? Hear from School Board candidates; ? Man accused of threatening kids during campus movie night; 'Taste for Los Al' boosts student clubs

New Ranking: best O.C. school districts to teach in; 🏈 Griffins win; Which O.C. district had the highest HS graduation rate in 2021?

New Ranking: best O.C. school districts to teach in; 🏈 Griffins win; Which O.C. district had the highest HS graduation rate in 2021?

Helping you better understand, navigate and participate in the TK-12 public school experience in Orange County.

In this week's newsletter...

October 11, 2022

  • FIRST BELL 🔔 🗳 Election 2022: School Board candidates answer questions.
  • SECOND BELL 🔔 Man arrested, accused of threatening kids during movie night at McGaugh Elementary.
  • EXTRA CREDIT 📌 Cypress School Board to vote on teacher's contract granting raises.
  • RECESS 👏🏼 'Taste of Los Al' provides boost to student activities

Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

Spotlight Schools is a nonpartisan, hyperlocal newsroom covering education in Orange County and this is our weekly newsletter.

If you haven't signed up for our newsletter, click here. And be sure to visit the Spotlight Schools website to read more local education news, check out past editions of our newsletter, learn more about our newsroom and even become a supporter of our journalism. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter for news and updates. 

Please send feedback/story ideas/questions to hello@spotlightschools.com.

Yours in knowledge,

Jeannette Andruss, Co-Founder and Chief Editorial Officer


This Week's Top Story

🗳 Election 2022: Candidates answer questions

For many registered voters in Orange County, ballots for the November 8 General Election are arriving in the mail this week.

Not registered to vote yet? The deadline is Oct. 24 and you can do it here.

Once you get your ballot, you have options for how to cast it. You can put it in the mail (no postage required). You can drop it off at any of the dozens of Ballot Drop Boxes anywhere in the county. You can also turn a ballot in at any Vote Center in the county.

Many Vote Centers will open up starting Oct. 29 and remain accessible through Election Day for varying hours. Find out where you can cast your ballot near you with this interactive map

Due to redistricting, some voters might be in different or newly drawn districts. Find out what districts you're voting in using this search tool from CalMatters.


Now to the news you need to read before you fill out your ballot. Spotlight Schools is working to get you useful and accurate information about the people running to represent you on your local school board.

Not only do we have the most comprehensive list of all of the candidates running in O.C., we are also sending questions to the dozens of candidates seeking your vote across the 28 public school districts in Orange County. 

As we get more responses, we will add them to the Spotlight Schools website.

This week we’re hearing from the four candidates running for two seats on the Cypress School District Board of Trustees which oversees six elementary schools in Cypress and La Palma. The district is split into five trustee areas, with candidates running to represent Trustee Area B and Trustee Area C. You can visit a candidate’s campaign website by clicking on their name below.

Map of trustee areas for the Cypress School District Board of Trustees courtesy of the district's website.

The candidates are listed in alphabetical order. Each candidate was emailed the same five questions and given a maximum of 250 words for each response. 

These are the questions: 

  1. Why are you running for the Cypress School District Board of Trustees? 
  2. If elected/re-elected, what is the first thing that you would like to do?
  3. What is the biggest challenge facing families in your school district right now?
  4. What is something that makes you excited about public education right now?
  5. Most can’t vote, but your leadership will impact pupils in numerous ways. What do you want students to know about your candidacy?

In Trustee Area B, current Cypress City Councilman Jon Peat is running for the seat his wife, Bonnie, has held since 2018. She is running for Cypress City Council. Peat’s opponent, Troy Tanaka is a parent and landlord in Cypress. In Trustee Area C, incumbent Sandra Lee is running for re-election and she is facing Kyle Chang, a public health statistician.

In the newsletter, we've included one response to one question. You can read the candidates' responses to all five questions on the Spotlight Schools website.

Trustee Area B

Candidates: Jon Peat and Troy Tanaka

QUESTION: Why are you running for the Cypress School District Board of Trustees?

Jon Peat, Cypress City Council member 

Jon Peat, current councilman for the City of Cypress, is running to represent Trustee Area B on the Cypress School District Board of Trustees. Courtesy photo.


"I am running for the Cypress School District Board of Trustees for a couple of reasons:

First, I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to be involved in their community to make a positive difference for others.  I would like to continue serving the children and families of our community as a member of the Board of Trustees;

Second, I want to utilize my leadership experience in industry and in our community to ensure the Cypress School District remains focused on academics and student achievement.  We have very good schools with excellent teachers, staff and administration.  I want to continue the success of our district by investing in our teachers and staff so that they have the tools and resources needed to provide a well-rounded, high-quality education program for every student.  I want to strengthen communication among all of the stakeholder groups to build the strongest team possible and I want to make sure that we are managing our resources effectively so that we remain a financially strong and healthy organization.  As a parent of a special needs child, I understand the importance of individual learning plans and working with parents to ensure the success of their students.  As a member of the Board of Trustees, my attention will always be on doing what is best for the students and their families."

Troy Tanaka, Parent/Landlord


Parent Troy Tanaka is running to represent Trustee Area B on the Cypress School District Board of Trustees. Courtesy photo.


"I am running as a parent with two boys attending Morris Elementary and to ensure our local School District is run for the benefit of our students, and supportive of our parents, families and teachers.  If elected I would be the only board member in district B with children in the school district. As a parent, I believe we need to improve communications between the District and its parents and other stakeholders. I am also running to support our educators, and am proud to be the only candidate endorsed by our District's teachers."

Trustee Area C

Candidates: Kyle Chang and Sandra Lee

QUESTION: If elected/re-elected, what is the first thing that you would like to do?

Kyle Chang, Public Health Statistician

Kyle Chang is running to represent Trustee Area C on the Cypress School District Board of Trustees. Courtesy photo.

RESPONSE: "The first and easiest thing I would like to improve is board communication and transparency. I’ve heard many families and parents talk about how difficult it is to talk to anyone on the board. I would like to hold regular informal meetings with teachers and families to discuss the issues that affect them. There’s also quite a bit of confusion about the finances of the school district, and I believe this can be improved with more frequent and clearer presentations on the board finances."

Sandra Lee, Cypress School District Board Trustee

Sandra Lee is running for re-election to represent Trustee Area C on the Cypress School District Board of Trustees. Courtesy photo.


"If re-elected, I would like to explore ways to enhance channels of communication to strengthen our partnerships so that our energies are focused on our 3 district goals which are the following:

  • Student Achievement: Provide a rigorous and well-rounded educational program that effectively meets the academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs of all students in a warm and supportive learning environment to ensure school success.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Maintain strong relationships with educational partners and provide opportunities for meaningful engagement to support the success of all students.

Resource Management: Maximize district resources to ensure the success of all students. Click here for 2022-23 District Goals"

👀 Read the entire list of responses from candidates for the Cypress School District Board of Trustees here

Next week we’ll hear from the four candidates running for two seats on the Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education which governs nine schools in Rossmoor, Seal Beach and Los Alamitos.

📌 And be sure to visit the Spotlight Schools website for a full list of all of the candidates running for school boards in O.C.


Other Stories We're Following

Man arrested during movie night at McGaugh campus

Suspect accused of 'causing a disturbance' after jumping fence and threatening kids

A delivery truck driver accused of threatening kids during a campus-sponsored movie night at McGaugh Elementary School in Seal Beach was arrested at the event on Friday, Oct. 7. 

The PTA was hosting the outdoor movie screening on the school’s giant field. More than 100 parents and children were present when the incident happened around 7:45 p.m., according to a press release from the Seal Beach Police Department. 

Police say children were playing on the playground when the male suspect, 33-year-old Robert Fausett of San Pedro, was driving by the campus on Marlin Avenue. The man allegedly got out of the truck and “began yelling at the children through a chain-link fence.” Fausett accused the kids of throwing candy at his truck and at some point hopped over the fence and threatened the children, police reported. 

Officers detained Fausett as he was driving away and he was later arrested on charges of making criminal threats and causing a disturbance on school grounds. He was booked and later released on bail. 

The children involved were between the ages of nine and 14, according to SBPD Lt. Nick Nicholas. According to a few parents interviewed for this story, the kids were frightened by the man and ran and told adults. Somehow word started spreading that someone may have been shot or was threatening to shoot or kill people causing alarm among a group of some parents. No one was injured and no weapons were found in the truck or on the suspect, according to police.

The police department is stressing that there is no ongoing danger to the campus. “We believe this to be an isolated incident,” Seal Beach Chief of Police Philip Gonshak said in the press release.

“The students did the right thing by immediately notifying adults, and the adults should be commended for quickly calling 9-1-1. While we understand how frightening this incident was for the children and parents on campus, please know that the safety and security of the McGaugh community is one of our highest priorities as your Police Department,” Chief Gonshak said.

🚨Read more on this story, including what McGaugh’s Principal and Assistant Principal are saying about the incident, on the Spotlight Schools website.

UPDATE: OCBE approves expansion of charter school

The Orange County Board of Education voted 4-0 on Oct. 5 to approve the expansion of Oxford Preparatory Academy.

A quick update regarding last week’s story on Oxford Preparatory Academy’s petition to expand before the Orange County Board of Education. 

The petition was approved in a 4 to 0 vote at the board's meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 5. Board member Mari Barke was not present at the meeting. 

Weeks after publicly questioning whether to approve the award-winning charter school’s request to build a middle school, board members Ken Williams, D.O., and Jorge Valdes both voted in favor of the expansion last week. 

In past meetings, Williams and Valdes both cited parental complaints regarding perceived political curriculum as initial reasons for not approving OPA’s request.

Injuries part of story as Griffins defeat Sea Kings 49-14

Los Alamitos High School quarterback Malachi Nelson suffered a leg cramp in last week's 49-14 win over Corona del Mar, but #7 will be ready to play against Edison this Thursday. Photo by Marja Bene.

Los Alamitos High School varsity football played their second game in a row at Davidson Field in Newport Beach, with last week’s opponent being the Corona del Mar Sea Kings. The Griffins wasted no time in striking first and taking a 14-0 lead. However, they were unable to pull away and allowed the Sea Kings to remain in the game. 

The Griffins held their collective breath as they watched Makai Lemon, their star wide receiver, hobble off of the field late in the second quarter with what appeared to be a leg injury. 

If having your star wide receiver get injured was a test, how would you describe losing arguably the best quarterback in the nation? Midway through the third quarter of a 21-14 game, Malachi Nelson fell to the turf as he grabbed his leg with what appeared to be a cramp. You could hear a pin drop in the stadium as he was helped off the field.

Enter freshman quarterback Jaden O’Neil, whose only snaps this year came in blowout wins over Garces and Newport Harbor. The entire team, including the coaching staff, was about to be tested. 

The offensive line imposed its will on the much smaller Corona del Mar defensive line. The Griffins marched right down the field, mixing in a few short passes from O’Neil, and got one of five touchdowns on the night from Damien Henderson (4 rushing / 1 receiving). 

With a freshman quarterback in the game and its two best offensive weapons on the bench, the Griffins needed to rely on its defense now more than ever. Over the next three drives, their defense forced a fumble, an interception for a touchdown, and gave up one first down. In the end, the Griffins won 49-14.

As for the injuries, Nelson was determined to have a cramp in his left calf and will be ready for the next game this Thursday. Details of Lemon's status were not provided. 

The Griffins have arguably their most important game of the year thus far coming up on October 13 against the undefeated Edison Chargers. The Chargers are currently ranked #7 in the state by Max Preps while the Griffins sit at #10. The winner of this game will be sitting in the driver’s seat of the Sunset League. The game will be held at Cap Sheue Field in Huntington Beach at 7 p.m. 

Read the entire story by Michael Claborn on the Spotlight Schools website here

📩 Forwarded from a friend? Subscribe to the FREE Spotlight Schools newsletter here.

Other Stories We're Reading

Laguna Beach Unified School District had the highest high school graduation rate in O.C. in 2021 according to a recent report.


Meetings // Events // Opportunities // Resources


HAPPENING THURSDAY, OCT. 13: The Cypress School District Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet at 6:30p.m.

On the agenda 

  • Teachers’ Contract: Vote on the contract with the Association of Cypress Teachers to increase salaries by 9% which would translate to an increased cost of roughly $19 million or about $98,872 per affected employee, according to the district. Read more about the proposed contract here.


The Los Alamitos High School Drama department presents "Charlotte's Web" this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets available here.


Your Dose of Good News

'Taste for Los Al' fundraiser boosts LAHS student activities as foodies delight

The Los Alamitos High School baseball booster club was one of 28 groups supporting students that participated in the 21st 'Taste for Los Al' fundraiser. Courtesy photo.

Thousands of Los Alamitos High School supporters enjoyed a night full of food, raffles, drinks and music last Saturday during the 21st "Taste for Los Al" fundraising event behind the Shops at Rossmoor. 

Making fundraising fun since 2001, the highly anticipated event has consistently raised over a quarter million dollars in donation revenue each year for student activities and programs in the Los Alamitos Unified School District, according to the website

This year was no exception. An estimated 3,000 tickets priced around $65 each were sold by parents and students for the Oct. 8 event, making the fundraiser another tremendous success for participating booster clubs and restaurants. 

Over 30 booster clubs and local restaurants secured a spot this year, recruiting hundreds of volunteers to take on multiple shifts throughout the four-hour event. 

As the gates of "Taste for Los Al" opened this year, Griffin supporters eager for a taste of top menu items and auction items gradually filled the space. 

Booster clubs for Los Alamitos High School hockey, baseball, show choir, softball and song and cheer were part of the 28 programs that volunteered to donate auction baskets and sell tickets for the event this year. 

For groups like LAHS song and cheer, the fundraiser is very important. It's one of the main reasons the team was able to travel to Florida in February to claim numerous championship titles

Parents are often financially responsible for transportation, hotel, and competition fees, thus making events like Saturday night “a big deal” for their event funding, according to booster club president Randy Bolton.  

Larry Strawther has been managing "Taste for Los Al" back to when it first began in 2001. Inspired by the go-getter parents in local sports communities, Strawther— alongside Diana Hill, and booster leaders Kristal and Paul Cheek—set out to create a fundraiser “that would benefit the largest number of students, and thus get the most people involved." 

The event has grown into a community tradition and has raised over $4 million for Los Al USD activities over the years.  

This story was reported and written by Macy Meinhardt. Read the entire article on the Spotlight Schools website.

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