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Laguna Beach

LBHS cheerleading squad hosts cheer clinic on Saturday, Sept 21

Football season is here and it’s time to cheer! Young ones can learn how from the LBHS cheerleaders as the squad once again holds its Laguna Beach Cheer Clinic on Saturday, Sept 21. 

Open to boys and girls in kindergarten through eighth grade, participants will learn how to cheer, chant, and dance with the LBHS cheerleading squad.

Attendees will also perform at the LBHS vs Estancia home football game on Friday, Sept 27.

Laguna Beach team

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Boys and girls in kindergarten through eighth grade will have the opportunity to learn from and cheer with the LBHS cheerleading squad

A fee of $55 (prepaid) includes the cost for the halftime and first quarter performances, all instruction, an LBHS Cheer T-shirt, scrunchie, poms poms, snack, and water. The cost is $60 on the morning of the clinic.

The clinic takes place at LBHS Dugger Gym on St Ann’s St; the cheerleaders will direct participants. Registration is at 8:45 a.m., and the clinic runs from 9 a.m. to noon.

For a registration flyer, click here or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

LBHS senior Kyle Herkins earns every merit badge in scouting

Kyle Herkins, a senior at Laguna Beach High School, has accomplished what fewer than 450 scouts in the 109-year history of scouting have ever done – earn every merit badge in scouting. This is out of 110 million scouts! 

Herkins, an Eagle Scout, went beyond the 21 required badges and earned 138 merit badges and 23 palms. 

Out of over a 110 million scouts in scouting history, only 5.7 percent earn the Eagle rank and even fewer, only .0038 percent, earn every merit badge. 

Herkins earned his Eagle rank in 2014 and continued his goal of earning every merit badge. It took him seven and a half years and a lot of help and commitment to earn all 138 merit badges. The last ones were especially hard because Herkins was a junior at Laguna Beach High School, taking a lot of Advanced Placement courses, and was on the varsity tennis team. 

Kyle Herkins kiln

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Kyle Herkins using a kiln for the Pottery merit badge

Herkins says he decided to go beyond the 21 merit badges needed to earn Eagle status and earn all 138 because with each merit badge, he learned more about a subject that could help him decide on his future career. Even though Kyle plays the piano, trombone, and bassoon, the merit badge he had the hardest time with was the Bugle merit badge. It took almost nine months of lessons and two teachers to master the bugle enough to earn the badge. No wonder it is the least earned merit badge according to scouting records. 

There were physical as well as mental challenges. Another difficult badge was the Backpacking merit badge where he had to go on four backpacking trips covering 70 miles of hiking. For Scuba he had to get his PADI certification, which included doing a number of dives. 

Kyle Herkins Rouda

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Kyle Herkins with Congressman Harley Rouda, who presented him with a certificate for becoming an Eagle Scout and earning 138 merit badges and 23 palm awards 

However, his favorites were Game Design and Chess. Game Design in particular, because he got to see how games were designed and designed his own game. Chess, because he likes to play. 

When asked what he has enjoyed about his years of scouting Kyle says that he has learned leadership by serving in leadership positions in his troops and working as a staff member at National Youth Leadership Training camp. He has participated in many community service projects including his own two Eagle Scout projects at El Morro Elementary School. 

Kyle Herkins kid

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Kyle In front of one of his Eagle Scout projects at El Morro Elementary

Kyle has been exposed to a lot of people, ideas, and things he would not have otherwise been exposed to like surveying, composite materials, horseback riding, cross country skiing, sailing, nuclear science, welding, and metalwork to name a few. 

He went on some really fun campouts where he got to go white water rafting, kayaking into ocean caves, try out archery, and fly fishing. Most of all he has met some really great leaders and made some great friends. The experiences have been enjoyable and worthwhile. This summer Herkins worked on earning more scout awards while working as a summer intern at Epson America in PC Support. 

What’s up for his future? He just started his senior year in high school this month and is hoping to study engineering in college next year.

LBHS cheerleading squad hosts cheer clinic on Saturday, Sept 21

Football season is here and it’s time to cheer! Learn how from the LBHS cheerleaders as the squad once again holds its Laguna Beach Cheer Clinic on Saturday, Sept 21. 

Open to boys and girls in kindergarten through eighth grade, participants will learn how to cheer, chant, and dance with the LBHS cheerleading squad.

Attendees will also perform at the LBHS vs Estancia home football game on Friday, Sept 27.

Laguna Beach team

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Submitted photo

Boys and girls in kindergarten through eighth grade will have the opportunity to learn from and cheer with the LBHS cheerleading squad

A fee of $55 (prepaid) includes the cost for the halftime and first quarter performances, all instruction, an LBHS Cheer T-shirt, scrunchie, poms poms, snack, and water. The cost is $60 on the morning of the clinic.

The clinic takes place at LBHS Dugger Gym on St Ann’s St; the cheerleaders will direct participants. Registration is at 8:45 a.m., and the clinic runs from 9 a.m. to noon.

For online registration or questions, email Cheer Boosters at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

LBUSD observes National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month:
A Climate of Care

The month of September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Communities across the nation raise awareness about the impact of suicide, take time to reach out and support those impacted by loss, and enhance efforts to connect individuals who are at a heightened risk of suicide to qualified mental health crisis systems of support. 

In school-age youth across the U.S., death by suicide is the second leading cause of death. In Orange County, statistics from 2016 indicate that there were 16 youth deaths by suicide, up from 7 in 2007, according to the California Department of Public Health. Across all age groups, death by suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the most recent full year of data collection in 2017 according to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), National Vital Statistics System.   

Within National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, LBUSD observes National Suicide Prevention Week that runs from September 8 through 14 and emphasizes the power of connections and the importance of discussing mental health in everyday moments. These efforts aim to destigmatize an individual’s experiences of distress and promote action to connect those in need to qualified supports. 

World Suicide Prevention Day, on September 10, promotes the collaborative commitment of working together to prevent suicide through increasing awareness about the complex set of causes, risks and warning signs, and compassion and care for individuals in distress. 

LBUSD observes yoga

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LBUSD promotes social and emotional strength in students through various ways including yoga sessions 

In the Laguna Beach Unified School District (LBUSD), an important area of focus has been to increase the social and emotional strength of all students in our schools. LBUSD’s efforts have been focused primarily on increasing mental health awareness and reducing stigma in the identification and access of professional support, school-wide and classroom prevention, and enhancing crisis systems of support. 

For the LBUSD student population of close to 2,800 students at four school sites, the district employs a team of credentialed school-based mental health professionals, including seven school counselors, four school psychologists, and two student support specialists providing services as school social workers as well as a dedicated Director of Social Emotional Support that oversees the district’s programs. 

There are multiple ways LBUSD’s team of school-based mental health service providers, administrators, teachers, and staff focus on suicide prevention efforts. LBUSD is one of the first school districts in the state to implement a universal social-emotional learning screening program that is made available to all students in kindergarten through 12th-grade, two times per year. 

This best practice approach enables school-based support teams to use evidence-based screening tools to identify students who are at risk and may be in need of further support, further enhancing LBUSD’s prevention work. 

Additionally, all staff who directly serve students in grades 6 through 12 are trained annually on the topic of suicide prevention, which includes training in identifying the risks and warning signs of students in distress, and how to take timely and decisive action to connect students to qualified support. 

At the middle and high school level, the student support specialists lead suicide prevention week activities to increase staff and student awareness on the impact of suicide, risks and warning signs, and how to access supports for themselves, a friend, family member, or colleague. 

The Laguna Beach High School (LBHS) student support specialist, Ms. Alex Aronson, co-leads suicide prevention awareness classroom lessons alongside School Resource Officer Corporal Ashton in all 9th grade health classes. Lastly, in response to recent legislative changes, suicide prevention hotline information has been placed on the back of every student’s school identification card in grades 6 through 12. 

LBUSD observes sign

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September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month 

The work of suicide prevention, and youth suicide prevention, in particular, is a community effort that includes schools, families, public health officials, emergency responders, and more. There are multiple local and national resources available to help increase knowledge and awareness of suicide prevention, risks and warning signs, and ways to provide crisis support.

 One California-based resource, Know the Signs, provides important information about identifying indicators of risk through conversations, actions, and social media. 

Know the Signs provides a conversation framework for concerned family members or friends in starting the conversation, listening and expressing care, creating a safety plan, and getting help.

Lastly, Know the Signs helps individuals connect to qualified crisis resources, including:

--National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

--National Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741

--Trevor Project: National Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ Youth: 1-866-488-7386

For individuals needing support after losing someone to suicide, resources can be found at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at

Vic 4-man volleyball tournament…a Labor Day weekend delight 

Photos by Scott Brashier

Vic 4 man winners

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This year’s winning team: (L-R) Piper Naess, Shanti Nunn, Samuel Bridge Burgi, and Kelsey Rudolph with their winning coffee mugs designed by longtime Sawdust exhibitor Mike Brennan. In all the years of winners, there has never been a winning team made up of three gals and only one guy...except this year.

Vic 4 man block

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The Vic 4-man was started in 1981 by Beth and Jerome Pearlstrom. Their daughter, Lael Fersenious, is now running it.

Vic 4 man spike

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Bump, set, spike…Samuel Bridge Burgi wasn’t going home without a fight for the win

Vic 4 man group

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Although only four went home with the first prize, all the contestants had a great time at the tournament

Aquathon participants to trek the coastline with friends and neighbors on Sept 22

Aquathon is back and it’s time again to trek the Laguna coastline with neighbors, friends, and visitors. This year’s Aquathon of Laguna Beach will go off on Sunday, Sept 22. Participants should arrive at Emerald Bay at 8:15 a.m.

Event coordinator Gary Cogorno says, “Last year approximately 120 participants left Emerald Bay with hurricane surf but made it to The Lost Pier Cafe and beyond, only to take the Laguna Trolley back to Aliso and rejoin those who did not venture past LPC.” 

In a Stu News article last year, Dave Csira said, “The Aquathon is a swim-walk (sometimes climb) that extends the entire coastline of Laguna Beach from tip to tip starting in Emerald Bay and ending in Three Arch Bay, or as far as one wishes to go. It has – or has not – taken place every year since it became a tradition in 1986 when four Emerald Bay residents thought it would be a hoot to snorkel the entirety of Laguna’s coastline cove-by-cove.”

As stated on the Aquathon website, “Word was spread by Aquathoners enthralled by the event, many of whom describe it as the best day in their life (those people really do need to get a life). Others describe it simply as an ‘intense spiritual experience.’ We say, ‘to each, his own.’”

Aquathon participants Csira

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Dave Csira with family and friends

The cutoff time for name entry is Thursday, Sept 19  at 11:59 p.m. However, donations will be accepted daily. Organizers ask that participants do not do the Aquathon unless they are an ocean-proof swimmer or have an Aqua-Buddy.

Participants’ names, after signing in via the website, will be at the Emerland Bay Main Gate entrance under Aquathon. It is requested that those participating be nice to the guards, as they have a good time seeing everyone wearing masks as they drive to announce themselves.

Organizers are asking for donation money as a fundraiser for the Laguna Beach Jr Lifeguard Foundation. Last year Aquathon wrote a check for $3,000 to LBOLF; the group requests everyone’s help in supporting again this year.

The website makes all participants review the Disclaimer in order to RSVP.

Organizers report that the legalities of trying to have a day outing with friends is getting long-in-the-teeth with the worry of possible injury; as if we arrive at the end without many “marks.”

The very unfortunate accident that occurred at the south cliff access route at Emerald Bay has caused Aquathon organizers to alter the takeoff as follows:

There are two possible routes:

One choice – Only swimming is allowed out of Emerald Bay. No cliff walking along the south end will be permitted.

Aquathon participants friends

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Having fun 

If it is a low-surge day, swim around the South Point to Shell Beach, then make a reef landing – the best choice would be about 250 yards. 

Or continue swimming to Crescent Bay or onto Shaw’s Cove for about 3/4-mile.

Another choice: after the send-off, get into a car and then drive to Crescent Bay or Shaw’s Cove to eliminate the entire rock climbing portion of the north coves. There are no parking meters along Cliff Drive at both of these beach entry stairways.

Low tide is 2.8’ at 8:21 a.m. and it remains “slack” until 9 a.m.

High tide is 4.5’ at 3 p.m.

Ray Meltvedt has once again volunteered to leave a water drop/mini-food supply at the Wood’s Cove stairway. Participants should be sure to leave some for Scott and Gary as they will be the usual caboose.

 Lunch and the Survivors Party will be at The Lost Pier Café (LPC) at Aliso Beach. Organizers ask that when participants sign up, they click if they plan to order a LPC Aqua-Sandwich, so that LPC can have adequate supplies – and use the link to advise if planning to end the day also at LPC. They are awaiting approval for a beer and wine license in time for Aquathon use. The concrete deck holds about 50 bodies. 

Showers are available but none of the large Ritz towels to use. Parking at Aliso is a great deal in the morning. And free Laguna trolley service is available for those who venture to TAB or Monarch to ride back to Aliso.

Aquathon water shirts both in-the-water and out-of-the-water weaves are available at the

Marc will have a discount code to use.

For more information, visit

Laguna Beach Unified School District names 2019 Spirit of Laguna Award recipient

Laguna Beach Unified School District has named Brandon Lee, instructional assistant at El Morro Elementary School, the recipient of the 2019 Spirit of Laguna award. 

Now in its 12th year, the award recognizes a district staff member who exemplifies extraordinary service to others. Lee currently serves as a lead instructional assistant at El Morro and forms a part of the Crisis Prevention Intervention team at the site.  

“I am so pleased that Brandon Lee was recognized as the Spirit of Laguna Award winner. He is always so engaged in his duties, happy to be here, and most importantly, builds meaningful relationships with students and staff,” said El Morro Elementary School Principal Chris Duddy. 

Laguna Beach Unified Brandon

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Brandon Lee with Board Member Dee Perry after receiving the Spirit of Laguna Award 

“He has a unique way of building connections with the students he serves by focusing on their strengths and building on them. It doesn’t hurt that he loves music and isn’t afraid to dance in front of the kids,” Duddy continued.

In addition to his work at his school site, Lee also serves on district-wide committees including the District Safety Committee and the labor negotiations team for the classified employees’ bargaining unit. 

“Brandon is an exemplary individual and is so deserving of this award. He is a kind and caring person and always willing to go the extra mile to help others regardless of the impact on his time,” said Director of Special Education Irene White. She continued, “He exemplifies the meaning of the ‘Spirit of Laguna’ award due to his outstanding dedication to serving our students and staff, initiative, motivation, and positive attitude.”

Lee was hired as an instructional assistant in the Laguna Beach Unified School District in 2013. He was recognized with the Spirit of Laguna Award at the district’s annual Welcome Back Breakfast for staff in August.

School Board feud continues


Embattled Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education member Dee Perry announced on August 27 via email from her attorney Kathleen Loyer that she will seek to resolve grievances with her fellow board members and the district through an alternative dispute resolution process (“ADR”), before deciding whether or not to file suit.

“I am only agreeing to not file immediately and try to settle in good faith. If a settlement can not be reached I will certainly file,” stated Perry on Thursday.

Loyer’s email to the press was not made public at the board meeting that night, at which members of the public continued to verbally support Perry in the ongoing riff between her and the other four board members.

 “Does the board value the time and effort its constituents are making to share their concerns about issues?” queried Sheri Morgan. “Would the board room be full if the community [was] not trying to hold the board accountable?”

A lengthy statement by Perry at the meeting took the other board members by surprise, but was applauded by the audience.

“I am tired of this board trying to shame me,” said Perry. “Let’s fix the problem. We all want the best for our community.

“Despite the scare tactics and petty politics, I am not backing down from this fight because I owe it to my constituents to fight for my voice on this board. I was re-elected to the board to focus on transparency, fiscal responsibility, and student-first initiatives that I’ve championed in my five years on the board.

“I can promise everyone here tonight that I will always do the best job I can, to serve our children and to serve our community. In order to do that, I must be allowed to do my job and I must have my full powers as a board member reinstated.”

Board President Jan Vickers addressed Perry’s comments via email on August 28 as requested by Stu News. 

“Surprised once again by Member Perry reading a prepared statement which reiterated claims she has made against the board in her NOI (Notice of Intent to file a lawsuit) and stating some of those things had actually increased. 

“Calling me out by name, Member Perry said, instead of attempting to silence her I should be leading to working together. I responded, in part, by observing that this approach (Perry’s unannounced statement) was not collegial – to not inform any others of the intent to read a prepared statement building on her previous claims and to play to audience comments on those issues is not going to allow us to move forward.

“Instead of letting us begin to move forward, [Tuesday night’s] display moved us further apart by her continued public accusations.”

Critics of board actions that they believe have marginalized Perry dominated the public comment period at the meeting, but did not appear to lessen the gulf between the board and the community.

The dispute began when the board veered from its traditional practice of elevating the board clerk, after one year’s service, to the presidency and voted to bypass Perry in favor of a third term for Vickers. The board has stated it was within its legal rights and acted in good faith; Perry and her attorney disagree.

Subsequently, the bylaw that encouraged this tradition was eliminated and the dissention between the board and Perry has escalated. 

The public expressed its dissatisfaction with the board for its decision to create a subcommittee to review confidential information, from which Perry is to be excluded from participating in.

The board has stated that despite forming the subcommittee, it has not met yet.

When asked if this would ultimately go to court, Loyer stated, “I’m still optimistic [that it will settle out of court]. I’m optimistic with a little bit of reservation because this is a tough issue…I think there are clear violations in the government code and her civil rights…If we go forward, she has to be made whole again.”

When asked about a drop-dead date for negotiations, Loyer stated, “I don’t have a drop-dead date because that’s not a good way to negotiate with people…We contacted them and we’re in the process [of setting up a negotiation meeting]. We have to work out the logistics.”

LBUSD Board of Education appoints TOW Principal Michael Conlon as Director of Human Resources

At the August 27 board meeting, the Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education voted 5-0 to appoint Top of the World Elementary School Principal Michael Conlon as the director of human resources. 

The new position was approved on July 16, as part of administrative restructuring at the district level.

Conlon has extensive experience in education administration, previously having held leadership roles at Saddleback Valley Unified School District and Los Alamitos Unified School District. He has served as principal at TOW since 2014.

LBUSD Board group

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Principal Conlon with a TOW family and Yadhira Rojas, the Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for English Language Development

“Michael has demonstrated the desire and drive to continuously learn and improve his skill set. He possesses a commitment to developing positive relationships with staff and problem-solving conflicts when they occur,” said Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources and Instructional Services Leisa Winston. 

“He has proven to be an effective leader and administrator whose work is characterized by a genuine concern for the entire school community,” she continued.

In his role as principal, Conlon has been an integral part of the LBUSD negotiations team and has led the process to hire several TOW staff. He recently completed a 70-hour personnel administration academy through the Association of California School Administrators and has participated in interest-based bargaining training. 

“I am excited about this opportunity and look to draw on my past experience in system implementation and change leadership to further enhance the services provided to the district through the department of human resources,” said Conlon. He continued, “It has been an honor serving as the principal at Top of the World Elementary and I look forward to continuing my support of the campus in this new role.”

“I am pleased that the Board was unanimous in approving the appointment of Mike Conlon as Director, Human Resources. In a small district where many staff spend their entire career, there are few openings to advance an administrative career and so we can lose top employees who must go elsewhere for career growth,” said Jan Vickers, Board President. 

“Mike rose to the top among a strong candidate field in part because he has been continuously improving through his site leadership at TOW and the personnel training. It is an added benefit that his leadership at TOW will make a transition easier as the school and all the staff have built a strong learning community.”

Conlon is expected to begin his new role in mid-September. The district will utilize an interim administrator for Top of the World during the recruitment process for a new principal, expected to begin in January.

Laguna Beach Unified School District hosts annual Welcome Back Breakfast

For more than 20 years, Laguna Beach Unified School District has welcomed back teachers and staff with its annual Welcome Back Breakfast. The event gives teachers and staff an opportunity to focus on interpersonal relationships with colleagues before students return for the school year. 

Laguna Beach Ashton

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Time to reconnect with colleagues, Cpl. Cornelius Ashton in the background

LBUSD has been ranked #1 in Best School Districts in Orange County by data compiler Niche, which looked at school districts across the country leading into the 2019-2020 school year. Niche looked at data from the U.S. Department of Edudcation as well as test scores, college data, and ratings collected from Niche users.

At the 2019-20 Welcome Back Breakfast, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jason Viloria spoke about the district focus of every student, every day; continuous improvement; and relationships matter. 

Laguna Beach Viloria

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Dr. Jason Viloria speaks about the district focus of every student, every day

“I think we can all agree that our work is not easy and it will never be easy but there’s a reason we all keep coming back,” said Dr. Viloria. “We come back because we know the feeling of making a difference in the lives of our students. We discover their needs and support them so that they can excel, we challenge them and help them reach their potential. I know we will have a great year and I thank you in advance for your hard work and dedication to our students,” he concluded. 

The breakfast also included the introduction of new staff members, recognition of years of service, special recognition of employees of the year, and the presentation of the Spirit of LBUSD Award.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

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