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Laguna Beach

Boys & Girls Club will host “racy” 18th Annual Art of Giving Gala on May 12 

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach is proud to present its 18th Annual Art of Giving Gala – “And We’re Off!” – on Saturday, May 12 at Montage Laguna Beach. The event will be Kentucky Derby-style themed soiree. 

Invitees are encouraged to dress to impress and pull out all of the stops when selecting a suit or dress for the big night. It is a chance for every female to express her inner Southern Belle, and every guy to get just as decked out as the ladies. 

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The Boys & Girls Club’s 18th Annual Art of Giving Gala on May 12 will be a night of “racy” fun

Guests will start the evening on the Montage lawn with tasty morsels and signature Southern cocktails. The evening will continue with an elegant dinner and rousing live auction followed by dancing to some live music that will make guests feel like they are partying it up at the Downs. 

This promises to be one of the events of the year, and a chance to generously support the Club and its some 2,000 youth members and families. Proceeds raised at the 18th annual Art of Giving Gala go directly towards empowering children of all ages to reach their full potential, no matter their financial situation. 

For more information about the Gala includint tickets or table sponsorships, contact Michelle Ray Fortezzo at (949) 494-2535 ext. 7584 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit the Club website at

LBHS Boys Golf wins twice this week, captures fourth straight Orange Coast League Championship

LBHS Boys Golf played two league matches this week, winning both and capturing the team’s fourth straight Orange Coast League Championship.

“These final two league wins mean that senior players Kyle Sharp, Ben Sharp and Dante Fornaro just completed 4 years as varsity players going undefeated in Orange Coast league play,” said Coach Sean Quigley. “They have never lost a league match throughout their entire high school careers.”

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LBHS Boys Golf captured its fourth straight Orange Coast League Championship, finishing a perfect 8-0 in league play

On Tuesday, the team traveled to Santa Ana to play Saddleback High School at Willowick Golf Course, par 36. The team won the match 208-276.

Senior captain Kyle Sharp was the medalist of the match shooting one over par 37. In addition, seniors Ben Sharp and Dante Fornaro both played well shooting 40. Sophomore Tai Diggins stepped up big too.

“A bright spot looking forward to next year was the play of Tai (Diggins), who came up from the junior varsity team and shot a very solid score of 42. Hayden Myers and Miles Stripling rounded out the scoring with both posting scores of 49,” said Coach Quigley.

On Thursday, the team hosted Costa Mesa High School at Aliso Viejo Country Club, the final league match of the season.

The team went into the match missing a couple of its regular starters. “We were anticipating a competitive match,” said Coach Quigley.

But ultimately the team stepped up. 

“Our players did a good job overall with course management and not taking too many risks with the windy conditions and it ended up paying off. At the finish, we won the match 217-233. The co-medalists of the match were Kyle Sharp from Laguna and Jimmy Solano from Costa Mesa; they both shot one over par 36. The rest of the players scores were Dante Fornaro 41, Gus Morck 42, Kyle Shaw 47, Miles Stripling 51 and Joseph Ravenna 55.”

The team’s overall record is now 10-3, and a perfect 8-0 in league play.

Boys Volleyball nets two wins too, wins 93rd straight league match

On Tuesday, Laguna Beach High School’s Boys Volleyball team defeated Saddleback in three games, 25-18, 25-15, 25-12. Andrew Reavis and Josh McManus led the way with nine kills each. Guy Thomas and Joseph Colliday also had eight kills apiece.

On Thursday, the team hosted Estancia at Dugger Gym, winning in three sets 25-18, 25-11, 25-18. Leading the way was Sam Burgi with eight kills and Geste Bianchi with seven.

The team (9-5 overall, 5-0 league) has now won 93 straight league matches.

Boys & Girls Club announces promotion of long-time member of staff, Hans Laroche, to branch director

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach announced yesterday the promotion of Hans Laroche as their new Canyon Branch Director. Hans has worked for the Club for 15 years and has been an invaluable member not only of the Canyon Branch, but the entire organization. 

Prior to joining the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, Hans had 17 years of leadership experience overseeing youth development programs and personnel, which included club operations and human resource services. Through the years, Hans has continued the grand tradition of the Boys & Girls basketball programs and offered many more sports, fitness and recreation activities within this department. 

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Hans Laroche

“His professional relationship building with our youth, parents, staff and community is humbling. Hans speaks from his heart and soul; and kids love it when he plays along with them, making them feel loved, wanted and that he hears their voice,” states CEO Pam Estes. She adds, “His number one goal is to make each child shine and grow within our walls; and for those not at our Club, to capture their imagination to see how the Club could be for them.” 

Hans states that one of his proudest moments at the Club is to see former members return and volunteer as a coach and mentor with his programs. “We welcome the community in congratulating Hans on his outstanding performance and wishing him the best of luck in his future position,” Estes says. 

For more information on the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach including after school and summer camp programming, contact guest services at (949) 494-2535 or

The Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach service area includes Laguna Beach, Aliso Viejo, Lake Forest and the surrounding communities, and occupies three sites in Laguna Beach: Canyon Branch, Bluebird Branch and Lang Branch. Together, they offer a nationally recognized and award winning year round Out-of-School enrichment program that focuses on the whole family. 

From preschool to parenting classes, The Boys & Girls Club offers an array of services that focus on: academic success, good character and citizenship, healthy lifestyles and creative expression. Being an indispensable asset to the families of our community is a Boys & Girls Club time-honored tradition. For over 60 years, The Boys & Girls Club strives to support the youth of Laguna Beach through out of school recreation that celebrates the whole child.

Basketball’s Bret Fleming is named OC Register’s Coach of the Year for the 2017-18 season

Photos by Ali Rounaghi

LBHS basketball coach Bret Fleming has been named OC Register’s Coach of the Year for the 2017-18 season. The newspaper cites the following reasons for its selection of this most talented coach:

“Laguna Beach boys basketball coach Bret Fleming is highly-regarded among his peers for consistently getting the most out of the Laguna Beach roster. 

“For doing so yet again, Fleming is the Register’s Orange County coach of the year for the 2017-18 season.s

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Bret Fleming in action

The newspaper continued: “The Breakers had one of the best seasons in school history this past season. They won 26 games, going 26-4, one shy of the school single-season record for wins. The Breakers went undefeated in the Orange Coast League to win the league championship.”

While deeply honored at the award, Bret told Stu News, “As far as the award is concerned, nothing we’ve accomplished this year was done in isolation…I’ve got a terrific long-time assistant coach in Rus Soobzokov and this is really just another acknowledgement of what a great season we had.”

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Bret Fleming with team

“This group of young men really understood the concept of playing for something greater than themselves. They dedicated a huge amount of time practicing and preparing for this season, which resulted in winning two major tournaments and finishing third in another. They beat multiple teams that most people would consider upsets... 

“Above all, this group really loved each other and willingly sacrificed their own agendas for the good of the team. I’m extremely proud of all they accomplished this year.”

This was Fleming’s 23rd season coaching Laguna Beach basketball.

Stu News congratulates him, assistant coach Rus Soobzokov, and all the boys on a great season.

Boys Lacrosse is home game against Crean Lutheran this Thursday; three home games next week

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LBHS Boys Lacrosse team

The LBHS Boys Lacrosse team has a home game this Thursday, April 19 against Crean Lutheran at 5 p.m. The team will follow with three home games next week, including Monday, April 23 at 5 p.m. against Beckman; Wednesday, April 25 at 5 p.m. against San Juan Hills; and Thursday, April 26 at 4:30 p.m. against Sage Hill.  

Spectators and supporters are welcome!

Laguna Beach Boys Varsity Tennis serves up a win against Costa Mesa

Photos by Candice Dartez

Mason Libby

Sam Reynolds

Blake Hawkins

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Laguna Beach Boys Varsity Tennis won their match this week 15-2. Mason Lebby, Mohammed Berri, Andrew Johnson, Diego Tellez, Sam Reynolds and Casey Boehm all won their singles matches. Doubles winners were Blake Hawkins and Matt Berk in an exciting tie-breaker. 

Kyle Herkins and Francis Pillsbury won their doubles matches. Taylor Tran and Mathew Duong as well as Andrew Duong and Matt Berk won theirs.

LBHS Boosters will rock the night away

The Black Tongued Bells and James Clay Garrison & the Giant Peach will perform a benefit concert on Friday, April 27 from 7 p.m. to midnight as part of the Blue Water Music Festival. The concert will benefit the LBHS Tennis and Booster programs.

The Black Tongued Bells

The event will be held at The Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach.

Only 200 tickets are available and they’re expected to sell out fast. Call Rick Conkey at (949) 573-8624 with questions or to purchase tickets.

The Woman’s Club is located at 286 St. Ann’s Drive.

Three LBUSD teams advance to Global Finals in Destination Imagination® Tournament

Three teams from Laguna Beach Unified School District that competed in the Destination Imagination® (DI) Affiliate (state/country) Tournament have advanced to the Global Finals taking place May 23-26 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

DI is a project-based educational program in which student teams solve open-ended challenges and present their solutions at tournaments. Global Finals is the culminating event of the DI Tournament with more than 1,400 of the top-scoring teams from 45 U.S. states and 14 countries participating. The scheduled festivities include the DI Tournament, interactive exhibits, pin trading, skills workshops, and more. 

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LBHS’s Brilliant Boom Bam Bananas are headed to the Global Finals

“This accomplishment is demonstrative of the tenacity and passion that our students are capable of with the support of the community that surrounds them,” said LBUSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jason Viloria. “Together with staff, parents, and volunteers, our students have been hard at work to prepare for this competition, and I am confident that they will continue to make us proud,” he concluded. 

Laguna Beach High School’s Brilliant Boom Bam Bananas competed in the Scientific Challenge which asked teams 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. The team placed third at the affiliate tournament, qualifying for global finals. 

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Thurston’s Thunder McKings (pictured) and Catnip (picture not available at time of going to press) are heading to the finals

Thurston Middle School will be represented by two teams at the global finals, the Thunder McKings and Catnip. The Thurston McKings placed third in the Technical Challenge qualifying for global finals. Their challenge was 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.

Catnip placed third in the Improvisational Challenge, also qualifying for finals. The Improvisational Challenge asked teams 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.

The annual Global Finals competition is the world’s largest celebration of student creativity with more than 17,000 people in attendance each year.

Breakers dominate Calvary Chapel, 10-0, sweep season series to stay undefeated in league

Laguna Beach High School hitters and pitchers made a statement Thursday at Calvary Chapel that they are the team to beat in the Orange Coast League. Three pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout, and the Breakers pounded out 13 hits to defeat the Calvary Chapel Eagles, 10-0, sweep the season series 3-0, and stay undefeated in league at 7-0.

Eric Silva, 4-5 with two doubles and two RBIs, and Grady Morgan, 3-4 with a home run and two RBIs, led the way for Laguna Beach. The defense, which has struggled recently, was outstanding on the day with great plays made by multiple Breakers. Jack Loechner, Jared Angus, Sawyer Chesley, Aidan Booth, Morgan and Silva all made highlight reel plays for the visiting Breakers.

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Grady Morgan 

Blake Burzell started on the mound for Laguna and shut out the Eagles for five innings, striking out four. Wesley Witteman and Justin Holm each pitched one inning of scoreless relief to complete the shutout.

Chesley added a hit and two RBIs, Angus had two hits, and Silva added to his monster day with a straight steal of home.

Laguna has two games next week vs Saddleback – home on Tuesday, April 17, and away on Friday, April 20. Both games are slated to start at 3:15 p.m.

Proposed changes to school year calendar elicit passionate responses


Parents, teachers, and community members came out in droves and with passion to discuss the fate of the LBUSD school year calendar with administrators and board members last Thursday, April 12, at Laguna Beach High School’s Kay Turner Library.

The concerned crowd brought their emotions and ideas to the table, as they learned of the results found by a special calendar committee, and its recommendations that may go into effect at the start of the 2019-2020 student instructional year. Among the changes recommended by the committee are moving the calendar start date up a week and a half earlier, to August 21, and moving the end date up a week earlier to June 11. This would align LBUSD with other nearby districts that have made similar changes in recent years. (Click here for PDF with recommendations)

“I was surprised that the district quietly worked on this for months using a committee made up mostly of district employees and missing such key stakeholders as Festival and Sawdust reps; the Boys & Girls Club; local preschools; the Chamber of Commerce; SchoolPower; PTA; civic groups; youth organizations; those whose businesses, jobs, and traffic will be affected; and, most notably, the students themselves,” said former Laguna Beach PTA Council President and current Advocacy Chair, Kathleen Fay, who attended the meeting with her husband Tom.

“Our 3,000 kids and their families were not adequately represented, even though family engagement and transparency in governance are both important values in our community.”

School Board President Jan Vickers was helpful throughout the evening, wading through the pool of questions and cross talk. Vickers and her board constituents fielded the many questions that came at them, often simultaneously. 

“The purpose of the meeting was intended to gather initial public input surrounding the student instructional year and the committee’s recommendation, which we felt the meeting accomplished as a first step. The Board provided direction to staff to gather additional information and input,” Vickers said.

The idea of separating the crowd as instructed into five smaller groups was met with some opposition and commentary. But things seemed to settle down as the smaller pods exchanged thoughts and were able to ask questions and speak their minds.

“We want to capture any questions and comments” voiced a group leader. “We will present our collective thoughts out to the group.”

 Sasha Kvitsinski, one of the few students in attendance, was positive about the changes presented.

“I’m here because I’m part of the student newspaper, so I’m writing an article about this process,” said Kvitsinski  “The board, they were deciding to make this change based on what they thought was best for the students and not necessarily what is best for the community. That’s what a school is – it’s there to benefit the students, right?”

 “I am wondering why it’s a problem that most of them are stakeholders because the stakeholders are the ones that work directly with the students, and so, they know how students learn and how they react to certain things and feel in this situation,” Sasha said. “I know my teachers know better my learning style than my parents do. I feel like they know what’s best for the students.”

Mary Blanton, who has taught at El Morro Elementary for 29 years, said that she’s seen a lot of calendar/school day changes during her tenure.She expressed that the district is always looking at ways to improve its practice. “Our district wanted to ensure that our calendar was best for kids, so it formed a committee to look at it.” 

Although she knows the board has the best intentions in mind, she thought people came in feeling defensive. “I know I did. Many were caught off guard by the short notice,” Blanton said about an email sent out the week prior to the meeting, during Spring Break. “I wish the presentation had actual data and citations. I had hoped that there would be research showing why this is a good idea.”

“I think the steps are a good start. I hope they will change the committee make up to reflect all voices,” Blanton said. “The board said they would survey teachers, LBHS students, and parents. They will also go to the campuses to meet with the School Site Councils. That’s a start. I think it would be helpful for everyone to have a chance to submit their questions and concerns.”

Vickers explained, “The committee surfaced assumptions and questions, reviewed data related to those assumptions and questions, and established priorities based on the data reviewed, which was summarized in the attached presentation from the meeting. The committee’s priorities reflected themes of social-emotional wellness, student engagement, and increased opportunities for students.”

Liam, a student at TOW, wanted to express his concerns about the matter, although he wasn’t present.

 The school district superintendent is thinking about ending school early and starting school early next year. I think it’s a terrible idea. My family always goes to Six Flags Magic Mountain and there are never any lines when we go,” Liam said. 

He added, “Also, people might already have a vacation planned and students might have to miss the first week of school. Another reason it’s a bad idea is August is one of the hottest months of the year, and it can get up to 100 degrees, so I don’t want to be in school.”

There’s sure to be plenty more to come addressing this hot topic.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

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