The Newport-Mesa Unified School District bid farewell this week to departing trustees Judy Franco and Walt Davenport, who decided not to run for reelection this year after long tenures on the board.
Health problems that caused her to be hospitalized kept Franco from attending Monday’s board meeting to accept a Distinguished Service Award from the district.
Trustee Martha Fluor said Franco, 81, has had “a number of health issues recently, primarily with her lungs and her heart,” but that her condition is stable.
Franco, a board member for 38 years, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 but remained active in the district. Even after having a double mastectomy several years ago, she bounced back to attend the next board meeting, Fluor said.
Franco could not be reached for comment this week.
PTA member Suzanne Gauntlett said although Franco’s health hasn’t been 100% for some time, “her mind and wisdom have always been totally intact.”
“She’s a true educator in every sense of the word. … She is a role model and knows her mind and speaks it well while never putting anyone down or making anyone feel disenfranchised by her words,” Gauntlett said. “Judy’s retirement is a loss to NMUSD historical knowledge.”
During her long tenure in the district, Franco has served in many educational organizations, including the PTA and the Orange County and California school boards associations. She also was active in many community organizations, including the Harbor Area Sailing Program, and established sailing as an official sport in Newport-Mesa.
The district recently renamed the courtyard outside the Costa Mesa boardroom in honor of Franco. It is now called the Judith A. Franco Patio Courtyard.
Franco and Davenport can be described as “citizen servants,” according to Fluor.
“Both of these individuals always put what’s in the best interest of kids first,” she said.
Franco’s style includes mentorship and a focus on compromise, Fluor said, while Davenport, 83, is analytical and detail-oriented.
Davenport, a board member since 2006, is a former Costa Mesa planning commissioner and the husband of a retired Newport-Mesa teacher.
“Walt has had a very calming effect to our board,” Fluor said. “He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he says something, it’s quite meaningful and insightful. He’s a brilliant man and we’ll miss him.”
Davenport attended Monday’s meeting but did not comment.
Britt Dowdy, president of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, said, “We appreciate the sacrifices and service that [Franco and Davenport] have done for our school district and community for many years.”
Newly elected trustees Ashley Anderson and Michelle Barto are expected to be sworn in at the next board meeting Dec. 11. Anderson will fill Davenport’s Area 7 seat and Barto will take over for Franco in Area 5.