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

This is now appropriate for two school board club members whose too-quick criticism of a concerned N-M parent came back to bite them, courtesy of the Orange County Register.

This morning, the Register published the third of three excellent articles by David Whiting on the subject of teen suicide. Yesterday’s story included extensive coverage of the January 27 suicide of CdM Hight student Patrick Turner.

Several weeks ago, I told the school board club that the stigma attached to mental health counseling is the number one barrier to treatment.

On March 2, that concerned parent tried to open a discussion about teen suicide, specifically, the suicide of Patrick Turner, but she was scolded by two of the club members, Vicki Snell and Karen Yelsey. Yelsey asked the parent not to broach the subject of Turner’s death unless she has permission from the family.

By doing this, the trustees have given support to the stigma. By not encouraging an open and frank discussion of the problem, they have told parents and students in the district that mental health issues are not something to be discussed publicly; that silence is the best approach.

The district’s handling of Patrick Turner’s suicide is perpetuating the air of stigma attached to counseling. As leaders in this district, they may, in fact, have done tremendous damage to the progress of the approximately 2,200 district students who are estimated to be candidates for mental health counseling.

Their attempts to erase the memory of Patrick Turner may be doing serious damage to a promising district suicide prevention program.

The Register published Turner’s letter addressed as “To family and friends and whoever reads this.” In it, Turner left us all a great gift, one that is now being ignored by the district.

Turner described the social and academic pressure in great detail and told us what we need to do to correct the situation. It’s a wake-up call – Note that the Register title in the URL includes “cry for help” and “call for change.” But the school board club is still sleeping; still stuck in the ancient mentality that mental health issues are best handled by not handling them. They cannot change.

You can read it here: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/19/this-16-year-olds-suicide-letters-are-a-cry-for-help-and-a-national-call-for-change/

When the district realizes that the best way to treat mental health issues is to treat them like physical health issues, there will be progress. Unfortunately, I do not see that happening with this current crop of trustees.

This is one of the many reasons I encourage you to support new candidates this election year. The four seats up for grabs are Metoyer, Davenport, Franco, and Yelsey.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD

 

Can we talk about this now?

At the almost secret special school board club meeting of March 2 (that’s the meeting that was announced only 23 hours before the legal deadline), N-M parent Erica Roberts tried to provide the school board with some expanded thoughts on the January suicide of student Patrick Turner.

The indignation was apparent the moment that Roberts mentioned his name. When she was done, two club members, Vicki Snell and Karen Yelsey, chose to ambush her by scolding her from the dais without giving her an opportunity to respond. As speaker Wendy Leece stated in her comments following Roberts, it was “bullying.”

After Roberts was done, Snell said:

“I am horrified and disgusted that you would bring up a student and use a student to make your points. If you were that student’s parent, you would not appreciate it.”

It was at that point that Snell did not allow Roberts to explain her motives and Snell called the next speaker to the podium.

But Snell’s misplaced indignation wasn’t enough for Yelsey, who felt compelled to pile on Roberts. Yelsey said:

“I feel really strongly about this because I know that family – I know what’s going on – and unless that family has told you to speak on their behalf or on their child’s behalf, please don’t do that again.”

Apparently, it is only OK to talk about Turner if you know the family personally. Forget about the tremendous value of opening a discussion about the teen suicide crisis across America. Can’t discuss that unless you have permission.

Snell and Yelsey are to be forgiven for their reactions because they were just doing what the N-M trustees have been doing for decades, which is to sweep every problem, every scandal, under the rug until everyone eventually forgets about it and tennis anyone?

That includes the suicide of a student. Perhaps particularly the suicide of a student.

They just don’t know any other way.

This time, however, their plan has backfired mightily. On the front page of today’s Orange County Register, columnist David Whiting explores the subject of teen suicide and places Patrick Turner front and center: Pictures of Turner, family quotes, quotes from the letters he left, and more. It is way more than Roberts presented and to a much, much larger audience.

What is screaming from Whiting’s story is the absence of any mention of the district, how they are handling this suicide, what they are doing to prevent others, and how they will use Turner’s death to remind us of the excellent advice he gave us before he took his life. (Note: Whiting does quote from a letter to students from Newport Harbor principal Sean Boulton, but that was not an official district communication.)

So, now that the Register has blasted this out into the world, can we talk about the legacy of Patrick Turner? Or should we sweep this under the rug, too?

And should Snell and Yelsey apologize to Roberts for how they manhandled her simply for having the foresight they lack? Of course. But they do not have the strength of character to do that. (If they could not apologize to the Estancia aquatics teams, coaches, and parents for stupidly draining the swimming pool and wrecking their experience, they surely do not have it in them to apologize to Roberts.)

As Snell stormed out of the room after the March 2 meeting, she said to Roberts, then to the rest of us, “You should be ashamed of yourself. All of you.”

I am sure that Snell and Yelsey are even more outraged at the audacity of David Whiting to bring up Patrick Turner’s suicide. So as a favor to them, here is David Whiting’s e-mail address so they can tell him off, too: dwhiting@scng.com.

As a result of the light shined by Whiting, the district will follow protocol and do absolutely nothing. Instead of seizing the moment, they have seized up.

My recommendation… I believe it would be a small, but solemn and graceful tribute if on the 27th of each month on the campus of CdM High, a bell could be rung 16 times – once for every year of Turner’s life.

Ringing the bell each month would remind the students, teachers, and administrators of what I believe Turner would want us to do, as expressed in one of his letters: Step on the brake.

 

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD

 

Take your indignation and…

At tonight’s school board club meeting, I said the following during the public comments section of the show:

“At the special meeting of March 2, several members of the public took time out of their morning to offer the community input.  One of them, Erica Roberts, said something that upset at least two of you, who then chose to scold her after she left the podium and had no chance to reply.

“As you stormed out of the room, Mrs. Snell, you said to Mrs. Roberts, then to the rest of us, “You should be ashamed of yourself. All of you.”

“Mrs. Snell, you ignored years of teacher and parent complaints about a faulty math program and you say ‘shame on us.’

“At Adams Elementary School, walking distance from your home, Mesa Verde parents are still sending their kids elsewhere because of low academic performance and you say, ‘shame on us.’

At Estancia High, 83% of the 11th graders failed to meet the 2017 state standard for math and you say ‘shame on us.’

“Mrs. Snell, by leading the charge to end the math program, Mrs. Roberts has accomplished more on behalf of students in one year than you have in the nearly six years you have been a trustee. Attending school plays, ribbon cuttings and rubber stamping everything doesn’t count.”

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD

About that transparency “gobbledygook” thing…

Because the school district failed to meet existing ADA requirements, all of the archived meeting videos have been removed from the district’s website. According to the district, the videos have not been made ADA-compliant by closed-captioning them because it costs too much.

The rest of us know how silly that sounds. They could start with just 2018, which doesn’t cost much at all but they don’t want to.

They have lots of your money for massive legal fees, but nothing for transparency.

They have lots of money – tons of it – for consultants but nothing for transparency.

They have lots of money for fixing bad mistakes such as draining the Estancia pool and erecting, then removing the Estancia poles, but nothing for transparency.

But, as you know, there is a workaround for everything. Starting with the meeting on December 19, 2017, the meeting videos are available on YouTube via this link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRcBjsYQAmXFNLorO1_LOqQ/videos?disable_polymer=1

This is not a channel sponsored by the district, it is a channel sponsored by transparency.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD

It never ends…

How many roads must a man walk down – oh, wait… Sorry, wrong opening.

How many acts of fiscal irresponsibility will it take for the school board club to realize that they cannot count on the district administration to make sound decisions? How many will it take for the board to realize that these people are drowning and taking the board with them? (In an election year, no less.)

Apparently, there is no such thing as too much or too many. The latest economic and administrative fiasco is the Estancia baseball poles – the story that won’t die. Contrary to what taxpayers were told when the poles were removed, they have not been repurposed but have been sold at auction. The money that was received from the sale will go into the general fund and is not enough to cover the expense of this mess.

Up and down the chain of command, the pole problem is typical administrative bungling.

It started with the decision to plant the huge, unsightly poles just a few feet from the backyards of the homeowners on Joann St. in Costa Mesa. Faster than you can say, “vote out the incumbents,” the residents complained to the district and the project was stopped. The poles were removed, then stored at Costa Mesa High, then sold.

Ready! Fire! Aim!

Taxpayers saw this same mismanagement style with the Estancia pool – drained before a firm construction contract was in hand. That cost over $100,000, a lot of wasted water, and the ruining of an aquatics season for many student-athletes.

And speaking of the pool… There was supposed to be a fake investigation into who pulled the drain plug and we’ll get to the bottom of this and don’t you worry, we’ll handle it and blah, blah, blah. But as usual, there has been no follow-up; no superintendent report telling us that the fake investigation has been completed and the guilty party or parties have received the appropriate discipline.

Why no follow-up from the super? Because this board does not compel him to do so, that’s why. They are content to let this mess die as quiet a death as possible so they can proceed to the next one, which would be…

A stadium. Or not. 

The proposed athletic facility at CdM High is now approaching four years since this thing was first proposed. Since then, the district has been walking on eggshells trying to find the perfect solution to make sure that every single resident in the area gets exactly what he or she wants. Nothing less than perfect will do.

That’s not a reflection on the Eastbluff residents – I don’t blame them for wanting to preserve the peace and quiet of their neighborhood. It’s actually about a school board that is the proverbial deer in headlights: Surprised at first, now frozen in place. So while they study this and examine that, residents have lived with the prospect of a facility that could bring more traffic, trash, and disruption. Or not. The point is that they don’t know after all this time because the school board club is too timid to decide.

The only winners in this mess are the project’s consultants.

My unsolicited advice to the school board club: Stop seeking perfection. Stop trying to please every man, woman, and child in the area. Make the best possible decision based on the information you have and move on. Or don’t. It’s hard to say. Maybe it’s best to wait until after the elections in November. Or not. I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s time to hire a consultant to help us decide. Or not.

Fake Meeting Tomorrow Night

There’s another school board club meeting tomorrow night. As usual, what is not being said is more interesting than what is on the agenda.

  • There will be no update on the fake EHS pool investigation
  • There will be no update on the fate of the CdM stadium
  • There will be no description of the benefitst to our students derived from district travel to a lot of conferences, including one in Costa Mesa titled “Violence Prevention: Human Trafficking and Teen Dating Violence”
  • There will be no description of the travel expenses related to the many past and upcoming trips listed on the TAR (travel) report. And why should there? After all, this is the money in the section of the budget that Trustee Vicki Snell called “a drop in the bucket” in 2014.

And so on. Business as usual.

Steve Smith
Tapayer, N-MUSD

Ahem…

At the almost-secret special school board club meeting of March 2 (that’s the one for which they posted the meeting notice 23 hours ahead of the deadline), trustees Yelsey and Snell made a feeble attempt to chastise a speaker who came to offer the community input they claim to want so much. At the end of the meeting, Snell did it again as she stormed out of the meeting on her way to the closed door session that was billed as “Public Employee Evaluation: Title – Superintendent” but we were then told that it wasn’t; that it was just the start of a process and blah, blah, blah, or something or other or whatever.

As though the explanation made a difference…

Here is my reply to any trustee or to the superintendent or to anyone who questions the motives of the growing group of people who are fed up with the failure of the trustees to succeed in their mission:

These are the 2017 Smarter Balanced test results for Costa Mesa schools. The numbers show the percentage of students who FAILED to meet the state standard for english and math. Included in these results is the category “standard nearly met,” which is a fake category – there is no “almost.” Either you meet the state standards or you don’t. That “nearly met” category is just a way to soften the blow and reduce outrage. Besides, in too many cases, eliminating the “nearly met” category doesn’t leave good scores.

Adams                                                 49                    60
TeWinkle                                            59                    69
California                                           19                    38
College Park                                       70                    74
Rea                                                       82                    83
Wilson                                                 68                    69
Whittier                                              77                    84
Victoria                                               60                    65
Estancia High (11th grade)             51                    83
Killybrooke                                        32                    43
Davis                                                   22                    27
Paularino                                           50                    55
Pomona                                              65                    66
Sonora                                                29                    51
Kaiser                                                 33                    37
Costa Mesa High                              55                     66

Not exactly the district’s finest hour, eh? So why is this happening and why has it continued to happen for decades?

Maybe, as the superintendent pondered two years ago, it is the fault of the students. Here’s what I wrote in this blog in February, 2016:

“According to Frederick Navarro, Papillon offered that, ‘Apparently the conditions associated with poverty, micro aggressions [sic], violence and discrimination may cause physiological changes in children that not only affect the current generation, but also may affect several generations that follow.’

“Supt. Frederick Navarro states that  ‘Ms. Papillon posits that the students who live in poor neighborhoods, where crime and violence are regular occurrences, may in fact suffer changes to their DNA that alters the working of their brains. Furthermore, she stressed that addressing these changes to a person’s DNA can take up to three generations to correct, and then, only if you can successfully remove families from the oppressive conditions under which they live.’”

He closed by writing that he has “much more to learn about this theory” and that the theory is “one that we need to explore more deeply.”

Since then, as you probably guessed, the theory has not been explored more deeply or even at all. That’s probably because it’s nonsense.

So, let’s see, we could blame the scores on the DNA theory. Yeah, right. Maybe it’s the school conditions! Nah, can’t be – the school board club has been spending almost half a billion of your tax dollars over the past 18 years fixing campuses and facilities. Can’t be that. Wait! Maybe it’s the teachers. Nope. We’ve got great teachers in this district. I know from personal experience and also because the district officials keep telling us so.

Hmmm. So, let’s see… If it’s not the students and it’s not the facilities and it’s not the teachers, then it must be… The leadership.

Here’s what: This board has had plenty of time and opportunities to fix this problem: Thirty-something years for Judy Franco, twenty-something for Fluor and Black, and so on.

The problem has been going on so long that the kindergarteners who were in our schools when Franco, Fluor, and Black were elected now have kids of their own. And those kids don’t have the same ESL challenges as their parents so stop saying that’s the reason. Those kids know English quite well enough to meet the state standards.

The trustees don’t know how to improve these scores and, worse, they refuse to let anyone else try. So in the meantime, as usual, kids pay the price.

They don’t care and here’s proof

At a school board club meeting in January, I told the trustees straight out that they were not getting all of the information they needed from the administration in order to make the best decisions.

Not one of the board members chose that night to ask me something like, “What do you mean?” or “Can you expand on that statement?”

At the almost-secret special meeting on March 2, I told the five board members present that I had just received two fresh reports of rats on campuses. Not one of the board members present chose to ask me which campuses reported rats so that they could take care of the problem immediately.

Do they want rats on campuses? No, they don’t.

Their failure to ask me about the information they are not getting or about the rats is due to a long-standing protocol of disregarding public input, despite their claims that input is so valued and whatever.

They ignored input on the Collegiate Calendar, they ignored it on the area maps, and they ignored it when a parent started to question whether the elementary math program was in the best interests of students. (The parent did not give up. That math program was recently dumped because it was not in the best interests of students to keep it.)

And they failed to ask me about the rats.

Nothing will change. They’ll still hold those fake community meetings that are promoted old school and entirely wrong and they’ll continue to suffer through the public comments section of school board club meetings until they can get to the rubber stamping portion of the show.

Nothing will change until we elect new trustees to the school board, starting this November. Four seats are up for grabs.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD

 

Meanwhile…

… John Caldecott is still fighting.

I warned the trustees about this/him three years ago. I wrote that they shouldn’t treat him like everyone else who gets frustrated and stops fighting.

Along the way, the district has spent absurd amounts of money trying to prevent you from seeing what Caldecott wants you to see. And why not? Remember… Trustee Dana Black referred to transparency as “gobbledygook.”

The latest round is Caldecott’s attempt to enable you to see what is in the full report on the Mariners Gold Ribbon application scandal. That’s the scandal in which the teacher union claimed 16 instances of “untruths and inaccuracies” in the school’s application for the award. Oh, and have I mentioned in the last 24 hours that the superintendent was one of the district people who signed the application? Yes, I think I have.

On January 25, the Superior Court ordered the N-MUSD to release the records and to pay Caldecott’s legal fees, which is the third Writ of Mandate challenge the district has lost, which makes it 3-0 Caldecott.

Unfortunately, more of your tax dollars are being handed over to attorneys because the district has just decided to appeal the decision.

Caldecott’s website is at: https://www.caldecottinfo.com/

So score it attorney$ 4, taxpayer$ 0.

Steve “Gobbledygook” Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD

That broken clock…

The saying is that “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

In his latest DOTS memo, the superintendent covers the possible walkouts by N-MUSD students this month to protest gun laws. He notes that in Texas, one school superintendent will subject each participating student to a 3-day suspension.

In 1970, I was 15 and participated in a walkout to protest the war in Vietnam. Students gathered on the front lawn of the school, milled around for a bit with signs and chanted popular protest slogans, then we went back inside and back to class.

The police were there not to enforce anything but to ensure that we weren’t disrupting traffic or putting ourselves in harm’s way.

The superintendent seems to agree with this approach to possible walkouts and I believe this is the correct method.

The larger issue here is a discussion I have had many times over the years. This addresses the subject of what to do when someone whose actions or opinion is usually the opposite of yours, does something that you believe is the correct action. In those cases, the worst thing to do is not acknowledge the good behavior. As I have asked many times, if we do not let these people when they are doing something right, how are they supposed to know?

If more of us were to do this, we would see a huge decline in the level of vitriol that  now seems to be the normative response to issues.

The memo is not without some faults, such as the focus on Constitutional rights, but they are minor. The overall direction of allowing students brief time to express themselve is correct.

The superintendent should take this position one step further and convert it into a media release so that the entire N-M community is aware of the situation before it happens. That’s just a routine PR tactic of staying in front of the issue to help reduce the effects of any negative reporting. Without the release, the media control the messages that day.

Otherwise, however, this is the correct tack.

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD