School board elections building up

Campaigns for two contested seats on the Newport-Mesa Unified Board of Education are intensifying in the final month before voters go to the polls.

Michael Collier, 55, the incumbent for Trustee Area 2 seat, is running against Katrina Foley, 43, a Costa Mesa city councilwoman, in the Nov. 2 election.

Judy Franco, 73, with nearly three decades on the board, will face Loretta Zimmerman, 58, a former administrator for the city of San Juan Capistrano, in Trustee Area 5

Collier has said that as an incumbent he wants to keep doing what he's been doing: helping to raise students' test scores and erase the negative image of some of Costa Mesa's Westside schools, which he characterized as "unfair," given the changes of leadership that have occurred there in the past two years.

Foley, who if she wins might have to leave the City Council mid-term, said she'd like to concentrate on bringing more technology into the classroom while making sure the school board is more "transparent."

She also said she'd also like to create more partnerships between the district and the community.

One of her goals, Foley said, would be to make sure that all school board meetings are accessible on the Internet and that they are broadcast live on television in Newport Beach. As it is, she said, the school board meetings can only be watched in Costa Mesa and only on cable.

The Trustee Area 2 seat encompasses the region surrounding Orange Coast College and Costa Mesa High School, which just got a new Olympic-size swimming pool — something Collier said the board managed to do a year ahead of schedule.

For the Trustee Area 5 seat, which includes the Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island, Zimmerman said she would like to see term limits and that Franco has served well past her tenure.

While Zimmerman said she will bring a wealth of experience to the board, including experience with city government and as a member of the local PTA, Franco said now's not the time to elect somebody new to the school board, given the financial problems in Sacramento.

Four years ago, Zimmerman ran against Franco and garnered 31% of the vote in a three-way race, something Zimmerman said was a referendum on Franco because she was an incumbent yet failed to get 50% of the vote.

Laura Boss, a spokeswoman for the district, said for those who are interested in watching the school board meetings, DVDs are available.

"Currently," Boss said, "all DVDs of board meetings are available to anyone who would like (one). In addition, we will have the board meeting DVDs online for download very shortly. The district does not have a full-time television staff as the city (of Costa Mesa) does.

However, Boss said that the district was the first to "go live" with a Facebook and Twitter account.

"We are using every media technology resource we can get our hands on for free," she said.

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