Sharpen those pencils

Incoming freshmen at Laguna Beach High School aren’t the only students nervously anticipating the new school year.

Following is a list of highlights for each of the city’s grade schools.

All Laguna Beach Unified schools will start the new year on Wednesday. Anneliese’s Schools will start Thursday.

Laguna Beach High School


Enrollment is stable at Laguna Beach High, which welcomed five new teachers this year, Principal Don Austin said.

Former grad Jim Brusky will teach English and journalism, former teacher Michael Churchill will serve as athletic director, Jonathan Hendrickson will teach English and serve as girls’ basketball coach. Kimberly Jennings will teach adapted physical education, Leah Prettyman will work at Thurston Middle School and Laguna Beach High as an English teacher, and Kelee Thompson will teach dance, following the resignation of Tod A. Kubo. Scott Finn has transferred from Thurston to teach, and is also the school’s surfing and golf coach. The school is interviewing for a ballet teacher position.

The Artists Theatre’s sound system has been upgraded, with the old sound system relocated to the North Gym, which has been renovated with new scoreboards.

Thurston Middle School


Enrollment at Thurston is up a dash, but Principal Joanne Culverhouse said the office staff and Assistant Principal Jennifer Salberg have worked hard to prevent last-minute schedule changes.

A new positive behavior support program, called PBS, will reward students for “doing the right thing.” The school’s leadership class will be joined with PBS to provide peer-to-peer support, and will be led by Carl Nelson, who is taking over for Gay Pivaroff; its students will study a Franklin Covey leadership book for teens.

The school’s Wave Card rewards will be replaced with Smart Cards. Students will be rewarded with mini-assemblies throughout the school year; campus supervisor Sarah Pearlman has received donations from many local businesses and will hold a drawing of Smart Cards each month to reward recipients.

The Associated Student Body has been reformatted.

A $16,000 grant from SchoolPower is being used to procure heart rate monitors for physical education students, who will be able to measure and download their heart rate data.

New teacher Leah Prettyman will work at Thurston and Laguna Beach High as an English teacher. Physical education teacher Scott Finn transferred to the high school, and was replaced by Michael Bair.

El Morro Elementary

Enrollment is up slightly at El Morro, which surprised administrators because surrounding districts are declining in enrollment.


Principal Chris Duddy said the custodial and maintenance staff has done an excellent job in getting the school ready for the coming year.

A new program for English language learners will also debut.

Top of the World Elementary

Enrollment is stable at Top of the World, which boasts two new fourth-grade English teachers, Marie Bammer and Mariann Bynum; they are standing in for teachers on leave of absence. New teacher Michelle Douglas will replace retiree Sharon Maloney.

Principal Ron LaMotte said the school is enhancing its positive reward program with a “treasure tower,” in which students will earn tokens for prize capsules.

Fire safety is a key issue at the school, which is working closely with the fire department and parks service.

The library was renovated over the summer.

Anneliese’s Schools


Anneliese’s Schools, which has three campuses in Laguna, launches its new collaborative learning-based middle school this fall at full capacity, with 24 students who will learn different units for several weeks followed by a one-week experiential or off-campus period.

All of its grade schools have waiting lists.

A new math program will teach the application of mathematics in an everyday, hands-on context.

The schools will continue into the second year of their all-organic salad bar lunches.