Newport-Mesa Unified School District Superintendent Fred Navarro asked administrators and faculty members to recommit themselves to raising the academic bar expected of all students during his 2019 State of the Schools address Wednesday at Estancia High School.
Navarro and his leadership team selected the mission to “raise the bar for all students” after a thoughtful review of the Board of Education’s priorities for the 2019-20 school year.
“We really want to be like that group of rowers on the crew,” Navarro said. “They’re all in sync, they’re all going in one direction, and they have a goal.”
NMUSD’s healthy finances are the foundation of the District, Navarro said. Employee salaries and benefits presented about 86.5 percent of the $326 million operating budget.
“The bulk of our investment is in the team, the people who serve our children, whether they’re in the classroom, mowing the lawn, or ordering materials for our sites,” Navarro said.
The district’s tax rate remains one of the lowest in Orange County at $16.92 per $100,000 of assessed value. Only the Laguna Beach and Capistrano unified school districts are lower.
Navarro was proud to announce that, as of this summer, all K-8 school sites have heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Among the remaining facilities still waiting for HVAC installation are three rooms at Corona del Mar High School and two buildings at Newport Harbor High School.
Officials also announced that CIF now permits athletic teams to practice yearround, raising the demand for sports fields, especially at CdM High because it also serves a middle school. In past years, athletic teams were only allowed to practice, as a team, during their specific season.
CdM student-athletes are getting two full-lighted athletic fields so students don’t have to travel to elementary campuses to practice at night. The construction is expected to be done by June.
“That’s a huge accomplishment for us,” Navarro said.
To support students’ social and emotional needs, Newport-Mesa Unified hired additional school psychologists and counselors, Navarro noted.
“What we need to do is make everyone feels valued,” he said.
To close out his address, Navarro encouraged students, staff, and parents to commit acts of kindness in support of the Orange County Department of Education’s One Billion Acts of Kindness campaign aimed at improving school climates and promoting civility and character. Residents can share these acts at kindness1billion.org and on social media using #kindness1billion.
In March, a photo of Newport Harbor high students presenting Nazi salutes around a Swastika earned national attention. In the scandal’s wake, district leaders formed a Human Relations Task Force to make recommendations on how to foster greater cultural understanding and acceptance on campuses.
Among the Task Force’s recommendations are inviting a traveling Holocaust exhibit to visit high school students, each high school should organize a student dialogue on anti-bias and connectedness, and implementing the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate program for anti-bigotry and bullying.