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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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Photo by Sheri Morgan

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

By SUZIE HARRISON

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.


Laguna Beach Boys Baseball dominates Saddleback in 27-0 no-hitter: team remains undefeated in league play

LBHS Boys Baseball continued their undefeated league play on Tuesday, April 17. Visiting Saddleback, four LBHS pitchers combined for a no-hit, with a score of 27-0. The Breakers are now 13-8 on the season, 8-0 in league play.  

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Photo by Sheri Morgan

Grady Morgan stealing third; he led with a Grand Slam earlier in the first

Grady Morgan led the offense with a Grand Slam homerun in the first. Michael Kerner, Christian Holm, Dylan Schreyer, Jared Angus and Morgan all had multiple hits on the day, and 12 different hitters contributed to the 17-hit attack.

Jack Loechner, Joe Sweet, Cutter Clawson and Remy Mackel teamed up on the mound to no-hit Saddleback.


LBHS Drumline beats the competition in music category, places third in Scholastic B division

LBHS Drumline definitely saved the best for last in the semi-final competition at King High School in Riverside recently. They came in third place in their Scholastic B division and gained first place in that music category.  

They also won third place overall, out of 46 schools, in the music category. 

Winter Percussion drumline is a competitive drumming ensemble that incorporates drill movements similar to marching band and uses both marching and concert percussion instruments to perform in a gymnasium. In essence, it is a percussion-only marching unit, with a blend of theatrical elements. 

Led by Rudi Moore and Emmanuel Mora, under the direction of Jeremy Chung, this is a very talented group of kids.  

Chung notes, “The students have the option to join Drumline as an extracurricular activity. We don’t turn students away as long as they are committed and can be at all the extra rehearsals. All Drumline students are also involved with other music classes at LBHS – wind ensemble, string ensemble, jazz band, etc. 

“The Drumline is part of the instrumental music program and competes in the American Drumline Association circuit. The competitive Drumline was formed eight years ago when I became the music director at LBHS,” he explains.

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The triumphant Drumline team

Participating students rave about their experiences with Drumline, which may not have as high a profile as many student activities, but provides great enjoyment and valuable musical education for participants.

“The past four years, Drumline has meant more to me than just learning rudiments and being perfectly in sync with a complex musical pulse,” says Michael Davidson, Battery Section Leader. “It’s made me a better human being. Put in a setting with people who live, breathe, and love the same thing you do creates a bond that’s truly unbreakable. Every loss and victory each contained so many valuable lessons that will stay with me throughout the rest of my musical career and life.”

Student Kendra Nugent had never played an instrument, much less read sheet music before she joined Drumline. 

“Drumline has been a wonderful experience for me. The entire group was very supportive to each other had such a positive attitude,” Kendra says. “Because of this program, I can now understand most music terms and read the basics of sheet music. I am so glad to have been a part of this program and can’t wait to see what comes next.’

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The nature of Drumline makes it tricky to capture all the kids in action

Sydney Davison (yes, Davison, different spelling and no relation to Michael!), who is the Pit Team Leader, has this to say: “Drumline for me has been a wonderful experience. I have learned an exotic instrument, and I have made many friends. Every part of it has been memorable, and it is fun to be part of a team.”

Parents are also very impressed with the benefits of Drumline in improving their kids’ ability and enhancing their existing talent.

“Drumline has been a big part of my son’s life for the past four years. It has helped him improve his skills tremendously,” Judy Davidson, Michael’s mother, says. “It’s such a joy seeing him play the snare drum with passion and precision. Jeremy Chung and Rudi Moore have been a positive influence in helping Michael achieve his dream of going to Berklee College of Music.”

Drumline incorporates so many elements

Chris Davison, Sydney’s dad, notes, “Before my two kids joined the group, I had never heard of Drumline. Now I love to go to all their competitions and performances. It is fun to watch because there are so many elements: Music, costumes, choreography, stage props, and sometimes a little theater. 

“For my kids, it was an opportunity to learn mallet instruments like marimba and bells that they normally wouldn’t be playing in regular band. Drumline has also helped them develop their skills as a team player and working with others as a tight-knit, synchronized group.”

Unfortunately the team can’t participate in the Drumline Finals competition; most of the students are also in the LBHS wind ensemble and they will be performing in a music festival in SFO the same weekend.

Congratulations to the group for a high-profile season!  

--Lynette Brasfield


LBHS senior Isabel Riches will play for British water polo team in 2018 EU Nation’s Cup

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Isabel Riches

LBHS Senior Isabel Riches has been selected to the Great Britain/England Water Polo Junior National Team, with whom she spent spring break training in the Netherlands. 

Isabel next represents the England team when she plays in the 2018 EU Nations Cup, May 24-27, in the Czech Republic. Isabel will also continue as a D1 Varsity water polo player next fall at Brown University.


SchoolPower Chef Challenge serves up community support for our schools at Lumberyard

The 9th Annual Chef Challenge, generously hosted by Cary and Suzanne Redfearn of Lumberyard, once again served up a delicious culinary competition benefitting SchoolPower. The event on March 26 featured Laguna school principals as dueling guest “chefs” competing with two different three-course meals. 

Diners voted on their favorite items and the coveted golden spatula trophy was awarded to the victorious team. This year’s challenge had Principals Duddy and Conlon squaring off with Principals Allemann and Salberg. With a robust turnout of 114 guests and $8,600 raised, Chef Challenge was a win for our public schools. 

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Jason Alleman and Jenny Salberg, Winners of Golden Spatula

To kick things off, the cocktail competition got heated with SchoolPower Endowment President Chris Clark mixing up his Paloma Borracha (Drunken Dove) and SchoolPower President Kristin Winter concocting her special Salty Russian. Although both received rave reviews, ultimately Chris Clark took away the title.

While guests enjoyed the appetizers and main courses, team Allemann/Salberg worked the room to gain votes for their menu which included a delectable coconut curry crab ceviche appetizer. Team Duddy/Conlon vied for tallies on their side of the menu featuring a mouthwatering Bailey’s semifreddo dessert.

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Mixology Winner, Chris Clark with Kristin Winter

Kristin Winter thanked everyone for coming out to support the schools and added, “Cary and Suzanne Redfearn’s generosity and constant support of our schools is remarkable. It’s no wonder that the town feels such loyalty to the Lumberyard.” 

When the votes were collected, the results were close but the golden spatula went to team Allemann/Salberg. The champions were thrilled to win with veteran Salberg stating, “Chef’s Challenge at the Lumberyard is always an exciting evening...the food is delicious and the service is incredible. Clearly this win is a direct result of our hard work and continued dedication to providing our parents and students with superior service during the school day and outside of the school day.” 

For more information on SchoolPower, go to www.lbschoolpower.org. 


Three LBUSD teams go to Global Finals in Destination Imagination®: Creativity gets the prize

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. 

“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. 

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

Laguna Beach High School’s Brilliant Boom Bam Bananas competed in the Scientific Challenge, which asked teams to create an amusement park attractions using scientific concepts. The team created a four-foot fidget spinner that team member Joseph Hovanesian rode during the performance, all in an underwater setting. Team members also included Evan Henry, Jared Moy and Miles Riehle. The team placed third at the affiliate tournament, qualifying for global finals. 

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Thurston’s Thunder McKings 

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 maze. Team members Michael Berg, Theo Cofffey, Will Coffey, Odin Fores and George Saba’s performance showcased a radio-controlled maze-traveling racecar complete with grandstand, fans, and sportscasters.

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Thurston’s Catnip team celebrates achievement

Catnip placed third in the Improvisational Challenge, also qualifying for finals. The team was asked to perform an improvisational skit about two explorers on a quest to find a missing cultural treasure. Team members May Chapman and Quinn Butler played explorers Queen Teuta and Howard Carter on a quest to find and returned Machu Picchu to its rightful owners, played by Ophelia Chapman and Ani Hovanesian.

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The Destination Infiltration team in action

Team Destination Infiltration, who also represented Thurston Middle School at the State Tournament, received first place in their instant challenge score and may qualify for the Global competition. In the scientific category, team members James Dechary, Chris Herkins, Dylan Newburry and Tyler Palino, performed a creative story featuring a shrunken scientist being mistaken for a jellybean, eaten, and finding himself inside a body-themed theme park.

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


Top of the World Elementary School named 2018 California Green Ribbon School 

Top of the World Elementary School is a California Green Ribbon School and the recipient of a Green Achiever certificate from the California Department of Education, the highest achievement given to schools who have been nominated to compete on a national level for the US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition award.

More than 30 public schools and school districts selected as California Green Ribbon Schools were recognized as part of the California School Recognition Program by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson at an event hosted at Top of the World Elementary School on Monday. 

The event included an awards ceremony and presentations from Laguna Beach Unified School District staff showcasing the gardens, Waste Management recycling programs, energy efficient facilities, and more. 

“Top of the World Elementary has been providing robust and innovative education for students since its inception 50 years ago,” said LBUSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jason Viloria. “This recognition speaks to our commitment to developing environmentally and socially conscious students by providing opportunities for them to make positive impacts on the local and global community,” he continued. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Top of the World Elementary

Over the last few years, Top of the World Elementary has been working to integrate sustainability practices with campus-wide campaigns including a coin drive that raised over $2,000 for a school in Kenya to purchase three dairy cows and a greenhouse; an ocean awareness club spreading knowledge about the dangers of littering the ocean waters that led to a fundraising of thousands of dollars to help clean up local waters and a partnership with Waste Management to improve the on-campus recycling program; a campaign to divert uneaten pre-packaged food items from the trash cans into a collection bin that is donated to the LB Friendship Shelter on a daily basis; a partnership with Schneider Electric to help implement energy conservation district-wide; and finally, one of the oldest school garden programs in all of OC with three on-site gardens totaling one-half acre, which are used as outdoor classroom spaces. 

The ED-GRS recognition award honors schools, school districts, and Institutes of Higher Education for excellence in resource efficiency, health and wellness, and environmental and sustainability education. The recognition award is part of a larger US Department of Education effort to identify and communicate practices that result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness; and reinforces federal efforts to increase energy independence and economic security.


LBHS Women’s Shortboard Surf Team wins High School State Team Championships

By Coaches Alisa Cairns and Scott Finn

On Saturday, Laguna Beach High School Surf Team had a record day with the women’s shortboard team crowned team champion at the Scholastic Surf Series High School State Championships. The event was held at Oceanside South Jetty, and it was a nice day. The surf was a little tricky, but decent in the three to four foot surf range with light winds. Laguna Beach High School surfed in the team competition of the contest as all 14 High Schools were competing in the various divisions. Everyone worked really hard, with some doing double duty in two divisions.

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(L-R) Coach Alisa Cairns, Kalohe Danbara, Tess Booth, and Kelly Smith

Our women’s team, as a whole, has been so strong the last couple of years in the various events with plenty of depth and consistency. Saturday’s team of Tess Booth, Kalohe Danbara and Kelly Smith worked really well together, each doing her part to take the team all the way to the end with the major win and really solid performances along the way. 

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Tess Booth

In the first round, the team was up against Half Moon Bay and they won 13-7. Next they surfed against Carlsbad with a 12-9 win. The semi-finals were a breakthrough performance for all three, and they easily defeated Edison 15-6. The women were on a roll and went into the final against Santa Barbara beaming with confidence and took another decisive win 14-7. 

MVP would have to go to Freshman Tess Booth, who was the iron woman, winning most of her five heats of the day. She not only competed well in the shortboard, but also put in a solid performance in longboard. Tess and her teammates, Maya Takayabashi and Destiny Thompson, competed well against La Costa Canyon, but did not advance, missing out 8-13.

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(L-R) Joseph Schenk, Sam Nelson and Liam McCue

The men’s shortboard started the day first up against Coronado High School. Our guys surfed really hard and competed well with some outstanding performances and top finishes put in by the likes of Travis Booth, Sam Nelsen, Kiko Nelsen and Liam McCue. Meanwhile Joseph Schenk, Luke Hagopian, Ryan McGee, Luca Elghanaya and Lucas Jablon also gave their all. Unfortunately, the team narrowly missed out from advancement, losing by a meager one point at 32-33 points. 

In bodyboard, Travis Booth and Ryan McGee stepped up big time doing double duty, while ripping and having a good time along the way. They won their first round against Oceanside and narrowly lost to Dana Hills. Longboard also saw double duty and a solid effort put in by Sam Nelsen, who took a second place. Joseph Schenk and Luke Hagopian also surfed well, but unfortunately, were edged out by La Costa Canyon 9-12.

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