Longtime Top of the World principal retires from district

Ron La Motte, Top of the World Elementary School principal and longtime Laguna Beach school district administrator, will retire from the district at the end of the school year.

Later this year, La Motte, who has led the elementary school for 13 years, will tackle a new full-time endeavor as director of Concordia's masters of education program.

"I'm thrilled to still have the time and energy to devote to something different," La Motte said in a phone interview.

La Motte started his career with the Laguna Beach Unified School District as Thurston Middle School's assistant principal in 1992, according to a district news release. Four years later, La Motte, 61, was promoted to principal at Thurston. He was named principal at Top of the World in 2001.

"Working in Laguna Beach for the past 21 years has been more than a job or career. It has been an experience of becoming part of a loving, caring community," La Motte said in the release.

"I have been privileged to work with some of the most outstanding administrative leaders in the state of California, being a team member of the most nurturing professional teachers ever assembled, partnering with the most wonderful supportive parent community one could ever imagine, and touching the lives of so many incredibly talented, focused and motivated students a principal could ever ask for."

La Motte was Laguna Beach Unified's lead administrator in bringing Response to Intervention (RTI) programs, designed to help struggling students, to all four district schools.

The Orange County Department of Education hired La Motte to train teachers and administrators in RTI.

La Motte also was instrumental in the district's transition to the Common Core State Standards. He developed teachers and school leaders as an adjunct instructor at Chapman University and Concordia University.

La Motte doesn't get a lot of downtime. His last day at Top of the World will be June 30 and he will start at Concordia July 1.

School board clerk Ketta Brown praised La Motte for creating a welcoming atmosphere.

"His quiet leadership at TOW has had the most impact for our students," Brown said in the release. "He has challenged and supported his entire staff to stretch themselves and reach beyond their comfort zones. He has encouraged them to become open to new ideas and each other; he has framed conversations so that it is no longer about 'my students' but rather 'our students.' This change in attitude has been the catalyst for the incredible leaps TOW has made in recent years, and it has to be credited to Ron's leadership."

The district began the process of hiring a new principal this week. District staff sent online surveys to all Top of the World parents and staff to gather input on the qualities they seek in a new principal.

District administrators also will meet with Top of the World's PTA and other interested parents on March 10 at 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the school, 21601 Treetop Lane.

Applications for the job will be accepted on EdJoin, an education website, beginning the week of March 17.

Several rounds of interviews will be held, and parents, teachers, support staff and administrators will be included.

The district anticipates bringing the recommended candidate to the school board in May.

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