District vision must touch on truancy, dropout rates

Jeff Benson's article in Tuesday's Daily Pilot ("School District's

plan to fit challenging times") deserves to be read and studied by

those citizens who appreciate the major efforts undertaken by the

elected school board and the host of concerted volunteers.

Benson has most diligently interviewed key members of the

Newport-Mesa Unified School District leadership to arrive at a most

comprehensive summary of the major components of the plan. Although

Benson lists a number of "most notable" goals -- i.e., a redesign of

the high school system, the creation of a teacher training center and

demonstration school, the addition of a hands-on, inquiry-based

science program, etc. -- what he covers are basically steps in the

overall strategic plan, which will produce the goals being sought.

As for the goals sought, I assume that many of the current issues

and problems that face the district are included (truancy, dropouts,

poor academic achievement in a number of schools). It was a little

disheartening to read the comments of the Corona Del Mar High School

PTA president when she remarked: "Our problem is that the school is

viewed as so academic that, if you're a more middle-of-the-road

student, you don't necessarily fit in. Our goal is to find a way for

every student to succeed."

I'm not sure that academic success in her high school is not the

bellwether of achievement. Perhaps she was referring to the other

high schools, which have not matched Corona Del Mar academically.

As for programs and activities that foster the arts, I doubt that

a magnet school for arts is "crucial to the district," initially at

least, due to the budgetary burdens.

I agree with philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, who opined that:

"It requires no effort to use our schools to produce a population

with some love of music, some enjoyment of drama and some joy in the

beauty of form and color ... the strain on material resources would

be negligible."


Costa Mesa

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