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Commentary: As the new Newport-Mesa Unified school board faces challenges, the kids will inspire them

A Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Education meeting.
A Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Education meeting. Contributor Sandy Asper welcomes newly elected board members and offers her thoughts on what the challenges they will face.
(Photo by Faith E. Pinho)

I want to welcome the new members of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Education to the world of COVID-19 and all your future attendant problems: distance learning, IT issues, masks, sanitizing, master schedules, and schools going in and out of shutdowns. You will be in charge of navigating all these problems with a newly appointed superintendent.

I also want to welcome you to the world of children — big and small, old and young, privileged and not. These are your people. They count. They matter. They are why you are here, and there are 20,000 of them — 20,000!

Think about that figure for a moment. The California cities of Barstow, Belmont and Blythe have about the same number of citizens as the school district. When you think about it that way you realize the responsibility you have.

You may have been elected in one trustee area, but your responsibility is to the whole district and every one of those kids, the ones who live on the west side as well as the ones in Newport Coast, and all the kids in between.

In the olden days (about five minutes ago), the board spent a lot of time attending events and doing what some people call “the princess wave,” which obviously means showing that they may enjoy the accolades that seem to go with the job.

But you, the new board, are not going to experience any of those feelings surrounding age-old “perks.” You will be treated with respect but no longer worshipped. Transformation will be your goal always. What will be new to the culture will be hard work. You will ask for and get all the information you need without delay. Every trustee will have equal access to information, and you will feel the responsibility to understand it, and if you don’t, you will be able to call anyone in the district to get the answers.

You will be way more open to listening to teachers. In fact you will constantly seek and get their advice because you know they hold all the information and wisdom about this district.

It all sounds daunting doesn’t it? It is, but when you picture these students: the kindergartners with their little fresh faces, the middle school students trying so hard to be cool, and the high school kids trying so hard to grow up, you will realize not only the responsibility but the joy of knowing that you, yes you, are making a huge difference.

So everyone wishes you well in this city of kids, and know you will do your best.

The writer is a Newport Beach resident who taught at the Newport-Mesa Unified School District for 40 years.

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