Principal Faces a Hurdle to Return to Class

Principal Chris Herzfeld checks out the LBHS surf team in the field.
Principal Chris Herzfeld checks out the LBHS surf team in the field.

Chris Herzfeld, the Laguna Beach High School principal who signaled his intent to step down as an administrator at the end of the school year and return to the classroom, lacks a current California teaching credential, district officials confirmed this week.

Herzfeld has applied to renew his single-subject credential in social sciences through the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing, but the process is taking months, district spokeswoman Leisa Winston said.

Herzfeld, a local resident, did not reply to a request for comment.

Though Herzfeld obtained a California teaching credential in 1999, the same year he also obtained an administrative credential, he only pursued “clearing” all of the professional requirements of the administrative one. Commission records show his “preliminary” teaching credential expired in 2002.

“He never taught in California; he became an administrator,” Winston explained.

Before Herzfeld took the job at LBHS in 2014, his three decade career as an educator, coach and administrator included 10 years as principal of Fountain Valley High School and a teaching stint in Colorado. His Colorado credential was issued in 1991 and expired in 1996, state records show.

In Laguna, Herzfeld replaced former LBHS Principal Joanne Culverhouse. His successor, Jason Allemann, takes the reins at the 1,100-student school July 1.

At LBHS, Herzfeld earned salary and benefits of $192,322 in 2015, the most recent figures available at Transparent California, a website of public employee pay. That made him the ninth-highest paid employee in the district at the time.

While Herzfeld lacks the commission’s official sanction, district officials verified with the Orange County Department of Education and the CTC that he has fulfilled the requirements to teach the position he requested, Winston said.

Though the school year ended this week, Herzfeld’s assignment to specific classes and at what level, either at the middle school or high school, have not been finalized, she said.

A fulltime teacher typically prepares for five classroom periods of varying sections, such as U.S. history, world history or government.

There are five social studies teachers at Thurston, and eight at LBHS, some of whom teach other subjects, such as electives, Winston said.

“It is not uncommon for these details to still be in flux, as student registration and needs change,” Winston said. “Many teachers do not know their specific assignments for next year and they may change after schools open for registration in the fall.”

Few of the district’s 177-member teaching staff hold preliminary credentials, Winston said. Those who do are typically new to the profession, she said.

School board president Jan Vickers said she was aware of the snafu with Herzfeld, but trusted the district staff to resolve the matter. “We’re very careful,” she said, of ensuring that personnel credentials are current.

Under the commission’s complicated regulations, out-of-state teachers must obtain new professional California credentials, which are preliminarily approved for five years. In that five-year span, a teacher must “clear” the credential by fulfilling various requirements.

In Herzfeld’s case, Winston said, “because the CTC did not provide him with the full five years for the preliminary teaching credential, he has three years left on a preliminary credential before it would need to be cleared.”

This story was updated June 22.

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  1. The story here is a simple one… a single-subject credential in social sciences, only available through the State of California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing, is being delayed through no fault of the person seeking the credential. But rather than just saying that, which isn’t news worthy, you and your editors have gone to great lengths to “report” news that simply isn’t fit to print. There’s so much more happening in the Laguna Beach community… things that impact people who live there on a daily basis that are profound and meaningful. But instead of tuning in to what really matters to this town’s citizens, you’ve crafted a headline-worthy story that wastes everyone’s time for having read it.

  2. This is just another example of the ineptnus of this school district and their policies. This district has been proud of the fact that no teacher is teaching with a provisional credential or out of their certification. The fact that there are teachers who teach subjects in which they are not credentialed is a kept secret. One of which they do not want to be exposed. This particular administrator has to be a fool not to have checked his status beforehand and to step down from that salary to the salary of a teacher is just idiotic. No, he was either ousted and falsely promised a teaching job or he is simply ill-educated in the ways of this district and they way they treat people. I cannot help but feel sorry for this principal but he too should have investigated this district and the history of former principals. Note: Mr. Herzfeld get your resume out ASAP to other districts. Leave these people in charge to their lies, back-stabbing, distrust, incompetence, and dishonesty.


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