Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Should he stay or should he go now? Anti-Noel Movement Calls for His Ouster

Now former School Board Member Nancy Harter is a level-headed, easy going person. Rarely does she raise her voice or make a fuss. She is a quiet and effective leader that I respect. She's also a school board member that has put up with fellow Board Member Bob Noel's antics and pontifications for several years. Was it a surprise that she called for his resignation given Noel's history of combat with his fellow school board members? I, for one, am not so sure Superintendent Brian Sarvis deserved Noel's call for resignation during public comment recently. To make matters worse, Noel walked out the door and didn't come back.

Here's what Harter said in a commentary published at Noozhawk:
Noel’s comments were the equivalent of a verbal hand grenade lobbed into the room while he dashed out the door and refused to participate in the closed-session discussion. He delivered a follow-up attack in the Sunday edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press, just to be thorough. This is the kind of atmosphere that he thrives in — strike out at others for perceived shortcomings, assign blame, and defy established procedures and processes for problem solving.

If you don't believe the sincerity of Nancy Harter -- maybe you would consider Chamber of Commerce President Steve Cushman who said:
“I’ve sat on 100 nonprofit boards and commissions in Santa Barbara — a hundred,” Cushman said. “I have never seen a board member attack a director of that board in public. I find it offensive.”

United Way of Santa Barbara County CEO Paul Didier and recently retired Santa Barbara City College President John Romo both added their support of Sarvis as well. If you are Bob Noel -- what do you do? If he stays there could be trouble, if he goes there could be double....


Anonymous focus on the kids said...

This food fight over Noel wastes precious energy and resources that should be focused on educating our kids.

Noel is a pain in the rear, but it takes two to tango. The right thing is to grin and bear it, and even take some part of his criticisms and seriously work on them. That is how I expect adult, mature, committed people to behave (Noel is not one of those).

The School Board is an elected body that represents everybody. It is not an upper-middle and richer like-minded social club who meet for polite cucumber sandwiches, like Cushman sits on. No-one should be shocked, shocked that the Board can be afflicted by populist politics and grandstanding. Politics is politics.

But the way to deal with it is to outclass Noel, treat him like an angry, unruly child, albeit one with some good ideas.

Wasting time and energy on a pissing match is immature and embarrassing.

12/12/2008 6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12/12/2008 7:03 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

The interesting thing about Bob Noel is that his facts are nearly always correct and his analysis is careful and difficult to assail. He has never in his life been accused of being polite or courtly or even cordial. His intellectal arrogance makes him intimidating and his abrasive personality makes it hard to work with him. On the other hand, falling test scores (even at Dos Pueblos!), mysterious budget fund balances, summarial principal firings, and sudden management resignations bring to question Dr. Sarvis' management skills and abilities. The School Board may like Dr. Sarvis, and that is a good thing, but they should also hold him accountable for a set a measurable goals and objectives. Command of the details of a budget is public sector management 101. Dr. Sarvis should be expected to get an A+ in that class.

12/12/2008 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Robert Rule said...

Noel was elected and paid to participate in public meetings of a deliberative body. But ethically after he has his chance to have his say in public dialogue he is bound to represent the wishes of the majority of the board.

He is behaving unethically and should be censured under the board's code of ethics, or choose to resign because he is dishonoring his commitment to elected office.

Mr Noel may continue his dialogue with the district in authorized pubic comment as a private citizen, but he should not continue to sabotage the ethics of his elected and paid elected position as shown by his current behavior.

He owes the public both honesty in his personal opinions, and commitment to the duties of his office. He must exercise both if he is to remain as a public official. It is his choice. He may excel in the first, but he fails badly in the second.

12/12/2008 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12/12/2008 11:29 AM  
Anonymous School Dazy said...

This is classic spin. The issue is the ineffective leadership and poor job performance of Brian Sarvis who exemplifies the Peter Principle. The school district is a disaster and does not measure up in very definable ways, as has been detailed in the local press. Instead of dealing with those issues, Sarvis & Co. are turning this into a personality contest. Well Bob Noel was duly elected by the citizenry of Santa Barbara, Sarvis wasn't. And the fact that Noel brings up the failings of the district make him more valuable in solving the problems--not the problem himself. Sheesh.

12/12/2008 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They BOTH should go. This district is a complete mess and both are equally responsible. Just wait for the compliance report to come out in July. Heads will roll.

12/12/2008 5:04 PM  
Anonymous citizenRB said...

No, Noel should not go. He represents me, a Santa Barbara resident and taxpayer. If there is a move to remove him (special election?) then all the School Trustees AND the Superintendent, an advisory vote for the latter) should be on the ballot.

I, for one, would vote for Noel to stay. Noel may be unpleasant (I've never been to a school board meeting and it is difficult to believe the blogging "press" these days) but, as a commentator above noted, this is not supposed to be a tea party, but a commitment to improve the education system for the students. A marker of that is the test scores. It's not the only indicator but does indicate whether the education system is educating.

It's immaterial how "sincere" or not are Noel's critics. What IS important is this statement by Eckermann: "The interesting thing about Bob Noel is that his facts are nearly always correct and his analysis is careful and difficult to assail."

12/13/2008 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Robert Rule said...

Noel was elected to be a school board member; not a one man rule unto himself. He is bound to act only in his capacity as board member, which means he accepts the decisions of the board majority.

He has no authority when he identifies himself as a school board member to undermine the board's majority decisions. He is acting like a child and fails in any proper adult role modeling as an elected official.

If he wants to act as a maverick, he needs to do this as private citizen but not as a school board member. He needs to get over himself.

Yes, while he is an elected representative of the district he works with other elected representatives which is why only their collective majority decisions become the true voice of the community. His single vote is not worth more that the collected votes of his school board colleagues also duly elected by the people. Noel is not a government unto himself.

A public that demands "bureaucrats" be fired has to put up with a badly managed system. You can't have it both ways. School administrators are a critical part of the functioning of the whole.

Get used to that too and when you knee cap a school district demanding you get rid of administrators, then you have to accept the chaos you leave behind. The teachers are sure not going to fill in and do all the state mandated reporting and obscenely complex school financing.

The public needs to sit in the corner with a dunce cap on if they think today's schools don't need a very heavy layer of "bureaucrats" who have to carry out all the public mandates forced on them by ballot initiatives and the pro-teacher union legislature.

12/13/2008 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Roberta's Rules said...

I see an "Anonymous" sneaked in above.

Noel was elected to deliberate IN the Board meeting, not to throw bombs as a public comment who then runs out of the room.

He does not seem satisfied to do his job as a School Board Trustee because that closed session agenda item would not be witnessed by the public and news media.

Apparently we have no other ways to publish opinions here.

12/13/2008 1:20 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Missed those ones...which can happen occasionally...thanks for pointing it out.

12/14/2008 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Sarvis' Gang said...

So the good ol' boys network (Cushman, Romo, Didier) flexed their muscles for Sarvis. YAWN. Now will someone please get beyond the personalities and independently evaluate the ISSUES---finance, special ed, bloated administration, that Sarvis (and Noel, by the way) have presided oVer? and word to the wise----not everyone in SB rolls over because Steve Cushman says to. In fact, many of us run the other way.
...just sayin'

12/14/2008 11:56 AM  
Anonymous citizen RB said...

On the basis of the two R Rules above and considering how this last election went with a non-eligible candidate taking so many votes, AND considering the controversy over the administration, I begin to think there should be a special election for all the school trustee candidates.

Sure, it would be a burden on the candidates and on the elections/cost of same, but it might clear the air.

I have not said the bureaucrats should go --- obviously, there needs to be administrators to administer --- but so there are in every school district. Not all are like LA, where the administrator is being forced out, or here where the administrator's allies were seeking an extension of his three-year contract when there is more than two years yet to go on it AND there is at least some extreme dissatisfaction with his performance.

Those who don't like Noel could then vote him out. He's never going to quit and probably will run again, if his opponents continue to rag on him for not being a team player and all that.

12/14/2008 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Robert Rule said...

No one is trying to force Noel out - only asking he conduct himself as a board member and be responsible for board majority decisions once they are made.

He is being asked to work within the established public channels that require open, public communications. He goes off the farm too much and tries to sabotage majority decisions once they have been made.

He is a board member; not a power unto himself. He has a public platform for his issues and as long as he is a lone voice and vote on public matters, he has to either get more like minded souls elected or learn to get with the program once the current majority has made a decision.

12/15/2008 8:50 AM  
Anonymous My hero said...

Noel is my hero, and a good man.

It is Sarvis who needs to be fired, not the whistle-blower.

12/15/2008 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

With all due respect Robert Rule, no elected official is compelled to change his or her opinion and embrace the majority's opinion after the vote. In democratic institutions, dissent is not only allowed but encouraged. Bob Noel may be a voice in the wilderness, but he is perfectly within his rights and the duties of his position to be a Jeremiah. Majorities have been wrong before (cf., slavery, Proposition 8, etc.). The majority of the SB School District Board may be wrong about the Dr. Savis' qualifications to discharge his duties. Dr. Noel is in no way required to stand by and shut up.

12/15/2008 8:43 PM  

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