At the school board meeting of January 27, Trustee Vicki Snell tried to get to the bottom of the field usage challenge in Costa Mesa that has been affecting youth sports for many years. I last coached about 12 years ago and it was a nightmare back then, too.

What you are going to read below is the transcript of Snell’s request (to the best of my transcribing ability), followed by an update.

Regular Meeting of the Board of Education, Newport-Mesa USD

January 27, 2015

Regular Board Meeting

CONTRIBUTORS: Vicki Snell, Paul Reed, Martha Fluor

SNELL: We all know, that we have a field problem in Costa Mesa. That’s all I’ve been hearing about for the last couple of months so I would like to request that the district give us a report on which elementary schools are in the JUA [Joint Use Agreement] with the city and which are not

And I would also like the district to request from the city which fields they are using and who are the organizations that are using these fields. I think that if we have that information we can make a better call on what we need to do in the future to provide more fields because I know there’s talk about the city wanting to light some of our fields and I find that it might work in some elementary [schools] but it’s pretty disruptive to other elementary schools because most elementary schools are in neighborhoods that people move d in and they expected it would just be during the day

So I think that would be helpful and I know that Martha not that long ago requested to just go over the JUA to fully understand just what the agreement is about

REED: All the elementary [schools] are in the JUA. Not all of the fields are scheduled by the city. They are all available. So the city sometimes chooses to use some fields, or not. Essentially, the JUA functions on an exclusionary basis – it’s more what isn’t in the JUA than what’s in it. For example, the Jim Scott stadium is not in the JUA.

SNELL: It was my understanding that none of the high schools are in the JUA.

REED: Not entirely true.

SNELL: That’s what I’d like to know – what’s entirely true.

FLUOR: Basically, all elementary schools in the Costa Mesa area are in the JUA

REED: We’ll bring it back. We’ll bring it back. I take the question more to be “what’s being used” –

SNELL: What’s being used and who’s using it. I’d like to know who’s using it.

REED: We have to get that information from the city because it doesn’t run through us.

SNELL: I would like to know who’s using it.

REED: OK we will proceed.

FLUOR: It may require a study session.

SNELL: That would be really nice. Rather than be reactive, I really think it would be nice if we could plan-

FLUOR: And I think it would be nice to have a clear understanding of where our responsibilities lie.

SNELL: Exactly.

FLUOR: We know that with the JUA, the city takes [UNINTELLIGIBLE] in the afternoon and does all the scheduling. How they do it – it’s up to them. What they do – that’s part of the JUA.

SNELL: I know, but it’s a little disturbing when we have a shortage of fields in Costa Mesa yet I am understanding that some cities outside of Costa Mesa are regularly using our fields so I don’t understand that. Yeah –

REED: I don’t know whether that’s true or not – it doesn’t run through us.

SNELL: I don’t know whether it’s true either but I’m having –

REED: Why don’t we bring it back.

END

What you did not read in this exchange is as important as what you did. You read Snell trying at least twice to get some action on a key piece of information to help resolve one of the city’s most important issues.

You read someone in the district attempting to lay the whole fiasco at the feet of the city. This is the same school district that in a letter dated Jan. 7, referred to these fields as “school district property.” Well, if those fields are school district property, they’re doing a poor job of monitoring them for taxpayers (who are the real owners).

But what you did not read was any follow-up whatsoever – no follow-up date, no assignment of tasks and no conversations on next steps. “We’ll bring it back” does not count. Utter those words in the private sector and from even a competent superior and you are likely to get questions such as:

When will we bring it back?

Who will be bringing it back?

What will be different when we bring it back, that is, why don’t we move on this now?

But Snell did not press anyone for follow-up. I do not blame her as this exchange occurred only about three months after she took office and she was probably still getting over a learning curve. I’m grateful that she even brought up the issue.

But it has been six weeks since she mentioned it and nothing has been done. It has not been brought back, the information has not been requested from the city, and this whole affair appears to me as though the worst possible scenario has occurred: The adults in charge don’t care about the struggles our kids have in finding places to practice and play youth sports.

Please don’t tell me they do: Talk is cheap, action is everything, and right now, I’m not seeing any action.

Oh, and that lighting argument? It’s a red herring. Trust me, if the district can build a new stadium with lights in the Eastbluff section of Corona del Mar, they can figure out how to properly light a few Costa Mesa fields for a few hours a few nights a week.

Adults snooze, kids lose.

Steve Smith

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