Briefly in Education: Schools get new staff members

Students at Laguna Beach High School and Thurston Middle School may see a few new faces around campus this year.

The Laguna Beach Unified School District announced three new hires: a counselor for the high school, and an assistant principal and psychologist at Thurston, in a news release.

Joseph Vidal is the new assistant principal at Thurston, replacing Mike Modeer, who left to take a job as principal at Rancho San Joaquin Middle School in Irvine.

Vidal was assistant principal at Vista Verde School in Irvine and earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in special education from Cal State Long Beach, and a master's in education from the UCLA-Principal Leadership Institute.

He has worked with at-risk youth and is well-versed in staff development, according to the release.

"His passion and enthusiasm for student success is contagious," Thurston Principal Jenny Salberg said in the release. "Mr. Vidal brings a positive energy that has already enhanced Thurston and we are looking forward to another successful year."

The district hired Robert Aristo as its school psychologist assigned to Thurston, the release said.

Aristo earned a bachelor's in child development from Cal State Los Angeles and a master's in educational psychology from Cal State Long Beach.

He has worked with students of all ages and also earned a Bilingual Certificate of Competence.

"It is clear that Mr. Aristo will be a solid fit in our district," Irene White, the district's director of special education and student services, said in the release. "His background and experience will allow us to continue as well as expand our efforts in providing exemplary services to our students, parents and staff."

At Laguna Beach High School, Johnathan Rastello joins the staff as a counselor.

Rastello has been a college admissions counselor at Chapman University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in film and television, according to the release.

Rastello comes to Laguna Beach High School from J Serra Catholic High School, where he was school counselor.

"Mr. Rastello has already proven to be an asset to our counseling staff," Laguna Beach High Principal Joanne Culverhouse said in the release. "He brings a wealth of knowledge to our team and students will benefit from his kind and caring approach."


School district gets top financial rating

Laguna Beach Unified School District finances are in strong shape, according to Standard & Poor's rating service.

The agency issued an AAA long-term rating (its highest mark) for the district, which reflects strong income and wealth, a solid financial position, indicative of Laguna Beach Unified's basic-aid status, and good financial management, according to a news release.

Basic-aid, also known as "local funding," occurs when a district uses local property tax revenue instead of general purpose funding from the state, according to the Irvine Unified School District website.

One of the reasons for the rating was the school board authorizing the refinancing of bond debt during a low-interest environment the last few years, Dean West, assistant superintendent of business services, said in the release.

"The AAA rating reaffirms the quality of the bonds," West said. "High-quality bonds provide taxpayer savings through lower interest costs."

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