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TOWN:Board, council missteps led to teacher protest

ON THE

March 31, 2007|By STEVE SMITH

The easy thing to do is to look at last Tuesday's teacher protest before the school board meeting as an isolated incident. But that would be a mistake. In fact, a recent series of important events has led to a local crisis in education.

Workplace disruptions such as this are almost always the result of bad management. That observation comes from having more than 20 years of experience managing people.

Bad management is usually the result of poor communication, whether it is not enough communication or whether the words and actions don't match.

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In the case of the Newport-Mesa Board of Trustees, it is more of the latter. Teachers got sick and tired of hearing district officials on the one hand say that they appreciate the teachers, but on the other hand refuse to back it up with action.

In this case, the action for the district to take was to remove teachers from the very last rung of teacher salaries in the county's unified school districts.

At about the same time the teachers took to the streets, statewide test scores were released, showing gains in local schools. The fact that these same teachers played a major role in achieving the higher scores led to mixed feelings. They felt proud of these accomplishments, but they also felt they deserved more money.

Another important event was the call by school board Trustee Karen Yelsey for term limits for board members. Yelsey believes three consecutive four-year terms is sufficient.

I agree completely and have to wonder whether this fiasco — which is not the result of any action or inaction by new board members Yelsey, Michael Collier and Walt Davenport — would have been avoided had we had fresh insight on the board for the past few years.

New blood two or four years ago, for example, may have prevented the demonstration we saw Tuesday.

The next important step leading to the protests was really more a case of inaction. It was a failure on the part of the school board and the teacher's union to pressure Costa Mesa City Council members to provide some affordable housing in Costa Mesa for Newport-Mesa's teachers.

Over in South Coast Metro, hundreds of new housing units will be constructed over the next few years. In an astounding moment of community shortsightedness, council members Allan Mansoor, Eric Bever and Wendy Leece voted to let developers off the affordable-housing hook.

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