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Laguna Beach


Laguna Beach Girls Water Polo wins state title

The LBHS Girls Water Polo team captured another state title this past weekend at the California State High School Water Polo Championships, the third consecutive title for the team.

The top-seeded Breakers and reigning CIF-SS Division 1 champions beat Newport Harbor 7-5 and Foothill 9-1 to secure the title. 

Congratulations to the team!

Laguna Beach group

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Submitted photo

Front Row (L-R): Molly Renner, Morgan VanAlphen, Grace Houlahan, Rachael Carver, Tea Poljak, Lauren Schneider

Back Row (L-R): Nicole Struss, Ava Houlahan, Jessie Rose, Imani Clemons, Natasha Denny, Emma Singer, Kenedy Corlett


Tonight’s School Board meeting will include restructuring of District management positions

The agenda for tonight’s (Tuesday, July 16) regular LBUD Board of Education meeting has been posted online here. Open session will begin at 6 p.m. at the District office, at 550 Blumont St, with closed session occurring beforehand at 5 p.m.

Tonight's School outside

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Tonight’s School Board meeting includes restructuring of select District management positions 

The agenda includes a Board discussion regarding governance training for the Board from the Aspen Group. Action items for the Board’s consideration include approval of an updated agreement with College and Career Advantage (CCA) and restructuring of select District management positions.


SET U16 wins 2019 Girls US Club Water Polo Championship

The SET U16 club won first place at the US Club Championship June 30 at Norco High School. The team is made up mostly of Laguna Beach High School varsity players. Congratulations to the team!

SET U16 team

Submitted photo

Front row (L-R):  Lela McCarroll, Rachael Carver, Skylar Kidd, Izzy Rosensitto, Emma Singer, and Ava Houlahan; Middle row: Molly Renner and Nicole Struss; Back row: Coach Trevor Lyle, Carly McMurray, Imani Clemons, Cami Marz , Emma Lineback, Ella Schneider, Jessie Rose, Laine Hourigan, Mel Damato, and Head Coach Ethan Damato


Laguna Beach Little League All-Stars advance to championship game on Saturday

After a long month of practice and scrimmages, the Laguna Beach Little League 10-year-old All-Stars were on a bit of a run in the district tournament on July 2, defeating last year’s champs Aliso Viejo to move on to the championship game this Saturday, July 6. 

The squad is comprised of 13 players, all of whom played in the AAA division for Laguna Beach this past season, including: Wyatt Bogdan, Darius Morales, Spencer Noonan, Achilles Morales, Jack Hurst, Logan Guererro, Brady Stringham, Will Kimball, Aaron Crosby, Callum Murray, Becket Thomson, Noah Kimball, and Jake Martin. 

Coaches are Jeff Bogdan and Preston Thomson. The Manager is Sean Murray.

Manager Sean Murray says, “We have been practicing daily since June 2nd with many scrimmages against other 10-year-old all-star squads. We play in the district 55 of Little League’s tournament which is being hosted by Northwood Little League and the games are played at Hicks Canyon Park in Irvine.”

Evidently all the work has paid off. 

The tournament started this past Saturday, June 29 with two games. 

Murray says, “We had a bye and played Laguna Niguel Little League on Sunday, June 30, beating them in a 16-1 shortened game because of the Mercy Rule.” 

Laguna Beach 10 yo team2

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Back row (L-R): Brady Stringham, Darius Morales, Jack Hurst, Will Kimball, Wyatt Bogdan, Aaron Crosby, Achilles Morales

Bottom row (L-R): Spencer Noonan, Jake Martin, Logan Guerrero, Becket Thomson, Noah Kimball, Callum Murray

Wyatt Bogdan pitched all three innings of the game on 31 pitches to get the win. There were also multiple big hits by players that led to the win. 

“[Tuesday] night, July 2nd, we faced off with Aliso Viejo, the team that won last year’s 9-year-old tournament over Laguna Beach in the finals. We won [this year’s game] 4-2,” Murray reports. 

Will Kimball got the win going five and a third shutout innings on the mound. Brady Stringham secured the save with two strikeouts to end the game, and Achilles Morales drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the fourth with a sacrifice fly. 

Key hits from Aaron Crosby, Spencer Noonan, and Logan Guerrero sparked the team on offense. 

The next game is the championship on Saturday, July 6 at 1 p.m. at Hicks.

The team will play the winner of the Aliso Viejo – Northwood/Laguna Niguel matchup taking place on July 5. 

Murray says, “It is a double elimination tournament, so if we win Saturday, we win it all, lose and we go to a rematch on Sunday in a winner-take-all scenario.” 

He emphasizes that he really wants to get the kids the recognition they deserve for the hard work they have all been putting in since January of this year when tryouts started for Little League and rally some support from the town to come see them play Saturday. “There are a ton of ex-players and coaches in town who would love to hear about our success and more than likely make the trek out to Irvine on Saturday to see us play.”

Hicks Canyon Park is located at 3864 Viewpark Ave in Irvine.


LBHS seeks mentors to participate in Authentic Exploratory Research program 

Laguna Beach High School is seeking mentors to participate in Authentic Exploratory Research (AER), a student self-directed project-based learning program set to launch in the fall. 

Focused on real-world application, AER asks students to identify a field of interest and pairs each student with a volunteer mentor in that field. 

The role of the mentor is to provide students with professional expertise and guidance as they work through one of three study plans: a business challenge that results in the resolution of a real-world business issue, an action-based project that solves a real-world problem, or academic research that concludes with an oral defense. 

“The mentorship component is vital to this course. It is a one-on-one personalized learning experience for the student that connects them with an individual who is personally invested in their success, teaching them the value of building meaningful professional relationships,” said AER Mentor Coordinator Jenn Lundblad. “These are mutually beneficial relationships that build community capacity,” she concluded. 

LBHS seeks graduates

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Photo by Anakaren Ureno

LBHS is seeking mentors from the community to participate in Authentic Exploratory Research program

AER, inspired by Palo Alto Unified School District’s Advanced Authentic Research program, is an independent research course in which students propose driving questions to explore their passions and career pathways in a variety of fields. 

The program was designed to encapsulate six experiences identified by Gallup (Crabtree, 2019) as the keys to success in the job market: a caring teacher, an inspiring teacher, a mentor, a long-term project, an internship, and involvement in extracurricular activities.

“Authentic Exploratory Research steps away from the traditional teaching methods to create a space for student-generated project-based learning where students will solve complex problems using a combination of skills, including reading, writing, math, teamwork, research gathering, time management, and information synthesizing,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jason Viloria. 

“With the introduction of this elective course with real-life practice and relevant social contexts, we want to encourage students to become independent workers, critical thinkers, and lifelong learners,” he concluded. 

Interested mentors will be paired with a mentee according to the field of the student’s choosing and invited to attend an orientation to review the AER Mentor Handbook and go over any questions. Once the student-mentor partnership is established, it will be up to the student and the mentor to determine when and where they will meet. Mentors can expect a time commitment of 40 to 50 hours throughout the school year. 

To participate as a mentor, contact AER Mentor Coordinator Jenn Lundblad at (949) 497-7750 ext. 1216 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


LBHS PTA gives grants to get ideas

Laguna Beach High School students engaged with a myriad of animal companions on campus last month to help them de-stress before final exams.

Four support-therapy dog teams provided by the Orange County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OCSPCA) PAWS program (Pets Are Wonderful Support) brought hugs and smiles to the kids from two golden retrievers (Adobe and Coral), a Labrador retriever (Gunner), and a greyhound (Teagan). 

LBHS PTA dog

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Submitted photo

Support dogs help students de-stress before exams 

Meanwhile, across the quad, students visited with a variety of reptiles – including snakes, lizards, an iguana, and a giant tortoise for a different kind of connection. 

While one student declared the event to be “the best idea this school has ever had,” the idea actually came from the students themselves as part of a grant program offered by LBHS PTA.

Now in its second year, PTA’s Student Grant Program was introduced as a way for PTA to fund suggestions made directly by students, as well as to gather new ideas for how to better address student needs. 

 “Every year, PTA creates its budget based on what members – mostly parents – think is best for kids,” said program chairman Kathleen Fay. “This program gives students a voice by asking what matters most to them – what ideas do they have to improve their school?”

The answers come in the form of a brief grant application submitted by students followed up by a short (three-minute) presentation to the grant committee to discuss their idea. “We offered $1,000 last year and $2,000 this year to help make these student ideas become a reality,” said Fay. “But there’s also an important indirect benefit that comes from reading through all the suggestions: it helps us to learn what’s really important to these kids. We are even able find ways to implement their ideas outside of PTA.”

LBHS PTA snake

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Submitted photo

Students visited with snakes, lizards, and more for a different kind of connection

Interacting with animals to relieve stress and anxiety before finals was suggested last year by students Clara Becker and Grace Wilson, who took their winning idea and started a student group to support the concept on an ongoing basis; this year they were joined by Maya Gallego and Gavin Gee to again be awarded with PTA funds to continue hosting these stress-healing events.

Another one of this year’s grant winners was Amar Bhatia, who proposed having CRV recycling cans in every LBHS classroom. Bhatia and his on-campus club, Zero Trash Laguna, offered to pick up the recycling on a regular basis. PTA purchased the recycling bins and Bhatia placed them in rooms around campus where they were needed. Remaining funds may be used for expansion for the program next year.

Soren Patchell suggested furnishing LBHS T-shirts for all students when school starts again in the fall to help build school spirit. “One of the goals in ASB is to build school spirit and create unity amongst the student body,” said Patchell. 

In the past, students have worn shirts in their own class colors to school events and activities, based on their year of expected graduation; this would shift the focus to overall school spirit by having a unified color for all. “We want remove obstacles for students to participate and get involved by providing shirts to every student,” Patchell said. PTA, in conjunction with ASB and LBHS administration, will contribute funds to help make this happen.

LBHS PTA bike

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Submitted photo

Bike racks will be installed at LBHS thanks to student Leonard Wallstein

Leonard Wallstein urged LBHS to offer secure bicycle parking on campus to encourage students to bike to school. LBUSD welcomed Leonard’s recommendations and will use district funds to install bike racks on the Park Avenue side of campus (near the Artists’ Theatre) as part of summer renovations. 

“I hope people can enjoy those racks and maybe learn to love biking and school as much as I do!” said Wallstein. He and members of LBHS Cycling will make themselves available to help with the project if needed.

Wallstein also expressed appreciation for the grant program overall: “Thank you for setting this grant up; it’s really rare that students can directly share their ideas with PTA like this.” LBHS PTA President-Elect James Azadian said he plans to continue the program next year.


LBHS students presented with $1,000 scholarships from Laguna Beach Live!

Laguna Beach Live! recently presented two $1,000 scholarships to two hard-working and deserving Laguna Beach High School students at the Senior Convocation on June 7.

The two students were chosen from a group of seniors who applied and wrote essays telling of their interest in music and the paths that passion was taking. 

Both of the scholarship recipients, Sydney Davison and Leonard Wallstein, had been involved in music from their earliest years. The two students had also collaborated during high school, playing together and writing music.

LBHS seniors hats

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LBHS graduating seniors Sydney Davison and Leonard Wallstein 

According to Laguna Beach Live!, they were both very appreciative of the scholarship money, and both affirmed that they would continue with their studies and musical endeavors. 

Sydney Davison will be attending the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the fall, while Leonard Wallstein will be taking a gap year before college.

Laguna Beach Live! is a local nonprofit organization that formed in 2001 to increase the awareness of and participation in diverse musical experiences, enhancing the reputation of Laguna Beach as a music town and enriching the lives of residents, students, and visitors to Laguna Beach. 

The organization annually presents over 30 live music concerts and free education events. 

For more information, visit www.lagunabeachlive.org.


LBHS PTA gives grants to get ideas

Laguna Beach High School students engaged with a myriad of animal companions on campus this month to help them de-stress before final exams.

Four support-therapy dog teams provided by the Orange County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OCSPCA) PAWS program (Pets Are Wonderful Support) brought hugs and smiles to the kids from two golden retrievers (Adobe and Coral), a Labrador retriever (Gunner), and a greyhound (Teagan). 

LBHS PTA dog

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Support dogs help students de-stress before exams 

Meanwhile, across the quad, students visited with a variety of reptiles – including snakes, lizards, an iguana, and a giant tortoise for a different kind of connection. 

While one student declared the event to be “the best idea this school has ever had,” the idea actually came from the students themselves as part of a grant program offered by LBHS PTA.

Now in its second year, PTA’s Student Grant Program was introduced as a way for PTA to fund suggestions made directly by students, as well as to gather new ideas for how to better address student needs. 

 “Every year, PTA creates its budget based on what members – mostly parents – think is best for kids,” said program chairman Kathleen Fay. “This program gives students a voice by asking what matters most to them – what ideas do they have to improve their school?”

The answers come in the form of a brief grant application submitted by students followed up by a short (three-minute) presentation to the grant committee to discuss their idea. “We offered $1,000 last year and $2,000 this year to help make these student ideas become a reality,” said Fay. “But there’s also an important indirect benefit that comes from reading through all the suggestions: it helps us to learn what’s really important to these kids. We are even able find ways to implement their ideas outside of PTA.”

LBHS PTA snake

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Students visited with snakes, lizards, and more for a different kind of connection

Interacting with animals to relieve stress and anxiety before finals was suggested last year by students Clara Becker and Grace Wilson, who took their winning idea and started a student group to support the concept on an ongoing basis; this year they were joined by Maya Gallego and Gavin Gee to again be awarded with PTA funds to continue hosting these stress-healing events.

Another one of this year’s grant winners was Amar Bhatia, who proposed having CRV recycling cans in every LBHS classroom. Bhatia and his on-campus club, Zero Trash Laguna, offered to pick up the recycling on a regular basis. PTA purchased the recycling bins and Bhatia placed them in rooms around campus where they were needed. Remaining funds may be used for expansion for the program next year.

Soren Patchell suggested furnishing LBHS T-shirts for all students when school starts again in the fall to help build school spirit. “One of the goals in ASB is to build school spirit and create unity amongst the student body,” said Patchell. 

In the past, students have worn shirts in their own class colors to school events and activities, based on their year of expected graduation; this would shift the focus to overall school spirit by having a unified color for all. “We want remove obstacles for students to participate and get involved by providing shirts to every student,” Patchell said. PTA, in conjunction with ASB and LBHS administration, will contribute funds to help make this happen.

LBHS PTA bike

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Bike racks will be installed at LBHS thanks to student Leonard Wallstein

Leonard Wallstein urged LBHS to offer secure bicycle parking on campus to encourage students to bike to school. LBUSD welcomed Leonard’s recommendations and will use district funds to install bike racks on the Park Avenue side of campus (near the Artists’ Theatre) as part of summer renovations. 

“I hope people can enjoy those racks and maybe learn to love biking and school as much as I do!” said Wallstein. He and members of LBHS Cycling will make themselves available to help with the project if needed.

Wallstein also expressed appreciation for the grant program overall: “Thank you for setting this grant up; it’s really rare that students can directly share their ideas with PTA like this.” LBHS PTA President-Elect James Azadian said he plans to continue the program next year.


School Board boosts Superintendent’s salary

By BARBARA DIAMOND

A unanimous Board of Education voted at the June 25 meeting to increase Superintendent Jason Viloria’s salary to $281,463 for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, an 8.1 percent increase. The board also voted for increased salaries of $292,722 for 2020-21 and $304,431 for 2021-22.

Viloria oversees the district’s four schools (Laguna Beach High School, Thurston Middle School, El Morro Elementary School and Top of the World Elementary School), its 3,045 students and a current operating budget of $65,480,555, based on 2nd Interim. 

No one from the public or the board spoke in opposition to the increase, which was approved 4-0. Board Member Dee Perry did not attend the meeting. She was on vacation.

Viloria was due for an increase to $266,269, approved on June 26, 2018, for fiscal year 2019-2020. The amount had previously been scheduled for $261,048, approved on June 7, 2017.

Attending board members at Tuesday’s meeting had nothing but good things to say about Viloria, without ever discussing the amounts he will be paid.

Board member Peggy Wolff complimented Viloria on effective guidance, willingness to adapt and improve the district in ways she appreciated as a parent. She specifically cited making data-based decisions, better communications and development of new strategies. 

“I am grateful for his leadership,” she said.

Carol Normandin said she admired his mentoring skills. 

“It is imperative to note that sometimes when you take strides to make changes in an organization you incur upset,” said Board Chair Jan Vickers. “I think it goes with the territory when you seek to improve. 

“It is incumbent on us as the board, since we are the employers, to be sure we give support and recognition.”

Vickers listed tasks taken on by Viloria that included the calendar change, the bell schedule, weighting grades and making recommendations and decisions. 

“That is what is expected,” said Vickers. “It is not our job.”

Viloria was hired on July 21, 2016. His starting salary was $240,000 for a full fiscal year.

According to the June 26, 2019 agenda, Viloria’s initial salary was first amended at the June 9, 2017 meeting, with an increase for 2017-18 to $249,350. The board also approved an increase to $255,126 for fiscal year 2018-19 and to $261,048 for 2019-20.

Those amounts were scrapped in June of 2018.

The June 26, 2018 amendment increased his salary for the next three fiscal years to the following amounts:

--$260,299 in 2018-19

--$266,269 in 2019-20

--$272,448 in 2020-21

The amounts were amended again at Tuesday night’s meeting to the following amounts:

--$281,464 in 2019-20

--$292,722 in 2020-21

--$304,431 in 2021-22

None of the increases include Viloria’s health or welfare benefits, according to Assistant Superintendent Leisa Winston, which totaled $58,411 in 2017 according to a public pay and pension database.

A meeting to evaluate Viloria’s performance was held on Thursday, with a follow-up to be conducted in a closed session at the next board meeting, scheduled for Monday. The evaluation will not be made public. 


2019 Honors Convocation

By Will Clark

Student at LBHS

In partnership with Brush and Palette newspaper

On Friday, June 7, at 6:30 p.m., the annual LBHS Honors Convocation took place in the Artists Theatre. Organized by the Laguna Beach High School Scholarship Foundation (LBHSSF) and coordinated by our school’s Scholarship and Financial Aid Specialist Angela Shipp, the convocation awarded over 150 scholarships, totaling approximately $430,000. 

“There are other schools with scholarship programs, but nothing compares in scale or magnitude to the Laguna Beach Scholarship Foundation. There isn’t anything quite like it,” said Shipp.

LBHSSF receives its funding from a variety of sources within the school and the greater Laguna Beach community. Donors include families, local businesses, and other community organizations. A couple of major, consistent donors are the Festival of Arts and the Laguna Beach Rotary Club. Rotary supports LBHS students in many ways, including the Student-of-the-Month scholarships, the Rotary Youth Leadership Awakening Camp, and Grapes for Grads, which fundraises scholarship money for LBHS students. 

“LBHSSF is a leader in its per-student financial support nationwide, and that has a lot to do with our community. Being as small and intimate as we are, we have a really engaged and generous community. Donors genuinely and sincerely want to support and help somebody new each year,” said Shipp. 

The application process for LBHSSF scholarships begins during January of students’ senior year. After hearing a presentation about how to navigate the application process from Mrs. Shipp, seniors begin applying online. To apply, students must fill out the eligibility application, apply to specific scholarships, and meet the requirements of each scholarship. The requirements of each scholarship vary; some require essays, others require letters of recommendation, others require transcripts, and some require all of the above and more. The in-depth application process is meant to allow donors to get an accurate representation of the applicants in order to make informed decisions about their scholarship recipients. This year, 165 seniors began the application process. 

2019 Honors FOA

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of LBHSSF

Presenters Dave Perry and Pat Kollenda with the Festival of Arts Visual Arts Scholarship recipients Haley Colton, Lauren Fetzer, Sofia Pfanner, Emma Russell, and Sarah Smelkinson

“Due to my financial status, the application process was definitely worth the scholarship money that I received,” said senior Fernando Barraza.

The ceremony itself was a night full of elation, gratitude, and more. The night progressed as each donor took the stage, provided insight into their scholarship, and spoke about how their chosen recipient embodies the ideals of their scholarship. 

Each year, a few donors surprise the audience by giving out more money than they had listed on their application or by giving not one but two or three scholarships. 

“One very generous and big-hearted donor footed the bill for a student’s entire four years of college, helped the student get an apartment and helped get a car for her. This particular student was very challenged financially, and this donor felt strongly about that and wanted to help her,” said Shipp of a donor from a few years back. 

The unprecedented generosity of the school community in supporting the dreams of higher education may cause some to question, what makes LBHS students deserving of these gifts?

“Most of our students are very caring and truly want to leave the world a better place,” said Spanish teacher and scholarship board member Jim Garvey. 

The scholarships awarded at the Honors Convocation give LBHS graduating seniors support to continue into higher education. 

“Like for many other families, the price tag of a college education is a bit of a challenge for mine. With the scholarships I received at Honors Convocation, college is much more possible for me. Since college is the next step towards fulfilling my goals, I am immensely grateful for these scholarships,” said senior Charlie Dickerson. 

The scholarship committee is usually made up of seven LBHS staff members. This committee helps to make recommendations to the donors about which prospective students best fit the individual scholarships.

“I would like to thank all the people that have made this program possible. Starting with Mrs. Gregory who left behind such a great program to Mrs. Shipp, who has also done a great job with the program. As well, I would like to thank the committee who takes their time to meet and evaluate all the potential candidates for scholarships,” said Barraza.

Stu News Laguna is proud to feature LBHS students’ writing in partnership with the high school’s journalism class and the Brush and Palette student newspaper.

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