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Laguna Beach


School Notes

District seeking input from parents, staff and community on development of accountability plan

This week the Laguna Beach Unified School District began the administration of a survey to gather community feedback to inform the development of the District’s Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). Administered by Hanover Research, the survey offers an opportunity to measure district progress in areas including academic achievement, school climate and engagement of students, staff and families. The survey is online now and will be open through Friday, Feb. 4.

The LCAP, an important part of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), is a three-year plan that describes the goals, actions, services and expenditures to support positive student outcomes that address state and local priorities. In Spring 2021, Laguna Beach Unified worked collaboratively with education partners to develop the 2021-2024 LCAP focused on three key areas: college and career readiness, social-emotional competencies and safe, equitable and inclusive schools. This plan will be revisited and revised annually to ensure student needs are effectively addressed through current goals and actions.

“The LCAP survey provides key insights into the diverse needs of our LBUSD students. The survey is one of many different forums the district uses to seek input from the community. This important feedback also serves as a tool for assessing the impact of district programs, services and support offered to our students and families,” said Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Dr. Chad Mabery.

Parent, staff and community input via the survey is vital to the development of data-informed goals and the evaluation of outcomes. The survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. The annual LCAP update will be submitted to the Governing Board for approval in June 2022.


LBHS baseball program rocked as coach Jeff Sears unexpectantly dies at 55

Laguna Beach High School baseball coach Jeff Sears, 55, died Sunday morning at Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach. The cause of death was not disclosed, but reports are that Sears had been hospitalized in recent days.

LBHS baseball program Jeff Sears

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Courtesy of LBHS

LBHS Baseball Coach Jeff Sears

“It was with heavy hearts we confirm that Coach Sears has passed away,” announced LBHS Assistant Baseball Coach Jairo Ochoa on Twitter. “Laguna Beach Baseball was everything to Coach, from the relationships he formed with families to the love he shared for his players. (Sunday) is a very sad day for Laguna Beach.”

Sears was initially coach of LBHS from 2007-2011, leaving to move onto coaching Servite from 2012 until 2014. He then returned to LBHS in 2017, leading the Breakers to league titles in 2017 and 2018.

His players and other coaches reportedly gathered following the death on the field at LBHS to share stories and offer condolences.

Other OC high baseball programs immediately reached out with comments: “RIP Coach Sears. Fierce competitor and hell of a coach. God speed. Sad day for HS baseball and OC baseball.” JSerra Baseball

“This is an extremely sad day. Coach Sears will be deeply missed.” Fullerton Baseball

“One of the best coaches around.” Segerstrom Baseball

“Coach Sears is a dear friend and tremendous competitor. It’s truly a sad day for the baseball community. Our thoughts and prayers are with you! You will be missed, RIP brother.” Pacifica HS Baseball

“We are saddened to hear of the passing of former Servite Coach Jeff Sears. Sears…dedicated his life to the game of baseball & his players. Our deepest condolences go out to his family & all those he impacted throughout his career. RIP, Coach!” Servite Baseball

The Laguna Beach Breaker Baseball site announced, “Today, our Breaker Baseball family suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of our beloved coach, Jeff Sears. His legacy will live on through the many lives he touched and he will be greatly missed by the baseball community, family and friends.”

Sears previously suffered medical issues. In 2020, Sears reportedly, while in Oregon for Christmas break, was hospitalized with Pancreatitis and Gall Stones, leading to the eventual removal of his gall bladder. 

A GoFundMe account has been established to assist his mother and siblings with funeral and travel expenses. With an initial goal set at $15,000, as of yesterday, 113 donors had already contributed $14,150. 

To contribute, go here.


Laguna Beach High School Presented College Unplugged

On Wednesday, Jan. 5, the Laguna Beach High School (LBHS) College and Career Center presented College Unplugged, where recent LBHS Alumni sat as panelists for an interactive discussion with current LBHS juniors and seniors. The College and Career Center Guidance Team, made up of Lynn Gregory, College and Career Specialist and Angela Shipp, Scholarship and Financial Aid Specialist, hand-selected previous students from various colleges and backgrounds, who eloquently spoke about their collegiate journeys to the audience in a Q&A format.

 

Laguna Beach High panelists

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Courtesy of LBHSD

Panelists (L-R) Top row: Ryan Smithers, Cat Jacobs, Jordan Burton, Nathan Solomon and Luca Elghanayan Bottom row: Mia Pitz and Ryan Robinson

The diverse panel consisted of students who currently attend state schools, UCs, out-of-state and abroad universities and a community college transfer. Having a wide range of college pathways represented truly showed the students in the audience that you can thrive in a variety of different ways. The panelists in attendance included:

–Jordan Burton, 2017 LBHS graduate, Irvine Valley College, Sonoma State University

–Luca Elghanayan, 2020 LBHS graduate, UC Berkeley

–Cat Jacobs, 2018 LBHS graduate, University of Wisconsin – Madison

–Mia Pitz, 2019 LBHS graduate, University College Dublin

–Ryan Robinson, 2019 LBHS graduate, UC Irvine

–Ryan Smithers, 2019 LBHS graduate, Yale University

–Nathan Solomon, 2020 LBHS graduate, Tufts University 

Questions from the audience ranged from “How did you transition living out of state?” and “How did you choose your college?” to “What traps did you find yourself falling into as a first-year student?” and “What advice would you give yourself before starting college?”

Each panelist gave excellent advice, examples and real-life experiences of their individual journeys. Some of the best advice given was although you would be able to fit in at a handful of colleges and there likely isn’t only one college for you, that you will create your own community wherever you go and love where you end up. 

“It was an honor to come back to LBHS and share my college experience and any wisdom I have for the current juniors and seniors,” Jordan Burton, Sonoma State transfer from IVC, said. “Being a transfer student, I had a slightly different college path than my panelists, but I am a huge advocate for the community colleges/transfer process. I’m glad I was able to give some advice and show that community college is just another stepping stone in the college experience. Thank you for having me back, LBHS!” 

Lynn Gregory happily stated, “College Unplugged is one of my favorite assemblies of the year. I feel like a proud parent welcoming home their student from college. I continue to be in awe of the wisdom and sage advice our alumni have to offer our current student body. Candid discussions about making friends, managing the rigor of academics, overcoming homesickness and how to balance social life are some of my favorite topics. Life is about navigating the twists and turns along the journey; our alumni have succeeded. Our goal of the event is to show our students that each student’s path looks different, and that is where their self-discovery begins and their education continues.” 

Angela Shipp shared, “It is always a treat to welcome back our LBHS Alumni panel for College Unplugged. Each panel member brings their own unique experience, wisdom and insight about their college experience. And, College Unplugged provides the opportunity and space for candid discussion between our alumni and current students who are preparing to embark on their own college experience. This year’s panel was diverse, genuine and humble, and I believe that everyone in attendance walked away with something valuable.”


LBUSD recognizes top teacher and classified employee

Laguna Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) held their annual nominations for Teacher of the Year and Classified Employee of the Year. Megan Bhaskaran, a Social Studies teacher at Thurston Middle School, was selected as Teacher of the Year, while Kelli Merda, District Office Human Resources Assistant, was chosen as the overall Classified Employee of the Year.

Tuesday morning, both Bhaskaran and Merda were surprised in the workplace by staff with balloons and a personalized banner to congratulate them on their accomplishments. Each winner will also be recognized at an upcoming school board meeting.

LBUSD recognizes Bhaskaran

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Photos courtesy of LBUSD

Megan Bhaskaran (center) is honored as LBUSD Teacher of the Year

Thurston’s Principal, Joe Vidal, was thrilled for Bhaskaran, “Thurston is proud to recognize one of our very best. Since joining the Thurston family, Megan has shown to be an open, collaborative, and reflective staff member who naturally contributes to our community’s positive culture and climate. Whether it’s serving on a dozen different committees, hosting Model UN weekend events, managing online schools, or delivering daily dynamic lessons, she does so with eloquence, a sense of humor and passion. Above all, her genuine love for supporting all kids is evident in all that she does. Congratulations! We appreciate all that you do.”

Mike Conlon, assistant superintendent of Human Resources, was ecstatic for Merda, “Kelli plays an integral role in the coordination of day-to-day support for students by working with sites to ensure vacancies are filled. She thinks creatively to complete this daily staffing puzzle all while being the face of the District Office greeting staff and community members with a warm smile. Kelli epitomizes our commitment to every student, every day by working diligently and caring so deeply about the successful running of District operations. I know I speak for all LBUSD employees by saying I am honored to have her as part of the Laguna family and cannot thank her enough for her dedication to her work. Well deserved, Kelli!”

LBUSD recognizes Merda 12.10

Classified Employee of the Year Kelli Merda is surrounded by contemporaries after her announcement

LBUSD also recognized Classified Employees of the Year in specific categories, including Doug Bowman for custodial, maintenance, nutrition, and security services; Elizabeth Phillips for health and student services; and Margaret Warder for paraprofessional and instructional assistant.

The winners were selected through a district-wide nomination and voting process that was open to all certificated and classified school employees.


Laguna Beach Football Club to hold recycling drive, tryouts on December 4

Laguna Beach Football Club (LBFC) is having an electronics recycling drive and tryouts on Saturday, Dec. 4.

The electronics recycling drive, sponsored by Procurri and Ingram Micro, is taking place from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., so bring your unwanted or obsolete electronic devices to the LBUSD parking lot located at 550 Blumont Ave., Laguna Beach.

–Acceptable devices: desktop and laptop computers & peripherals (cables & cords), tablets, smartphones, telephones, LCD monitors, printers, scanners, projectors, hard drives, stereo equipment, shredders and radios.

–Unacceptable devices: TVs, refrigerators, stoves, ovens, microwaves, air conditioners, vacuums, toasters and other household appliances and devices with leaking or swollen batteries.

Proceeds generated from this drive will support the LBFC.

Laguna Beach Football Club Hooper

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Photos courtesy of LBFC

Jack Hooper makes a run in an LBFC B2008 home game at Guyer Field

In the afternoon from 1-2 p.m., head over to LBHS Guyer Field for tryouts for new boys and girls players born between 2010 and 2015. LBFC has teams currently competing with youth born from 2003-2012. For more information on tryouts or to join an existing group, contact Andy Thomas at 949.293.5701. 

Parents are invited to come and meet the coaches for the LBFC 2022 season. LBFC tryouts are free and sign-in will take place onsite. Continuing teams will have tryouts for 2022 in late winter/spring. 

LBFC, a community-based soccer program, offers training and competitive team play for the youth of Laguna Beach and surrounding areas. Having just launched in January 2020, they are happy with the reception from the Laguna Beach community and excited to grow. They currently have more than 150 players participating on 11 teams who have entered the competitive SOCAL league where LBFC B2003 is in third place, G2009 and B2009 in second place, and the G2005 in first place aiming to win the first league championship for LBFC.

Laguna Beach Football team

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LBFC B2003 with Coach Andy Thomas and Assistant Coach John Gunderson play in SOCAL’s Fall flight 1 division

A bit about the coaching staff:

LBFC Director of Coaching Andy Thomas is back coaching boys soccer at LBHS. He won three Southern Section CIF Championships between 1997-2004 and was named L.A. Times High School Coach of the Year. Thomas maintains the highest standard for LBFC with all coaches holding licenses from Europe and the United States Soccer Federation. Each has a degree in physical education or sports science and professional playing experience.

Mike Thomas, both the club president and coach of the younger girls program, has also been the LBHS girls varsity coach and is now the boy’s assistant varsity coach. He brings more than 30 years of teaching and coaching experience to LBFC and his goal has always been player development in order for the high school program to experience success.

Max Woodruff joined the coaching staff this season having coached the boy’s LBHS junior varsity team last season. He played in both the Manchester United and Manchester City academy systems, and brings immense playing and coaching experience to the youth soccer players in Laguna Beach.

For more information on LBFC, visit www.lagunabeachfc.org.


Laguna Beach AYSO celebrates volunteerism, seeks new volunteers for key positions

Laguna Beach AYSO (AYSO86) held a volunteer appreciation night on November 16 at Ruby’s to wrap up another successful season. More than 100 volunteers and their families attended for a fun evening of burgers, shakes and raffle prizes. AYSO is a completely volunteer-run organization, therefore it is important to celebrate all of the coaches, referees, board members and team parents who work so hard to put on a soccer season for local kids. The kids in our community depend on this soccer program to stay active, make friends and build life skills for now and in the future.

Laguna Beach AYSO foursome

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Photos courtesy of AYSO86

Sharing an evening at Ruby’s with burgers, fries and shakes

AYSO86 is looking to fill some key positions to keep AYSO soccer thrive and grow in Laguna Beach.

Consider putting your skill sets to work in one of the following positions:

Regional Commissioner – A leader for their program. This is someone with a vison of where they believe AYSO to go. Without someone in this role, there will be no future programs (no Spring, no EXTRA, no Fall).

Scheduler – Do you love spreadsheets? Come help design and manage weekly practice schedules where coaches sign up and games are coordinated.

Division Coordinators –These positions are a must for every division (U5, U10, U19, etc.) each season.

Program Managers – These are the people in charge of programs such as Spring Select, EXTRA, All Stars and VIP.

Volunteer On Boarding – It is a privilege to be an AYSO volunteer. Help their amazing volunteers navigate the system.

Communications/Marketing – Are you a marketing guru? If so, bring your expertise to help AYSO86 continue to improve with consistency and class.

Laguna Beach AYSO trio

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This family enjoyed volunteer appreciation night together

If AYSO86 doesn’t find these volunteers, there will be no future seasons. If you are interested in helping to make a difference, contact Rachel Holder at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The more each person contributes, the more beneficial it will be for youngsters and the program to grow.

Laguna Beach AYSO 5 girls

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Plenty of smiles to go around in celebration of the volunteers

Laguna Beach AYSO raffle

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Youngsters gather for the raffle

Laguna Beach AYSO Food truck

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Ruby’s food truck serving patrons their menu favorites


There are high hopes for the Breakers’ girls basketball team’s 2021-2022 season

With the Girls Basketball season underway at Laguna Beach High School (LBHS) there’s strong reason for optimism. The Breakers are led by Junior forward Sophie Marriner and Senior Guard Anna Cheng.

Marriner was 1st Team All-CIF, 1st Team All-League and Team MVP last season, while Cheng was the team’s Offensive Player of the Year and considered one of the best all-around players in school history, ranking in the top 10 in career points, assists, steals and blocked shots.

Expecting to join them are freshman Kate Cheng, who’s expected to make an immediate impact; junior sharp-shooter Kenna Rudolph, whose 108 three-point-shots already rank her #3 in school history; the point guard tandem of junior Sabrina Yang and sophomore Alex Grombchevsky, who will split time at the position; sophomore center Elaina Seybold, who is expected to provide starter quality play coming off the bench; and last year’s defensive player of the year Brisa Campos. 

Other newcomers joining Kate Cheng include sophomore Izzy Gray, who can play both inside and outside; freshman guard Alicia Mendoza, who according to Coach Matthew Tietz provides “off the charts athleticism”; and senior guard Nikki Palaigos.

The Breakers have an 11-player varsity squad and more than 25 players overall in the program, making it the largest in terms of numbers in decades.

The team has played three games this season and currently stands at 2-1.

There are high hopes Varsity

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Courtesy of LBHS Breakers Athletics

Laguna Beach High School’s Girls Varsity Basketball team

Their first game of the season was against Division favorite Capistrano Valley Christian (CVC). LBHS struggled on the evening with rhythm, according to Coach Tietz, while CVC shot lights out making 18 three-pointers on the evening.

Leading the way for Breakers was freshman Kate Cheng scoring 13 points, while grabbing 7 rebounds, while Marriner had 6 points and 8 rebounds. 

Laguna Beach lost 38-87.

LBHS again struggled in their second game, this time against Santa Ana but managed to pull out a 42-34 victory. Again, Kate Cheng was the leading scorer with 16 points and 13 rebounds, Marriner had 9 points, 15 rebounds, while Seybold grabbed 14 rebounds and Yang dished out 6 assists.

The team finally found their groove in the third game against Bellflower with a 68-26 win. The 68 points is the most scored by a LBHS girls basketball team in more than 12 years. 

The keys to the game were an aggressive defense which resulted in 23 steals and an unselfish offense that saw seven different players record at least one assist of a team total of 21. 

Kate Cheng led the way with 20 points and 12 rebounds, going a perfect 9 for 9 from the field. Marriner also had a great all-around game with 15 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. Rudolph hit 5 three-pointers for her 15 points and added 4 steals. 

Seybold chipped in 12 points, with Grombchevsky and Yang running the show from the point, dishing out 6 and 4 assists respectively. 

The team has Thanksgiving week off but comes back the following week with games at Costa Mesa (Monday, Nov. 29), at St. Margaret’s (Tuesday, Nov. 30), at home vs. Bolsa Grande (Wednesday, Dec. 1) and Dana Hills (Thursday, Dec. 2).


Breakers bow out of playoffs with 38-7 loss to Claremont

The Laguna Beach Breakers’ football season came to an abrupt halt Friday night when they lost to Claremont, 38-7. The Breakers, playing in the quarter finals of the CIF-SS Division 9 playoffs, finished their season with a record of 10-2.

Breakers bow out of playoffs

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Courtesy of LBHS Athletics

Breakers huddle during Friday night’s CIF-SS Division 9 payoffs against Claremont

Claremont started off the evening quickly, getting on the scoreboard first with a 40-yard interception return early in the first quarter and never looked back. They added two more first half touchdowns, along with a 20-yard field goal, to take a 24-0 lead into halftime.

Laguna Beach scored their only touchdown at the 3:57 mark of the third quarter when senior quarterback Will Bingham hooked up with Luke Degner on an 11-yard TD pass.

Prior to Friday, the Breakers had run off nine wins in a row behind the arm of Bingham. Bingham, on the season, was one of the most prolific QBs in Southern California, completing 222 of 336 passes for 3,257 yards and 44 touchdowns.

Claremont will now move on to the semi-finals and will meet St. Margaret’s.


The Port High School Student Union is open and ready for local teens

The Port High School Student Union is officially open at Lang Park. The Port is a place where teens can hang out after school and offers a variety of activities to participate in, as well as tutoring and mentoring services. The Port is a melting pot of community groups and involvement, and was conceptualized and developed by Laguna Beach local teens and Boys & Girls Club staff.

The Port High School Student Union’s Leadership Councilmember, Finn Flanagan, knows firsthand the work that went into organizing this into a reality. “I think having a space specifically tailored to teens is fabulous because while we are young adults doing our own thing, we still need support and a space of our own. The devotion of resources to this center really shows that Laguna Beach values young people,” Flanagan said.

The Port High School 2 teens painting

Courtesy of The Port

Several local teens enjoy the painting area offered at The Port

The Leadership Council consisted of 10 Laguna Beach high school students who united with the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach for over a year to create a space solely dedicated for high school students. 

Those associated with the program say that it’s rewarding to witness how the creative minds and dedication of these individuals unfolded a beautiful beginning; moreover, to have the City of Laguna Beach provide a unique space for The Port, in order to make this possible; as well as the collaborative efforts of Laguna Beach Unified School District and School Power in the making of this program. 

At the ribbon cutting ceremony in September, BGC-Laguna’s CEO Pamela Estes and BGC-Laguna’s Impact Director Faye Cartmale expressed a few words of gratitude for having the opportunity to take part in the design and delivery of such a program that aims to benefit the futures of local high school students.

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, State Senator David Min and LBHS Principal Dr. Jason Allemann also attended the ceremony, with guests enjoying music, food and drinks after the ceremony. 

The Port High School Student Union will be a place solely dedicated to high school students, created by high school students themselves. The opportunities offered will range from community service projects, a leadership council committee, college prep and homework help, physical and emotional wellness workshops, and special social events like karaoke, movie nights, dances and more. 

For more information about The Port High School Student Union, visit www.theportlb.com or call 949.549.4016.


Breakers storm through opening round of playoffs with 42-21 win over Chino

Breakers storm QB dropping back to pass

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Photos by Scott Brashier

Senior QB Will Bingham drops back to pass on a six-touchdown night

The Breakers won their first-round CIF-SS Football Division 9 playoff game against Chino, 42-21. The victory raises Laguna Beach’s record to 10-1.

Senior Will Bingham had a huge night for the Breakers, completing 14 of 28 passes for 319 yards and six touchdowns.

The first time he hooked up with Luke Degner on a 28-yard TD at the 8:38 mark of the first quarter it put Laguna Beach up with a lead they’d never lose. Early in the 2nd quarter, Bingham and Degner would again combine, this time for 73 yards and a touchdown.

Sophomore Jacob Diver also joined the touchdown parade connecting with Bingham for scores of 60 and 12 yards, while David Dworakowski also caught one from five yards out.

Later in the evening, Degner and Bingham would do it one final time connecting for 26 yards. 

Laguna Beach will travel Friday to take on Claremont in a quarter-final matchup. Claremont beat Arroyo in their game last week, 12-0.

Breakers storm player running thru opposition

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Photo by Scott Brashier

6’4” sophomore Ryner Swanson bulls his way through Chino defenders

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