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State of the Schools with CMHS ASB president speaking to a crowded gymnasium of guests


Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) in partnership with the Newport-Mesa Schools Foundation (NMSF) hosted its annual State of the Schools Breakfast, which united supporters — including elected officials, Costa Mesa and Newport Beach representatives, parents, community leaders, district and school employees, and event sponsors. The sold-out event at the Costa Mesa High School (CMHS) Gymnasium raised more than $51,000 toward the foundation’s Grants to Teachers Program, which supports the classroom learning environment.

The early-morning event opened with Instrumental Music Director Zaid Batarseh, a CMHS graduate, leading an enthusiastic school jazz band through a selection of songs as 250 attendees entered the gym. Later, under the direction of Jon Lindfors, the CMHS Madrigal Choir performed the National Anthem. 

A highlight of the morning was the Career and Technical Education demonstration by Engineering Design Pathway students Aubrey Spallone and Kayla Stanley, ASB President Ian Encarnación, and Boys Varsity Football player Chris Rivera. With the help of Engineering Design Teacher Racine Cross and high school Principals Dipali Potnis (CMHS), Sean Boulton (Newport Harbor), Jacob Haley (Corona del Mar) and Michael Halt (Estancia), the students showed off the football-throwing strengths of Herbie the Love Bolt, the award-winning robot designed by Spallone, Stanley and two other female students last year for the LA Chargers STEM on the Sidelines competition.   

NMUSD Board of Education President Ashley Anderson spoke about the importance of being unified as a community in support of students. That sentiment was further exemplified by Superintendent Dr. Wesley Smith, as he spoke about the progress and achievements students have made in the past year, much of which could not have been accomplished without the support of families, community partners, and of course our amazing employees. 

“Our kids deserve no less than the best. We’re all here, unified to inspire, educate and elevate our students to achieve great success,” said Smith.  

scenes from the state of the schools breakfast

Across elementary school grades, students have increased literacy scores. Kindergarten reading scores jumped 10 percent, while reading growth in first grade increased 9 percent. Second grade reading scores moved up 5 percent, and there was a 4.8 percent increase in third graders reading at or above target levels. 

While graduation rates increased nearly 2 percent to 97 percent overall, Smith says the district goal is for a 100 percent rate across campuses. That goal has already been achieved at Early College High School, which was recently named a National Blue Ribbon School as well as a Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School. Among students with disabilities, the graduation rate rose 10 percent to reach 87 percent, thanks in part to the efforts of dedicated teachers, aides, therapists and specialists. 

To attain such goals, the district has focused on fostering supportive workplace environments with professional development and training opportunities, mentorship and wellness programs, and competitive salaries. District leadership has also invested in safety upgrades, including an updated Standard Response Protocol and increased school campus security measures, along with ongoing maintenance and renovations districtwide.

The district has also invested in meaningful community partnerships. One example was the Back-to-School Resource Fair this summer; in partnership with IKEA, the Melinda Hoag Smith Center for Healthy Living and more than 80 additional community organizations. NMUSD welcomed more than 5,000 attendees with backpacks filled with school supplies, professional haircuts, health screenings, food boxes and much more. This opportunity to connect with vital services and resources was invaluable to the NMUSD community. 

It is a sense of community that unifies NMUSD. “Every single time I walk on any campus, I am greeted by friends. . . . It’s my fellow students who give me life and break my morning mood,” remarked Encarnación. ASB students from across the district gathered behind Encarnación in overalls to show that “overall, NMUSD is the best.”

To view more photos from the State of the Schools, visit our photo library.