Two recent events in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District happily reveal an important truth about our schools: prudence drives some important decisions.
In one event, Estancia High School administrators kept students safe by successfully subduing a man who had threatened staff with a gun (“Principal: We thought gun was real,” Feb. 20). In the other, in search of one more way to keep funds in the classroom (“Solar panels considered by district,” Feb. 15), the school board voted to look into reducing electrical power costs through solar power.
These events stand out in part because obvious signs that the community is getting its money’s worth are hard to come by with public schools. This is not because there are few instances of the public’s getting its money’s worth, but because educators keep such a low profile.
Educators don’t like to brag, and they prefer to leave drama to the drama department. Parents and the school board want an education system that is safe and reliable. They want it to be as unobtrusive as the utilities — electricity, gas, water and sanitation — that keep your home and business going. As a result, it often will take an involved parent to get a detailed grasp of how well the school district is doing.
In these recent events, though, it’s easy for the community at large to see that the district met its No. 1 goal. The heroic, selfless actions of Assistant Principal Mike Sciacca and Principal Kirk Bauermeister kept their students safe from an apparent shooter.
And if solar power is proven to be economically feasible for the district, the public will notice solar panels on district property. They will know that NMUSD is prudently saving on its electric bill. As a former member of the school board, I know that these two visible achievements are just two examples of district performance. What you don’t see is the teachers, district staff and school trustees quietly going about their jobs, teaching our kids and working to improve the education process. They may be quiet, but they drive themselves to prepare Newport-Mesa children for the ever-changing world into which they’ll be graduating.
Congratulations to Mayor Jim Righeimer and the Costa Mesa City Council on initiating a new era in transparency. At the council meeting of Feb. 19, the mayor announced that in all future council decisions involving significant sums of money, each member of the council would disclose any private (“ex parte”) contacts with persons or entities concerning the matter.
Last year, the council adopted the COIN ordinance, which among other requirements, mandated public disclosure of offers made by employee associations in contract negotiations. Several citizens wanted the ordinance to go farther, to require bilateral disclosure and to include contract negotiations with vendors. Although the mayor’s public promise doesn’t have the status of an ordinance and doesn’t do all that citizens requested, it does take a big step in the direction of transparency and will improve mutual trust between the council and the public.