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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 www.bgclagunabeach.org.

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

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

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

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Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Lynette Brasfield, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

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