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Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 44  |  June 2, 2020

“Classified Appreciation Week” celebrates the essential workers who keep LBUSD running


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

For the past nine weeks, it has been anything but business as usual for the Laguna Beach Unified School District (LBUSD). Friday, March 13 – which was a Professional Day for both teachers and classified staff – was the last day with any semblance of normalcy.

Even though the Laguna Beach School District teachers are conducting their classes online, someone has to keep the school offices running, maintain the facilities, prepare and distribute lunches, and take care of the technology involved in virtual learning – and that’s where the classified staff fills the need – and much more.

They have kept the wheels of the LBUSD in motion, in most cases behind the scenes, and so, to honor them, this past week was declared “Classified Appreciation Week.”

Message from Superintendent

LBUSD Superintendent Dr. Jason Viloria says, “Our classified team members have risen to the challenge as have our teachers. The essential duties they are performing include supporting online learning, feeding students to-go lunches, maintaining our facilities, and continuing to pay our bills (just a few). We are working hard to maintain the ‘behind the scenes’ that most do not think about. This includes processing payroll, paying vendors, engaging in contracts, etc. I am proud of the entire LBUSD team as they too are managing home situations with their own children, supporting elderly parents and friends, all the while trying to keep some sort of normalcy in the lives of our students.” 

Power in numbers

The number of classified employees varies, but it is approximately 150-160 full and part-time employees with calendars that can be 12 months, 11 months, 10 3/4 months, or the academic school year of 10 months. Classified employees can work two hours or up to eight hours a day.

Classified Appreciation Warder

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Intervention Para Educator Margaret Warder RN 

Intervention Para Educator Margaret Warder summarizes the current services, “Our members are serving lunches (drive-by), working with students online in virtual classrooms, reading stories for teachers to add to the weekly assignments, IT is managing the task of making sure every student has a device along with internet service, maintenance and operations keeping the schools safe and clean while some employees report to work, and handling all of the day-to-day business operations of the District and the School sites. Plus many other jobs on a daily basis.

“LBUSD has the resources to provide to all staff that are interacting with each other or the public protective requirements, masks, gloves, etc.

Also all staff members interacting with sites have been trained on proper disinfecting requirements.”

Wrangling the paperwork

“The office staff has been tackling how to complete their duties remotely as we are in the midst of annual residency verification and new student enrollment.  Shifting all of these duties virtually have been a big undertaking,” says Director of Human Resources Mike Conlon.

Classified Appreciation Styskal

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TOW Administrative Assistant Lauren Styskal

“The clerical staff is working in-house and at home to make sure the payroll is done, receipts and invoices and bills paid, and all the other day-to-day clerical work of registration for students to prepare for transfer to the next grade level,” says Warder. “Along with all the work for our seniors class, scholarships, and records transfer. And let’s not forget registration of our Kinder class for 2020-2021. Our future seniors!”

Grab-and-go meals

Although students are studying at home, lunches are still being provided. The Nutrition Staff is working on a rotating schedule to provide grab-and-go meals to all students in need.

Nutrition Supervisor Debra Arpel explains, “Lunch is prepared at the high school kitchen, since it is the largest and can provide for social distancing. Usually two meals are given on a daily basis. The concept was free and reduced to students within our district. The food is prepared and then handed out at St Ann’s Drive from about 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. 

Classified Appreciation meals

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Doug Bowman and Liz Drudy distribute grab-and-go meals at LBHS 

Technology at home

Warder expands on the technological aspects of home study. “All students TK-12 have devices – either iPads or Chromebooks – to use at home and at school. During the first week, it was important that students who had the device at school were able to ‘drive by’ at the district office. As the collaborating team that LBUSD is, administrators, IT classified, and some teachers facilitated this process. If a device stops working, it is brought to the District Office (by appointment) and exchanged. It is my understanding that all students were able to gain access to the internet to meet with their classes and other meetings as required.”

Para Educators Intervention (which helps students excel in reading, vocabulary, and comprehension) and Technology are providing small groups or 1:1 instruction for students as per assigned and many other classified staff – per direction from their immediate supervisors – are calling and supporting students.

According to Conlon, “The Instructional Assistants have played an instrumental role in supporting students virtually to help them stay organized, provide one-to-one tutoring support, or running small intervention groups. In certain instances, we have also assigned an IA to be a buddy for a student who may not be participating at all in distance learning to help get them back on track.”

Classified Appreciation Hatchel

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TOW Principal Dr. Julie Hatchel 

Open communication

Under the Direction of the School Board and Dr. Viloria, Dr. Winston, and Mr. Dixon, open discussions prevail. To this end, parents and staff are being communicated with weekly through Parent Square.

Deputy Superintendent Human Resources and Instructional Services Leisa Winston adds her praises, “Our classified employees have been instrumental in supporting distance learning implementation. Our instructional support personnel have been assisting teachers with implementing virtual lessons and providing interventions to small groups of students. Our library media staff members have been sharing stories and resources to keep our students reading. Our school office and clerical staff are working hard behind the scenes to transform processes that used to be conducted in a paper or in-person format to a virtual or electronic format. When staff members are not performing these duties, they are engaged in online professional development that includes, but is not limited to, instructional strategies and technology skills. I am so proud that our staff has embraced the new ways by which they are supporting our schools. We’ve had so many classified employees reach out when they have extra time and offer to help in any way possible.” 

Maintenance and Operations

Although the offices are staffed now with a skeleton crew, the school facilities must still be maintained. The Maintenance and Operations staff has been on a rotating basis checking sites and now are starting the process of cleaning classrooms. 

Classified Appreciation Guido

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William Guido, part of maintenance staff at TOW 

Director of Facilities Ryan Zajda says, “The maintenance and operation staff has been working diligently to keep our schools safe and clean during distance learning. Maintenance workers and custodians are currently on a schedule to ensure there is coverage at every school site, Monday through Friday. The valuable time has allowed staff to start the deep cleaning process and also work on facility repairs that would have otherwise been scheduled during the summer months. They are a great group of individuals who work hard to keep the schools operational, clean, and safe.”

Conlon reports, “The role of the M/O crew has been increasing as the school dismissal lengthens. In the beginning, we staffed one maintenance employee per day to check on all five sites and provide custodial services as needed. This has expanded to each employee working one to two days per week providing every site with individual coverage daily. With the summer approaching, we anticipate the M/O employees to be working full-time completing summer projects preparing the sites for the eventual return to school on campus (date TBD).”

Classified Appreciation Carey

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TOW custodian Rick Carey 

Special Education (SPED) IAs are working every day online with their assigned students, facilitating the students to complete homework assignments.

Director of Special Education Irene White says of her staff, “Our Instructional Assistants working with our students eligible for special education have been asked to serve in ways unlike any other time. I appreciate their work more than ever to include our union leaders who have consistently said, ‘How can we support you?’ They have embraced their new roles and are navigating complex student needs ranging from ‘I have no idea what I am supposed to do’ to ‘I don’t understand what my science teacher wants us to do on this assignment.’ 

“At the elementary levels, the IAs are following lessons teachers are following and scooping up kids virtually who need assistance. I have aides taking it upon themselves to create lessons and songs to teach concepts like shapes and sharing it with others to use. Each person on my team is working directly with students, side by side with parents helping students make sense of new concepts so that learning can continue. I applaud them.”

Everyday heroes

From Margaret Warder:

Dear Classified Staff,

Your Executive Board is sending warm wishes and thank you to each and every one of you. All of you have stepped in to help as needed during this unprecedented time.

While managing your own families and those dependent on you, yet giving the maximum to your fellow co-workers, students, and teachers. 

Yes, you are all “Everyday Heroes”!

We all have job responsibilities and expectations that now may look a little different in our new virtual learning and distancing. But you are surpassing the expectations.

We would be having our Recognition Party and we all know that is not happening but it will when we return to the new normalcy of life.

And, we will celebrate like “it’s 1999” (oops and I dating myself?).

We will have a real party in a park, restaurant, someplace like we used to!

Thank you for all you do every day for LBUSD, our students, our families, and each other.

Stay strong and safe.

Warder says, “No, it is not business as usual, but all the business of running our district and teaching our students is happening. It is a time to be very grateful for where we work.”

To view the appreciation video from Dr. Jason Viloria and the District Administrators to the classified staff and teachers, click here.


Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

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