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City Life: Education as an investment

October 18, 2010|Steve Smith

Loretta Zimmerman, Judy Franco's opponent for an open school board seat, has created lawn signs declaring that 30 years of Franco on the school board is enough. But what if Zimmerman is wrong? What if 30 years of Franco on the school board isn't enough? After all, Ted Kennedy was a U.S. senator for 47 years and was still productive and earning the respect of both major parties until his death last year.

And if you are a resident on Costa Mesa's Eastside or of Newport Beach, why would you vote for someone new when you are satisfied with your schools?

For some, "satisfied" is unacceptable; they understand that running in place is running to lose. Those who embrace change and are never satisfied with the status quo have been the innovators and leaders throughout history.

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Locally, a vision is shared by the residents of the Westside of Costa Mesa, where some elementary schools have been failing for years, and the parents on the Eastside and in Newport Beach, where schools are doing well: They all want their children to benefit from the best new concepts in education so they can compete in a world economy that is demanding more from our kids every day.

A review of the School Accountability Report Card (SARC) for just three of Costa Mesa's Westside elementary schools reveals a disturbing lack of progress. At Pomona, Whittier and Wilson elementary schools, the latest reported Academic Performance Index rankings (2008) all have a statewide ranking of 2 on a scale from 1 to 10. Whittier has gone backward, having ranked as high as 4 in 2006. In 2006, Pomona and Wilson ranked 1 and 2, respectively.

The value of the API ranking is best described on the SARCs: "A statewide rank of 1 means that the school has an API score in the lowest ten percent of all schools in the state, while a statewide rank of 10 means that the school has an API score in the highest ten percent of all schools in the state."

The low numbers at these Westside elementary schools cannot be dismissed with the stereotype that the significant Latino population there does not place as much emphasis on education as residents elsewhere. We've been hearing that for so many years and the school board has not figured out a way to better educate the Westside students.

As a board member for 30 years, Franco cannot escape responsibility for the thousands of students who have been ignored and neglected, but she has never expressed one syllable of ownership for the poor performance of those elementary schools.

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