Contenders for 4 seats on Newport-Mesa Unified board to square off in forum Monday

Back Bay/Monte Vista High School will host a Newport-Mesa Unified School District candidates forum on Monday night.
(File Photo)

For voters looking to learn more about local education issues and initiatives, a forum Monday night will introduce candidates running for four open seats on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees.

Organized by the Harbor Council PTA, NMUSD’s districtwide parent-teacher association, the event takes place at Back Bay/Monte Vista High School from 6 to 9 p.m. and will feature remarks and a Q&A session with nine of the 10 candidates running in the Nov. 8 election.

“I’m thrilled that we have this much interest in the school board, especially in this day and age,” said organizer Martha Fluor, a former NMUSD trustee of 29 years and Harbor Council PTA’s third vice president overseeing legislation and advocacy efforts. “This is an opportunity for individuals to come and learn about their candidates and make educated decisions.”

Three representatives from Orange County’s Fourth District PTA will moderate and keep time at Monday’s forum, which will include multiple round robin question-and-answer sessions and comments from candidates seeking office.

Trustee Charlene Metoyer, a retired NMUSD administrator elected to the board in 2014, has announced she will not seek a new term in District 2, which represents College Park, Davis Magnet, Paularino and Sonora elementary schools, along with Costa Mesa Middle and High School.

That leaves her Costa Mesa seat up for grabs among two candidates, parents Danielle Mills and Michelle Murphy, the latter of whom lists her career as a nonprofit executive.

In District 4, which serves Newport Beach’s Andersen, Harbor View, Lincoln and Newport elementary schools, Karen Yelsey will not seek another term after 16 years on the board. Three newcomers — Kristen Nicole Valle, an executive assistant, parent and retired educator Lisa Pearson and Barbara George, a mom and business owner — have filed to run.

Incumbent Michelle Barto is seeking a second term in District 5, which includes Newport Harbor High, Ensign Intermediate and Newport Elementary schools. She faces challenger Reina Shebasta, a parent and school counselor.

Incumbent Ashley Anderson, initially elected to the board in 2018, also seeks a second term in NMUSD’s 7th District, which represents Costa Mesa’s Pomona, Rea, Victoria, Whittier and Wilson elementary schools. She is running against two challengers — Vicky Rodriguez, a tax preparer/notary, and parent Kristen Seaburn, an executive assistant.

Among the 10 candidates, George is the only one not scheduled to appear at Monday’s forum due to a scheduling conflict, Fluor said Wednesday.

The forum takes place Monday, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Back Bay/Monte Vista High School, 390 Monte Vista Ave., in Costa Mesa. For candidate information and statements, visit

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.