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2018 in review: Top stories of the year in education

Candidates in the 2018 election for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board sit with maps of their respective trustee areas during a public campaign forum.
(File Photo)

From the final farewell to Swun Math to the welcoming of new trustees, 2018 has brought a lot of change to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Here are some of the top stories that came out of Newport-Mesa and other local schools and districts this year:

Orange Coast College celebrates 70th anniversary

Orange Coast College officials break ground on a student housing project that is scheduled to be completed in fall 2020. It will include more than 300 apartment-style units and more than 800 beds.
(File Photo)

Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa celebrated its 70th anniversary with changes and events.


The community college rededicated some of its iconic buildings and shared alumni stories online. It said goodbye to Dennis Harkins, its president for nine years, and later named Kevin Ballinger, vice president of instruction, as interim president while a nationwide search continues for a permanent president.

In October, OCC broke ground on two projects — its first on-campus student housing project, set to be completed in fall 2020, and a new College Center and Student Life building.

The campus also is gearing up for construction of a new aquatic center, and work continues on a new planetarium expected to open in early 2019.

Estancia High awaits new aquatic center

Groundbreaking for Estancia High School’s new aquatic center was delayed after construction bids were higher than expected.
(File Illustration)


In January, Newport-Mesa increased its budget for the delayed aquatic center at Estancia High School to $9 million from $7 million. Before bids for construction were completed, the district drained the existing pool, drawing heavy criticism from parents.

Groundbreaking for the aquatic center, which was originally scheduled to open for the fall 2018 sports season, was delayed by higher-than-anticipated bids, and it is now expected to open in early 2020.

An online petition with about 600 supporters called for the district to refill the existing pool, which it did, though not in time for the start of the swim season. Athletes trained at other schools until the pool was reopened near the end of February at a cost of about $104,000.

Construction for the new Olympic-size pool is scheduled to begin in early 2019.

Estancia’s air quality deemed safe despite foul odors

After years of Estancia High School teachers complaining about foul odors around the science wing, a consultant’s air-quality report in February stated the area was safe for use.

Daniel Ginsborg, chief executive of Arcadia-based Executive Environmental, shared the findings of the report at a Newport-Mesa board meeting, including a timeline of hydrogen sulfide testing.

The testing came after teachers and others voiced health concerns about sewer-like odors coming from the walls and sinks of classrooms in the science wing following a modernization project completed in 2008. Inspections revealed several uncapped sewer lines, but the odors were found to be unrelated to hydrogen sulfide.

Golden West College professor put on leave over viral video

Golden West College professor and counselor Tarin Olson was put on leave for two weeks after being identified in a viral video telling a Long Beach couple to “go back to your home country.”


Tony Kao posted the video to Facebook in March, writing that he and his wife and daughter “encountered a bigot and a racist today in our neighborhood.”

Olson told the Daily Pilot she was “not in a good place emotionally after receiving so many disgusting emails …. for something that wasn’t even racist and was then skewed by a guy named Tony who filmed me without my permission.”

Golden West officials said they did not condone her comments and that the college “believes in an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students.”

Newport-Mesa finalizes changes to math curriculum

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District approved new math materials for grades six through eight, a year after doing so in kindergarten through fifth grade. The moves ended the district’s use of the often-criticized Swun Math.
(File Photo)

Swun Math, a program that parents long complained was full of errors, was officially removed from all Newport-Mesa Unified classrooms.

On June 12, trustees signed off on new math materials for grades six through eight after having voted the year before to replace the curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade.

Sixth through eighth grades now use Illustrative Mathematics, and K-5 use Bridges in Mathematics.

Soon after the adoption of Illustrative Mathematics, the district received more parent pushback for considering eliminating advanced or enhanced courses for middle school math. In an email announcement July 9, the district said it would continue honors math classes and continue to seek new ways to help students meet Common Core math standards.


Reports show local schools exceeding state standards

Students’ scores on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, administered in the spring, held generally steady from last year in coastal Orange County, according to figures released in October by the state Department of Education..

About 60% of Newport-Mesa students met or exceeded CAASPP standards in English and about 51% in math, compared with the state’s 50% and 39%, respectively.

Scores for the California Schools Dashboard, the state’s new system for ranking schools, were released in December, showing local districts performing well in all areas in the 2017-18 school year. The Dashboard rates performance not just by academics but also by graduation and suspension rates, chronic absenteeism and students’ readiness for college and careers.

Newport-Mesa Unified earned a high score in every area except suspension rates, which was near the state average. About 2.6% of the district’s students were suspended at least once in the school year, and 8.5% were recorded as chronically absent.

Election brings changes to Newport-Mesa leadership

Winners in the November election for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board take the oath of office Dec. 11. From left are Karen Yelsey, Ashley Anderson, Michelle Barto and Charlene Metoyer (back).
(File Photo)

The November election brought a mix of new and familiar faces to the Newport-Mesa board of trustees.

The board agreed in 2017 to adopt a new election system, with trustees chosen by voters in the zones they live in instead of by voters throughout the district.

Incumbents Charlene Metoyer (Area 2) and Karen Yelsey (Area 4) reclaimed their seats Nov. 6, while newcomers Michelle Barto, a web design business owner, and Ashley Anderson, a nonprofit education initiative director, were victorious in Areas 5 and 7, respectively.

The board said goodbye to Judy Franco and Walt Davenport, longtime trustees who decided not to run for reelection. Franco, 81, served the district for 38 years, the longest tenure in its history.

H.B. City School District considers sale of some school sites

Huntington Beach City School District trustees approved a study Nov. 13 that could lead to the sale of Joseph R. Perry Elementary School, despite outcry from parents and staff members.

The district, at a cost of about $44,000, moved forward with Phase 1 of the feasibility study, which is meant to determine the value of Perry’s land and could lead to a board decision on whether to dispose of the site.

Officials said Perry was selected because it’s the district’s least populated school, but some parents claimed that is due to the district’s open enrollment policy, which allows students to attend a school other than the one assigned to their home address.

The board decided in October to enter the second phase of a process exploring selling the Isaac L. Sowers and former Ernest H. Gisler middle school sites.

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