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Newport-Mesa may talk trustee term limits, but not until after November election

Newport-Mesa Unified School District Supt. Fred Navarro and trustee Karen Yelsey, right – pictured at a 2014 school board meeting – say the board should delay discussion of term limits for trustees.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District Supt. Fred Navarro and trustee Karen Yelsey, right – pictured at a 2014 school board meeting – say the board should delay discussion of term limits for trustees.

(File photo | Daily Pilot)

After discussing a proposal for possible trustee term limits, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board voted Tuesday night to delay further discussion of the issue until January, after the November election.

The proposal was presented last month by three candidates for the school board – Leslie Bubb, Amy Peters and Michael Schwarzmann – with the hope that term limits would be placed on the Nov. 8 ballot for a public vote.

They suggested that board members serve a maximum of three terms, or 12 years total.

“It’s not a new idea,” Bubb said at Tuesday’s meeting, pointing out that when current trustee Karen Yelsey ran for the board in 2006, she advocated setting term limits and submitted a proposal to the board requesting that members serve 12 years or less.

Bubb also noted that current trustee Martha Fluor gave a presentation in 2014 about board term limits – and how incumbents in previous elections had a high success rate – after a community member had suggested term limits.

But the issue did not gain traction either of those times.

In a presentation Tuesday created by the three candidates, Bubb said boards need new blood and perspective and that habitual incumbents hold organizations back.

Afterward, Supt. Fred Navarro recommended that the board consider other information on term limits in addition to that in the presentation.

“There’s a lot of research on term limits,” Navarro said. “You really should review that data as you consider this.”

Though Yelsey suggested term limits 10 years ago, she said Tuesday that when someone is first serving on the board, “you don’t pick things up on the school board as easily as it may appear.”

“I know the first four years, at the end … I still was asking questions.” Yelsey said. “The [education] code is so involved and complicated. School governance, school finance is way different.

“But I’m not opposed to having the discussion on term limits. I actually welcome it.”

But Yelsey and several other board members supported saving the conversation for a January meeting to remove the issue from the “political arena.”

“I do feel that [given] the group that has presented this … this has become a political issue,” Yelsey said. “I would prefer that we table this till January so we can have whoever is on the board at that time be involved in the decision.”

Trustee Vicki Snell added that while “it’s a nice blend to have new blood” and “different perspectives” on the board, she favors waiting until after the election to discuss term limits.

“I still don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea,” Snell said. “I just want more information. I don’t feel we need to have to hurry to do something in one meeting that really could change everything.”

Trustee Judy Franco addressed the three candidates’ concerns about the seven current board members not having children currently attending Newport-Mesa schools. She said some board members have grandchildren at home who are attending district schools.

“There is an involvement that I have in terms of hearing from kids,” said Franco, who has two grandchildren who recently graduated from high school and one who is going into ninth grade.

Yelsey said she did not run for school board “until my youngest child, who went through our entire school system from K-12, graduated because I felt that there could be a potential conflict of interest. Not that there would be, but there could be … in the programs you want to push, in the way you interact with teachers or administrators.”

Bubb is a parent of a current student and a recent graduate of Newport Harbor High School. Peters has three children who attend Newport-Mesa schools, and Schwarzmann has two.

“You see this history of board term limits trying to come up, but there seems to be no traction from the board.” Bubb told the Daily Pilot on Wednesday. “Any time there’s an election, not just for the school board, the conversation of effectiveness is always going to be brought up. It was disappointing that they’re not allowing that to go to voters in November.

“It’s not necessarily an attack on them, but it’s about seeing what’s in the best interest of the community,” Bubb added.

Fluor, Snell and board President Dana Black are up for reelection this year.

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Alex Chan, alexandra.chan@latimes.com

Twitter: @AlexandraChan10


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