🗳 FINAL ELECTION RESULTS; 📺 The O.C. school showing its spirit on live TV today; 🎓 O.C.'s high school dropout rate hits ten-year low

O.C. Principal dies at Disneyland; A former O.C. student's kindness movement is growing.

O.C. Principal dies at Disneyland; A former O.C. student's kindness movement is growing.

Helping you better understand, navigate and participate in the TK-12 public school experience in Orange County.

In this week's newsletter...

December 7, 2022

  • FIRST BELL 🔔🗳Final election results released in O.C. school board races. We hear from candidates.
  • SECOND BELL 🔔 New report shows how O.C. school districts compare in college readiness; high school dropout rates and more. 📺 Plus, the high school getting featured on live TV today!
  • EXTRA CREDIT 📌 "Surviving Gun Violence" event tomorrow.
  • RECESS 👏🏼 Former O.C. student's 'Let's Be Kind Day' movement is spreading.

The final election results for the Nov. 8, 2022 General Election have been certified by the Orange County Registrar of Voters. Photo by Element5 Digital from Unsplash.

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Yours in knowledge,

Jeannette Andruss, Co-Founder and Chief Editorial Officer


This Week's Top Story

🗳 O.C. certifies election results, including races for school boards

The Orange County Registrar of Voters certified the Nov. 8, 2022 General Election results on Dec. 2. Image from the O.C. ROV.

After weeks of vote tallying, the results of the Nov. 8, 2022 General Election are finally official. The Orange County Registrar of Voters certified the results on Friday, Dec. 2. 

In total, 994,227 votes were cast for a turnout countywide of 54.7%.

You can scroll through the final results for each contest held for school boards in 24 public school districts in Orange County on the Spotlight Schools website


A handful of the school board races were very close and were determined by fewer than 60 votes. That includes the contest for the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education, Trustee Area 1

In that race, incumbent Marlys Davidson won reelection with a mere 56 votes more than challenger Colin Edwards. The race was tight from the start, when Edwards had a 20 vote lead after Election Day. At one point the two candidates were tied before Davidson pulled ahead and stayed ahead later in November.

In separate phone interviews this week, Davidson and Edwards both said they are relieved the election is over. They said they spoke over the phone to one another in the past few weeks.  

Edwards said he reached out to Davidson to “congratulate her and wish her the best.”

Davidson said the election results show the community is divided, like a lot of communities in this country but she said she is committed to representing everyone.

“The closeness of the race mirrors our community and I hope that we can find a way to create understanding,” she said. She said she suggested to Edwards they get together after the holidays to discuss his perspective saying it would be beneficial for the students.

“We both want what is best for our kids,” Edwards said in his interview, but said he and Davidson have different ideas of how to get there. Edwards thanked his supporters and said he plans to think through what he will do next. He and his wife have a newborn and a four-year-old. 

Davidson said she will continue to focus on mental health, school safety and support for staff in her next term.

Incumbents Marlys Davidson and Diana Hill won their reelection bids to the Los Alamitos USD Board of Education. Table from the O.C. Registrar of Voters website.

In the other race for a seat on the Los Alamitos USD Board of Education, incumbent and current board president Diana Hill won reelection against parent Rona Goldberg to represent Trustee Area 3. This will mark Hill’s fourth term as a trustee. 

Hill and Davidson will be sworn into their new terms at the next Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13. That’s also when a new president and vice president will be voted on by the trustees.

Troy Tanaka and incumbent Sandra Lee won their races for school board in Cypress. Table from the O.C. Registrar of Voters website.

Another close contest that had lead changes was the race to represent Trustee Area B on the Cypress School District Board of Education. Troy Tanaka, who was backed by the Association of Cypress Teachers (ACT), defeated Jon Peat, a terming out Cypress City councilman, by just 57 votes. 

“I am honored to be elected by the community and sincerely appreciate the support and trust that has been placed in me,” Tanaka wrote in an email to Spotlight Schools. He added, “I am committed to being an advocate of our students and excited about what we as a community can do together.”

In a phone interview this week, Peat stated he respected that voters decided they wanted new leadership. “There’s a lot of work ahead. I wish [Tanaka] well and I hope the board is very successful because I want our schools to continue to be successful,” Peat said. Peat’s wife, Bonnie, did not run for reelection for her seat on the Cypress school board and instead successfully ran for Cypress City Council. 

In the race for Trustee Area C on the Cypress school board, incumbent Sandra Lee defeated Kyle Chang, who was also endorsed by ACT. The winners will be sworn into their new terms at the board’s Dec. 13 meeting.


In most school board races in O.C. where incumbents were running, they won. But in a few contests, longtime board members were defeated by challengers.

For instance, on the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District Board of Education, incumbent Karin Freeman, who was first elected in 1989, was ousted by parent and business owner Todd Fraizer, in the race to represent Trustee Area 4. Frazier won 46% of the vote to Freeman’s 39% and a third candidate, Steve Slawson garnered 15% of the vote.  

Frazier had campaigned on promoting parental rights and opposing Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in classrooms. You may recall, in April, by a 3 to 2 vote, the Placentia-Yorba Linda school board became the first in Orange County to pass a ban on CRT. 

Freeman opposed the CRT ban and on her campaign website said the board’s attorney advised voting against it. Current board president Carrie Buck, who also voted against the CRT ban, won her race for reelection defeating challenger Richard Ingle

Todd Frazier defeated incumbent Karin Freeman in the race for Trustee Area 4 on the PYLUSD Board of Education. Incumbent Carrie Buck won her reelection bid defeating Richard Ingle. Table from the O.C. Registrar of Voters website.

Two incumbents on the ballot for the seven-member Orange Unified School District Board of Education won reelection, including Andrea Yamasaki in Trustee Area 1 and Kristin “Kris” Erickson in Trustee Area 5.  In Trustee Area 4, longtime incumbent Kathy Moffat lost her reelection campaign to parent Madison Klovstad Miner by 221 votes out of more than 61,000 cast.

Incumbents Kris Erickson and Andrea Yamasaki defeated challengers for their seats on the Orange USD Board of Education, but Kathy Moffat lost her race to parent Madison Klovstad Miner. Table from the O.C. Registrar of Voters website.

In the race for the Ocean View School District Board of Trustees, incumbent John Briscoe, who was first elected in 2006, was the board's only incumbent to lose his seat after coming in fourth place in the district-wide election. Challenger Morgan Westmoreland ended up with 80 votes ahead of Briscoe.

🗳 You can see the election results for all school board races in O.C. here

📌 Stick with Spotlight Schools for continuing coverage on the election results. We are working to interview more school board candidates in Orange County so stay tuned for articles taking a closer look at your school district’s future leadership.


Other Stories We're Following

Report on conditions of children in Orange County released

A newly released report shows around half of Orange County’s children are considered ready for kindergarten, the high school dropout rate hit a ten-year low and more students are missing class on a regular basis.

These are just some of the takeaways from the 28th Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County which was released Dec. 6 by the County of Orange Social Services Agency.

The yearly report focuses on assessing the education, health, economic well-being, and safety of O.C.’s kids. 

In terms of education, it measures several achievement indicators. That includes kindergarten readiness, high school dropout rates, college readiness, third graders’ achievement in state testing for English language arts and math, and chronic absenteeism. 

Highlights from some of these indicators include

KINDERGARTEN READINESS: In 2022, 52.5% of students in O.C. were considered developmentally ready for kindergarten. That’s down from 2019 when it was 52.9% but up from 51.9% in 2015, when comprehensive data in this category was first collected in Orange County. 

HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT RATES: The high school dropout rate in Orange County was 4% in 2021. That’s down from 8.9% in 2011-12 and represents a ten-year low, according to the report.

Graphic from the 28th Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County compares the high school dropout rates among school districts in O.C. for 2021. Image courtesy of County of Orange Social Services Agency.

CHRONIC ABSENTEEISM: During the 2020-21 school year, Orange County’s chronic absenteeism rate increased to 9% from the 2019-20 school year which was 8.8%. The report identified this indicator as an area that “needs improvement.” At 12.4%, O.C.’s kindergarten students had the highest rates of chronic absenteeism in 2021, followed by 9th through 12th graders with a rate of 9.5%. 

🧒🏻 Read more about the report, including how O.C. districts compare in college readiness, on the Spotlight Schools website.

📺 Los Alamitos High School's spirit to be spotlighted on KTLA 5 Morning News today

A KTLA 5 Morning News reporter is due to visit Los Alamitos High School today and deliver live reports. Image from the Los Alamitos USD Instagram account.

The school spirit of Los Alamitos High School will be on full display this morning and it will be televised. 

The KTLA 5 Morning News has selected the Griffins' campus to be featured on the popular local news station's “School Spirit Spotlight” segment. Students in the the LAHS band, show choir, song and cheer program and more will be taking part in three live segments during the morning broadcast that airs to local TV news viewers across Southern California. 

The segments will air around 6:45 a.m., 8:35 a.m. and 10:35 a.m., according to the district. You can watch KTLA streaming live on the station’s website here.

KTLA reporter Megan Telles is due at Los Alamitos High School before sunrise. Telles has been visiting schools in Southern California as part of the “School Spirit Spotlight” segments. She visited Villa Park High School in the Orange Unified School District last month. 

KTLA 5 Morning News reporter Megan Telles appears at Villa Park High School last month as part of the station's 'School Spirit Spotlight' segment. Screenshot from KTLA.com

If you think your school has student spirit worth spotlighting, you can email ktlamorningnews@ktla.com for your shot to be on live local television.

Local youth football team comes up short in Pop Warner Super Bowl

We have an update on the Orange County youth football team that the community rallied behind to help get them to the National Pop Warner Super Bowl in Florida. 

They played hard, but the Los Alamitos Pop Warner 13U Division II Blue Griffins did not advance to the championship game as they had hoped. 

After winning their quarterfinal game 38-6 earlier this week, the team had a tough game Tuesday against Illinois Jr. Celtics. The semifinal went to overtime multiple times and ended with the Blue Griffins losing 48-40. 

A story on the Los Alamitos Pop Warner Instagram account praised the Blue Griffins for their effort.

It’s a season to be proud of and to remember, not just for how far they traveled, but for how O.C. families were cheering them on from thousands of miles away.

🙌🏼 Good job, Blue Griffins!

Other Stories We're Reading

  • Fountain Valley School district mourning after principal dies in jump from Disneyland parking structure // The O.C. Register // ABC7 // Fox 11 // Patch (If you are having suicidal thoughts, there is help here.)
  • Q&A: What passage of Prop. 28 could mean for arts education funding in California // EdSource
  • Grand opening for park paying tribute to landmark school desegregation case, Mendez vs. Westminster // Voice of OC // OCDE Newsroom
  • U.C. survey of high school principals shows political rancor has had chilling effect on public education // EdSource
  • Poison Pill: How fentanyl killed a 17-year-old Eagle Scout // Washington Post
  • Applying to college and  trying to appear ‘less Asian’ // The N.Y. Times 
  • O.C. teen becomes youngest champion for Madden video game // The L.A. Times


Meetings // Events // Opportunities // Resources


HAPPENING TOMORROW: The Seal Beach Police Department in partnership with McGaugh PTA is hosting a public safety event for adults only on how to survive gun violence. It's happening Dec. 8 from 6:00p.m. - 8:00p.m. at the McGaugh auditorium. Read more about the event here.


PAID INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITY: Bank of America is currently accepting applications for its Student Leaders program. Each year, 300 high school juniors and seniors students from across the U.S. are selected to participate in the eight-week paid internship program. It will take place in the summer of 2023. Applications are due Jan. 13. More information here.


AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS: On Dec. 13, the Los Alamitos Education Foundation will open enrollment for its after-school programs for the Spring of 2023. The session will run from January 30 to May 15, 2023. Visit Laef4kids.org for more details.


Your Dose of Good News

🍕Former O.C. student sparks kindness movement that’s growing

An image shows a Let's Be Kind sign in front of a school. Image from the Let's Be Kind Day Instagram account.

It started with pizza and a plea to be kind. 

Now, a former Newport-Mesa Unified School District student who didn’t like the name calling she experienced on her middle school campus is spreading kindness at several schools in Orange County.

Rebekah Robeck and her mother Cristina are the founders of Let’s Be Kind, a nonprofit that hosts “Let’s Be Kind Day” events at local schools that encourage people to be kind. 

It all started in 2018 when Rebekah was frustrated by the unkind things her friends were doing at middle school. It wasn’t quite bullying but it definitely wasn’t nice. Her mom suggested she bring slices of pizza to school with notes attached that read, “Let’s be kind to each other.” 

It turns out, that was a great conversation starter. It lead to the creation of “Let’s Be Kind Day” which is described as “a special event on school campuses that reminds people that they are cared for, loved and valued.”

From there the mother and daughter created t-shirts with the Let’s Be Kind logo that they gave out to everyone on campus. In 2019, Rebekah hosted a similar event at Costa Mesa High School, while she was a 9th grader, passing out t-shirts and pizza to promote kindness.

The movement has been growing ever since and stretches to more than 30 schools, according to the Let’s Be Kind website. That includes a number of schools in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. 

“Let’s Be Kind helps everyone from students to principals to classroom assistants feel included and a part of their school community, which is essential to the positive environments we want to foster on our campuses,” NMUSD Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services Sara Jocham, Ed.D., said in a recent news release

The effort has also gotten support from local sponsors and partners including Vans, Target and the City of Costa Mesa.

Right now Let’s Be Kind is fundraising to purchase a Let’s Be Kind van to help bring more events promoting kindness to local students. Find out more information here.

If you want to hold a “Let’s Be Kind Day” at your school, you can find out how to do that here.

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