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Disclaimer: Letters to the Editor do not necessarily represent the opinions of Stu News Laguna but rather the opinions of the letter writer.

Reflections on the news

Walls – China has its Great Wall, Romans had their Hadrian’s Wall, Russia had its Berlin Wall, Israel has its Western Wall, so I guess it is only natural that Trump wants a wall – perhaps he could build one around Mara Lago to protect himself?

Some Laguna Beach parents rented service animals just prior to their children taking some finals to comfort them. Perhaps we can collect money and hire some comfort animals for the many children that are in “cages” because of their status as illegal immigrants?

I wonder what that person who picked up their dog’s poop, put it in a bag, tied and knot, and then tied the bag to a low branch on a pine tree in Moulton Park was thinking. I was able to reach up and bring it down. What other things are people thinking of doing to be cute or…?

I wonder how many more educational meetings are being assembled by Village Laguna and the Beautification Council so that we understand their mission and vote for their friends/candidates when they try again to take control of City Council and City Hall – the same control that they had during the late ‘80s and ‘90s? Please note that the information they collect from those attending will most likely be used to garner support for their campaign in 2020. 

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

How we got our daughter into Stanford

Here’s a hint: She did it on her own.

My wife and I were too busy with her little sisters, volunteering at school, doing for little ones what we’d done for her. She somehow transitioned smoothly to self-reliance, without needing to compete for attention.

I’d take credit for academic achievement, but in truth I was blindsided she was middle school valedictorian. Always asked to help with homework, too nice to tell me she’d passed my math and science skill level!

Living on Bolling AFB in Washington, she was competitive on the swim team, school and club soccer, but really stepped up earning stroke position on her crew team. 

Recruited by the elite Loomis-Chaffe Institute prep school founded by my ancestors in Windsor, Connecticut, I thought she should go. She chose to stay home with her family and friends, and go to D.C. public high school.

College was still over the horizon for me when she suddenly proposed options and budget for SAT prep courses she researched! Next thing I knew Michigan alumni wanted to fly her up to Ann Arbor for a game, military academies recruiters were at war over her, her counselor thought Yale was realistic, and she chose Stanford.

I knew enough to realize disappointment risk, so I got books on universities better than the Ivy League. She humored me, and applied only to Stanford. Her application essay was about her mom, and a box to add more about herself was blank – something l’d never do, so I asked why. “Dad, need to stand out, pretty darn sure I’ll be only applicant leaving that box empty.”

She got in, spent four great years at an amazing university, but what does she value most? Lifelong friends from all over the country and world, who she sees for reunions at least once every year.

If I did anything right it was never going to happy hour with co-workers. As a young Navy lawyer working long hours on White House staff, if I wasn’t on duty I was with family. Lots of invites to coveted “career opportunities” after hours, but if I couldn’t bring my wife and kids I didn’t go.

I never missed kids’ weekend sports, loved sitting on the bed telling my own children’s stories, repeated by popular demand for friends on sleepovers. Bedtime reading included “Treasure Island” and “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” until I became one more dad replaced by “Diary of Anne Frank.” We still fast forward the “When Somebody Loved Me” scenes in “Toy Story 2” about girls growing up, they know I can’t get through it.

If we helped her it was constant big extended family dinners with teachers, diplomat families from around the world. Thanksgiving once included a nun from Belgium, international lawyer from New Zealand, a Senator from Palau. Then there were D.C. to Laguna Beach road trips, long vacations back home.

Years later she toasted us, “I grew up in a home where I always knew I was loved for who I was and supported in success or failure. That gave me confidence to compete in sports and academics, have a really fun social life, but make more good choices than bad. When I made bad choices and needed help I could be honest with my parents.”

What we learned from her is that wherever you go to school, what matters is feeling a valued member of a learning community. I thought about that when I spoke at Thurston Middle School on career day, because I saw kids under pressure asking about college already. So instead of what students and parents hear at college orientation, I talked about hundreds of small schools where they could get as good an education for less and have more fun.

I told them how proud we were of our son who joined the Marines out of high school, and after serving his country honorably for four years, attended and graduated at a state university in Maryland. Only then did I mention we were also proud of our daughter who went to Stanford.

Our youngest daughter had four wonderful years at LBHS, then after Saddleback finished at Azusa Pacific. We were able to be a part of her life with her roommates who became part of our family. Those were some of the best years of our lives.

Parents in our town and around the nation too often think achievement by children in school defines achievement of parents in life, and use wealth to purchase influence to engineer education “success.” Not just infamous education scandals, but unfair advantage taken in pervasive petty corruption.

Sadly, that delegitimizes instead of valuing a child’s unique gifts, and stigmatizes children in their own hearts and minds for life. All I can say is, there but for the grace of God go those parents who don’t fall into that trap and take their children low with them, whether they get caught or not.

 Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

Board of Education leadership and college admissions scandal

We have lived in Laguna Beach for 21 years, and raised three children who attended our local public school system.

I confess that now that our children are grown, and that our national and international world consumes much of our attention, I am not following local politics as finely as I might. But, this disengagement with the minutiae of the local issues gives me perspective, and this is what I am seeing from 30,000 feet.

Our community has the dubious distinction of having four residents indicted in the Singer/college admissions scam. That’s four out of 33 parents across the whole country, in our little town of just under 25,000! I can’t say I am surprised. I participated in the Coffee Break parent education arm of the PTA for many years. Coffee Break (now Coffee Talk) often hosted experts on how to navigate the entire college selection process, how to enhance your child’s success, etc. and the room was always at capacity for such talks. Naturally, our own family actually went through the college admissions process for all of our children. I personally felt the intense pressures and near-hysteria engendered in the process. I watched as other parents founded charities for their children to run. I watched as the bumper stickers like “Proud (prestigious college) Mom” became fashionable. It all felt weird, skewed away from the children themselves and targeted more toward the cachet of the “designer” brand college and how it would reflect on the parents. But at the same time I felt the fear that if I didn’t pursue the private college counselor, or the extra exam prep, I would somehow be disadvantaging my kids in the heavy competition around the college admissions process.

I want to emphasize that for those parents who really went all-in for the joy and pride in their children’s accomplishments, I do understand. And I heartily respect the paths these children are pursuing, most especially when genuinely from the kid.

Perhaps unrelated, but certainly troubling to see, is the abrupt change in our local Board of Education by-laws to bar a duly-elected Board member to serve as president. I don’t understand the backstory on this, but read in Stu News this quote from Board member Carol Normandin to fellow Board member Dee Perry: “If you want to be president, you have to know how to conduct a meeting…You don’t know how to conduct a meeting. You caused this ruckus.” The tone struck me as both mean and condescending. And that led to the immediate four-to-one vote dumping the by-laws, clearing the way for another member to serve a third-term as president.

So, how are these two individual news items related beyond their obvious education focus? I am not sure. But I feel some light needs to shine in our little town on its own system of values behind education. Our Board of Education needs to behave with civility and respect to its duly-elected members. There should be more transparency on solid issues which are so very divisive as to require the elimination of traditional by-laws. As to the college admissions hysteria? Somewhere all the fear parents feel is motivating less-than-entirely ethical behavior, if not always illegal. It begs the questions: to what ends? And, what are we teaching our kids? 

Kate Rogers

Laguna Beach

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