Mailbag: Thanking teachers, staff and parents at Newport-Mesa

A student rides her bicycle in front of Newport Harbor High School.
Students return to campus for full-day learning at Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Secondary schools in Newport-Mesa Unified School District have returned to full-day schedules, four days a week.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Let’s celebrate our teachers’ accomplishments including our students being back in class! As a Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustee and current board president, I would like to share thoughts from my perspective. This has been a challenging time for everyone — and I can assure you that our seven trustees have heard from a broad section of students, teachers, staff, parents and administrators on every topic relating to schools.

Much of our board’s responsibility over the past year has been working through guidelines and safety protocols handed down by the state with the ultimate goal to reopen our schools to in-person learning. Many people in our community and even nationally have watched news or read reports of the educational system gone awry by public school teachers’ unions expressing their demands of not returning to campus due to safety and other concerns. By listening to the rhetoric surrounding these stories, one can assume our local educational system is aligned with these national issues.

We have witnessed a different story emerge in Newport-Mesa. Our teachers came back to campus in a hybrid model last fall when most schools in the state and across the U.S. remained on full distance learning.

Over the last few months as our COVID-19 numbers have continued to move in the right direction, and new guidelines have been shared by the state, we have been able to open up more campus activities. As of April 21, all of our elementary school students returned to campus five full days a week, and beginning April 26 all secondary schools came back in person four full days per week (with one day of remote learning).

This is an achievement that everyone should take pride in. I have visited many of our schools over the past month and have observed the joy and excitement of teachers awaiting this return. Many teachers have expressed how thankful they are to have their students back in person. While negotiations took place, our district and associations have worked together to welcome our students back on campus, which we all know is in their best interest, both for academic, social/emotional and mental health reasons.

During this Teacher Appreciation Week, our entire board wants to share our appreciation for every NMUSD teacher and staff member who has navigated the challenges of the past 14 months always with commitment to their students. We appreciate each of them for their contributions and hope our entire community will share in our thanks to all of our teachers who have come through for the students this year.

Karen Yelsey, president
NMUSD Board of Education

Bravo, Mr. Titus

Tom Titus likely has no idea of the role he’s had in my life. I played Bo Decker in a Huntington Beach Playhouse production of the William Inge play, “Bus Stop.” I was honored with a Best Actor award for that 1980 performance, where I also met my wife, Marjorie. (We will celebrate our 35th year of wedlock on July 5.) Mr. Titus noted that I “chewed some scenery” in that role. It’s an apt criticism that I won’t now deny.

Mr. Titus reviewed several other stage productions wherein I have acted. He was consistently genuine and never cruel in his reviews of theater. I rarely missed reading a Titus review in the Daily Pilot or TimesOC. Moreover, I had such envy for what Mr. Titus was doing as a theater writer that I decided long ago to follow in his path and become a theater writer myself. I have been doing theater reviews for several publications since 1999. I currently have a regular theater column in the “Beachcomber” newspaper in Long Beach. Theater is, along with my wife, among the loves of my life. I will miss reading Tom Titus reviews. But I am grateful for the inspiration he has given to me and to theater artists throughout our community. Thank you, Tom.

Ben Miles
Huntington Beach

Ortiz’s actions draw comparison

Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz has joined a long and hardly distinguished list of Republican office holders in the city over the last 20 years alleged to have scammed the system while in office. While the questionable filing of an EDD unemployment claim by Ortiz is more along the lines of former Mayor Joe Carchio’s questionable health insurance benefit claims of roughly a decade ago than it is the alleged crimes of former mayors Pam Houchen and Dave Garofalo of the decade before, it is still troubling as another blunder by a conservative parroting personal ethics and fiscal integrity as core values. While Republican malefactors have been naturally drawn to real estate and development fraud, making their former employer, the city of Huntington Beach, and the public pay for their schemes adds insult to injury.

It is time that the city puts its foot down hard on the shenanigans Tito Ortiz is trying to pull. It is time for the public to demand integrity in their elected officials. It seems clear that Mr. Ortiz is not fit to be a leader in our city and that he should be removed as mayor pro tem if not forced from the City Council altogether. The reputation of Surf City has suffered enough. We deserve better.

Tim Geddes
Huntington Beach

Takei talk triggers movie memory

Mr. Sulu, oops, I mean, George Takei was virtually interviewed by Huntington Beach Reads One Book and discussed his book, “They Called Us Enemy,” and his activism. His book, a graphic autobiographical novel written in 2019, delves into his being interned along with his family in 1942 and forced to live in Santa Anita Park, then move to Arkansas and back to another California location. His paramount issue with the government in uprooting him and his family was that they were not the enemy, but were bona fide Americans who happened to be Japanese.

Takei, who is now 84, has become a social justice activist and an outspoken supporter of human rights. I find it very ironic that Takei was in a 1960 movie, “Hell to Eternity” starring Jeffrey Hunter about a true life WWII hero by the name of Guy Gabaldon who as a Mexican American captured 1,500 Japanese soldiers on the island of Saipan. Takei played Gabaldon’s step-brother due to Gabaldon moving in with a Japanese family after his mother’s death.

A big part of the film illustrated the move of the Japanese families in Los Angeles to internment camps after the start of the war. I guess the irony was that the 1942 move was for real and the 1960 movie realistically reflected what actually happened 18 years prior. The Vulcan, “Live Long and Prosper” adage mentioned when Takei started his virtual question-and-answer session appears to have taken solid roots in Takei’s life, as he is indeed prospering not only financially but doing something he loves while doing some good with his benevolent lifestyle.

Bill Spitalnick
Newport Beach

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