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An educated vie for a board of education seat

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

learning sub-committee.

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

Santa Barbara.

“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.”