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After 32 years, Top of the World school's Claudia Redfern is retiring

After 32 years, Top of the World school's Claudia Redfern is retiring
Claudia Redfern, the Top of the World Elementary School's receptionist and after-school coordinator, will retire later this month after 32 years at the Laguna Beach school. (Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

For visitors to Laguna Beach's Top of the World Elementary School, Claudia Redfern is likely the first person they will see upon walking through the office doors.

It usually does not take more than a few seconds before Redfern has asked how she can help.

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Need to find a room? Redfern knows the location right off the bat. Going one step further, she often knows whether a teacher is inside his or her classroom.

Redfern built this knowledge during more than 32 years as a classroom aide and one who oversees attendance and reception — her current role — at the school.

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But Redfern is ready to move to the next chapter of her life.

She is retiring from her post at the end of this school year. June 30 will be Redfern's last day.

"It was the right timing," said Redfern, who likes to quilt, travel and garden, and has lived in the same Laguna house since moving to the city in 1973.

Students have begun showering Redfern with going-away gifts, including a gift basket containing coffee and other goodies that sat under her desk last week.

A piece of yellow banner paper with the words "Super Thanks" written across its surface hung below the front counter where guests sign in.

It's evident that Redfern is revered.

"I don't know what I would do without her," teacher Rosie Haynes said. "She goes out of her way to help all of us and welcomes everyone with a big smile."

Redfern started at TOW as a part-time classroom aide when her youngest daughter was in fifth grade 32 years ago. The schedule allowed Redfern to work and still be home when her daughters would get home from school.

Seven years later school administrators needed help with attendance tracking and Redfern, who earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Arizona State University and taught in Arizona, Florida, Texas and Mississippi, stepped into the position.

She recalled the days when people manually fed paper into ditto machines. The paper would emerge with purple-colored type that Redfern said had a distinct aroma.

"The evolution of office practices have changed," Redfern, 69, said. "Voicemails on answering machines are things we take for granted.

"Attendance used to be done manually and folders turned in."

Now data is entered into a computer.

Daily attendance figures come to Redfern, who organizes the information and sends statistics to the Laguna Beach Unified School District every month.

Redfern also coordinated TOW's after-school program, which includes a variety of optional classes such as cooking, knitting, ceramics, drama and 3-D printing.

Redfern said the program has evolved from handwritten lists to online sign-ups.

"For the first two years we ran a babysitting service," she said. "Kids ran around the playground or sat in the multipurpose room and colored. PTA started offering classes on Wednesday afternoons. Then they added Mondays to go along with it and it kept growing."

Redfern said she will most miss interactions with children and parents, some of whom are former TOW students who have children of their own at the school.

"I have a great life," Redfern said. "I have no regrets."

Twitter: @AldertonBryce

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