Much-Tested Principal Picks Classroom

She’s survived floods, fires and four superintendents. She’s persevered despite a space crunch and hillside erosion, 12-hour days and six-day weeks.

Now, nearly six years after Sharon S. Maloney became principal of Laguna Beach’s Top of the World Elementary School, she is getting a chance to do what many school administrators might relish: a chance to return to the classroom.

In September, Maloney, 50, will be the school’s newest third-grade teacher.

Officially, Maloney listed her reasons for resigning as personal. She is in demand at home with a husband, two teenagers and another going off to college. With an ailing father to care for in Burbank, she’s also part of what’s been dubbed the “sandwich generation"--caring for their children and their parents.


“There simply isn’t enough time--ever,” she said.

She has received support from the school community since she sent a letter late last month announcing her decision.

But a part of Maloney is making the change not for others, but for herself. No more paperwork. No more sitting at a desk. Just teaching.

“About two months ago, a substitute teacher was late coming into class, so I filled in,” Maloney said. She enjoyed herself so much that “when the substitute came, I was so disappointed.”


Being a principal is no easy job, and the challenges have been even greater with recent turmoil in the Laguna Beach Unified School District. Superintendent turnover and fiscal woes have consumed the school board, and principals have had to assume responsibility for more than just instructional methods. Deteriorating buildings and other campus problems also have fallen under their purview.

“I’ve learned more about plumbing, electricity, roofs, blacktop, goats, rodents, rattlesnakes, mold, skateboards, water beetles, erosion processes, sinkholes, drainage patterns and ceiling tiles than I ever wanted to know,” Maloney wrote in her May 21 letter to staff, parents and students.

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. “It is a tough job and our principals have had it tougher than most,” said Kathryn A. Turner, the president of the school board.