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Newport Beach

Volume 5, Issue 62  |  August 4, 2020

Fair Game


School District rights a wrong and reverses course to traditional schedule

Tom Johnson Fair Game 2Kudos to the leadership of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, specifically interim Superintendent Russell Lee-Sung and, in my estimation, Board member Karen Yelsey, for listening to the concerns of students and parents alike on their issues with the previously approved 4x4 Model, and then working diligently to find an appropriate solution.

The 4x4 Model had a number of problems, from split class schedules to different semester lengths to potential AP testing issues to problems with scheduling yearlong electives. Let’s just say that it caused a lot of angst on all fronts.

Yet, following a number of meetings with all concerned parties, I’m happy to report that a wrong has been corrected. The District announced Tuesday, July 28, that “with the exception of Estancia High School, all high schools and middle schools will prepare for the start of the school year utilizing the structure from 2019-20, such as the traditional 8-period or 6-period day.”

Thanks also go to parent Kristen James for organizing Monday’s protest that lined Eastbluff Drive, from Jamboree Road to the front of Corona del Mar High School, with sign-carrying students and parents, and Gabi Gomes, an incoming senior at CdMHS, who created a petition on, that early on called for the reversal of the 4x4 Model decision. The petition garnered 2,156 community signatures.

They, among a number of others, made the difference.

• • •

Several weeks back, the Orange County Board of Education, not to be confused with Newport-Mesa Unified School District, voted to reopen schools. This decision caused outrage among many parents. However, we were reminded that the OC Board of Education has no power to enforce decisions because at the end of the day they are strictly “guidance.”

Now, that same group has sued Governor Gavin Newsom over California’s school reopening plans, or lack thereof. Even the County Superintendent of Schools for the O.C. Department of Education, Al Mijares, Ph.D. is concerned.

“I am disappointed by this latest legal action, but not surprised. This lawsuit continues the pattern of a highly litigious board majority that seems to have no qualms about diverting time, energy and financial resources from students and programs to satisfy their own ideological interests.

“Remember that locally elected school boards and superintendents will continue to approve and implement their own plans based on the guidance of state and local public health agencies and the needs of their communities. The Orange County Department of Education is working to support them every step of the way, and I am optimistic that we can unite as a county to return our students to safe and equitable learning environments,” said Mijares.

I agree with Mijares and concur that their action is a total waste of taxpayer money. 

• • •

On the local election front, Sean Johnston, who had pulled papers to run for the City Council seat currently occupied by Brad Avery in District 2, has apparently decided against those plans.

With his withdrawal, that leaves incumbent Avery against Nancy Scarbrough.

So far, they’ll join a ballot that includes incumbent Jeff Herdman and challengers Marshall Silberberg and Noah von Blom in District 5. Mayor Will O’Neill is so far unopposed in District 7.

• • •

Finally, if you’re like me, these days of COVID-19 lockup make me stir-crazy. I must not be the only one because my friends at Sherman Library & Gardens are extending their summer hours on Thursdays and Fridays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to try and get people OUT.

Sherman Library & Gardens Executive Director Scott LaFleur explains why: “Evenings in the garden are my favorite. As the cool breeze kicks up and the angle of the sun changes the light in the garden, night blooming flowers start to open and different creatures begin their pollinating shift. I want to share this special time in the Gardens with everyone.”

The nice thing also is that while you stroll you can easily practice physical distancing.

And, if you really want to make it a soecial evening, remember chef Pascal Olhats is offering his all new Dinner for Two Under the Stars menu at Café Jardin. It’s a four-course prix fixe menu with wine pairing every Thursday night at 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m., $130 per person, plus tax & tip. Reservations are required at 949.673.0034.

Garden admission is $5 to just tour the Gardens, but that’s included if you decide to dine.

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