Parents offer input about new TeWinkle principal

The search is on for a new principal to lead Costa Mesa's TeWinkle Intermediate School.

At the Wednesday night forum to gather input on what parents and residents want in a new principal, many comments centered on increasing community involvement.

Nearly 50 parents, teachers and community members walked around the multi-purpose room and wrote their thoughts on large sheets of papers hanging from the walls. The papers were labeled with topics, including the school's greatest needs and strengths, their biggest concerns and the qualities they want to see in the new principal.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District had to find a new principal on short notice after Anna Corral — who was transitioning from Rea Elementary School to TeWinkle this summer — was offered a job as principal of Anaheim High School.

Carrie and Jack Lester of Costa Mesa expressed concern that too many families in the surrounding neighborhoods are taking their kids to Huntington Beach for middle school.

"We need a principal that reaches out to the community — we need to fix this," said Carrie Lester, whose daughter graduated from TeWinkle and will be attending Estancia High School this fall.

Jennifer Hutchison, whose daughter is starting sixth grade at TeWinkle, which is located at 3224 California St., echoed the sentiment.

"I would like a strong leader and an advocate for the kids, parents, teachers and community," said Hutchinson, a Costa Mesa resident. "They should pull everything together and bridge the elementary schools, TeWinkle and Estancia."

Safety was another common thread as one widely supported comment called for police officers to talk to the kids about drugs, racism and bullying. Others called for more discipline and better security so the kids could feel safe.

Some wanted to see intervention programs continued under the new principal.

"The biggest thing for me as a teacher is the positive growth we've had in the past years," said TeWinkle music teacher Tim McFadden.

Many parents and teachers also said the school needs more diverse electives such as art and drama and more opportunities for the kids to play sports and have qualified athletics coaches.

Attendees also said a new principal should be bilingual, have middle school experience and encourage learning about different cultures.

District Human Resources Executive Director John Caldecott led the forum and said the thoughts and concerns will be used during the selection process.

First-round interviews are scheduled for next week with a technical and interpersonal panel. The top candidates from that phase will pass on to the Superintendent's Cabinet for final selection, according to district spokeswoman Laura Boss.

The district plans to recommend a new principal to the school board by its Aug. 27 meeting, she said.

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