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Laguna Beach Unified School District names 2018-19 employees of the year

LBUSD has named the 2018-2019 employees of the year. Steve Sogo, a science teacher at Laguna Beach High School, was selected as the Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Teacher of the Year. Additionally, Nikki Romano, library media specialist at Top of the World Elementary (TOW), was selected as the Classified Employee of the Year for the district. Together, they will be recognized at the school board meeting on May 28 at 6 p.m.

Sogo will be recognized at the Orange County Department of Education Teacher of the Year (TOTY) banquet in November at the Disneyland Hotel, which celebrates outstanding teachers in Orange County. 

Laguna Beach Unified tie

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(L-R) Dr. Jason Viloria, Marianne Bynum, Steve Sogo, and Sara Hopper

“Steve has led the Science department for a number of years and is amazingly knowledgeable in the content area,” said Laguna Beach High School Principal Dr. Jason Allemann. He continued, “Steve creates an environment where students are able to apply sound lab practices to their learning experiences that deal with current and real-life issues and challenges.”

Presented by California Casualty, the California Department of Education, and the Classified School Employees Association, the Classified School Employees of the Year Program highlights the contributions of classified school employees who support more than six million public school students from preschool through grade twelve in California. 

Laguna Beach Unified library

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Nikki Romano, library media specialist at TOW was selected as the Classified Employee of the Year 

“Nikki is a ray of light on TOW’s campus,” said Top of the World Elementary School Principal Michael Conlon. “She has built such warm working relationships with staff, parents, and students. Nikki goes above and beyond to help out around campus and I am so thankful to have her as part of the TOW family.”

The school district will also recognize Classified Employee of the Year winners in specific categories including Linda Butler-Stoll, child nutrition; Kelli Merda, office and technical support; and Heidi Winegard, support services and security. 

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

VFW Intermediate Little League team earns slot at Tournament of Champions this Saturday

VFW Intermediate May 1

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May 1 – VFW team clinches regular season Intermediate Laguna Beach Little League (LBLL) Championship, led by Hunter Harrington with 4 HRs on the season and Ty Hamil with 45 Ks on the mound.

VFW Intermediate May 23

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May 23 – VFW wins postseason LBLL Tournament Championship and earns the one available slot to the Tournament of Champions, which starts Saturday, June 1 in Lake Forest at 10 a.m. at Hero’s Park. Players on the team include Samuel Beiles, Hayden Benson, Otis Boultinghouse, Ty Hamil, Hunter Harrington, Dane Jenal, Presley Jones, Clark Kimball, Christian Lafferty, Sawyer Thomson, Merrick Vellmure, and Stone Wisely. The team is coached by Stuart Jones.

Tonight’s School Board meeting includes recognitions and weighted item credits at LBHS

The agenda for tonight’s (Tuesday, May 28) regular LBUSD Board of Education meeting has been posted online here. Open session will begin at 6 p.m. at the District office, at 550 Blumont St, with closed session occurring beforehand at 5 p.m.

The agenda includes several recognitions, including elementary spelling bee winners, Destination Imagination participants, LBUSD Employees of the Year, retirees, and SchoolPower teacher grants.  The Board will also receive a staff information item on weighted academic credits at Laguna Beach High School. 

Tonights School El Moro

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Tonight’s meeting includes recognition of elementary spelling bee winners

Please note that live streaming of school board meetings is on hiatus as of May 14. Closed captioning during the live stream is required for compliance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA). 

The Board has directed staff to investigate potential options to become compliant with requirements and has asked that live streaming the meetings be put on hiatus in the interim. Meetings will be recorded and available on the District website within 24 hours of the meeting with closed captioning.

LBHS Drama and Park Avenue Players present Little Shop of Horrors in concert this weekend

This Friday, May 24 at 4 p.m., Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26 at 2:30 p.m., LBHS Drama and Park Avenue Players present Little Shop of Horrors in concert. A deviously delicious Broadway and Hollywood sci-fi smash musical, Little Shop Of Horrors has devoured the hearts of theatregoers for over 30 years. 

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, and Aladdin) are the creative geniuses behind what has become one of the most popular shows in the world.

LBHS Drama cartoon

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Feed the need for musical hilarity with this delicious sci-fi smash about a man-eating plant

The meek floral assistant, Seymour Krelborn, stumbles across a new breed of plant, which he names “Audrey II” – after his co-worker crush. This foul-mouthed, R&B-singing carnivore promises unending fame and fortune to the down and out Krelborn as long as he keeps feeding it blood. Over time, though, Seymour discovers Audrey II’s out of this world origins and intent towards global domination. 

One of the longest-running Off-Broadway shows, Little Shop Of Horrors, the charmingly tongue in cheek comedy, has been produced worldwide to incredible success.

This LBHS Drama presentation is performed in concert style with live on-stage musicians at Thurston Middle School’s Black Box Theater.

Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults.

To purchase tickets, visit

Thurston Middle School’s Black Box Theater is located at 2100 Park Ave.

Local hockey tryouts welcome Laguna Beach students

Attention hockey players – did you know that there is a local ice hockey team that Laguna Beach High School students compete in? The Newport Mesa Ice Kings compete in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL). 

The Ice Kings is comprised of students from CdM, Newport Harbor, Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa, and Estancia high schools. If you plan to go to one of those schools in the fall and would be interested in joining the team, the team is holding tryouts for the upcoming 2019/2020 school year on Saturday, June 9 at 11 a.m. at the new Great Park Ice & Five Point Arena in Irvine. 

Local hockey puck

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Laguna students are invited to try out for The Ice Kings

Players of all skill levels are encouraged to tryout – they have B level thru AA skaters on the team. They even have a few ex-roller hockey players! The games are competitive, full-contact, high school style hockey and most are played in the new state of the art Great Park Arena (the same place the Ducks train and practice). 

If you are interested, contact Board President Jim Hoey at (949) 355-1599 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Team Manager Ron Kalinowski at (949) 891-2533 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Coach Spotlight: Freddy Pichay

By Ellie Ford, Student at LBHS

In partnership with Brush and Palette newspaper

While wandering around campus, you might have seen Freddy Pichay, the LBHS hurdle and long jump coach. This former Laguna custodian has been at the high school for 46 years. Coach Freddy strives to see his athletes grow and succeed in their sport and in life.

“I always want to be the best coach I can be. I hope to be a role model for the kids. I hope to inspire them to be strong leaders and have good sportsmanship,” said Pichay.

Sophomore Alessi Ayvaz has been running with Coach Pichay for two track seasons. She has shared many good memories and laughs with Coach Freddy. 

“I couldn’t have asked for a better coach. He’s made an impact in my life by teaching me something that was entirely new and different. He’s overall hilarious and just a great and inspirational coach,” said Ayvaz.

Coach spotlight on track

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Freddy takes pride in his athletes during a track meet. Pichay has worked at Laguna Beach High School for 46 years.

Pichay’s love for coaching track runs deep. He also coaches the Laguna Beach community track team. After high school practice, you can find him coaching runners ages five to 14. “I like to prepare the young kids for high school athletics. It’s important for me to teach them how to run the correct way so they will be more comfortable when they compete in high school. Some kids are good but are scared to lose. I try to teach them the right way to lose and compete,” said Pichay.

Steve Lalim, the Cross Country and Track and Field coach, has been coaching with Freddy for 14 years. Lalim knows that if he ever needs anything, he can rely on Pichay for help.

“Freddy can do anything and everything. I enjoy coaching with Freddy every day. He’s a good man, and I appreciate all he does for our program,” said Lalim.

Stu News Laguna is proud to feature LBHS students’ writing in partnership with the high school’s journalism class and the Brush and Palette student newspaper.

Four Laguna girls compete in Water Polo NCAA National Championships at Stanford

Four girls from Laguna competed in the Water Polo NCAA National Championships at Stanford over the weekend. The girls – Bella Baldridge, Makenzie Fischer, Thea Walsh, and Aria Fischer – have been playing together for Laguna Beach since they were in 10 and under division. 

Stanford won the 2019 NC women’s water polo championship in a 9-8 thriller against defending national champion Southern California. Both teams advanced to the championship after overtime wins in the semifinals. 

The Cardinal’s Makenzie Fischer led the way in the title match with three goals and an assist. She was honored with MVP of the tournament. 

Four Laguna team

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(L-R) Bella Baldridge, Makenzie Fischer, Thea Walsh, and Aria Fischer

It’s Stanford’s seventh national title in program history since the women’s water polo national championships began in 2001. 

The two teams have combined to win the last nine NCAA titles. Stanford boasts six national championships in its program history (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017), while USC has won five times (2004, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2018).

Laguna Beach High School Junior Varsity Girls Sand Volleyball crowned League Champs

In their inaugural season, the Laguna Beach Girls JV Sand Volleyball team captured the Sunset League championship. The team was seeded 7th to start the competition, but dominated play and won their four team matches during the two-week tournament.

Laguna Beach male coach

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Back Row: (L-R) Coach Steve McFadden, Emma Bladergroen, Alessandra Nitoglia, Lucy Loughlin, Madison Rogers, Nikki Ruch, Lucky Hauer, Sophie Reavis, Jacqueline Witteman, Sydney Freeman, Natalie Olson, and Annabelle Kiesweter; Front Row: Amelie Sadler, Sophie Black, Harper Bunn, and Luisa LoFranco; Not in photo: Coach Nicolette Martin, Shanti Nunn, and Olivia Policastro.

The championship match pitted LBHS against 8th seeded Edison High School.   

The top-seeded Laguna team of Sophie Reavis and Emma Bladergroen won a hard fought two-set victory over the pair from Edison High School. After taking the first set 21-15, Reavis and Bladergroen were in a back and forth match with both teams having opportunities to win the second set. 

Laguna Beach Emma and Sophie

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Emma Bladergroen and Sophie Reavis

Serving at 21-20, Bladergroen served a ball that proved too tough to handle, giving Reavis/Bladergroen the 22-20 win. The Laguna Beach girls won the other four matches as well, recording the following scores: 

Laguna Beach Coach Martin

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Semi-final victory with Coach Nicolette Martin

--Amelie Sadler & Sophie Black, 21-7, 21-12 

--Lucky Hauer & Luisa LoFranco 21-12, 21-17 

--Sydney Freeman & Alessandra Nitoglia – 21-10, 21-15 

--Lucy Loughlin & Annabelle Kiesweter – 21-7, 21-10 

Laguna Beach winners

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Edison conceded the 4v4 match, resulting in a 7-0 final championship game tally. 

The team’s dramatic improvement during the year can be credited to coaches Nicolette Martin and Steve McFadden.

SchoolPower’s 3 Clubs Barefoot Golf Tournament is a hole-in-one for Laguna schools

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Monday, May 13 marked the fourth annual 3 Clubs Barefoot Canyon Classic at The Ranch at Laguna Beach, benefiting SchoolPower. With the theme of “Peace, Love, & BBQ,” this sold-out event entertained golfers and non-golfers alike.

Generously underwritten by The Ranch at Laguna Beach and Hobie, 100 percent of the over $60,000 raised will benefit our local Laguna Beach schools through SchoolPower.

SchoolPowers 3 ladies

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Golfers gathered in support of SchoolPower at The Ranch on Monday

Seventy-six barefoot golfers kicked off the afternoon’s festivities with a friendly nine-hole, four-person scramble competition. As in past years, players tackled some nontraditional shots, including teeing off with a softball bat, driving with opposite-handed clubs, and the replacement of putters with a hockey stick. 

First-time golf participant and SchoolPower Trustee Eric Brougher was one of several winners of hole challenges, scoring a golf cap for closest to pin. “The Ranch provided the perfect atmosphere to celebrate SchoolPower and all the kids it positively impacts,” he said. “The Barefoot Classic is a fun and definitely unique event for any level of golfer that is looking to have a great time while supporting a worthy cause with their friends and community.”

SchoolPowers 3 guys

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The course was up to par for these happy golfers 

Following golf, the party continued on the patio, where golfers and guests gathered for a cocktail reception that included tequila tastings by Nosotros Tequila and live music by blues guitarist Shawn Jones. Dinner featuring Santa Maria-style BBQ prepared by former NFL player Brandon Jessie’s BBQ81 rounded out the casual celebration. “The beauty of the location and warmth of the staff blew me away,” says guest Suzzette Arnal. “Add to that fabulous food and lively conversation, and it was a perfect night!”

SchoolPowers 3 shirt

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An awesome custom shirt completed the day 

As in past years, lifelong Laguna resident and longtime SchoolPower supporter Mark Christy took to the podium and served as auctioneer for a live auction. A creator of the Barefoot Classic, Christy’s enthusiasm set a festive tone for the night. “Seriously,” he told the crowd, “spending an afternoon having an informal, kick-your-shoes-off, laughter-echoing-through-the-canyon blast while doing something cool for our schools and the kids? Priceless!” 

SchoolPowers 3 Ranch

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After the golf, the party continued on the patio for a lively reception 

Christy is passionate about public education/giving back to Laguna Beach schools. “Laguna’s schools and teachers were a game-changer for my classmates and me,” says Christy. “We hope that the funds generated will afford our exceptional instructors the flexibility and resources to further connect with students.” 

SchoolPowers 3 skirts

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These ladies hit a hole in one with their golf attire for the day 

This year’s auction items included a one-of-a-kind glamping trip in The Ranch’s exclusive “Scout Camp,” an overnight stay in the exclusive Treehouse and dinner for four at Harvest, and a custom-made Hobie surfboard. Bidders also faced off to win four seats at the upcoming Angel-Dodgers series, courtesy of John Carpino and the Angels organization. To cap off the night, the crowd was treated to a surprise live performance by Green Day founder, vocalist, and bassist Mike Dirnt, who then auctioned off a signed bass guitar to the enthusiastic crowd.

SchoolPower’s mission is to enhance the educational experience of the whole student as they grow from TK through 12th grade. In 2017-18, SchoolPower contributed over $760,000 to the Laguna Beach school district to help support a wide range of programs, including small class sizes, academics, athletics, visual and performing arts, music, STEM programs, and wellness and student support. 

SchoolPower’s Wave of Giving campaign is on now at this link.

LBUSD Board of Education May 14 meeting recap

At the May 14 LBUSD Board of Education meeting, Chief Technology Officer Mike Morrison presented an update on the status and progress of the technology department, including computer science and research initiatives.

During the meeting, the Board took action to approve an agreement with Kelvin Education, Inc. for the 2019-20 school year. The district is committed to supporting students K-12 in the development of positive personal and interpersonal skills to enhance academic achievement, positive decision-making, and long-term social-emotional health outcomes. 

Staff will utilize Kelvin Education, Inc.’s online-enabled research services, which include unlimited access to student social-emotional wellness screenings, school climate screenings, and a library of social-emotional learning and positive school climate intervention resources. 

The Board also took action to approve the Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Laguna Beach to operate an Adult Education program for the period of June 1, 2019, through May 21, 2022. Classes will be offered free of charge to Laguna Beach residents and topics will include computer skills, workforce presentation, ESL, and classes for adults with disabilities.

During the May 14 meeting, the Board received an update on the audiovisual equipment that would need to be replaced in the boardroom to effectively record the meetings. Additionally, the staff discussed the closed captioning requirements during live streaming for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

At the meeting, the Board directed staff to put live streaming of the school board meetings on hiatus while staff investigates potential options to become compliant with requirements. In the meantime, meetings will continue to be recorded and posted on the District website following the meeting. The Board also requested that a contract for upgrading the audiovisual system be brought forward for consideration at a future board meeting.

One of the goals set by the board of education has been to increase access to courses for all students. Dr. Viloria is proud to report that more LBHS students are taking – and passing – Advanced Placement (AP) exams than ever before. Cotinue reading about the work being done in the district to expand AP access to all students in the district in a guest column by Dr. Villoria below.

For more information on the LBUSD Board of Education including future action items, visit The next regular Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 28 at 6 p.m.

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