Newport-Mesa swears in school board election winners, including 2 newcomers

Michelle Barto, left, and Ashley Anderson joined the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board of trustees Tuesday night.
(Courtesy of Ashley Anderson)

Newly elected trustees Ashley Anderson and Michelle Barto took the oath of office for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board Tuesday night along with reelected incumbents Karen Yelsey and Charlene Metoyer.

The board then voted for Metoyer to serve as its president for the next year.

Anderson and Barto, both local natives, are the youngest members of the board, which now is all female with the departure of former trustee Walt Davenport, who did not seek reelection in November.

Anderson, 38, replaces Davenport, 83, as the trustee for Area 7, which includes Pomona, Rea, Victoria, Whittier and Wilson elementary schools.

Barto, 37, represents Area 5, including Newport Harbor High, Ensign Intermediate and Newport Elementary schools. She fills the seat of Judy Franco, 81, who decided not to run for reelection after 38 years on the board.

Incumbents Karen Yelsey, left, and Charlene Metoyer, back right, take the oath of office for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board with new trustees Ashley Anderson, center, and Michelle Barto on Tuesday night.
(Courtesy of Michelle Barto)

Though the two newcomers have similar goals, they have fairly different educational and career backgrounds.

Barto, a computer science and business major from Franciscan University in Ohio, served as a business consultant for Fortune 500 companies before building her own web design business, Launch Creative, in 2008.

Having gone to private schools growing up, Barto’s interest in public schools stemmed from her volunteer experience with children’s organizations and grew when she had her own children.

She and her husband, Brady, have four kids: Penelope, 11, Charlie, 9, Linus, 8, and Conrad, 6. All attend Newport Heights Elementary School.

“I learned what a great socialization experience it can be and the way that public schools can meet the needs of kids, [including those] with special needs,” Barto said in an interview.

As vice chairwoman of the Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine, Barto participated in the Early Childhood Policy Framework, a task force of Orange County early-childhood development professionals.

“It was an eye-opening experience for me because I saw a lot of people with big hearts who said they want to help but didn’t know how,” Barto said. “I saw an opportunity to improve that.”

With expertise in marketing data, Barto felt she could help others become engaged with the community, and that became one of her three key focus areas in running for school board, along with academic improvement and safety.

“I want to be better about communicating with the public,” Barto said. “I think the advantage of having someone that has kids in school currently is that, [as parents], we’re so close to the problem.”

Though Anderson doesn’t have children (“yet,” she said), she has spent her career working in education, formerly as a teacher and currently as education initiative director for Trellis, a Costa Mesa nonprofit that teams up area churches with businesses and city leaders.

“I decided to run after attending school board meetings and not hearing practical solutions for making Westside [Costa Mesa] schools better,” Anderson wrote in an email. “There was a tone of apathy — that effort had been made in the past and things wouldn’t change — yet that did not reflect what I was seeing from a new generation of involved parents and neighborhood leaders.”

Anderson holds a master’s degree in educational technology and has a multiple-subject teaching credential. Her goals for Newport-Mesa include “closing the opportunity gap” for students on the Westside — where she was born and raised — with a focus on literacy. She also wants to expand dual immersion language programs, improve parental involvement and expand early-childhood education.

“In the short term, I would like to see student learning and achievement, as well as community engagement and advocacy, be the focus of board meetings rather than the current focus on finance and facilities,” Anderson wrote.

In the long term, she hopes for a “dramatic” increase in literacy rates and resources set aside for schools she believes are underserved. She also wants more transparency in district decision-making.

Twitter @CharityNLindsey