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Newport-Mesa Unified board wants more research before term limits go on a ballot

Newport-Mesa Unified board wants more research before term limits go on a ballot
Newport-Mesa Unified School District Supt. Fred Navarro said term limits might come up again at the board's July 5 meeting. (File photo)

Following an hour-long discussion Tuesday about establishing term limits for trustees of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board, its members agreed that they want to see more research on the issue before bringing it to voters.

Adding term limits has been a contentious topic among Newport-Mesa activists in recent years. Three board candidates made it a campaign issue during the 2016 election.

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The question arose again Tuesday, with 13 speakers expressing a desire for term limits to be on the November 2018 ballot.

With the help of an attorney, Michael Toy of Tustin-based Parker and Covert LLP, the board initially considered a four-term limit, or 16 years. Later, they asked Toy to gather research on how other districts establish term limits, if at all.

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Supt. Fred Navarro said the discussion may continue at the July 5 board meeting.

Newport-Mesa does not have term limits. Elected trustees serve four-year terms.

"Since I've come on the board, what I think about term limits has changed," said board President Karen Yelsey, who suggested term limits when she first ran in 2006. "I do think it takes some time to learn about education issues."

Trustee Judy Franco, who first joined in 1979, echoed a similar sentiment. She noted that only a handful of districts in California have limits.

"It takes a number of years to learn the education code," Franco said. "It isn't something you can just pick up and say, 'I get it.' "

Trustee Charlene Metoyer, who was elected in 2014 and is board's newest member, said she supports term limits.

"It's important and it's worth it," she added.

Speakers during Tuesday's meeting said they wanted new voices and "fresh ideas" for Newport-Mesa, particularly from its minority community.

"This is something the public has asked of you many times," said Laurie Smith, a retired Newport-Mesa teacher.

Smith said she conducted an informal online survey on the topic in May. It garnered 376 responses in favor of term limits.

Two parents from Westside Costa Mesa, which has a large Latino population, said they wanted to see a Latino on the board who could better represent them.

"Give us the opportunity to rally and strengthen our participation as parents," Maria Alveuenga said.

Trustee Martha Fluor, a board member since 1991, said sometimes Newport-Mesa doesn't get new members because no one steps "up to the plate" to run.

"Where were the people?" Fluor asked. "What was the level of involvement? You're all talking about longstanding commitment — where were you?"

Twitter: @vegapriscella

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