Mary A. Castillo
Editor’s note: This is the second of four interviews with
candidates for the Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of
Thomas Wilson, 72, fulfilled a lifelong dream he shared with his
wife when they moved to Laguna Beach in 1999.
Now he has thrown in his bid for a seat on the Laguna Beach
Unified School District board of education. With more than 30 years
of experience in teaching and school administration at all levels, he
became involved in the district’s Quest for Excellence service
Currently teaching business ethics at Pepperdine University’s
Graziado School of Business while directing the Paulo Freire
Democratic Project at Chapman University, Wilson was drawn to the
service learning sub-committee because it embodied his pursuit for
democratic purpose in the schools.
“You cannot separate the aim of education from morality and
ethics,” he said.
He believes the conversations that the board engages in --
budgets, curriculum and the allocation of resources, to name a few --
revolve around the goal of fostering active and socially aware
“I agree to the general direction of the school district,” he
said. “I think we have good teachers and good administrators but I
have ideas and I want to be part of that dialogue and contribute my
Wilson began his career in education by teaching infants how to
swim while studying art education at the University of California at
“That’s when I seriously considered teaching,” he recalled.
Wilson began teaching social studies at the middle school level
within the Azusa School District, eventually moving into the high
school. He was later recruited to Cal Poly Pomona for three years and
then moved to Newport Harbor High School, where as assistant
principal he developed a new alternative curriculum. Through the
curriculum, students spent 75 to 80% outside the classroom in the
community earning credit in social studies, history, vocational
education, science and ecology.
“They spent two hours in the morning in English and physical
education class,” he said. “Otherwise they worked on tutorials and
used the community as their curriculum.”
Wilson has been working on a follow-up study with those former
Newport Harbor High students who participated in the program.
“You know what? They’re doing just fine,” he said.
He said one of those students is a lawyer in Laguna Beach and
another is a submarine designer in Dana Point.
“They both said they would recommend the program for their
children,” he said.
Although Wilson is encouraged by the advancements in the
district’s service learning requirement, he envisions a more
intensive, interdisciplinary service-learning program. “How can we
use the community as the curriculum,” he asked rhetorically. “I think
the kids can handle that.”