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Superintendent finalist selected by school board

Laguna Beach may soon have a new superintendent of schools.

The Laguna Beach Unified Board of Education has selected Robert Fraisse of Newbury Park as the single finalist in its search for a new district superintendent.

Pending any last-minute discoveries, the board expects to confirm Fraisse at its Tuesday board meeting, board President Betsy Jenkins said.

Fraisse, a veteran superintendent and educational leadership professor, would begin his new role this summer, as current Supt. Theresa Daem plans to step down at the end of the current school year.

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The board’s primary criteria for a new superintendent, as discussed in previous meetings, were a focus on student success, excellent leadership and interpersonal skills, a passion for powerful teaching, visionary qualities, transparency and the willingness to work hands-on in a small district.

They hoped to find someone who was familiar with the entire K-12 curriculum, after working from teacher to principal to district administrator in districts similar to Laguna, and who would foster an atmosphere of continuous improvement.

A strong fiscal background and experience with union negotiations is also preferred.

Fraisse is the Distinguished Educator in Residence at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, where he co-directs the doctoral education program and heads the educational leadership department.

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He completed four years as superintendent at the Conejo Valley Unified School District in August 2006. The suburban district’s demographics are fairly similar to Laguna’s, in that it serves a middle- to upper-middle-class community.

That district is about ten times larger than Laguna; more than 22,000 students are enrolled in 29 schools there.

By contrast, Laguna Beach has about 2,800 students enrolled at four schools.

Fraisse also served as superintendent of schools for five years in the Hueneme Elementary School District and for seven years as assistant superintendent of schools in the Las Virgenes Unified School District.

In 2006, Fraisse was selected as the ACSA Region 13 (Calabasas-San Luis Obispo) Superintendent of the Year.

He has just concluded a three-year post on the Ventura First Five Commission, an organization focused on early learning programs targeted for children aged newborn to age 5.

Fraisse and his wife Deborah have lived in the Conejo Valley for more than 30 years, according to the district. They have two adult children.

The board traveled on Wednesday to Fraisse’s district, headquartered in Thousand Oaks, to meet with members of the community and district officials regarding Fraisse.

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“That’s just to make sure that everything is as it seems,” Jenkins said.

The board then had a dinner meeting with Fraisse in Westlake Village.

The board and district were to negotiate Fraisse’s contract yesterday and send it to him yesterday, Jenkins said.

Following Fraisse’s approval of the contract, the board will confirm him at their April 24 board meeting, which Fraisse hopes to attend.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the district board room, 550 Blumont St.


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