Laguna Schools Want Give-and-Take With Parents : Getting Down to Brass Tacks

Times Staff Writer

Parents in Laguna Beach recently received an intriguing letter from school Supt. Dennis M. Smith.

“Dear Parents, " the letter began. “Have you ever asked yourself:

- “What did my child mean when he said he ate a ‘cheese boat’ for lunch?


- “Why some of our school facilities appear to be part of an ancient Babylonian dig?

- “Why our elementary schools don’t offer Farsi?

- “How to decode that cryptic language of education, i.e., IEP, ESL, SIP, WASC, CAT, CAP, LEP, NEP, FTE, GATE, TGIF?”

These questions were all part of an invitation to parents to attend a series of Laguna Beach Unified School District meetings in February to learn the answers.

“Our school board wants to get grass-roots feelings and opinions about our schools, and so we’re having about 15 meetings in February,” Smith said this week. “While we’re getting information from the parents, we also want to give them some background on what our schools are doing.

“So we’ll have district administrators explaining programs, then asking parents what they think and what they want.”

One of the meetings will feature the school district’s food services administrator. Hence, said Smith, parents can learn the secret of the “cheese boat.” But for those who simply can’t wait, Smith explained that a “cheese boat is . . . a big, fluffy bun with cheese and spaghetti sauce--an offshoot of pizza.”

And what did he mean about the schools looking like a Babylonian dig?

“Some of our schools seem to be falling to the ground, and one of the things we’re discussing at the meetings is our plans for renovation of the schools,” Smith said.

As for the reference to Farsi, the official language of Iran, Smith laughed and said, “Well, I put that in because we get many requests to add new subjects in our elementary schools. The meetings will help parents understand what subjects are already taught.”

Smith also decoded the educational acronyms mentioned in his letter: IEP is instructional educational plan; ESL is English as a second language; SIP is school improvement plan; WASC is the accrediting body, Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges; CAT is California Achievement Test; CAP is California Assessment Program; LEP is limited-English proficiency; NEP is non-English proficient; FTE is full-time equivalent, and GATE is gifted and talented education. TGIF is thank goodness it’s Friday--an expression of joy by students and teachers alike, Smith said.

But while many of the lette’s questions have been answered, Smith said, many more secrets of education will be revealed at the series of meetings. The first one will be Feb. 1 at 10 a.m. at the school district headquarters, 550 Blumont St.

“We’re going to have a lot of information for the parents,” Smith said. “And our school board really wants to hear from them.”