Commentary: Goodbye, my Newport-Mesa friends

When I was in seventh grade, growing up in La Mirada, I decided to become a teacher because I thought it was the greatest and most important job in the world.

In the last 43 years, my opinion has not wavered. In the course of my professional career as an educator, I was able to attain that job and accomplish, I hope, some wonderful things for students in three districts as a teacher, principal and superintendent.

As a graduate student at USC I first heard about how highly the Newport-Mesa Unified School District was thought of. I dreamed of working there someday. Thanks to the school board and community for making my dreams come true.

I want to thank the Daily Pilot for giving me this opportunity to say thank you and goodbye to the school district and community that I love so dearly. There is no doubt in my mind that my first 24 years in education were simply preparation for the best job in the California public school system — that of being superintendent in Newport-Mesa.

I am, of course, saddened at the turn of events in the last year which were initiated by a previous district that I worked very, very hard for, and, sadly, no one there stepped up to tell the truth. However, that sadness has always been overwhelmed by the joy and satisfaction of being the superintendent of NMUSD.

If I had one thing to share with the communities of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, one would be to please celebrate, as often as possible, the wonderful school district that serves your youth. The students, teachers, administrators, classified employees and board are, by far, the best with whom I've ever been associated.

While other school districts' dysfunction creates myriad changes, the NMUSD remains a stable and healthy place to work and learn, and is the envy of every superintendent in the state. It is truly student-centered.

The programs in English-language learning, Nutrition, Transportation and Professional Learning Communities are copied and coveted all over the state. The influential and powerful California School Boards Assn. has had many presidents from many districts over the years, but only one district has had two — let alone three CSBA presidents — and that's our NMUSD.

I will miss my friends and employees very much over the coming years and months, but knowing and working with each of them has enriched my life beyond words. I am sorry our goodbye was so abrupt, but that's the way of the world at times.

Just know that as long as I am alive I will be your supporter and friend. Your kindness and support during the darkest days of my life will never be forgotten. As I've said many times, being the superintendent of NMUSD was the greatest honor of my life.

My hope for the community is that the Costa Mesa vs. Newport Beach comparisons will diminish and both cities will look for ways in which "all boats may rise" and each city may benefit.

On another note, Tennessee Williams said that the only true sin is "intentional cruelty" and, unhappily, I've witnessed and been subjected to some of that in the NMUSD community. The state of public school funding and support of public schools in general in California are shameful, and we must work together to overcome that on behalf of the students.

Pettiness and cruelty have no place in the noble pursuit of making children's lives better.

Whatever the future holds for me I hope it will continue to include helping children and their families, especially in these challenging social and economic times. I also plan on mixing in a little fun and enjoying my beautiful children, family and wonderful wife in the coming years.

In closing I'd like to leave you with a quotation that gives me solace on my most challenging days. Martin Luther King said: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Sometimes justice takes a while — but it does come — and I know that history and time will show that I am a good man who devoted his life to the betterment of young people. I pray that you will remember me that way and look at the positives of the school district and communities I had the amazing good fortune to serve.

Bless everyone in the NMUSD communities and keep those kids No. 1.

Adiós, y vaya con Dios — goodbye, and go with God.

JEFFREY HUBBARD is the former superintendent of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. He is appealing his conviction on two felony counts of misappropriation of public funds related to the job he held before coming here.

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