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LBUSD places on College Board’s 10th Annual AP® District Honor Roll

Laguna Beach Unified School District is one of 250 school districts in the U.S. and Canada being honored by the College Board with placement on the 10th Annual AP® District Honor Roll. To be included on the 10th Annual Honor Roll, LBUSD had to increase the number of students participating in AP since 2017 while also increasing or maintaining the percentage of students earning AP Exam scores of 3 or higher.

Helping more students learn at a higher level and earn higher AP scores is an objective of all members of the AP community, from AP teachers to district and school administrators to college professors. 

LBUSD places outside

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

LBUSD honored with placement on 10th Annual AP® District Honor Roll

“For years, our focus on relationships has included concerted efforts to work collaboratively district-wide to ensure that our instructional practices, K-12, are aligned so that students receive the instructional foundation they need to succeed in high school and beyond,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jason Viloria. “I am proud to see an increase in student participation as a result of the ongoing efforts of staff to identify and support students who have not traditionally accessed AP courses,” he concluded. 

In 2019, more than 4,000 colleges and universities around the world received AP scores for college credit, advanced placement, or both, and/or consideration in the admissions process. Inclusion in the 10th Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on a review of three years of AP data, from 2017 to 2019, looking across 38 AP exams, including world language and culture. The following criteria were used: 

Districts must: 

--Increase participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts, and at least 11 percent in small districts;

--Increase or maintain the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students taking exams; increase or maintain the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students scoring 3+ on at least one AP Exam;

--Improve or maintain performance levels when comparing the 2018 percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher to the 2016 percentage, unless the district has already attained a performance level at which more than 70 precent of its AP students earn a 3 or higher.

The complete 10th Annual AP District Honor Roll can be found here.

LBUSD announces Employees of the Year, moves forward with board policy and bylaw changes

LBUSD has announced 2019-2020 Laguna Beach Unified School District Employees of the Year. 

Teacher of the Year goes to Tamara Wong, a third-grade Elementary teacher at El Morro. The Classified Employee of the Year is Durinda Klein from LBHS. Category Winners include: Liz Drudy, Child Nutrition; Gary Ferman, Maintenance & Operations; Megan Weinhart, Support Services & Security; and Robin Lux, Paraeducator & Instructional Assistance. 

LBUSD announces group

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Tamara Wong (middle) is the 2019-2020 LBUSD Teacher of the Year 

On November 25, the Board of Education held a special Board Policy Workshop to review and discuss board policies and bylaws that were brought forward to the Board for a first reading at the December 17, meeting with recommendations to move forward for addition, deletion, or revision.

At the December 17 meeting, the board took action to move forward with a second reading on the following policies (BP) and bylaws (BB): BP 1312.1 – 

Complaints Concerning Employees, BP 3516 – Emergencies and Disaster Preparedness, BP 354 0 – Transportation, BP 5131.2 – Bullying, BP 5142 – Safety, BP 6142.1 – Comprehensive Health Instruction, BP 6142.2 – World Language Instruction, BP 6163.1 – Library Media Centers, BP 6174 – Education for English Learners, BP 6179 – Supplemental Instruction, BB 9270 – Conflict of Interest, BB 9320 – Meetings and Notices, BB 9321 – Closed Session, BB 9321.1 – Closed Session Action and Reports, and BB 9322 – Agenda/Meeting Materials.

For more information on all action items, visit The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan 16 at 6 p.m.

LBUSD records School Board Meetings and makes them available to the public within 24 hours. Visit to watch.

LBUSD Board ushers in new era, Peggy Wolff named president

The LBUSD Board of Education has ushered in a new era, with longtime board president Jan Vickers passing the baton to board member Peggy Wolff, after she was nominated and voted in by her board peers as president of the board at Tuesday’s meeting.

Vickers, who just finished 19 consecutive years on the board beginning in 2000, with another 10-and-a-half years served in the 80s and 90s, believes Wolff is the right one for the job.

LBUSD Board ushers in Wolff

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Peggy Wolff is the new LBUSD Board of Education President

“In addition to being a former elementary teacher and having children in our schools, she was a student at Aliso Elementary and Thurston Junior High, so [she has] a long history with our school district. Peggy has already been a leader and volunteer in many capacities and she will facilitate efficient meetings with the focus on what is best for students. She will consistently support that each board member has a voice and a vote. I look forward to the next year,” Vickers stated.

Wolff says she is inspired and looking forward to the challenges ahead.

“I am honored to have been elected school board president. And I am so proud of our students, teachers, and staff. They inspire me. As a longtime volunteer in our schools and as a former teacher, I feel we have an amazing school district, and I look forward to the work ahead,” stated Wolff.

LBHS seniors may apply for Edison Scholars Program, $1.2 million in scholarships to be awarded

There’s still time for local high school seniors whose dreams are to power the future and make a difference through the study of science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) to apply for Edison International’s $1.2 million 2020 Edison Scholars Program. The scholarship application deadline is December 16. 

Each year, Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, awards $40,000 scholarships, paid over four years, to 30 high school students who plan to major in designated STEM fields at a four-year accredited U.S. college or university. 

Applicants must live in SCE’s service area and plan to be a full-time undergraduate student majoring in a STEM field. Eligible students also must be a high school senior, have at least a cumulative 3.0 GPA, and demonstrate financial need. Students from underserved communities and ethnic minorities are encouraged to apply. Dependents of Edison International and SCE employees and retirees are not eligible for the Edison Scholars Program.

Scholarship recipients will be announced next spring. They may also be eligible for summer internships at SCE after completing their second year of college.

Since 2006, Edison International has awarded an estimated $9.9 million in scholarships to 640 students through the Edison Scholars Program.

Edison International’s support of charitable causes, including the Edison Scholars Program, is funded entirely by Edison International shareholders. SCE customers’ utility bill payments do not fund company donations.

Edison International (NYSE:EIX), through its subsidiaries, is a generator and distributor of electric power, as well as a provider of energy services and technologies, including renewable energy. Headquartered in Rosemead, Calif., Edison International is the parent company of Southern California Edison, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities.

To apply and obtain additional eligibility information, visit

TOW raises thousands of dollars in a single day for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Top of the World students raised $2,428 and counting for the Make-A-Wish Foundation this past Giving Tuesday. The TOW PTA will add a $1,000 donation, bringing the total to a staggering $3,428-plus as of late Thursday. 

“Each student gave a little and it added up to a lot. Also, hundreds of heartfelt star wishes were created for the Make-A-Wish kids going through treatment,” said Lisa Roberson-Beery, TOW PTA Community Service Chair. “I am so proud of the students. Their love and empathy toward other children is incredible. Great job, TOW!”

TOW raises layla

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TOW students Layla Roberson-Beery and Zia Bell tallying up the final change donations for Make-A-Wish Foundation

This is the third year TOW is celebrating Giving Tuesday with a fundraiser involving the elementary school students.

Giving Tuesday was founded in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation with the goal of celebrating generosity – and TOW’s project brought that sentiment home to students, who clearly enjoyed the warm feeling that comes with being kind.

TOW raises stars

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Students created “star wishes” for Make-A-Wish kids

“We are so grateful for the support of the students, parents, and faculty at Top of the World Elementary in helping to raise funds to grant wishes for children battling critical illnesses,” said Kara Bautch, Director of Brand Advancement at Make-A-Wish. 

“Every dollar raised helps our organization work towards our vision of granting the wish of every medically-eligible child living in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.”

Lisa Roberson-Beery emphasizes that this was a project that brought the TOW community together in the best of ways. 

Our teachers, children, and families all came together on Giving Tuesday,” she notes. “The students emptied their piggy banks and hit up grandparents. They learned that each person giving a little can add up to a lot. Children, when given the opportunity, can do meaningful acts of kindness that make a difference!”

LBHS cross country teams finish impressive seasons at the California State Championship

Congratulations to the Laguna Beach High School boys and girls cross country teams on a tremendous finish to their seasons at the California State Championship Meet. Coach Scott Wittkop says, “Racing against 25 of the state’s very best division four programs this past Saturday in Fresno at the State Cross Country Championship, the girls team finished in an impressive fifth place while the boys team earned sixth place honors.” 

Led by an All-State eighth place finish overall, junior Jessie Rose paced the Breakers with a time of 18:12 over the 3.1-mile course. Rose’s time sets a school record for the fastest LBHS girls time on the state course at Woodward Park. 

LBHS cross teams

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Front row: (L-R) Coco Reed, Sierra Read, Morgan Falkowksi, Jessie Rose, Sydney Schaefgen, Tess Brobeck, Nina Rogers, Isabela Reichel, Melanie Falkowski, Hannah Williams, and Kaitlin Ryan; Back Row: (L-R) Luke Anderton, Will Goodwin, Alex Boyd, Meal Metis, Gabe Neff, Tanner Burton, Logan Brooks, Mateo Bianchi, Chris Drews, and Owen van Es

All-CIF runners Morgan Falkowski (23rd, 18:44) and Nina Rogers (36th, 18:57) followed, placing the Breakers in an excellent team scoring position. 

“Racing on heart and experience, seniors Kaitlin Ryan (100th, 20:16) and Sierra Read (101st, 20:19) made a late charge in the final mile of the race to secure the fifth place Breakers finish,” reports Coach Wittkop. 

LBHS cross trio

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(L-R) Logan Brooks, Jessie Rose, and Mateo Bianchi, who received All- State honors

Coach Wittkop says, “The boys were outstanding up front once again this week, with two All-State performances from senior Logan Brooks (3rd, 15:24.7) and junior Mateo Bianchi (10th, 15:36). Brooks’ race also set a school record for the fastest time ever at Woodward Park, eclipsing Matt Neev’s 2010 record by less than a second. Bianchi, fresh off a breakthrough second place CIF performance the previous week, smashed the LBHS junior boys course record.”

The Breakers’ scorers were rounded out by Tanner Burton (90th, 16:51), Mael Metis (100th, 16:56), and Chris Drews (101st, 16:57). 

“The program has never had three All-State recipients in a season before. Rose, Brooks, and Bianchi have firmly secured themselves into LBHS cross country record books and lore with their outstanding effort,” says Coach Wittkop.

Colonial Days at El Morro Elementary remain a long-cherished tradition of the season


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

It takes a village to make a village – the “Colonial Village” – to be exact. A multitude of parent volunteers orchestrate the celebration of Colonial Days at El Morro Elementary on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving. This event honors the history of the Colonists and Native Americans and is 100 percent volunteer driven.

Colonial Days are a cherished tradition at El Morro. Twenty-nine or so years ago, a group of El Morro mothers went to Washington D.C., attended some educational programs, came back and said, “We need to bring this to the school.” Fortunately, they had experience in the theater and went about staging the celebration. 

All of El Morro’s 462 students, grades K through fifth, visit the village for a one-hour session on November 25 and 26. The kindergarteners begin the two-day observance, and the fifth graders are the last to visit on Tuesday. 

Colonial Days trio with dolls

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(L-R) Rachel Vanberg, Thomas Jensen, and Lupita Javier with their corn husk dolls

It truly is like entering a different world of long ago.

The village provides many activities, and each child does all of them: Candle Dipping, Corn Husk Doll Making, Gratitude Letters with Colonial Seals, Making Bead Necklaces, Dream Catchers, and Sewing & Cross Stitching. The multi-purpose room stage is set up with teepees for student interaction.

This year “the village” included a long table set with Thanksgiving decorations. At the food station, one mother made homemade tortillas, beans and fixings, and there were homemade baked goods donated by parents. The PTA funded the popcorn, cider, and beef jerky. Throughout the fifth grade session, groups of students periodically sat at the table to feast and then moved to the stations to participate in the activities.

Colonial Days table

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Harvest table 

Volunteer Sofia Sawitz said, “This celebration honors both the skills of the Pilgrims and Native Americans and their gratefulness for the harvest. Her daughter Iliana especially “loves the food and the dolls.”

How they put all this together is a highly organized and labor-intensive endeavor. The prep starts the first week in November with two crafting days (four hours each) in which parents get together and cut string for the dream catchers and fabric for the dolls (among other things).

President of the PTA Liz Black tells me, “Long before November, we unload the shed and inventory everything we have from the last year. For example, for the beading, each child needs 15 beads, so we order accordingly.”

“This year, construction volunteers donated time to cover the floor with paper and tape.”

Colonial Days weaving

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Volunteer Andrea Heins (on left) with student and PTA President Liz Black

The activities extend outside as well. At lunchtime students may participate in archery, hopscotch, leather tooling on bookmarks, face painting, and calligraphy in which they write letters of gratitude.

Physical Education teacher Everett Blanton even has colonial time activities for the students to participate in during PE – such as ring toss, carrying a wooden egg with spoon across the field, and rolling hoops.

Before attending Colonial Days

Educating the children about this time period begins even before they get to the village. In the days leading up to the celebration, the teachers provide PowerPoint presentations to the older students and read to the younger ones, so that they all are familiar with the history and the activities in which they will participate.

Colonial Days beef jerky

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Time to feast 

Liz’s daughter, fourth grader Ella, said, “My favorite activity is the dream catcher (god’s eyes). They were creative. And the pink and blue candles.”

Liz said, “One of my favorite activities is to see the kids go back in time to participate in these colonial days.”

Cherlin Kirby is serving her first year as chair of Colonial Days. She breaks down the number of volunteers that are needed to make these two days happen and again emphasizes that the endeavor is 100 percent parent driven. “There are seven stations [in the multi-purpose room], each takes four volunteers for each one hour session, which is approximately 90 volunteer slots each day and 16 during lunch outside.” 

Colonial Days tortillas

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More feasting on homemade tortillas and fixings

Michelle Foley, who volunteers every year along with her husband and has three children at the school, wears a beautiful Native American headdress that reaches the ground.

Cherlin elaborates on the activities, “Leading up to the Colonial Days, the students make pot holders and dip feathers in gold which are hung on classroom doors. Since feathers represent bravery, this leads to discussions about what they do to be brave.”

The students also roll sheets of beeswax into candles in the classrooms ahead of time.

“This celebration is unique to El Morro,” Cherlin adds.

Colonial Days corn husk dolls

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Volunteer Sofia Sawitz with students 

For Patty Tacklind, who has been volunteering for 13 years and co-chaired Colonial Days for approximately nine years, this will be her last year. “The people at the school hold this event close to their hearts,” she says. And it is constantly evolving. “Each year is different, another group adds things and takes them away.” 

Her daughter Lila is a fifth grader. “This will be her last time coming through.” 

This is a bittersweet time for the fifth graders. As they come in for their final Colonial Days, Satya Mansukhani with her friends Jordan and Ava stop at the table to making their dolls. Satya says, “I’m sad this is my last year.”

Once this class leaves the room, the volunteers begin tearing down the stations and packing them away for next year when the village will once again reappear for this wonderful celebration.

LBUSD seeks community input on development of three-year, district-level plan

On Monday, Nov 25, the Laguna Beach Unified School District began administration of a survey to gather community feedback to inform the development of the District’s three-year Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). 

Administered by Hanover Research, the survey asks students, staff, families, and community members to provide feedback regarding the programs and services offered to the district to serve all students. The survey is online now and will be open through Friday, Dec 13. 

LBUSD seeks school

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

New LBUSD survey asks for community participation in survey 

The LCAP is an important part of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), established in 2014. It describes how school districts intend to meet annual goals for all students, with specific activities to address state and local priorities. 

“The LCAP survey provides key insight into the goals and priorities of our school community. The survey outcomes also help measure progress on academic achievement, school climate, and engagement of students, staff, and families,” said Director of Assessment and Accountability Dr. Chad Mabery. 

The survey is one of many different forums the District is using to seek input from the community to offer multiple ways, including the most recent conversation using Thoughtexchange, for the public to take in active role in helping to develop the next LCAP. 

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 20 minutes to complete. The 2020-2023 LCAP will be presented to the Board for approval in June 2020.

To take the survey, click here.

LBHS surf takes big win over Santa Margarita at Scholastic Surf Series Event #2

Laguna Beach High School surf had a big win on Sunday at the Scholastic Surf Series Event at San Clemente Pier. The team ended up with top overall wins and finalists were Devyn Linder, Christian Schenk, and Tyson Lockhart.

Coaches Alisa Cairns and Scott Finn report, “We started out the day with team competition and Laguna Beach High School was up against Santa Margarita High School. Everyone surfed really well as a team, and we took the overall win by a large margin 60-24. Some of the team surfed in multiple divisions with a lot of success, and most of the team advanced to the individual competition.” 

LBHS surf team

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(L-R) Back Row: Coach Alisa Cairns, Devyn Linder, Mia Moore, Tyson Lockhart, and Dane Cameron; Front Row: Cooper Laws and Christian Schenk

The weather was nice and sunny with light winds all day and the surf was decent to start the day. As the day went on, with the tide bottoming out with a negative tide, it got really challenging. According to the coaches, “Despite the conditions, our surfers did outstanding. When the day came to a close, we had a number of finalists and top finishers.” 

LBHS surf Dev and Mia

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Devyn Linder and Mia Moore

In both the Women’s Shortboard and Longboard Devyn Linder, surfing in her first Scholastic Surf Series event after being sick for a good portion of the fall season, came away with the win in Women’s Shortboard and Longboard. 

Mia Moore traded off with some impressive surfing of her own, particularly in the early rounds to take third in Shortboard and Longboard. 

LBHS surf Christian

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Christian Schenk

In the men’s divisions, Christian Schenk surfed strong all day and ended up with an impressive first in Shortboard and also did double duty in Longboard, taking third. Coach Finn said, “Cooper Laws was very stylish all day in the Longboard, getting some excellent scores including a high 8.5 and finished the day runner up.”

Meanwhile Tyson Lockhart had a great day, with several top scoring heats and did double duty as well winning the Bodyboard and taking third in Shortboard. Dane Cameron had a solid day in Shortboard, making a number of heats and finished in a count back to take fifth. 

LBHS surf trio

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(L-R) Christian Schenk, Tate Warner, and Cooper Laws

Tate Warner did double duty, getting the job done in both Shortboard and Longboard. Lucas Jablon put in some nice rides in Shortboard as well as Gavin Pike to all help the team in the win.

The next Scholastic Surf Series event will be January 12 in Huntington Beach.

The coaches give a special shout out to LBHS Surfer Jade Howson for Winning the Women’s Gold Medal in SUP Sprints at the ISA World Championships yesterday in El Salvador competing for Team USA!

LBHS boys and girls cross country most successful combined teams in CIF

Congratulations to the Laguna Beach High School boys and girls cross country teams on yet another outstanding performance Saturday at the CIF Finals. In a highly charged field of 24 of the best southern section teams, the girls finished in second and the boys earned third place overall. These two collective team finishes make LBHS the most successful combined cross country program in the CIF.

In a field of 170 runners, the Lady Breakers were led by three outstanding All-CIF performances from Morgan Falkowski (5th), Jessie Rose (8th), and Nina Rogers (10th). 

Coach Scott Wittkop says, “The three front-runners blazed outstanding times of 18:07, 18:11, and 18:21 across the three mile Riverside course. Determined and mature performances by senior Kaitlin Ryan (19:40, 56th) and junior Sydney Schaefgen (19:58, 71st) locked down the CIF runner-up trophy for the girls.” 

LBHS girls team

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Photo by Tommy Newton-Neal

(L-R) Hannah Williams, Tess Brobeck, Sydney Schaefgen, Kaitlin Ryan, Morgan Falkowski, Coco Reed, Isabela Reichel, Melanie Falkowksi, Jessie Rose, Sierra Read, and Nina Rogers

The boys were led by a breakthrough performance from junior Mateo Bianchi. Coach Wittkop says, “Bianchi distanced himself in the final mile from a pack of eight other runners to earn a second place individual CIF finish (15:03). Also earning All-CIF honors for the Breakers was senior stalwart Logan Brooks (15th, 15:40).”

The Breakers’ scoring push was rounded out by Tanner Burton (16:16, 37th), Chris Drews (16:17, 39th), and Gabe Neff (16:40, 70th). 

Both programs have qualified for yet another trip to the storied CIF State Championship race in Fresno this Thanksgiving weekend. With their sights set on defeating California’s best, both programs continue to push forward the historical legacy of greatness of the LBHS cross country program. 

“Whether it’s the consistency of outstanding performances or maintaining a healthy team culture for teenage boys and girls, LBHS cross country remains in a great place,” says Coach Wittkop.

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