Newport-Mesa Unified School District Supt. Fred Navarro taught Newport Beach city leaders and residents their ABCs Thursday morning.

This wasn't the traditional alphabet taught to young children, but rather the district's way to communicate its priorities for the year in terms of academics, behavior and creativity.

Navarro was at the Chamber of Commerce's Wake Up Newport event to explain the goals that the school board approved in September.

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Academic goals include implementing the new Common Core State Standards, which promote critical thinking initiatives in course curriculum, and enforcing college preparation standards in schools to encourage students to excel even after graduation.

"We want to provide students with a choice," Navarro said. "If you want to go to college, great. If you want to go to work, great, but you're going to be able to compete out in the world."

He also gave a brief outline of the benefits of Common Core, which some teachers are beginning to implement this year. The new standards force students to not only memorize facts but to understand how to apply concepts in real-world situations, the superintendent said.

"Gone is the day where you're expected to learn a body of facts," Navarro said. "Now it's about knowing what to do with that body of knowledge."

Behavioral priorities include the implementation of restorative justice for students, which gives them an opportunity to learn from their errors and make amends. Restorative justice has helped schools in other districts that were plagued by behavioral problems, he said.

For example, only one student at Estancia High School was suspended in September, which is down from previous years, Navarro said.

"It's that concept of owning up to what you did and learning how to make it right," he said.

As for the creativity aspect, the district is also working to implement flagship programs that would allow students to specialize in a particular area of study, like business or technology. Each of Newport-Mesa's high schools has been asked to identify and refine two programs and present them to the school board in June for approval.

"This year is a planning year for us," Navarro said.