OC High School Beach Volleyball Championships yield clean sweep for LBHS on Sept 29,30

For the second time, Main Beach in Laguna was the site for The OC High School Beach Volleyball Championships, held this year on Sept 29 and 30. Competing with some of the best teams from high schools all over the county for the titles, LBHS took home 1st and 3rd place medals, completing a clean sweep.

This is also the second time the Breakers have taken home the 1st place medals.

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l-r, 1st and 2nd place teams, Josh McManus, Cameron Garcia, Geste Bianchi, Ayrton Garcia

Ayrton Garcia and Geste Bianchi (LBHS) took home the 1st place medals, beating out Josh McManus and Cameron Garcia (LBHS) in dramatic fashion, winning the 3rd, and decisive, game 16-14 in the late afternoon sun.

Laguna Beach High School made it a clean sweep on the podium when Enzo Sadler and Sam Burgi won the 3rd place game over Erik Weisinger and Jack Colby from Los Alamitos HS.

El Morro, TOW and Thurston schools implement anti-bullying programs, emphasizing respect for others


Those of us who were fat kids (check), wore thick glasses (check), or lived on the wrong side of town (check), have personal knowledge of what it is like to be bullied at school. 

The experience is heartbreaking and humiliating, and while you’re going through it, the agony seems as though it will never end. Often teachers seem oblivious, and you’d rather suffer through hell than be considered a snitch – especially given the terrifying consequences if the bully in question finds out that you told on him or her.

And these days, it seems, there’s so much more to be bullied about, from your parents’ political views, to your online postings, to your clothing (thank heavens for school uniforms in my day, is all I can say).

There are also plenty more avenues for bullies to express their particular brand of meanness.

I don’t think I could have survived social media.

Our schools are taking serious steps to combat bullying

Fortunately, our local schools understand the pain inflicted by bullying and are taking serious steps to prevent its occurrence.

“All of our schools are adopting a ‘No Place for Hate’ pledge in conjunction with the ADL (Anti Defamation League) and we took our annual resolution regarding bullying at our September meeting,” LBUSD Superintendent Dr. Jason Viloria says. 

“Each site has plans on how they address bullying awareness, including programs emphasizing the need to be an ‘upstander and not a bystander’ and/or bringing in speakers to talk about the issue.”

What exactly is bullying?

I asked El Morro school principal Chris Duddy what form bullying tended to take in an elementary school setting. 

“Some elementary school kids think that any unkind remark or conflict is bullying – for example, they’ll say, ‘it was my turn to be first, not his. He’s a bully.’ We explain the difference between bullying and a disagreement, that bullying is when the behavior is intentional, intimidating and ongoing – we use simpler terms, of course.”

Duddy says that teachers use a common language to address these issues so that the approach is consistent school-wide. 

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Photo by Lynette

El Morro principal Chris Duddy and the bully-free zone

“When there’s a conflict, we try to get the kids to find a win-win situation,” he says. “For example, ‘you go first this time, and I’ll go first next time.’”

While El Morro has adopted the “No Place for Hate” theme common within the school district, Duddy prefers to focus primarily on respect. 

“A kid might correctly say, ‘I don’t hate that person’ yet still be a bully,” he notes. “So we place a lot of emphasis on the need to respect each other’s differences rather than on the emotion of hate. Respect is key.”

Duddy says the school particularly likes to emphasize “Be an Upstander, not a Bystander,” which encourages the kids to speak up when they see someone being bullied.

Teachers tell kids how they were bullied in their day

Several teachers at El Morro have recorded videos speaking out about their own experiences when, as kids, they were subject to bullying, perhaps because of stuttering, or shyness, or because they spoke English as a second language. These videos, shown during “Respectability Assemblies” provide the kids with evidence that their teachers are human and can relate to their problems – that it is safe to talk to them.

“The mantra ‘stop, talk, walk’ is another useful tool in teaching kids how to respond to bullying behavior. All these activities help establish a positive school climate,” Duddy says. 

A tour of the school grounds shows the anti-bullying program in action. Large posters explain core values such as caring, trustworthiness and fairness.

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Photo by Lynette

Providing fun playground activities also serves as an anti-bullying measure

As we walk, it becomes clear that the kids feel comfortable with the principal. He listens intently as a young girl tells him about her water bottle being thrown into the toilet (which reminds me of the time my younger son’s backpack was tossed into a dumpster – is it possible that one’s kids being bullied hurts more than being bullied oneself?).

Duddy nods his head in acknowledgement of her distress and suggests that she talk to her teacher about what happened. The question: Was this the action of a bully or an impulsive, mischievous act by a kid too young to understand the hurt he or she might cause?

Either way, I feel confident that at El Morro this will result in a teachable moment.

Tree of Respect illustrates TOW kids’ pledges

“TOW is similar to El Morro,” principal Michael Conlon says. “We’ve launched ‘No Place For Hate’ with our students and staff. The students took a pledge last Friday and each signed a hand that will be used to make our Tree of Respect.”

“We also teach the importance of being respectful and kind through our beginning of year behavior assemblies, and we speak about the importance of being an upstander.”

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Top of the World Elementary’s Tree of Respect

In October, Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, TOW Elementary will implement its first Kindness Week, full of activities focused on spreading the messages of respect and ‘no place for hate.”

Examples include:

Give five high fives today and write letters for Laguna Beach Police at lunch.·  

Shade out bullying – Wear your sunglasses today or design your own shades and journal during lunch.

Stand together at TOW and show how we accept each other’s individuality. Wear different colored socks to show your support.      

Compliment Day: Give compliments to everyone you meet.

Tell it with a Tiara and Compliment with a crown at lunch today.        

Anti-bullying Day: Wear Orange to show your support

Be Thurston: Middle school programs stress empathy for others

Jenny Salberg, principal of Thurston Middle School, has been hard at work with Laura Silver (ELA teacher) and Megan Matthias (social studies teacher) developing October anti-bullying activities.

“In Language Arts, students will read a narrative non-fiction piece about two teenaged Syrian refugees in the United States. Students will discuss why these young people became refugees and the challenges that refugees face abroad and within the United States,” Salberg says. “The discussion will be geared toward creating empathy – globally and locally – and [will focus on] how to treat others who may be different.”

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Be Thurston means be kind, be empathetic, be respectful

On October 18 at Thurston Middle School, students campus-wide will participate in a “Mix it Up Day.” 

“This Teaching for Tolerance initiative encourages students to change their usual lunch time patterns and invite new friends to sit, eat, or play with them during the lunch break,” Salberg explains. “Our teachers and staff will also bring beach chairs and join our students on campus to socialize and eat our mid-day meals. The goal is to push everyone a bit outside of their comfort zones and make new connections and friends among people they may not usually spend time with.” 

Then, later in the month, in Social Studies, students will sign a Resolution of Respect as a part of Thurston’s No Place For Hate initiative. 

“Students will view a short video about the Resolution as well as engage in a discussion that links all of October’s events: United in Kindness, Be an Upstander, Mix it Up, No Place for Hate, and so on,” Salberg adds.

Bullying is behavior that can never be entirely eradicated, given human nature, but it is comforting to learn about the programs being implemented at our schools, especially because in today’s environment, role models can be hard to come by. 

High fives to LBUSD…and may the force of kindness be with us all.

PTA coffee at Madison Square & Garden Café will welcome new families to Laguna schools

Families that are new to the Laguna Beach Unified School District are invited to attend the PTA Coffee Talk “New Families Welcome Tea” on Wed, Oct. 4, from 8:30 -10 a.m. at Madison Square & Garden Café, located at 320 N Coast Hwy.

This is a chance for new parents to meet other families who are also new to the district. You will get to know a little bit more about your new schools and our charming town. 

Longtime residents are welcome to join us to help welcome the new families. Complimentary light refreshments and coffee will be served. 

Local students show improvement in state testing: LBUSD ranks second in OC overall

Laguna Beach Unified School District ranked second in Orange County for overall percentage of students who met or exceeded state standards on the 2017 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), the results of which were released a couple of days ago by the California Department of Education (CDE).

Last spring, LBUSD students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 participated in the CAASPP, which includes the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics. These tests are based on California’s challenging academic standards, which include the ability to write clearly, think critically, and solve problems— skills needed to succeed in college and a 21st century career. 

The percentage of LBUSD students who met or exceeded the ELA standards for grades 3, 5, 7, and 11 increased from 2016 to 2017, and grade 8 remained unchanged.

The percentage of students who met or exceeded the math standards for grades 3, 4, 6, 7, and 11 increased from 2016 to 2017. 

Sixth grade math and seventh grade ELA score highest in the County

LBUSD average scores in sixth-grade math and seventh-grade ELA were the highest in the county and seventh-grade math increased by 11 percent since 2016.  In addition, math and ELA scores for English learners and socioeconomically disadvantaged subgroups in LBUSD increased between 2016 and 2017, including a 7 percent increase in ELA among English learners.  

“Our focus on continuous improvement as an organization is evidenced in our students scores as we continue to show growth in almost all areas and grade levels.  Though this is just one indicator we use to report the success of our students and schools we are proud of the results,” said LBUSD Superintendent Dr. Jason Viloria. 

“It helps recognize the hard work of our students and staff, as well as the continued effort of our families, staff and district leadership in supporting our students ongoing academic growth.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) provides a wide range of tools to help parents, teachers, and schools understand and use CAASPP results.  These resources include an understanding student CAASPP scores website that provides parents and teachers with grade-by-grade, subject-by-subject information at all levels of achievement; detailed online guides for parents and teachers to use in analyzing results; and practice tests at every grade level in English and mathematics. 

Complete district results are available on the CAASPP website.  The Board of Education will receive an informational report regarding the CAASPP scores at its Oct 10 meeting. 

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

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