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Election 2018: Meet the candidates for Newport-Mesa Unified School District board

Election 2018: Meet the candidates for Newport-Mesa Unified School District board
Newport-Mesa Unified School District candidates, from left in each row: Charlene Metoyer, Michelle Murphy and Gina Nick (top row); Karen Yelsey, Michelle Barto, Ashley Anderson and Diane “Dee Dee” RuoRock. Not pictured: Paul Hillson and Bertha Rodriguez. (File and courtesy photos)

Nine candidates are vying for four available seats on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board of trustees in the Nov. 6 election.

For the first time, district residents will elect trustees by voting areas. Board members currently represent designated areas but until now have been elected by voters districtwide. The adjustment, approved in October, is intended to make the trustee areas more equal in population and to settle a lawsuit.

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Incumbents Charlene Metoyer (Area 2) and Karen Yelsey (Area 4) are seeking reelection to the board.

Longtime trustees Judy Franco (Area 5) and Walt Davenport (Area 7) are not seeking reelection.

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Retired businesswoman Kate Malouf suspended her campaign for the Area 5 seat in August.

The seven-member board governs 32 schools in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.

The Daily Pilot sent a questionnaire to the candidates to get a better idea of who they are, why they’re running and what issues they feel are most pressing. Some responses have been edited for formatting, brevity or clarity.

Candidates Gina Nick, Bertha Rodriguez and Paul Hillson did not respond.

Area 2

Includes College Park, Davis Magnet, Paularino and Sonora elementary schools, plus Costa Mesa Middle School and Costa Mesa High School.

Charlene Metoyer

Age: 68

Professional occupation: Newport-Mesa Unified School District board; retired principal, science and math coordinator and teacher

Education: Master’s in educational administration; bachelor’s in biology and minor in math; administrative, secondary and elementary credentials

Time lived in the district: 42 years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Freeway Triangle, 42 years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Newport-Mesa Unified School District board; Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce Education Committee; Costa Mesa United Youth Sports Committee; Newport-Mesa Arts Commission; School Attendance Review Board; Pacific Symphony Class Act ambassador; NMUSD American Cancer Society Daffodil chairperson; NMUSD Measure A Citizens Oversight Committee; Costa Mesa Child Care and Youth Services Committee; PTA and PFO president

Immediate family members: Scott Cleveland; children John Metoyer, Christina Metoyer, Patrick Metoyer, Rory McLendon, and Matthew Metoyer; nine grandchildren

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the district and why?

1. Ensuring safety at all sites in the district while maintaining a welcoming climate and increasing student services, both academic and social/emotional, to help students cope with the challenges of a demanding curriculum and social media pressures.

2. Prioritizing community input on major changes and/or decisions facing the district.

3. Maintaining our fiscal solvency as retirement and benefit costs skyrocket and litigation becomes commonplace.

Michelle Murphy

Age: 46

Professional occupation: Associate director of advocacy and health for Orange County United Way

Education: Bachelor’s degree in psychology, University of Arizona; master’s degree in social work, USC, focusing on communities, organization, planning and administration

Time lived in the district: More than 10 years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: College Park, more than 10 years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Strategic Advisory Committee for the Community Health Initiative of Orange County; School Site Council at Woodland Elementary School; Parent Advisory Committee for Orange Coast College’s Harry and Grace Steele Children’s Center; Parent Advisory Board for UC Irvine’s Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Immediate family members: Husband, two children

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the district and why?

1. Provide a safe school environment for our children, with adequate mental health supports as well as improving outdated infrastructure and curbing wasteful spending.

2. Support our teachers, principals and parents in developing innovative approaches that include additional opportunities for growth and educational achievement for all children.

3. Develop school sites that can also act as neighborhood hubs and improve communication and dialogue among educators, parents, students and community partners to help us plan for the future.

Area 4

Includes Anderson, Harbor View, Lincoln and Newport Coast elementary schools

Gina Nick

Did not respond.

Karen Yelsey

Age: 67

Professional occupation: Newport-Mesa Unified School District board; marketing executive

Education: Bachelor’​​​​​​​s in political science, Tulane University; master’s of business administration, Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Irvine Terrace in Newport Beach, 40 years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Newport-Mesa Unified School District board; PTA president at elementary and high schools; school site councils at elementary and high schools; school coordinator for bond Measure A; Harbor Council PTA; principal search committees at elementary and high schools; high school accreditation committees; Spirit Run

Immediate family members: Husband Arthur Yelsey; children Josh Yelsey, Anne Yelsey and Rachel Yelsey Krebs; one grandson

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the district and why?

1. Safety: Provide safe and secure campuses for all stakeholders, including increased mental health support and outreach to students and parents. In addition to properly securing our campuses, we must be vigilant to identify those students who need additional services and support. To achieve this requires close relationships with our parent community, local police departments and outside agencies.

2. Academic focus: Promote the highest-quality education possible to prepare every student for college and careers. I am committed to providing the best academic experience to meet the needs of students who want access to accelerated programs and those who require additional intervention. To support this, we must attract and retain the best teachers and provide ongoing professional development.

3. Fiscal responsibility: Provide trustworthy management of taxpayer dollars and ensure fiscal responsibility of a $300-million-plus budget. It is critical that we assure oversight to complete all projects on time and within budget. While we should move quickly to fulfill academic, behavioral and community priorities, we want to fiscally be prudent to keep our strong financial situation and “AAA” bond financing rating.

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Area 5

Includes Newport Harbor High, Ensign Intermediate and Newport Elementary schools

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Michelle Barto

Age: 37

Professional occupation: Small-business owner and web developer

Education: Bachelor’​​​​​​​s in computer information systems and business administration

Time lived in the district: Lifelong Newport-Mesa resident

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Newport Beach, 10 years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Pretend City Children’s Museum; PTA president, Newport Heights Elementary School; Newport Beach Community Emergency Response Team; Children’s Hospital of Orange County Glass Slipper Guild; Newport Beach MOMS Club

Immediate family members: Husband, Brady; four children

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the district and why?

1. Safety: This includes both physical and mental well-being. Students need to feel supported and safe in their learning environments.

2. Academic differentiation: Students need to be challenged at their level and given the tools to succeed on their individual career paths.

3. Communication and transparency: It is my experience that most parents don’t know what school district resources are available to them and their students. If elected, I hope to use my experience in communicating with parents and students to better align the needs of families with what has already been created and implemented.

Paul Hillson

Did not respond.

Area 7

Includes Pomona, Rea, Victoria, Whittier and Wilson Elementary schools

Ashley Anderson

Age: 38

Professional occupation: Director of education initiatives for a local nonprofit; teacher from preschool to college

Education: Master’​​​​​​​s in educational technology (digital teaching and learning); teaching credential; bachelor’​​​​​​​s in political science, with international relations emphasis

Time lived in the district: More than 30 years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Westside Costa Mesa, most of my life

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Newport-Mesa Schools Foundation; NMUSD Community Alliance; NMUSD Kindergarten Readiness Taskforce; NMUSD Superintendent’s Citizens Committee for Redistricting; Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce Education Committee; Mika CDC Share Your Language site facilitator; Know Your Rights immigration aide; Wilson Street Learning Center; Literacy Project. Volunteer for school staff appreciation meals; trained and placed classroom volunteers; advocated for undocumented families; taught neighborhood English as a Second Language classes; led parent education training

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the district and why?

1. Literacy: More than 50% of our Costa Mesa students are not reading at grade level by third grade. We need free preschool for all Westside families, with dual immersion programs for Area 7 schools (Whittier, Wilson, Pomona and Rea) so all students learn both English and Spanish at a younger age and close the achievement gap.

2. Equal access to resources: Westside schools are under-resourced and have been for years, so we need greater accountability in regard to our budget and district spending. I would like to see district funding used more effectively, transparently and with measurable outcomes. Parents should not be asked constantly to fundraise and help pay for their child’s public education. More money needs to go directly into our classrooms to benefit our teachers and students.

3. Innovation: Now is the time for change and new ways of thinking. We need Westside families to feel empowered and proud of sending kids to their neighborhood school again, to develop deeper community collaborations, to set trustee term limits so fresh voices are heard, and to lead the way in providing a technology-driven education that truly prepares our students for our shared future.

Bertha Rodriguez

Did not respond.

Diane “Dee Dee” RuoRock

Age: 48

Professional occupation: Real estate broker and president of RuoRock Real Estate

Education: College graduate

Time lived in the district: More than 40 years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Westside Costa Mesa, 18 years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Victoria Elementary School PTA; Costa Mesa National Little League coach; Victoria Elementary School Site Council; Costa Mesa Women’s Club

Immediate family members: Husband; son; daughter; mother; father; brother; two sisters

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the district and why?

1. Personal and physical security of our students, employees, families and school grounds. With the frightening rise of school violence nationally, I think all of us agree that our children deserve to be secure, safe and unafraid to attend school. The security of our campuses for all participants is of paramount importance and should be high on the list of school priorities, regardless of other pressures.

2. Reinforcing to our community members how well-positioned our schools and our students are when compared with neighboring school districts. Our students attending our local schools have tremendous opportunities through the NMUSD, such as the availability of 30-plus Advanced Placement courses, a multitude of sports options, music, marching band, drama, clubs, AVID, engineering programs, Lyceum Academy, medical programs and so many more. In addition, most students receive Chromebooks from grades five through 12.

3. The increased instances of bullying via social media, and suicide and attempted suicide rates nationally in our student populations. Obviously these are extremely difficult issues to address. We need to ensure that all of our staff — teachers, administrators and their support teams — are tuned in to our student population. Recognizing the early warning signs of bullying and other self-destructive behavior is paramount, and involving the community as a whole to find a solution is the only way to properly address this serious subject.

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