School board discusses teacher exchange

COSTA MESA — The Newport-Mesa Board of Education on Tuesday informally discussed whether to allow job swaps among teachers so they can experience different schools and neighborhoods firsthand.

The so-called "teacher exchange" would be an experience that teachers could benefit from because they would be exposed to the different socio-economic levels between Costa Mesa's Westside and Eastside schools.

It's an economic and sociological phenomenon that Phil D'Agostino, principal at Costa Mesa High School, referred to as the "Highway 55 Divide," which, along with Newport Boulevard, divides the city.

Although nothing has been set in stone, and such an exchange has not been placed on a future school board agenda, the suggestion surfaced during a study session when Costa Mesa High School and Middle School principals D'Agostino and Aaron Peralta were filling board members in on various programs and student achievements at the schools.

D'Agostino, who served as principal at Estancia High School for three years before taking the helm at Costa Mesa High this year, said he's seen the differences in the students.

It was at that point that board President Karen Yelsey noted that the recent teacher layoffs had "unintended consequences."

The bottom line, she said, is that it led to a series of reassignments among principals and teachers, some of whom have been rehired but at different schools.

"They've become energized by the new atmosphere," she said. "You can tell."

Board member Martha Fluor chimed in that she was going to "drop the bomb" by saying, "I think we should pay teachers more."

"Especially the dedicated teachers," she said. "We all know who they are. It's no mystery."

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