District can't pay, but she will

NEWPORT COAST — Most local teachers, well aware of districtwide budget cuts, don't expect to see students in class this summer. Then there's Joni Summer.

The Newport Coast Elementary School teacher found herself in class Tuesday, teaching mathematical concepts to at least a half-dozen children in what is the only summer school class for miles in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Already in its second week, the summer school is still taking students from first through sixth grade, she said. It's something Sommer has invested her own money in, having rounded up qualified and certified teachers for the summer school session in the absence of any district-funded programs.

In all, five weeks remain if you want your children to learn the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.

"It's a win-win-win situation for everybody," said Sommer, who organized the summer school a few months ago, realizing that the pickings were going to be slim because of districtwide budget cuts. "This way, the kids learn, the parents are getting a quality education from us, and the teachers are plying their craft."

Plus, the teachers are certified and credentialed, which are increasingly difficult to find, let alone fill during the summer months.

The classes are from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday. There is room for 15 students per class and nearly a half-dozen teachers ready to teach them. The cost is $155 per week, Sommer said.

When she's not organizing summer schools, Sommer is a teacher at Newport Coast Elementary and also conducts in-home tutoring, something she began in 2007 to help students who are either having trouble in their classes, or are excelling and would like to move a step ahead of the rest.

As the state continues to reduce the amount of money allocated to education, it's getting to the point where summer school classes are rarely held, which Sommer is trying to change.

And on Monday morning, that was evident as children learned their multiplication tables by playing cards and a variety of other games in a quiet setting.

Casey Ott, 10, and his brothers Jesse Ott, 8, and Sonny Ott, 7, were just a few who were learning while the rest of their friends were out playing.

Other students included Kiernan Sidebotham, 8, his brother, Van Sidebotham, 6, Brayden Harlow, 6, and Ella Green — all students from around the area.

Diana Musson, who just received her credentials from UC Irvine, and Stacie Rego, a part-time teacher, were on hand to teach the children.

If interested in enrolling your children, call the city of Newport Beach at (949) 644-3151.

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