Smith: Mesa's field a study in collaboration

On March 12, the school board voted to accept $15,000 to determine the final scope and cost of a new track and field at Costa Mesa High School.

This was about as predictable as the sunrise. It was an offer they could not and dared not refuse because the Costa Mesa City Council has indicated that it may pay for the entire project.

As the mortgage refinance guy on the radio says, "It's the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind."

The question is not whether the school board will approve the final project once the study is completed, even though that is not a slam dunk.

The question is why, after voters authorized nearly half a billion dollars in bond funds for school improvements, the estimated cost of $3 million to $4 million was not allocated for the new track and field at Mesa.

I have been aware of the shoddy track and field for many years because I coached Little League and watched my son play the Mustangs when he was on the Estancia High School baseball team. Other parents noticed it too.

We all wondered why it was not being addressed when, for example, Newport Harbor High School was getting bond money to upgrade its track and field facility and for a new theater.

Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger also noticed it, telling the Daily Pilot, "We're looking at something that should have been done many years ago."

Was Mesa's track and field overlooked, or did someone decide that it was not worthy of bond money for an overhaul? It's one or the other and either answer is bad.

Also of note, building the new track and field is one thing, maintaining it is another.

The city and school board should follow Andrew Carnegie's example. On a few occasions, he gave away money to build, for instance, a new library, and told the recipients that if they accepted the offer, they would be responsible for the upkeep.

That seems like the fair thing to do at Mesa, but one never knows whether the school board will use this as a deal-breaker. In this scenario, the board claims that they would really like to go ahead but due to the sequester cuts or Sacramento cuts or global warming or an impending asteroid, they cannot pay for years of maintenance.

But there is good news. The city is finally getting around to a closer relationship with the school board. This alone should be enough for celebration.

It is no secret that good, healthy cities have good, achieving schools. The health of schools affects property values, attracts the right businesses and makes for a safer community.

This stronger partnership should have happened years ago. As I have recommended in the past, the city and the school board should be exchanging representatives who will give a brief update at each meeting, as the school board now does with its campus representatives.


Pot brownie

Before the school board's meeting, seven students at Pomona Elementary School were taken to the hospital after a 12-year-old boy brought a marijuana-laced brownie to school and shared it.

According to subsequent Daily Pilot reports, the boy has been arrested and Principal Megan Brown notified parents via email that counselors would be on campus.

Counselors? Really? Apparently, no one has realized that the student who brought the brownie may have done more to discourage drug use than years of anti-drug rhetoric and teaching. After all, the students learned that day that using marijuana makes you sick — and gets you arrested.

That is a lesson no bond money could ever teach.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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