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Parents question school board's unwillingness to fund camp

Trustee Katrina Foley's second motion to put sixth-grade science camp funding on agenda dies in silence.

November 09, 2011|By Britney Barnes

COSTA MESA — A small group of parents this week urged the Newport-Mesa Unified school board to cover the expense of sixth-grade science camp. One presented trustees with a petition urging the district to continue absorbing the costs.

"I know you are strapped for money, but can't you find the money this year to provide for the sixth-graders that want to go this year?" said Martha O'Mara, a fifth-grade teacher.

After a staff report on funding the camp, school board Trustee Katrina Foley made a motion to put the issue on the next meeting's agenda for discussion, but the motion was met with silence.

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"I'm very disappointed," Foley said after her motion failed to gain a second. "I continue to be disappointed in this position. I ran for the school board because I felt like there was a lack of attention, especially in Costa Mesa, on the school sites, on the kids, on really what the families in our areas need and desire to be successful."

Trustee Karen Yelsey said she supports sixth-grade camp, but said there are always ways to raise funds.

"If science camp is really important to a particular school, or particular community, there is fundraising," she said.

Trustee Dave Brooks agreed that the camp is important, but that he is hesitant to allocate funds when possible cuts from Sacramento loom over school districts.

Districtwide, it would cost $422,000 to send all the sixth-graders to their originally chosen camps this year.

Parent Tracey Botero said during the public comment section that she was very disappointed with what she heard during the discussion.

"I thought the motto was 'Every Student, Every Day,'" she said. "It sounds more like administrators all the time."

She added later, "We need to look around at this administration and do some cutting up here for the students down there."

Foley made a motion last month to discuss and possibly take action on the district taking money out of the administrative budget to pay for camp. That motion also wasn't seconded.

She said the money could be found by cutting the district's high salaries; catering, travel and conference expenses; and dues and membership costs.

In its 2011-12 budget, the district — excluding money for each school site — allocated $85,680 in catering and campus catering, $97,422 in dues and membership, and $221,052 for travel and conferences.

The issue came up when California, Adams, Pomona and Wilson elementary schools were struggling to raise the funds for students to attend camp this year.

California looks like it will be able to attend its chosen camp, while the other three schools are forgoing their original plans to attend the Irvine Ranch Outdoors Camp in June.

Parents questioned whether the Irvine Ranch camp would be as good as the outdoor experiences of other schools.

"I have to ask, will it be equal and will it be fair?" parent Nancy Greenberg said. "I will very much appreciate [my son] having that opportunity that other kids with more affluent parents can have."

Sixth-grade science camp is traditionally a voluntary and overnight outdoor trip.

Costs for it vary from school to school — about $65 to $445 per student — based on the program.

Each school picks a camp for its specific needs, while school organizations help raise funds to make the camps happen.

britney.barnes@latimes.com

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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