Laguna Beach USD Taps Former TOW Principal For New Asst. Superintendent

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Michael Conlon was appointed assistant superintendent of human resources and public communications for the Laguna Beach Unified School District on Jan. 28. File Photo

A former Top of the World Elementary School principal was recently named as the Laguna Beach Unified School District’s newest assistant superintendent.

The Board of Education voted Jan. 28 to promote Michael Conlon to assistant superintendent of human resources and public communications. He succeeds Leisa Winston, who left Laguna Beach last month after being appointed superintendent of the Huntington Beach City School District.

“He is committed to developing positive relationships with staff and problem-solving conflicts when they occur,” Supt. Jason Viloria said in a prepared statement. “He has proven to be an effective human resources leader and administrator whose work is characterized by a genuine concern for the entire school community.”

Conlon steps into a high-profile role during an unprecedented crisis for the district. Students haven’t been able to attend in-person classes at Laguna Beach High School and Thurston Middle School since last March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Before his past role as director of human resources, Conlon served as principal at Top of the World Elementary School from 2014 to 2019. He’s also previously worked as a principal at Olivewood Elementary School in Lake Forest and assistant principal at Oak Middle School in Los Alamitos.

“I am humbled and honored to be appointed to this new role,” Conlon said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to continuing to support all of our stakeholders in the Laguna Beach community.”

The school board approved a $198,516 base salary for Conlon as part of his three-year contract, according to the agreement. He’ll be eligible for a 2.4% raise in the 2021-22 fiscal year. Conlon can also receive “increment” pay increases for earning a master’s and doctorate degrees.

On Jan. 28, Viloria briefed the school board on his plan to hire a third assistant superintendent. Winston absorbed Instructional Services into her portfolio after former assistant superintendent Alysia Odipo’s resignation in June 2019. District leaders said this temporary consolidation of leadership roles saved the district thousands of dollars.

But finding a candidate who could successfully take on Winston’s former role as deputy superintendent proved to be a challenge, Viloria said.

“We conducted interviews and recognized that the position is one that oversees quite a bit and we were unable to find someone who had the expertise to do that position to the degree I felt we needed to have,” Viloria said.

Jeff Dixon continues to serve as assistant superintendent of business services.

The announcement of Conlon’s promotion was welcomed by leaders of Laguna Beach school employee unions.

“We are pleased with Mr. Conlon’s promotion to Assistant superintendent of HR and we are looking forward to having an Assistant Superintendent position dedicated to curriculum and instruction moving forward,” said Sara Hopper, president of the Laguna Beach Faculty Association.

Margaret Warder, president of California School Employee Association Chapter 131, said her members look forward to working with the new assistant superintendent on professional development, reclassification, hiring practices, employee wellness, and more.

“Working directly with Mr. Conlon on many of the committees that revolve around classified employees, we have been able to reach collaborative decisions,” she wrote in an email.

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