Coffee Break Welcomes School Leaders


By Kate Rogers, Special to the Independent

PTA’s Coffee Break kicked-off the season last week by welcoming leaders and catching up parents on the latest district developments.

Welcomed were Supt. Sherine Smith and new Asst. Supt. Deni Christiansen. Also present were high school Principal Joanne Culverhouse, Thurston Principal Jenny Salberg, El Morro Principal Chris Duddy, Chief Technology Officer Victor Guthrie, Director of Special Education Irene White, Business Services Asst. Supt. Dean West, and Fiscal Services Director Shannon Soto.

Coffee Break spokesperson Cindy Newman-Jacobs reminded parents to consult the website  While an archive of past speakers is available at the site, she encourages attendance since community is a keystone of Coffee Break. She also invited topic suggestions. This is parent education “for the people, by the people,” Newman-Jacobs said.

Smith reported that standardized test scores, while not completely tabulated yet, suggest another year of improvement. The results speak positively of the staff as the district’s budget has shrunk by $6 million over the past four years. She touted the “personality and passion” of Laguna,  which she believes makes this rosy picture possible.

Christiansen, the most galvanizing of the speakers, described her mission to transition the district towards new Common Core Standards, to be in affect by 2014-2015.  These standards developed from private sector feedback about the labor force needed for a global workplace. Standards stress critical thinking across disciplines, emphasizing thinking skills over content recall.   “Laguna Beach is poised to lead in the state implementation of the Common Core Standards,” promised Christiansen.

Parents also learned of new enterprises underway. Duddy reported that all elementary teachers received “Depth/Complexity” training and “cognitively-guided instruction.” El Morro is partnering with the Crystal Cove Alliance in building an outdoor classroom adjacent to the school to include a weather station and monitoring of an invasive African frog species.

Salberg discussed a strategy to help new students. Boys and Girls Club staff, on-site during lunch, are organizing activities for students who have yet to find their niche.

Culverhouse described Saddleback College’s dean speaking to English teachers, who sat in on college writing classes. She celebrated that 94 percent of 2012 graduates went on to a two and four-year colleges and a 89 percent pass rate for the 278 of students who took AP classes last year.

For those who really want to know the details, come to the next “Meet the Leaders” session and get involved.


Kate Rogers is a Laguna parent.

Share this:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here