LBHS receives California Award of Merit for civic education program

Laguna Beach High School is among seven Orange County schools recognized by the California Courts system for its efforts to engage students in civic learning. An Award of Merit was presented to Laguna Beach High School for its civic learning practices in Advanced Placement (AP) European History and its Model United Nations (MUN) program.

Co-sponsored by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the award is now in its sixth year and is designed to celebrate successful efforts to engage students in civic learning and to identify at each grade span effective models that can be replicated.

There were more than 70 California public schools recognized for efforts to engage students in civic learning. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Unusual view of LBHS, capturing its unique setting

Schools earn points if students are engaging in any of the six proven practices in civic education, including classroom instruction, discussion of current events, service learning, extracurricular activities, school governance, and simulations of democratic processes. 

“In AP European History students study the causes and effects of poverty throughout European history and then in small groups choose one topic related to their studies that they would like to address,” said Laguna Beach High School World History and Advanced Placement European History teacher, Heather Hanson. 

“Together they must develop an action plan, perform ten hours of service, and reflect on their learning. Service learning requires students to make deeper connections to what they’re learning while giving them an opportunity to make a difference in their communities,” she added. 

“In MUN, students have the opportunity to engage in meaningful simulations of the democratic processes throughout the year, including planning and executing their own MUN conference, often addressing the most pressing issues of the day,” said US Government and Model United Nations teacher, Jonathan Todd. He continued, “Both programs empower students with the knowledge and the tools they will need for informed civic action now and in the future.”

Winners are selected from each grade span by a panel of experts based on the depth and breadth of their civic learning classes, clubs, and programs. All winners are featured on the California Courts Civic Learning Awards Web page at

SchoolPower Executive Director Robin Rounaghi announces her departure

SchoolPower Executive Director Robin Rounaghi announced her departure from the organization on Monday.

Rounaghi started volunteering for SchoolPower when her oldest son was in kindergarten; he’s now a sophomore in college. After many years as a trustee and board leader (including two stints as President), and the last five years growing the organization as Executive Director, Rounaghi has announced that she will be leaving SchoolPower this summer. 

SchoolPower wishes her all the best as she starts the next chapter of her career, and is grateful for her extraordinary leadership and endless enthusiasm throughout the years. 

“I can’t imagine an organization of any type, anywhere, being better served than the way SchoolPower, LBUSD and our entire community has been served by Robin Rounaghi,” says SchoolPower supporter and Endowment board member Brent Martini.

“Partnering with Robin over the last five years has been one of the most enriching and productive relationships I’ve enjoyed in my 58 years. It all starts with Robin’s complete commitment to our kids, which is always at the forefront. It was beautiful to watch Robin be the caretaker and enabler of the goals and aspirations of the teachers, district leaders and parents. Robin has been a wonderful gift to our community.”

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Robin Rounaghi as pictured a few years ago in Laguna Life & People

Some highlights of Rounaghi’s many accomplishments during her tenure include:

Building a stronger, more productive partnership with LBUSD, including elevating collaboration and impact regarding Fund-a-Need initiatives, Large Grants, and Teacher Grant Process.

Increasing participation of the Laguna Beach business community, including the creation of the Real Estate Honor Roll.

Improving SchoolPower’s operations, adding policies and procedures to provide sustainability.

Expanding SchoolPower’s outreach, resulting in greater participation among all school families.

“SchoolPower has been like a second family to me. My belief in our organization and its mission is as strong as ever. It is the strength of our board leadership, our staff, our generous supporters, and our educators that gives me confidence that the progress we’ve made will continue,” says Rounaghi. She is committed to supporting the search process for her replacement and laying the groundwork for a smooth transition.

After her departure this summer, she plans to spend more time with her dad, who is fighting Parkinson’s, and her mom, his full-time caregiver. Going forward, Rounaghi says, “I’m excited to see what SchoolPower accomplishes in the years ahead. I look forward to supporting SchoolPower as a donor and a very well-behaved event guest.”

SchoolPower will be posting the open Executive Director position on its website, job sites and locally. To learn more about SchoolPower, go to

Six LBUSD teams advance to State competition in Destination Imagination® Tournament 

Six teams, of four to seven students each, representing Laguna Beach High School, Thurston Middle School, and Top of the World Elementary have qualified to move on to the Destination Imagination (DI) state competition in Clovis on April 7. 

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Photo courtesy LBUSD

Destination Imagination proves that education is often great fun

Destination Imagination is an international educational program that enhances the growth and learning students receive in the classroom. Teams of students, ranging from third grade through university level, solve one of six open-ended Challenges in the fields of STEM, fine arts, and service learning and present their solutions at tournaments.

For Laguna Beach, three teams competed in the Scientific Challenge: Unlikely Attraction. Their challenge was to explore scientific concepts used in amusement park attractions, design and build an attraction that uses scientific concepts during its operation, create and present a story that features the attraction operating in an unlikely location, and portray the unlikely location using sights and sounds.

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Photo courtesy LBUSD

(L-R) Jacob Cruz, Hannah Kaiser, Sebastian Otterholt, Keira Hundhausen, Lucas Durant

Two teams competed in the Technical Challenge. The challenge asked them to design and build a device to navigate a tournament-provided maze, design and build a prop that transforms in the maze, design and build a way to remove an object from the maze, and create and present a story about a journey through the maze.

Finally, two teams competed in the Improvisational Challenge where they were asked to research different cultures and famous explorers, create and present an improvisational skit about a quest to return a lost cultural treasure to its owner, integrate two explorers and a prop into the quest, and show how characters work together to overcome a setback.

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Photo courtesy LBUSD

(L-R) James Dechary, Tyler Palino, Dylan Newburry, Chris Herkins

 “Thurston Middle School DI teams represented Thurston with great intelligence, creativity, and humor,” said Ina Inouye Wu and Bjorn Avila, Destination Imagination club advisors at Thurston Middle School. They continued, “We are so proud of all the students for their months of hard work, perseverance, and out-of-the-box thinking to solve DI challenges.”

Winners of the State competition compete at the global competition in Knoxville, Tennessee in May.

Morgan, Lochner lead Breakers baseball to victory

Grady Morgan homered for the second straight game and Jack Loechner threw 5 innings, allowing only one run to lead Laguna Beach Breakers Varsity baseball to its second straight win, 7-1 over San Juan Hills. The win evened the Breakers record at 4-4 on the season.

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Photo by Sheri Morgan

Grady Morgan slides to the plate: Breakers give it their best every game

Laguna took the lead in the first after a walk by Morgan, who eventually came around to score on a wild pitch. The Stallions tied it in the top of the third at 1-1, but Morgan’s two-run homer to straight away center in the bottom half put the Breakers ahead for good 3-1. Kolton Freeman’s single later in the inning put Laguna up 4-1.

Meanwhile, Lochner cruised through the Stallions lineup, giving up only one run on four hits, while striking out six. Remy Mackel and Cutter Clawson each pitched a scoreless inning of relief to complete the Breakers dominance on the mound.

The Breakers added three more runs in the sixth. Loechner and Eric Silva both singled and then Michael Kerner followed with an RBI single, his third hit of the day. 

Morgan followed with a two RBI double to complete the scoring for Laguna and giving Morgan four RBI’s on the day.  

If it doesn’t rain, Breakers battle Calvary Chapel on Friday for the League Opener.

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