Skip to main content


Newport-Mesa Celebrates the Contributions of Its Retirees From 2021-22
Posted 10/28/22

retirement recognition ceremony
On Oct. 26, 2022, friends, family and colleagues of former Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) staff members gathered to celebrate their retirement. The courtyard patio of the district’s Education Center was filled with hearty hugs and handshakes, as retirees from 2021-22 were recognized.

In his opening remarks, Superintendent Dr. Wesley Smith thanked everyone for their countless contributions to the district and welcomed them to the next chapter of their lives. Assistant Superintendent, Chief Human Resources Officer Leona Olson, noted that the 23 retirees present represented a combined 617 years of experience and dedication to NMUSD.

School administrators and department supervisors called up each honoree separately as they gave short speeches about their dedication to NMUSD’s students. Many speeches evoked both tears and laughter, with longtime colleagues ending their moment together with heartfelt embraces. 

Each retiree received a crystal iceberg inscribed with their name, years of service, and the starfish story, a motivational tale about making a difference, one starfish (or person) at a time. They also received guest passes to attend any NMUSD high school home athletic event at no cost, valid for as many years as they worked for NMUSD. These tokens of appreciation were presented by NMUSD Board of Education President Michelle Barto, Vice President Charlene Metoyer, Clerk Carol Crane, and Board Members Karen Yelsey and Ashley Anderson. 

Among those recognized at the in-person event were former Superintendent Russell Lee-Sung, who notably stepped in during the global pandemic to guide the district through one of the most difficult times in education. In her presentation, Yelsey praised not only Lee-Sung’s leadership during that difficult time, but also his personal talent and musical skills.

Additional retirees honored include: 

An additional 61 staff members retired during 2021-22 but were unable to attend the ceremony.  

After the ceremony, everyone was treated to beverages, cake and other goodies in the courtyard as the sun began to set on the two-hour recognition and reception honoring the people that contributed so much in support of one another and thousands of students.