The guard is changing at the Laguna Beach Unified School District, which announced last week that Sherine Smith will be the new superintendent effective July 1.

Smith, who received unanimous approval from the Board of Education, served as assistant superintendent of Fullerton Joint Union High School District for the past year. She succeeds Robert Fraisse, who is retiring after three years of service.

The incoming superintendent describes education as her career, and is enthusiastic about her new position.

"I have been in education for many years and have always had the superintendency as my ultimate goal," Smith said. "At this point, I have acquired the training and skills essential to being a strong educational leader, and am proud and honored to join this district for many reasons.

"It is important to me to work in a district where students come first, and this is one with a clear and unwavering focus on student learning. This is also a district that is recognized for the quality of leadership on the board and in the schools and sets high goals and works diligently to accomplish them."

Smith said she is also drawn to the strong community support the district receives, something that is vital to its success.

While she said it is too soon to establish a specific agenda, Smith said she plans to familiarize herself with the district's sites as soon as possible in order determine the best plan of action for Laguna's schools.

"Our most important work is to continue to provide a high quality education for our students, and strong instructional and extracurricular programs that have defined Laguna Beach schools for many years," she said. "As a team of educators, we need to continue to examine and reflect on our professional practices to ensure we are providing the best possible learning opportunities for our students, and that we have interventions in place for those who need them, as well as enrichment and extension opportunities for all students."

A California native, Smith began her career in education as a teacher at Chico Senior High School, and later moved to the Capistrano Unified School District, where she served a variety of teaching and administrative positions.

Becoming a teacher, she said, is something she knew she wanted to do before she entered kindergarten.

"Education was always my first career choice," she said. "It is the most important service we provide to our society. In order for our nation and society to thrive as a democracy and compete in the global economy, we must have educated citizens who are able to analyze issues and make informed decisions. It is our moral obligation to provide the very best education we can to each child so every child can meet his or her full potential and have the opportunity to lead a rich and fulfilling life."

Fraisse, who recently celebrated his retirement with friends and co-workers, said he is proud of what the district has accomplished during his term, and is optimistic its potential to find the "next right answers" in an exciting future ahead.

"We conclude the year fiscally sound, instructionally focused and our relationships with key organizations and labor groups are in excellent condition," Fraisse said. "Student achievement is on the rise as demonstrated by every state and local metric and there is no doubt in my mind that LBUSD is well positioned for a very bright future for the students and families of this amazing District."

He added: "It's been an honor to have served as part of the LBUSD team of teachers, parents, staff, Board members, administrators and community members, all of whom have brought their talents forward on behalf our students. It's that team effort that makes Laguna Beach Unified School District so special and that teamwork will most assuredly carry forward into the future under the able leadership of Sherine Smith."