Smith: Who will challenge school board incumbents?

Starting in October, I wrote a series of columns detailing several actions of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees in which I called into question their judgment on important decisions.

Out of all the columns, none generated more response and more objections than the one revealing that the board had signed former Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard to a four-year contract but then, starting with the following year, renewed it annually for three years.

Along the way, Hubbard's compensation package was increased, an obligation that had no legal or moral rationale. In other words, the board simply decided to be particularly generous with your hard-earned tax dollars.

They did it because you and I were so busy with our lives that we were not paying attention.

The reaction to the columns was swift, the tone indignant. You were outraged. You posted comments, emailed me and sent tips on other areas of investigation I should pursue. A couple of times, you even mentioned recalling one or more board members.

That was then, this is now.

Then, you were furious.

Now, you could not care less about the board or what they do.

You don't care about the terms of the contract for the new superintendent, whether the board has created a plan to turn around Costa Mesa's underperforming schools, or whether there will be any additional accountability for the endless stream of meetings and conferences that seem to have little impact on the grades and test scores of our students.

I can state this with complete confidence because out of the many thousands of eligible adults in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, not a single person other than the incumbents has announced an intent to run for one of three open seats on the school board.

Further, at the meetings following the columns, all but one or two of you chose not to take a few minutes and speak at the school board meetings to let the panel know how you felt.

Often, that number was zero.

What you will get for your indifference is more of the same. You will get more of just what made you so mad and frustrated several months ago, and you will get the same bureaucratic foot dragging that has stifled advancement for years. You will get all of this because left to their own devices, the school board will react like any other bureaucracy; that is, it will revert to the status quo and continue that way until the next brouhaha.

You claimed to want change, but you did not want to expend the energy to get it, even as little time as it took to appear for a couple of minutes at a board meeting.

So, don't expect a new and improved school board.

In the meantime, if you don't like what you see, you have two years to think about replacing some of the current board members.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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