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Schoolpower Donations Welcomed by Schools

Schoolpower took the spotlight at Tuesday’s Laguna Beach school board meeting, providing what one teacher called a “magical” cash infusion at a time when fiscal austerity is tightening budgets.

In addition, school officials approved a number of new hires for the coming school year, including five top posts, while the president of Laguna Beach High School’s PTA announced getting pinned with a gold star, honored as the outstanding PTA in their district.

Outgoing Schoolpower president Marcus Skenderian and incoming president Samantha Washer presented school officials with a $125,000 check, the second half of their annual standing donation. And Dr. Gary Jenkins, outgoing president of the Schoolpower Endowment Fund, presented $73,190 for grants to teachers, honoring requests to fund specific projects.

El Morro Elementary received funding for five different projects, including $2,500 to continue their much-praised Scholastic Reading Counts program and $18,650 to purchase iPads for a pilot fifth-grade project. The Martini family stepped in to match the iPad grant for fifth graders at Top of the World Elementary.

“These are very powerful tools,” said board member Bill Landsiedel, adding that “without Schoolpower and generous people like Mr. Martini we couldn’t do this.”

Schoolpower also honored Top of the World Elementary principal Ron LaMotte’s request with a grant of $7,500 to purchase iPod Touches for third-grade teachers.

Thurston Middle School garnered three grants, including $990 for math/tech teacher Andy Crisp to expand his multimedia department; $1,000 to help French teacher Randi Beckley complete her French lending library; and $5,000 requested for outdoor science camp scholarships by science teacher Richard Selin.

At the high school, Schoolpower grants will fund cutting-edge software for college and career readiness and a trip for students to a special journalism workshop.

Supt. Sherine Smith also asked board members for direction on their priorities for a one-time $100,000 donation by an unnamed Schoolpower donor. With no final decision yet, the consensus centered on using the funds to enhance the school’s food service, potentially including the installation of a salad bar and a “grab and go” food display case in Thurston’s cafeteria, as well as possible training for food service staff.

New Brass in Top Posts

The school board approved new hires for five administrative positions, among others. “Each new administrator brings a unique skill set to the table and combined they will make a dynamic, high-functioning team,” Smith said.

Denise Christensen, currently executive director of secondary schools in Capistrano Unified where she supervises 19 middle and high schools, will assume the post of retiring Asst. Supt. of Instruction Nancy Hubbell.

Retiring Asst. Supt. of Business Services Norma Shelton will be succeeded by Dean West, working as the district’s director of fiscal services.

Courtney Robinson, who will leave her position as assistant principal in Huntington Beach Union High School, will replace Gretchen Ernsdorf as assistant principal at LBHS.

Jerry Vlasic, a Newport Mesa elementary principal, will replace Patty Beaver as director of human resources; and Shannon Soto, currently a Capistrano Unified principal, will take over West’s duties as director of fiscal services.

LBHS PTA Receives Top Honor

Kathleen Fay told the board the high school’s PTA was honored as the outstanding 2012 PTA for Fourth District PTA, the nation’s largest PTA district, comprised of 420 schools in Orange County and southeast Los Angeles County.

The selection committee was particularly impressed with the LBHS PTA’s monthly parent educations forums.

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