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Letters to the Editor

There are changes our school district needs to make, now

Laurie Smith is a retired Newport-Mesa Unified School District teacher, grandparent of a Newport-Mesa student and member of the student advocacy group Newport-Mesa Community for Students. She is an activist in the District and a strong voice. She directed this letter to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Education.

Dear Members of the Board,

We are now three months into the COVID pandemic and distance learning. Its June, budget time, and summer plans and reopening are upon us. At this time of greatest need for our students and families, please reassess your leadership and consider the following decisions: 

–Approve a budget focused on compassion correcting inequities. Do this by adding (yes…adding) professional counselors, community facilitators and nurses. COVID should not be an excuse for maintaining our deficient status quo in meeting the social and emotional needs of students. We have reserves. Use them.

–Technology support for low-income students: Have you made sure ALL our students have WiFi and Chromebooks? Have you made sure staff has identified these students by checking in with teachers, using facilitators to check on at-risk students and filling in the gaps? What has been done for those hard to reach families? Home visits can be made with masks and social distancing if not by staff, by use of known community partners and volunteers. Compassion should drive you to find solutions. 

–Have you created a summer school plan in collaboration with teachers? Is it flexible enough to move from distance learning to the classroom and been communicated to parents? 

–Defund your army of attorneys. You won’t need them if you ask our leaders to come out of hiding, start listening to the community of parents and staff and develop relationships.

–End expensive consultant fees. Our capable current staff knows our students and can fill the need. Believe in them. Trust them and their leaders who have direct connections to the classroom.

–Eliminate District leadership of fear and control that has stifled staff and students from reaching their full potential. Sadly, it has become more unresponsive, untrusting and insular behind the cover of COVID and Zoom. 

There has never been a more urgent time for change in the District’s leadership culture: for compassionate, confident, flexible, and humble leaders who share power and lead by listening, building community relationships, and embracing change.

You are our elected leaders. You must make the change we need to see. 

Laurie Smith

Newport Beach

Bluebirds bring joy to this neighbor

Background information: I became neighbors, then friends, with a couple in the Heights who had similar interests to my own. The wife is an avid birdwatcher and has made it her goal to increase the bluebird population in the Heights’ area. 

About four years ago, she talked me into putting one of her bird houses in my backyard tree. It was an interesting, joyful, but also heart-wrenching experience. Watching the maturity process was infatuating because the beautiful babies had unique personalities. 

However, at the end of my experience, after raising three clutches one season, I was saddened that the local birds of prey left only one baby to survive and mature. Evidently, this is common. The survival rate is not very great due to the vulnerability of the small birds. As a result, the ones who survive are remarkable, sometimes living as long as ten years. 

I wrote this poem about that experience.

Bluebirds:

I learned from bluebirds in my tree

How little they have of certainty

Guarded by parents when they are small

Their chance of survival is barely at all

And yet they sing and give us joy

Their beauty starkly hued

They know not any night or day

They may be lost to birds of prey

So should we be like bluebirds too

Embracing beauty and delight

Not knowing when at any time

We must enter that good night

Lynn Lorenz

Newport Beach

 

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