Los Alamitos Board votes in new leaders for 2024

Megan Cutuli will serve as President next year with Marlys Davidson as Vice President; outgoing President Chris Forehan honored

Los Alamitos Board votes in new leaders for 2024
Members of the Los Alamitos USD Board of Education celebrate outgoing President Chris 'Papa' Forehan at the Dec. 12 meeting. Pictured from left to right: Student board member Joelle Kaiser, board members Diana Hill, Marlys Davidson, Forehan, Meg Cutuli, Scott Fayette and Supt. Andrew Pulver, Ed.D. Courtesy photo.

The Los Alamitos Unified School District Board of Education elected new leaders for 2024 at their meeting on Dec. 12 but also spent a considerable amount of time honoring outgoing Board President Chris Forehan.

Regarding the new leaders, board member Diana Hill nominated Megan Cutuli as President and Forehan nominated Marlys Davidson as Vice President.

Hill said Cutuli “has been a tremendous board member for over 24 years. In that time, Cutuli has supported two bond issues and has been a leader with the California School Boards Association, leading District 15. “I could go on and on, but I think she really deserves the honor of serving us as President.” Both members were elected unanimously.

The board then turned to “Papa,” as Forehan is now affectionately known throughout the district.

Cutuli at first read through an exhaustive list of accomplishments that occurred during Forehan’s year as President.

“The first one is that we had 100% of our seniors graduate. I’ve been on the board for 23 years and that has never happened,” she said. “That is something that is so incredible.”

“We have continued to be recognized as a top performing district in Orange County,” said Cutuli, “ranking number one in English language arts and third in math.”

Also, she said through a generous private donation, the district was able to open the “Oasis,” which is an outdoor wellness garden outside inspired “Loft,” at Los Alamitos High School. Both spaces are focused on providing mental health support to students and were made possible through donations from the Los Alamitos Education Foundation and with support from the Orange County Department of Education. 

Cutuli also pointed to improvements to the online tutoring program and the development of a new gym facility at Los Al High School that will soon be announced by the board.

Three elementary schools, Rossmoor Elementary, Hopkinson Elementary and Weaver Elementary were all recognized as 2023 California Distinguished Schools and the district won The AP Honor Roll and AP Access Award with Forehan as president.

But, said Cutuli, after reciting an even longer list of accomplishments, “one of the things that is really special about Chris is that he is known affectionately as “Papa” in all nine schools, and he started out in the elementary school where his grandsons were reading, and he has since read in each of the district’s schools.”

“I believe he spends his entire measly stipend he receives for being a board member on Amazon for pencils to hand out to students,” said District Supt. Andrew Pulver, Ed.D.

Often, when visiting schools, classrooms and lunchrooms, Pulver said he will often see a personalized note from “Papa” commending staff for a job well done.

In addition to personalized notes, Forehan has been known to create personalized medals to recognize achievement.

Visiting campuses with Forehan was always exciting, the superintendent said, noting that an extraordinary number of students knew him on a first name basis and greeted him like a celebrity.

“You’re like a rock star when you go onto the campus. They’ll say ‘Hi Papa, how are you?,’” said Pulver.

“It’s a lovely way to go onto our campuses because I think that’s really the lifeblood of who we are as a school district,” he added. In a recent interview with Spotlight Schools, Forehan said he had visited every classroom in the district. 

Cutuli and Pulver presented Forehan with gifts that included his own medal, even as Forehan continued handing out medals to top staff members for their exceptional work.

In addition to a medal, they presented Forehan with a plaque and a gavel to recognize his leadership on the Board for the past year. Fellow board members also praised Forehan.

“The whole culture of all of our schools has evolved and changed over the last year, said Davidson. “Our kids are safer, they’re happier. The teachers have been able to do a lot of personal or professional training and working together.”

“You’ve been a tremendous leader, but I think all of us probably feel at least I know speaking for myself, you are an ambassador of the heart,” she said.

Hill said she was impressed at how Forehan, despite sending out numerous personal letters and cards, always included the entire board,

“Every time you’ve given a note to someone, you’ve never done it from yourself,” she said. “You’ve always represented this board. You have always represented us as a body. And I just am so grateful for that and really wowed by that, that you remember to do that every single time,” said Hill.

“I really think the number one thing about you though, isn’t your lovely medals. It is your incredible warmth and heart and you have really created a warmth that I don’t think, and no offense to anybody else who is on the board, that nobody else has created in the 13 years I’ve been here.”

“Chris, you have been an inspiration,” said board member Scott Fayette. “It’s an honor to serve next to you. Everyone sees the medals which bring great joy. What not everyone knows is he writes 50 letters a week. It seems like everywhere I go, when I follow in his footsteps to help serve lunch, there’s two letters from Chris on the bulletin board and the lunchroom.”

Fayette said throughout the system, Forehan not only knew the staff members but remembered their names, which he called one of the greatest compliments they could ever receive.

For his part, Forehan went out pretty much like he spent the year, giving the credit to the others, this time the executive board staff. 

“I got bracelets for my fellow board members which say you are awesome, and believe it, so that’s for you guys because you made it work for me, and I also have ones for the executive staff because where they do make things happen and they’re just so child-focused like the board,” he said.

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