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Mailbag: It's time to reform school district

January 27, 2012

It's time for Newport-Mesa Unified School District to take action and become an education leader, not a patchwork of success and failure. Our schools and their leadership are an issue that should be important to every resident, whether you have children in public school or not. Our schools are our community and when we don't provide the best opportunities our property values decline and our children suffer.

Our current school board voted to pay and support Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard, now convicted of felonies, while he was distracted by and prepared for trial. Only Trustee Katrina Foley voted against paid leave.

While our district has seen much achievement, there are still too many schools performing at embarrassingly low levels. The board allowed and chose the unacceptable Title 1 designation (a solution "for our lowest-achieving schools," quoted from Title 1 documents) for Adams Elementary in the Mesa Verde neighborhood of Costa Mesa.

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It is at this time when our school board has failed us (exception, Foley) that we should let our board members know we will no longer accept business as usual. The board must take time to find the right superintendent. This is an opportunity to cast a wide net for a leader who is willing to explore innovation and embrace change to tackle our unique district issues. The right superintendent, supported by a board willing to explore options and embrace change, can make our district a success story instead of a district mixed with distinction and embarrassment.

If the board does not embrace this opportunity, three board members — David Brooks, Mesa Verde; Martha Fluor, Newport (west of the bay); and Dana Black, East Costa Mesa — are up for election in November.

Send them the message that it's time for change. We want every school in our district to have waiting lists like Andersen Elementary and Davis Magnet. Parents should not have to go to schools in surrounding districts, including Huntington Beach, to find a competitive education and community for their children.

I urge everyone who cares about our cities, not just parents with children attending the public schools, to let our school board know that what they do now will affect how you vote in November.

Here is how to reach the board:

David Brooks, dbrooks@nmusd.us; Katrina Foley, kfoley@nmusd.us; Martha Fluor, mfluor@nmusd.us; Karen Yelsey, kyelsey@nmusd.us; Judy Franco, jfranco@nmusd.us; Dana Black, dblack@nmusd.us; Walt Davenport, wdavenport@nmusd.us.

Let's be a leader in education. Let's not be a district divided by the Costa Mesa-Newport line. I love the diversity of our community and believe every child can and should have the privilege of an outstanding education.

Katie Shoenberger

Costa Mesa

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