New district administrators named

The Laguna Beach Unified School District board approved the appointment of three new administrators at its meeting Tuesday night.

Darlene Messinger is the new assistant superintendent of instructional services, replacing Deni Christensen, who resigned in June; Leisa Winston is the new director of human resources and public communication, replacing Gerald Vlasic, who resigned in July; and Lisa Brackez is the new assistant principal for guidance at Laguna Beach High School, replacing Courtney Robinson, who resigned in July.

Messinger's educational background includes staff development and training teachers on the Common Core state standards, a new set of learning styles and tests that emphasize critical thinking, writing and interpretation.

She was most recently an office administrator for the Saddleback Valley Unified School District, and before that an instructional services administrator with the Orange County Department of Education,

providing professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators throughout Orange County, Kathy Kessler, Laguna Beach Unified's interim human resources director, wrote in an email. Messinger was also an elementary school principal in the Tustin Unified School District.

She will start Sept. 23 and be paid $154,963 next year, according to a district release and personnel report.

Winston comes to Laguna Beach Unified from the Westminster School District, where she is the assistant superintendent for human resources for both classified staff and teachers.

Prior to that position, Winston provided oversight to Westminster School District's special education services as administrator of student services.

Winston also worked as program specialist for special education in the Capistrano Unified School District and before that was a special-education teacher in Michigan.

She will begin in the next few weeks and be paid $143,539 next year, the personnel report said.

Brackez comes to Laguna Beach High from Cactus Shadows High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she was assistant principal of academics, according to Cactus Shadows' website.

Before that, Brackez was assistant principal for six years at Bradshaw Mountain High in Prescott Valley, Ariz.

In those positions, Brackez led school-wide curriculum and assessment programs and the International Baccalaureate program, according to a Laguna Beach Unified press release.

"She seems very collaborative in working with staff and focused on what's best for students," Laguna Beach High principal Joanne Culverhouse said of Brackez, who graduated from El Toro High School in Lake Forest and was a math teacher for a school in Saddleback Valley Unified.

Brackez will start Monday and be paid $121,877 next year, according to the personnel report.

Robinson, who was at Laguna Beach High for a year, resigned to take a job as assistant principal at Fountain Valley High School, Culverhouse said.

"She was a great addition to our staff and I support her for wanting to pursue other career options," Culverhouse said of Robinson.


Getting into Common Core

Supt. Sherine Smith outlined the transition to the Common Core state standards in a Power Point presentation at Tuesday's meeting.

The presentation elicited questions from board member Ketta Brown focused primarily on math.

Brown wanted assurance from principals and staff at the meeting that the transition to align with the standards would give students the same opportunities that her three children had within the district.

All three of her children took honors and advanced placement classes in the appropriate course sequence, Brown wrote in an email.

"I want the [math] departments [including teachers] to be comfortable with what they come up with so kids aren't limited," Brown said in a phone interview. "I'm not opposed to Common Core ... it's imperative what we do now, that we're aware of the effects to the best of our ability."

The Common Core is a nationwide effort to establish a set of educational guidelines for English/language arts and math.

Forty-five states including California have adopted the same standards for English and math, according to the California Department of Education website.

In math, students will learn to explain how they solved a problem, according to a Power Point presentation available on the district's website. Tests will move away from multiple-choice questions toward more short-answer responses.

The district is in transition to the new standards for students in kindergarten through sixth grade this school year, and in seventh, eighth and high school in the 2014-15 school year.

Culverhouse, the Laguna Beach High principal, acknowledged that incorporating new math standards is a challenge.

"The math [department] chairpersons mapped out [curriculum] on paper and it looked OK, but they [went back] and said, 'Put the brakes on, slow down and look at where we want to be,'" Culverhouse said during the meeting. "Math is the biggest sequential hurdle to get over. There are so many different options."

Staff and teachers still need to figure out how the rollout will play out, Smith said during the meeting.

Some students' performance in math classes dropped with a more rigorous course load, Smith said.

"Some students who were pushed didn't master [concepts]," Smith said. "As they got further up their grades dropped. Not every student needs the highest level of math."

Common Core State Standards

A single set of clear educational testing standards for English/language arts and literacy and mathematics that states can share and voluntarily adopt.

Tests will move away from multiple-choice questions and toward more written responses that will require students to think analytically and explain how they solve a problem, even in math.

The goal is for students who graduate high school to be prepared for college and the workforce and able to compete in the global marketplace.

Laguna Beach Unified School District is requiring all instructors to teach a minimum of two Common Core-aligned units this year in preparation for full transition in the 2014-15 school year.

For more information on Common Core, visit the district's website at and click on the Parent Resources tab.

Sources: Laguna Beach Unified School District website

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