The Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s welcome center has been renamed to honor Karen Kendall, a former Newport-Mesa educator who served as a vice principal, principal and director of the district’s English learners program until her retirement in 2014.
The name change to the Karen Kendall Welcome Center was unanimously approved by the board of trustees Tuesday night.
Kendall began her time in the district in 1994 as vice principal of Newport Elementary School, where she also served as interim principal. She also was vice principal at Whittier Elementary School in Costa Mesa and principal at Harbor View Elementary School in Corona del Mar.
By 2001, she was developing and implementing a master plan for the district’s English-language learners, which is still in use. Kendall also is credited with starting the welcome center before retiring.
The center, at 2045 Meyer Place in Costa Mesa, is designed to help parents and students with Newport-Mesa’s pre-enrollment process.
In a naming application submitted to district staff, former Newport-Mesa employee Mike McGuire said Kendall’s name is “synonymous with district [English language] programs and initiatives.”
Several letters were submitted with the petition.
Amparo Ames, a former coordinator of school and community relations for the district, said during the meeting that Kendall “went from being an unknown administrator to a very beloved administrator in the district. She was always very loving and embracing of the community, of the students. Everything positive.”
Board President Charlene Metoyer said Kendall “gave us a model on how to be gracious.”
“You are happy. You are kind. You like people. So you make them feel like they’re the most important person in the room,” Metoyer told Kendall, who was at the board meeting.
Kendall’s husband, Bob, commented on her behalf because she is now unable to speak.
“I wanted you guys to know that if she could speak, she would be extremely grateful to every single one of you,” he told the board. “She’s thrilled being honored like this and she would probably be as emotional about it as I am.”
Human Relations Task Force
In other action, the board adopted a memorandum of understanding regarding the district’s partnership with OC Human Relations, a Santa Ana nonprofit that will help the district develop a Human Relations Task Force.
Supt. Fred Navarro was directed to create the task force at the board’s last meeting March 12, a little over a week after pictures from an off-campus party showed local high school students flashing Nazi salutes over a swastika made of plastic drinking cups.
Navarro said the district is thinking about “next steps, next meetings” to follow an informational meeting set for Wednesday night.
He said Kirk Bauermeister, the district’s executive director of secondary education, would have recommendations next week on what could be done as “the first step with our community, what can we do with a first step in our schools and how do we make sure all of our schools are engaged and how do we make sure we’re engaging all the marginalized groups in the community?”