Mailbag: Readers respond to 'School Flight' series

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Editor's note: The following are letters from readers about the Daily Pilot's three-part series, School Flight, which was published Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Congratulations on the wonderful and insightful story on Sunday's front page. Staff writer Mike Reicher has done a great service to Costa Mesa to so intelligently and objectively examine a sensitive subject that is often avoided. The editorial was also excellent. The Daily Pilot has really matured under your leadership.

We have lived four houses from Adams Elementary School for 49 years and have seen many changes. Every day, I used to enjoy watching scores of little ones walk past our house on the way to school. Now, I see them being driven away.

Our seven children attended Adams, TeWinkle Intermediate School and Estancia High School. They all are college graduates and most have graduate and professional degrees. Their children are now in Newport-Mesa Unified School District and are experiencing a different world — changing demographics and more competition for college admission.

We joke in our family that there are the Newport Forbaths and the Costa Mesa Forbaths. We have a grandson at Adams and two grandsons at Mariners Elementary School. The Adams student is achieving at the same level as the Mariners kids.

We have granddaughters both at Estancia and Newport Harbor High School. Each school provides its own benefits.

The academic challenge at Newport Harbor might be greater because of the competition and more resources, but because of its size, Estancia provides greater opportunity to actively participate in sports, drama, student government, journalism, etc. — all important pieces of a well-rounded education. Our oldest grandson graduated from Estancia and now attends UC Berkeley, as does a Latina classmate.

Our Newport grandchildren have wonderful friends, so do our Mesa Verde grandchildren, but they're lucky to have developed close friends with many young people and their families from the Westside.

We've attended many functions at Estancia, Adams and TeWinkle, and are moved when we see the beauty of mixed cultures and when we see the tears of joy and pride on both brown and white faces as their kids perform, receive awards and graduate. There's no greater common denominator than parents' love and pride in their children.

All I can say to those who hesitate to send their children to our Costa Mesa Westside schools, you're missing a lot of great experiences. You should give it a try.

Jean Forbath

Costa Mesa

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Adams teacher responds

I am a teacher at Adams Elementary School, and I would personally like to express my gratitude for the unbiased way you presented the issue of "white flight" at my school. Susan Sanchez is one of my former students, and I loved seeing her smiling face in the paper.

In the six years I have taught at Adams, I have seen many neighborhood families leave for other schools, but have also witnessed huge gains made by our Latino students. I think it's important to clear up the misconception that classrooms at Adams are full of non-English-speaking students.

In six years, I have only had two such students enter my classroom. One boy entered my class as a fifth-grader knowing fewer than 10 English words. He was such a diligent student and hard worker that, when I was assigned to teach sixth grade the following year, I insisted he remain under my tutelage.

He showed up at my classroom door recently. I was stunned to discover that, after only four years in America, he is not only speaking English fluently, but he was accepted to start ninth grade at Early College High School and is earning college credit along with his regular high school classes. He is also a part of ASB and was placed in an advanced English class.

It is a huge misconception in our neighborhood community that these immigrant children can't learn. My former student is proof that schools like Adams and TeWinkle Intermediate School can help students reach success.

I just had to share that with you. Thanks again for presenting both sides of this argument without being nasty. Adams is a wonderful school and I hope, after reading your article, more neighborhood families give us a second chance.

Alison Walske

Costa Mesa

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Adams couldn't meet our needs

I moved into Mesa Verde almost eight years ago with my wife and then-10-month-old daughter. We now have three kids. None of them go to Adams Elementary School. It's not racism, and it's not test scores.

My wife and I are both public-school educators in Orange County. I work in a diverse, urban school district and love the diversity of my own school. I know the power of diversity in education, but school choice for my family has everything to do with meeting the needs of my children.

When my oldest was of school age, we went to Adams, toured the school and attended the town hall-style information night. We were excited about the possibility of simply walking our daughter around the corner to her school in the same way I walked to school when I was a child.

Then we started asking questions, and the answers were disturbing to us. In a class of 20 students, an average of 16-plus would be English learners. We asked a simple question.

"How do you meet the needs of the three or four students in the class that don't need any English-language instruction?"

The answer: "We have the fluent speakers work as helpers in the classroom."

Question: "Do you differentiate reading instruction in the upper grades where children move to different classrooms based on reading levels?"

The answer: "No."

The answers to these two questions decided the situation for us. This school will not meet the needs of my child. I'm glad to see that Principal Gabe Del Real is trying to set a different tone by addressing children's individual needs, but our choice has nothing to do with our children fitting in. Our children are now in a school they love, where their needs are being met, and we have no intention of moving them.

What I see as the biggest problem in this whole situation is not racism, not low test scores, or fitting in or perceived violence. The problem is that Newport-Mesa is a basic aid district. The district has no motivation to meet the needs of its customer base because it gets paid whether my child attends its schools or not. If that changed, the schools would change.

Brendan Keegan

Mesa Verde

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Return to our schools

My wife and I have lived in Mesa Verde for more than 32 years. We've raised four daughters here and all four have attended California Elementary, TeWinkle Intermediate and Estancia High schools.

I am a 13-year volunteer for various N-MUSD programs and committees. I was honored to serve as Estancia's Eagle Pride Foundation's first president, and was co-founder and first president of the Estancia & TeWinkle Schools Foundation.

All my daughters were senior class presidents. All excelled in scholastics, graduating with top honors. All graduated either magna or summa cum laude from California universities.

Two are now educators, including my daughter Dana, who teaches AP English at Costa Mesa High School. Interestingly, her husband, Scott, teaches history at Estancia. Clearly, attending their neighborhood schools had a very positive effect on my daughters, and I suggest that doing the same would benefit other Mesa Verde families who are trying to decide which schools their kids should attend.

My bona fides now established, let's address a question unasked by Reicher: What sort of change do you suppose Adams, TeWinkle and Estancia would undergo if Mesa Verde families didn't choose to ship 500 of their kids to Huntington Beach and another 500-plus to other N-MUSD schools?

I submit that the addition of more than 1,000 of our neighborhood children to our neighborhood schools would have an immediate and materially beneficial effect on the makeup of those schools. Doing so would provide an immediate boost to school test scores, serve to smooth out ethnic percentages for those who are concerned about such things, enrich the kids' educational experiences, enable neighborhood children to attend school with their lifelong friends, and prove to be a more efficient use of scarce and expensive educational resources.

I submit further that choosing to send one's child to another school or another city because of a perceived problem that might occur, but is not occurring, can prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Choosing your child's school based on fears or rumors or unfounded perceptions perpetuates a negative stereotype and sacrifices the opportunity for your kids to experience the wonderful educational experiences awaiting them just down the street at our great neighborhood schools.

Visit these schools. Make an appointment to talk with the principals and the teachers. They'll be glad to meet with you. Then ask the kids attending them what they think. Ask the parent who chose a local school for their kids what his or her experiences have been, and then decide based on the facts as presented.

I think you may elect to take advantage of what your local schools have to offer. For your sake and that of your kids, I certainly hope so.

Chuck Cassity

Costa Mesa

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Diversity helped her grandkids

I found the article about flight from diversity in Mesa Verde schools to be interesting. I personally found that diversity in all areas — economic, religious, racial — as well as full inclusion for children with challenges to be beneficial to my children, who attended California Elementary, TeWinkle Intermediate and Estancia High schools. I have four grandchildren who graduated from Estancia. Three of the four have earned bachelor's degrees and one currently enrolled in a master's program.

Recently, a grandchild who lives in a neighboring school district had a tough time working through some bullying the first semester of eighth grade. These were peers that she was in scouting with during elementary school!

Her grades had dropped to Ds. After all appropriate steps were taken, and after no real solutions to her situation, it was suggested that she come to live with us and attend the second semester of eighth grade at TeWinkle.

I want to tell you that the teachers, counselors and students at TeWinkle made this a wonderful experience for my granddaughter! The music director was wonderful, the science and math teachers took a great interest, the English and history teachers even showed a one-on-one interest. The office staff helped her get involved with the drama club and she was promoted in June with straight As!

You know, it really does "take a village." These students will be working with and/or for the very ethnic groups with whom they attend school! Why can't we applaud the diversity in this school district, start helping others to get involved by volunteering in the classroom or help raise funds to finance the projects that this unique "village" requires?

Patti Smith

Costa Mesa

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Five words on a 5,000-plus-word series

A breath of fresh air!

Tom Egan

Costa Mesa

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Abandon racial preferences

Whites are being lured back to Adams Elementary/TeWinkle Intermediate/Estancia High schools with promises that the English-proficient-fast-learner-selective-college-aspiring students will be taught differently and placed in separate classes. Won't this widen the achievement gap and foster segregation within the schools?

This is the burning civil rights issue of our time, we are constantly reminded. Has no one told these school administrators?

But Reicher's story ignores the new political reality in California. Mass migration has changed it from toss-up to deep blue, a one-party state, with Latinos central to the governing coalition.

Spouting fairness, inclusion and other platitudes, the state Legislature, i.e. the Democrats, have pressured the University of California to exclude better-qualified whites in favor of blacks and Latinos. Every shift in this direction was cause for another official celebration of diversity, with never one official word of concern for excellence.

Seeing Proposition 209, the state ban on racial preferences, as an obstacle to further marginalize whites, state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) has sponsored Senate Bill 185 to abolish it. His bill is expected on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk this month. What use is individual educational achievement when the overriding qualification is race?

Let's have a follow-up article on UC admissions from all N-MUSD high schools, comprising a table with these columns: race (required by UC, delete names), GPA, SAT/ACT, accepted/rejected, with one entry per applicant per UC campus. Let readers have the raw data so that they can decide for themselves if "holistic review" might explain the disparities.

Ned McCune

Costa Mesa

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