First of three parts.
COSTA MESA — As he tours Mesa Verde with prospective home buyers, Realtor Larry Weichman boasts of the neighborhood country club's heated swimming pool and acclaimed golf pro.
But when clients ask about the public schools, Weichman becomes more circumspect.
The chairman of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce pulled his son out of the neighborhood elementary school and sent him instead to the nearby Huntington Beach City School District.
"It's sad," said Weichman, who lives two doors from Adams Elementary School.
Like other families on his block, he and his son leave Mesa Verde's lush, ribbon-like streets and take a six-lane arterial road across the Santa Ana River to go to school.
From a distance, it seems counterintuitive, as most believe that nice neighborhoods also have great schools.
But many Mesa Verde families say their campuses don't make the grade. They cite low test scores, listen to neighbors' often outdated stories of gang violence, and then flee the Newport-Mesa Unified School District for private schools — or public schools in neighboring districts.