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Opinion

Commentary: School board returned public comments to the start of meetings, but what about childcare?

Child  care
Kids play in childcare in Long Beach. Costa Mesa business owner Leah Ersoylu says that the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board should look into providing childcare at its meetings to support parents who want to attend.
(File Photo / Los Angeles Times)

I am proud of Newport-Mesa trustee Ashley Andersen and the other four school board members who voted Oct. 28 to return public comment to the beginning of school board meetings, where it had been until last year.

This change was a testament to the committed public — the parents, grandparents and teachers who have been speaking up to ensure that our public meetings are as engaging as possible.

Having parents of small children wait until 8 or 10 p.m. was simply not a best practice in civic engagement and, fortunately, the majority of the board members agree.

Now it is time to look to the future and build upon this momentum. There is still work to do to ensure that the Newport-Mesa Unified School District is as transparent and inclusive as possible. The district can continue to build upon this success, if it so chooses.

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Community engagement does not happen on its own; processes and structures must be put in place to ensure that parents feel invited, listened to and impactful when they attend meetings. Truly inclusive decision-making is difficult, but possible.

If NMUSD truly wants to have parental engagement, it needs to look closer at how that engagement can be supported at these meetings. For example, our neighbor, Santa Ana Unified School District offers childcare at its board meetings. We should consider exploring the feasibility for this.

In fact, the board members should take an inventory of all public meetings they host and consider that, for meetings where they truly want parent engagement, they invest resources to ensure it. The district has part-time classified staff that is already background-checked and could be useful in this childcare capacity.

Lastly, we should recognize that at the NMUSD board meetings there are updates given by a PTA representative on each agenda.

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However, there are not updates given by a representative from DELAC — the group representing the English language learners in our district. If we truly value their input, they should have a seat at the table, on the agenda, as well.

Leah Ersoylu is a Costa Mesa business owner.

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