The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board met Friday in closed session to review how the district is progressing on its goals, not to discuss Supt. Fred Navarro, officials said.
Before community members could address the board during a public comment period preceding the closed meeting, Navarro attempted to quash rumors that the agenda item titled "Public employee evaluation: title — superintendent" might include another pay hike for him following his $34,450 bonus awarded in December for "exceptional" performance.
The merit pay was in addition to 2.5% salary increases the board approved in November for top district administrators, including the superintendent.
"Sometimes people think, or I've been told they believe, it's about my salary," Navarro said Friday. "We're not gonna be discussing that. It's not in closed session."
District spokeswoman Annette Franco said in an interview that changes in Navarro's salary are always discussed in open session, with a copy of the contract attached to the board agenda.
Friday's session was one in a series of meetings to evaluate the district's performance, Franco said. The district's stated priorities include fostering academic achievement, emotional and behavioral support and community partnerships.
A handful of critics who turned out Friday listed a series of errors they believe the school board has made in the past few years and called on the district to make itself accountable.
Laurie Smith, a retired Newport-Mesa teacher, said there is a lack of trust in the board's leadership, saying it works from "the top down" instead of collaboratively.
Cynthia Blackwell, also a retired Newport-Mesa teacher, said she has seen "millions of dollars" being "thrown out the window" over the controversial Swun Math program and problems at Estancia High School in Costa Mesa, which has been plagued by odors in the science wing and delays in a new aquatic center.
"I can go on and on and on," Blackwell said. "We never hear 'I'm sorry' or 'I'm responsible.' There has to be accountability."
Trustees did not reply to those comments.