Laguna Beach USD prez won’t seek reelection, UCI professor joins ballot

Laguna Beach Unified Board President Carol Normandin. Photo courtesy of LBUSD

The Laguna Beach Unified school board president won’t seek reelection in November, potentially creating an opening for a UC Irvine history professor.

Carol Normandin, an eight-year veteran of the school board, succeeded the former president Peggy Wolff after she stepped down in late 2020. The two women led the board through an epidemic that forced school closures and distance learning.

School board meetings convened to decide whether to certain school sites to students and staff regularly erupted in fury expressed by disappointed reopen parents.

“I’m an optimist so if we survived that being a board member this term would be the easiest four years ever,” Normandin said.

While Normandin believes it takes four years for school board members to absorb an understanding of the district’s policies and challenges, she also feels strongly about giving her neighbors an opportunity to enter public service.

“Democracy is based on stepping into that public space, giving, and then making space for others to participate,” she said.

Leading a public board through often heated discussion taught Normandin patience and gratitude, she said. She’s particularly thankful for the hard work displayed by district employees over the past decade.

“They are a phenomenal, synchronized team. It has been my pleasure and honor to watch their mastery of the profession,” Normandin said.

The districtwide effort to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion for all families remains unfinished but Normandin is confident the school board will continue its pursuit.

Joan Malczewski, an associate professor of history, qualified for the ballot after filing her candidate statement on Monday.

Joan Malczewski is an associate professor of history at UC Irvine. Photo courtesy of UCI

Malczewski earned her doctorate from Columbia University in 2002. She is visiting scholar at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, where she is currently research on the American Council on Education and its influence on higher education policy during the Cold War. Her book published by University of Chicago Press in 2016 examines the process of black education reform during the Jim Crow era in North Carolina and Mississippi.

A mother of five children, Malczewski said her youngest child moved to Top of the World Elementary in first grade and is now a fifth grader.

“This past year I volunteered two mornings each week at TOW and witness the extraordinary educational opportunities that our schools offer. I will support our committed educators and parents who care deeply about the needs of our children,” Malczewski wrote in her candidate statement.

Board member Dee Perry has also pulled papers declaring her candidacy but has not officially qualified. Board member James Kelly said in a phone interview Wednesday that he plans to seek reelection and is still required his required paperwork.

The deadline to file nomination papers and declaration of candidacy is Friday.

“I finally feel that I’ve made it through orientation and I know how everything works and who all the players are. I feel that I can be much more helpful to the district at this time,” Kelly said.

Among Kelly’s most prized accomplishments are hiring a second school resource officer, a second nurse, and multiple counselors to support students’ social-emotional health.

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