School leader Brian Garland dies

Brian Garland, who spent decades serving as a teacher, principal and board member of two school districts, died early Tuesday at his home in Huntington Beach. He was 71.

Garland was a Huntington Beach Union High School District trustee, a position he held since 2002 after retiring as principal of Edison High School.

He had been battling a heart condition since suffering a heart attack at age 46, said his son, Scott Garland.

"He's been managing, and it finally took its toll on him," his son said.

The Union High School District board met Tuesday in closed session to discuss filling Garland's position. Board President Michael Simons said the board instructed the superintendent ask the county about the timeline the district has for an appointment process.

Simons, who knew and worked with Garland for 25 years, said he was shocked when he heard the news of his passing.

"Any time anybody that you worked with and were close with for many years dies suddenly, you're shocked," he said.

Supt. Greg Plutko sent a districtwide email with the news, saying the district has "lost a very special educator and friend; moreover, the students he served for so long lost a great champion."

"He was a very generous man with both his thoughts and his time, and certainly as a board member," Plutko said. "He was very reflective and was able to always keep the big picture in mind as he was leading."

Garland began his career as a teacher in Chicago in 1963. He eventually moved to Huntington Beach, where he became a history teacher at Edison in 1969. He was one of the first teachers when the school opened.

He then became Edison's principal and served in that capacity from 1988 to 2002. He was selected as California's principal of the year in 1995.

While working as a teacher and principal for the Union High School District, Garland simultaneously served on the Huntington Beach City School District Board of Trustees for 25 years. After retiring, he ran for the high school district's board.

He fought to bring defibrillators to the schools, which saved several lives, Simons said.

"He was a very warmhearted, generous, caring person," Simons said. "Very student-centered. Always on the lookout for kids."

As a principal, he added, Garland was always prepared.

"Usually when he talked about things, it came with a historical perspective," Simons said.

His family, meanwhile, remembered him as a beloved husband, father and grandfather.

"My father had a great personality," Scott Garland said. "He was very loving to his family and his grandchildren, more than you can possibly imagine."

Garland is survived by his wife, Elaine, his son Scott, daughter Devrah Biancur, and four grandchildren.

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