Does the O.C. Board of Education need more diverse voices?

The Orange County Board of Education at a meeting.
The Orange County Board of Education is one of a few county-level offices statewide whose officials are picked during a primary election cycle. A piece of legislation seeks to move their elections to November.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)
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Good morning. It’s Wednesday, May 29. I’m Carol Cormaci bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter with a look at some of the latest local news and events.

Does the conservative majority Orange County Board of Education need more diverse voices making decisions in a county of 3.15 million people? Two state lawmakers, both local Democrats, believe so and have co-authored a bill that would move the board’s elections to November and expand the panel from five to seven members, according to this story by my colleague Sara Cardine that was published in the Daily Pilot over the weekend.

Senate Bill 907, co-authored by Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) and Dave Min (D-Irvine), was passed in the state Senate last week. If the governor signs it, it would take effect in 2025 but not be applied until the 2026 election.

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The reasoning behind moving the election to November from a spring primary season is so that more voters will participate in deciding who is seated on the board, according to the report.

“SB 907 would bring us in line with the rest of the state, harmonize the Board of Education’s elections with other important November elections and ultimately help add more diverse voices to the most important K-14 educational body in the county,” Min said in a statement Thursday.

“There’s a very straightforward good governance argument that says the best government is most closely tied to constituents and when the most people have an opportunity to participate in the selection of that board,” said the bill’s co-author, Newman.

Newman, who told the reporter during an interview Thursday he did not consult with unions while drafting SB 907, acknowledged he did confer with several legislators, Orange County superintendents and parents concerned about the current board’s strong pro-charter school stance, Cardine reports. Out of the county’s 43 approved charters, 27 have been approved by the Board of Education.

“Parents in the public school system who are very involved with the PTA and other things, they’re well aware that when these decisions get made public funds can get diverted to charter schools,” Newman said.

Increasing the size of the board to seven members would also benefit the county, Newman and Min maintain, because it “could create new voter areas with interests and concerns that might differ from those of the current trustees,” Cardine notes. “But it would also require a redrawing of district lines, a costly move undertaken two years ago following the 2020 U.S. Census.”

Current board members, many of whom have served for years, are not pleased with the bill.

“They claim the bill is a partisan attempt by Democrats, backed by teachers unions, to dilute the panel’s conservative majority, which publicly supports school choice and has backed numerous charter school efforts in recent years,” Cardine reports.

Board President Tim Shaw told Cardine neither of SB 907’s co-authors discussed the idea of moving elections to November or increasing the size of the panel with the existing board. He sees it as a partisan effort.

“There’s a valid point to having elections in November when turnout is higher — I understand that completely. I just don’t know that senators and assembly members all over California need to be deciding this,” Shaw told the reporter. “It’s a local decision. There’s obviously a feeling that this is being done to us and not with us.”

Shaw’s board colleague, trustee Mari Barke, who was first elected to her seat in 2018 and won a second term in the June 2022 primary, is opposed to the bill as well. She said it’s her belief the smaller election format advantages both candidates and voters.

“It allows people to pay closer attention because they’re looking at fewer races,” she said. “I’m not afraid to run in November, I just don’t think it’s necessary.”

MORE NEWS

Officials cut the ribbon for the headquarters for Orange County Sanitation District.
Officials applaud during a ribbon-cutting event celebrating the new headquarters of the Orange County Sanitation District in Fountain Valley on May 22.
(James Carbone)

• Orange County Sanitation District held a ribbon-cutting event for its new $102.5-million headquarters in Fountain Valley last Wednesday. The three-story building at 18480 Bandilier Circle encompasses 109,000 square feet and took nearly three years to complete.

• Silverado Canyon in eastern Orange County is among the areas a tree-killing beetle known as the goldspotted oak borer is “on a death march through Southern California’s oaks,” the L.A. Times reports. More than 160 trees, some more than 250 years old, have so far found to be infested in Silverado’s Big Oak Canyon.

• So far unsuccessful in its bid to buy a troublesome motel on Beach Boulevard, the city of Anaheim may use eminent domain to condemn the Rainbow Inn in order to use the site for affordable housing, according to this TimesOC story by my colleague Gabriel San Román. City officials offered Dhanuba Hospitality $6.9 million in December for the 42-room motel, but the two parties have not yet been able to reach an agreement.

• Laguna Beach city officials and dignitaries gathered Friday morning to introduce a rescue vessel, Wave Watch. The honor of christening the 33-foot Crystaliner during a ceremony in Newport Harbor went to Laguna Beach Mayor Sue Kempf.

Cal State Fullerton will soon welcome a new president, as Ronald Rochon has accepted the job. Rochon officially steps into his new role on July 22. He currently serves as president of University of Southern Indiana. Rochon, a first-generation student, earned degrees at Tuskegee University and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

• Katelyn Nguyen, a seventh-grader at Helen Stacey Middle School in Huntington Beach sponsored by the Orange County Register, on Tuesday advanced to the quarter finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. In the third round, she correctly spelled durbar, a court held by an Indian prince or a formal reception held by an Indian prince or an African ruler.

PUBLIC SAFETY & COURTS

A photo of 14-year-old Rosenda Elizabeth Smiley, of Rialto, in a roadside memorial near Balboa Boulevard at Palm Street.
A photo of 14-year-old Rosenda Elizabeth Smiley, of Rialto, in a roadside memorial set up after a fatal DUI collision Saturday near Balboa Boulevard and Palm Street.
(Susan Hoffman)

• A Rialto 14-year-old, Rosenda Elizabeth Smiley, was on foot just a block away from the Balboa Fun Zone shortly after 6:45 p.m. Saturday, when she was fatally struck by a sedan, police reported. The driver of the vehicle, Joseph Alcazar, 30, of Fontana, who was allegedly driving under the influence, remained at the site of the crash, where he was arrested on suspicion of murder and child cruelty. The charge against Alcazar for child cruelty stems from the fact that a juvenile passenger, along with an unidentified adult male, had been in the vehicle when it struck Smiley, according to a Newport Beach police spokesperson.

• Colleen Windsor, a former Orange County Fire Authority spokeswoman who accused the agency of rampant male chauvinism and gender-based harassment, settled her lawsuit for $580,000. Windsor alleged she was systematically harassed, undermined and pranked by workers at the Irvine-based fire agency because she was a woman in a high-ranking executive position, according to the L.A. Times. The settlement was reached last July, but its details were first reported May 17 by the Times of San Diego.

• After being closed on Memorial Day after a shark knocked a surfer off of his board Sunday night, the ocean off San Clemente was reopened Tuesday, but with an enter-at-your-own-risk shark advisory expected to remain in place until at least 8 p.m. A San Clemente lifeguard first received a report of a shark encounter at the popular surfing destination T-Street Beach just before 8 p.m. Sunday.

• A San Juan Capistrano man, Shaw Warrington, was arraigned Thursday in federal court for allegedly attempting to solicit sex in Newport Beach early last year from a 13-year-old girl who was actually an undercover police officer posing on an online platform. When police arrived at an arranged meet-up between the 34-year-old Warrington and the “girl,” Warrington was taken into custody. A search of his home turned up a firearm and 350 rounds of ammunition.

• Here’s a roundup of City News Service public safety briefs:
— Police this week are still investigating the actions of the man who led authorities from Corona to Anaheim Hills Friday morning, then engaged in an hours-long standoff on the Riverside (91) Freeway before being found dead inside his car from an apparent self-inflicted gun wound.
— A side item to the main story in last week’s newsletter: Orlando Arballo, who earlier pleaded guilty for his role in an effort to attack a man on the orders of reputed Mexican Mafia chief Johnny Martinez, was sentenced Thursday to 4½ years in federal prison.
— Raymond Echavez Villamor, 60, of Newport Beach, accused of bilking an Illinois resident out of $2 million, was charged with five counts of wire fraud and pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this week, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago.
— Fullerton police yesterday were on the hunt for a man who allegedly stabbed a co-worker in the neck at the Flaming Buffet in Fullerton at around 11 p.m. Monday. The 19-year-old victim was rushed to an area hospital but was expected to survive.
— Police in Anaheim on Tuesday were continuing their investigation into the death of a 38-year-old man who was shot and killed in a liquor store parking lot at around 7 p.m. Friday in the 900 block of South Anaheim Boulevard.
— A man was found dead of a gunshot wound early Saturday morning on Westminster Avenue, just south of the Garden Grove (22) Freeway. The Garden Grove Police Investigations team, which can be contacted at (714) 741-5800, is continuing its investigation into the death.

SPORTS

Newport Harbor High students Connor Ohl, Valery Verdugo, Gavin Appeldorn and Gabby Alexson.
Newport Harbor High students Connor Ohl, Valery Verdugo, Gavin Appeldorn and Gabby Alexson, from left, competed at the Pan Am Aquatics Under 19 Championships in El Salvador.
(Courtesy of Julia Gustafsson)

• Four water polo players from Newport Harbor High School were in El Salvador over the weekend, where they helped Team USA capture medals at the Pan Am Aquatics Under 19 Championships. Senior Gavin Appeldorn and sophomore Connor Ohl were on the U.S. men’s Youth National Team that earned the gold medal. Freshmen Gabby Alexson and Valery Verdugo played for the U.S. women’s Cadet National Team, which captured the bronze medal.

• Finishing at 14 under par, the team from Shady Canyon won the 25th annual Jones Cup community golf tournament on its home course in Irvine last Wednesday. It was Shady Canyon’s third win in as many tries, according to Daily Pilot coverage of the event.

• The Angels are creeping up on an unenviable record, according to Bill Shaikin, who covers sports and sports business for The Times. Shaikin notes that by winning percentage, the Halos have the worst home record of any Major League Baseball team in 85 years. They rise to the occasion when they’re playing on the road, Shaikin reports, but after their loss to the Cleveland Guardians on Sunday in Angel Stadium their home record stood at 6-19, a winning percentage of .240. The only team with a worse percentage over a full season, according to StatMuse: the St. Louis Browns, whose home winning percentage was .234 (18-59) in 1939.

LIFE & LEISURE

Peter Pan atop a pirate ship.
Peter Pan returns to “Fantasmic!,” replacing a scene that featured “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
(Richard Harbaugh / Disneyland Resort)

Disneyland’s popular “Fantasmic!” show returned Friday, nearly a year after it went on hiatus due to a fire that engulfed the attraction’s giant prop dragon. The new show dropped the dragon and added more elements to its “Peter Pan” segment.

• Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant officially opened on June 13, 1934, so this year it is celebrating its 90th year. According to this TimesOC story, the Buena Park restaurant today serves up 1,000 chicken dinners a day, and since 1934 has prepared more than 90 million pounds of the poultry.

• Nick’s Restaurant will open a new location at Westcliff and Dover drives in Newport Beach in a building that was previously home to Gracias Madre. It will be the third Orange County location for Nick’s, which also operates in Laguna Beach and San Clemente.

More than 6,000 people turned out on a recent weekend in Huntington Beach to take part in Baptize California, with the local gathering organized by Orange County-based Oceans Church. It was a festival featuring Christian rock bands and sermons in addition to communal baptisms.

CALENDAR THIS

Kids from elementary school bands in Costa Mesa march during the 2023 parade.
Kids from Lincoln, Paularino and Sonora elementary school bands in Costa Mesa marched along Marine Avenue during the annual Balboa Island Parade in 2023. This year’s event, a tribute to the late musician Jimmy Buffett, is this Sunday.
(Susan Hoffman)

• Parrot heads: pull out your Hawaiian shirts! The theme of this year’s Balboa Island Parade is “Balboa Island in Paradise — A tribute to Jimmy Buffett,” and spectators are encouraged to dress accordingly. The fun takes place Sunday, with the hometown parade stepping off at 11 a.m. The starting point is the Balboa Island Bridge, with entries traveling down the center of Marine Avenue until they reach the end of their route at Park Avenue.

• Repticon, the show that celebrates not only reptiles, but amphibians, invertebrates and more, returns to the Huntington Beach Building on the O.C. fairgrounds this weekend. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $12 general admission, $6 for children 5 to 12 and free for kids 4 and under and can be ordered here. Parking is $12.

• The Huntington Beach Concours classic car and motorcycle show runs Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. both days, to raise funds for the Huntington Beach Library Children’s Resource Center. The field of entrants includes the best domestic, British, European and Asian vintage to current automobiles and motorcycles. The featured marques this year are the Ford Mustang (all years) and BMWs. The Councours takes place on the lawns at the library, 7111 Talbert Ave. Admission is $16.

• The 40th annual Tustin Street Fair and Chili Cook-Off will be held on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. This annual party takes place in the streets of Old Town Tustin and Peppertree Park, with live music, contests and games. For more information, call (714) 573-3326.

Until next Wednesday,
Carol

KEEP IN TOUCH

I appreciate your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Please send news tips, your memory of life in O.C. (photos welcome!) or comments to carol.cormaci@latimes.com.