Of all the schools in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, Newport Coast Elementary, because it's only a decade old, has been hardest hit by the recent layoffs, parents and officials say.
The school is poised to lose five teachers and four of its support staff to layoffs, a measure among others taken to cut $13.5 million from the 2010-2011 district budget.
But despite the pending layoffs, morale is still high in the hallways at the Newport Beach school, located on Ridge Park Road just off Newport Coast Drive, said principal Richard Rodriguez.
The layoffs, Rodriguez said, have been made according to seniority — a prerequisite spelled out in the California Department of Education code.
Most of the teachers, he said, simply don't have the number of years of experience as those whose jobs have been spared. And yet, all of the teachers are holding out hope that they will return next year should some teachers decide to retire over the summer, Rodriguez said.
"Everybody here so far has been so positive and so professional," said Rodriguez, who himself will be moving on to TeWinkle Middle School in Costa Mesa next year, where he will serve as principal. "All in all, everybody's been really mature about everything."
The laid-off teachers, Rodriguez said, run the gamut, including the school's Teacher of the Year, Ryan Longacre.
Also on the list of layoffs are: fourth-grade teacher Kelli Davison, fifth-grade teacher Lisa Scott, first-grade teacher Bonnie Bachelor and third-grade teacher Mariela Hayner.
Taking Rodriguez's place at the 700-plus student elementary school will be Duane Cox, an administrator for the Schools and Community Services Division of the Orange County Department of Education.
Among countless other duties, Cox helps create Friday Night Live Partnerships — essentially clubs at different schools that foster leadership among students.
"I think he's great with kids," said Virginia Dansby, administrative assistant for Friday Night Live. "I think he's going to be a great principal."
But Cox will be walking into a school that could have five fewer teachers and four fewer support staff, a fact of life that has taken its toll on parents and the surrounding community, said Suzanne Gauntlet, president of the Parent-Teacher Assn.
"We've been hit hard," she said in a telephone interview last week. "It's because we're such a relatively new school, but that hasn't stopped us from achieving academic success."
For example, the school just celebrated its 10th anniversary at a recent barbecue, where it honored the its success this year of becoming a California Distinguished School, Gauntlet said. More than 1,200 people attended the event on June 16.