School board OKs extra military leave

The Newport-Mesa School District board extended military leave Tuesday night for a Corona del Mar High School teacher serving in the Air Force Reserve.

Gary Mathieson, a physical education teacher, has been on and off campus since 2011, splitting time between teaching and deployment, Principal Tim Bryan said.

Mathieson will be back on campus Monday, according to district spokeswoman Laura Boss, but he would have exhausted his 180 days of military leave when he redeploys.

The Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers requested an extra 180 days, and the school board granted it.

As part of the leave, Newport-Mesa makes up the difference between Mathieson's military pay and what he would be making while teaching.

Mathieson last taught at CdM from the middle of February to the end of April, according to the principal.

While he's on campus, Mathieson organizes students to donate DVDs, write letters or find other ways to support troops overseas.

"He brings a lot of ways to connect our kids to the fighting men and women overseas," Bryan said. "He makes the service men and women real to them."


Whittier principal approved

The school board also unanimously approved hiring a new principal for Whittier Elementary School.

It was the final step in bringing Scott Wilcox, a principal in Los Angeles County's Lennox School District, on board to take over the school on Costa Mesa's Westside.

"Our new focus has been on school and community and finding that perfect fit between a very talented person and a great school," John Caldecott, executive director of human resources, said of Newport-Mesa's hiring process.

According to Caldecott, the school community asked for a leader who was bilingual, enthusiastic and able to build parental involvement at Whittier, among other things.

"The No. 1 thing that everyone said we need is someone with heart," he said.

Newport-Mesa needed a principal for Whittier because Principal Tracy Carter asked to return to the classroom, according to the district.

Boss said in an email that Carter is working with the district's human resources department in searching out teaching opportunities.

Wilcox told the board that he was the principal at Felton Elementary School near the Los Angeles International Airport, a post he took after working in Lennox's personnel office and serving as principal at an elementary school and middle school in Long Beach.

Newport-Mesa Supt. Fred Navarro served as the Lennox School District's superintendent for a year and a half before being hired by the local district in June.

"My heart and soul is in schools and communities and making a difference for children," Wilcox said. "And I promise you I will make that difference here in Newport-Mesa."

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