Laguna Beach USD names new Thurston Middle School principal

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Joseph Vidal will be the new principal at Thurston Middle School. Courtesy of Laguna Beach Unified School District

The Laguna Beach Unified School District tapped a former Thurston Middle School assistant principal on Thursday to return as principal.

Joseph Vidal served as Thurston’s assistant principal at Thurston from 2013 to 2015. He returns to Laguna Beach after a stint as senior director for the Cupertino Union School District.

At a special meeting Thursday, the Board of Education took action to approve Vidal’s appointment after a competitive recruitment process, administrators said. His start date is yet to be determined. Vidal replaces Jennifer Salberg, who resigned in July.

“Mr. Vidal distinguished himself as the best candidate for this position, demonstrating his instructional leadership and innovation throughout the interview and screening process,” Supt. Jason Viloria said in a prepared statement. “I am excited to welcome him back to the Laguna Beach Unified School District at Thurston Middle School where I am confident he will help the students, teachers, staff, and community thrive.”

Vidal has more than 20 years of experience in school and district administration, currently serving as Senior Director for Cupertino Union School District. He holds a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and a Master of Science in Special Education from the California State University system.

Vidal was one of 10 candidates selected from the applicant pool to participate in the initial interview process. Six candidates were selected to interview with two stakeholder panels of parents, teachers, support staff, and administrators. Three of the candidates were selected for a final interview panel with Viloria and other administrators.

In a statement, Vidal said he was honored and excited to rejoin Thurston Middle School and the Laguna Beach community.

“As I begin my transition, I am deeply committed to maintaining Thurston’s history of excellence and ensuring a rigorous learning environment that fosters a sense of belonging, promotes intellectual growth, and inspires collaboration,” Vidal said. “I look forward to listening, learning, and partnering with all stakeholders to enhance the educational opportunities for students and staff alike.”

The District plans to schedule a community meet-and-greet event with Vidal once his start date is determined. Administrators will decide whether to hold a virtual or in-person event based on state guidelines for large gatherings related to COVID-19.

“I am very pleased to have Joseph Vidal as our new Principal,” Lisa LaCorte, president of Thurston Middle School PTA, said in a prepared statement. “The PTA is looking forward to supporting him during these unfamiliar and stressful times for many students and parents. Our goal is to optimize our circumstances so our children get the best education they can, and not lose momentum for when we come back on campus and regain some normality.”

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