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City Life: Nursing an investment in Newport-Mesa district

November 26, 2010|By Steve Smith

Voters decided Nov. 2 that 30 years of Judy Franco on the school board was not enough, but that four years of Michael Collier was too many.

The reason could be that Franco has had 30 years to establish a solid voting base to which she caters and supports her in turn by re-electing her every four years.

Collier, on the other hand, had done little to distinguish himself on the panel, and when faced with opposition from Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Katrina Foley, who entered the race with tremendous name recognition, the Foley brand beat the Collier brand.

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Next month, Foley will take a seat on the school board dais with six colleagues, each of whom will make decisions regarding the education of our children, one of America's most important investments.

Foley's challenge will not be a lack of resources, but a lack of will, specifically, to try anything meaningful to correct that horrendous performance of some Westside Costa Mesa schools.

The crisis is particularly apparent when reviewing the numbers for Wilson, Whittier and Pomona elementary schools. Other schools need, help, too, but these three are desperate for change, as they involve the youngest of our students.

At Whittier, for example, the Academic Performance Index ranking is declining. In 2006, on a 10-point scale, it received a 4. Two years later, in 2008, it ranked a 2.

The larger problem — one that Foley alone cannot solve — is the entrenchment of the educational establishment, a bureaucracy so afraid of change that it has allowed the Westside madness to continue for years.

Foley can put an end to this neglect through a relentless pursuit of excellence and by pushing back when a colleague says, "We've tried that."

She can recommend real innovation on the Westside that does not mean a task force or commission to study the problem.

And please, no more community input meetings or shuffling of school teachers or principals.

Don't expect the shuffling to end anytime soon; it has been an effective stalling tactic in lieu of any serious attempt at improvement.

The latest shuffling is the "teacher exchange," which the board is now casually considering.

"The so-called 'teacher exchange' would be an experience that teachers could benefit from because they would be exposed to the different socio-economic levels between Costa Mesa's Westside and Eastside schools," according to a recent Daily Pilot article.

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