Just a short walk from her home in Westside Costa Mesa is Vista Park, where Lisa Manfredi said she met the families that stoked her desire to run for a spot on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board.
"My kids grew up in this park. It's a place where parents can meet each other and discuss community topics," she said, as she watched a young boy play in the sand. "I remember my kids playing on those swings and meeting moms for the first time."
Manfredi, 49, a stay-at-home mother, will take on incumbent Walt Davenport and fellow parent Fidel Mora in her quest to represent Area 7, which consists of several elementary schools, including Pomona, Victoria and Whittier, on the Westside.
Her son, Steven, 13, attends Costa Mesa Middle School, while her daughter, Marlena, 10, is enrolled at Davis Magnet School. Steven graduated from Davis, which educates students from kindergarten through sixth grade and focuses on science, math and technology.
Manfredi has been a longtime volunteer in Newport-Mesa as a member of the parent-teacher associations at Davis and Costa Mesa Middle schools. She won the district's Honorary Service Award for her volunteer efforts in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years.
She first considered running for school board four years ago, but said the task was too "daunting" for her at the time.
This time around, she wasn't as nervous to throw her hat in the ring.
"I was encouraged by parents and community leaders to run for the Westside seat based on my involvement and passion for schools," she said.
Manfredi used Davis Magnet School as an example of a campus she'd like to see on the Westside.
When she was enrolling her son in Newport-Mesa, she initially looked at Victoria Elementary but was drawn to Davis based on her son's interest in science and math.
"We need compelling reasons for parents to choose their neighborhood schools for their children's education," she said. "We also need to change the perception of Westside schools, because they are doing quite well."
Manfredi supports a dual-immersion-type program in the area's schools — one that will engage students whose first language isn't English, she said.
If elected, she hopes to expand upon the ideas of the signature academies that the district plans to implement across each zone.
"We need a process in which we can measure growth," she said in regard to continuing to improve test scores.
She also hopes to assist parents in starting a nonprofit foundation that would allow the schools on the Westside to partner with local community organizations like Mika and Project Hope.
The foundation would help elementary schools purchase new technology and institute classroom initiatives that would make them more competitive with neighboring districts, she said.
If elected to the board, she plans to support building a theater and aquatic facility at Estancia High School and making improvements to science labs and culinary arts facilities at Newport Harbor High.