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NEWPORT BEACH / COSTA MESA : School Board Elects Franco Its Leader

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Judith A. Franco, a longtime trustee of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, is again at the helm of the district following the swearing-in of new board members last week.

Franco, a 14-year board veteran and the only incumbent to run for reelection, was unanimously elected board president after she and three new board members were sworn in Tuesday.

Franco and Edward Decker were the only two board members to vote against remaining in the since-failed Orange County investment pool when the district had an opportunity to pull out in June.

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Newcomers James Ferryman, Wendy Leece and Serene R. Stokes each replaced retired members who had favored remaining in the fund.

As each was sworn in, they acknowledged the uphill financial battle the district will face as it struggles to recoup the $80 million--$47 million of which was borrowed--it invested in the county pool.

“I’m used to challenges. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few leadership roles in the past,” Ferryman said.

“I’m not sure I was ready for this one, but the district is going to come out in one piece,” he said. “Everybody’s going to get a paycheck.”

Ferryman said district officials will put other issues aside while the fiscal crisis is at hand.

Leece said she will focus on the district’s positive aspects as well as the crisis: “I, too, am looking forward to the challenge and to making what is already good here in Newport-Mesa better.”

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Stokes said the board’s new members would rise to the challenge, even though it was more than they bargained for.

“We did not campaign for what we are faced with,” she said. “It’s a big challenge, but I think we can meet it.”

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