Newport-Mesa Unified District trustees voted Tuesday evening to appoint a long-time Costa Mesa resident and Parent Teacher Association member to fill the soon-to-be-vacant seat on the school board.
Vicki Snell, who has spent the past 15 years volunteering on superintendent interview panels, various district committees and PTA executive boards, beat out five other candidates for the Estancia zone seat that Trustee David Brooks will vacate this month.
After four hours of interviews and discussion among board members, trustees voted 4 to 2 — with Katrina Foley and Walt Davenport dissenting and David Brooks absent — to appoint Snell to the board.
"Vicki and I did not see eye to eye when we first met," said Trustee Dana Black, who championed Snell at length during the meeting. "She's held me accountable for the 15 years I've known her."
Snell's provisional appointment is effective through December. She would need to be elected in November to continue to serve as a permanent representative on the board, said district spokeswoman Laura Boss.
Trustees Karen Yelsey, Martha Fluor, Judy Franco and Black all pointed to Snell's extensive resume in Newport-Mesa, including an eight-year stint on the PTA Harbor Council Executive Board, as well as her participation in school site councils at Adams Elementary, TeWinkle Middle and Estancia High schools.
"She's that unsung hero out there," Black said.
Before choosing Snell, each board member selected two candidates to kick off the discussion. The list was quickly whittled down to former Costa Mesa Police Ltn. Clay Epperson, Christopher Blank, a Newport Beach attorney, and Snell.
Blank has two grown sons who attended school in the Estancia zone. Epperson currently stays home with his two sons, who attend TeWinkle Middle and Adams Elementary schools. Before retiring from the force, Epperson worked with the district to implement school security measures.
Foley spoke highly of Epperson's dedication to the Estancia community during the discussions, citing his expertise in school safety as something that could be an asset to the board given recent discussions about the school resource officer program and fencing at elementary schools.
Foley motioned to appoint Epperson to the position, but the motion failed 4 to 2.
Still, Foley and Davenport both asserted that Snell will do an excellent job as a board member.
Snell has a daughter who graduated from Newport-Mesa and a son who is a senior at Estancia High.
She plans to focus on keeping in the Estancia zone families that might be tempted to enroll their children in neighboring districts. Over the years, a significant number of families in the Westside have opted to have their children attend school in places like Huntington Beach because they feel resources aren't being allocated to their area.
"Some parents in the Estancia zone aren't getting the attention or the resources that some of the other schools have," Snell said.
She said she plans to be transparent about decisions made by the board and ensure that equity committees — which monitor the fair division of resources among the district zones — are in place.
"My deep connections to the community over the last 27 years fuel my passion for making our neighborhood schools places of opportunity and pride for all families," she wrote in her application.
Snell will be administered the oath of office and assume the role of trustee during the March 11 board meeting.