Vol. 6, Issue 41, October 10-16, 2008
The Capistrano Dispatch
Question: How do you view the unrest Capistrano Unified School District has experienced in recent years?
There is no question that the criminal corruption found in the superintendent’s Education Center only made conditions worse at CUSD. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office and a number of parents found more problems at the new San Juan Hills High School. The two most recent expensive costs were for the new administration building at $52 million and the new high school at $140 million. We need to bring closure to the important issues so that the superintendent and the board of trustees can work together to ensure a quality education for all students. In addition, we need to improve our communication with trustees, teachers, parents, students and administrators. The ability to secure additional funding will do much to overcome the unrest in the district.
It is unfortunate that our district is in this situation. There are better ways to handle issues and we need not be adversarial to solve problems. If elected, I will focus on moving us in a direction where we can work together. I believe much of the divisiveness occurred due to a lack of transparency and poor communication. I will build trust through honest, open communication and by listening to the concerns of parents and the community. Differing opinions and viewpoints are healthy and should be part of the process. By putting the children and their education first, I’m confident we can work together to move past these issues. It’s time to focus our time and energy on the future.
I view the unrest within the district as a divided board and community. The current board is spending too much time, energy and tax dollars chasing “bad guys” that are already being investigated by the local authorities. I will set the path on solutions rather than on past transgressions. I believe my 28 years of CUSD roots and my independence will begin the healing. I am a calming influence of change; I am not “old guard,” and I am not CUSD recall. Let’s bring the focus back to the education of our kids. Let’s stop playing the blame game, and instead, work on finding a way to move forward. Let’s partner with our teachers and classified staff for the better education of our children.
Parents with children in newer schools don’t understand why parents with children in older schools are unhappy. They don’t understand the great needs at some of our older schools. Many in our district leadership, past and present, refuse to acknowledge parent-raised issues as valid and therefore lead the community to believe many parents are just negative. Misinformation and rumors continue to plague our district. We have wonderful, caring and intelligent parents with many talents. Our community has great respect for our schools and classroom teachers; we must respect our community members. People have a desire to be respected, heard and be helpful. With our strong parent support, solid teaching and our talented students we can overcome the huge obstacles facing our district and become united in supporting education in CUSD.
I view the district’s unrest as being the result of rapid student growth, special interests and politics. Since the unification of the district in 1964 it has become known as the most rapidly growing school district in all of Orange County. The growth has created new cities, new schools, new special taxes, etc. This phenomenon will continue with the recent approval of 14,000 new homes in the eastern portion of the district. Prior to the opening of San Juan Hills High School a special committee was created to determine new high school boundaries with ethnic balance. This process was poorly planned and not approved by two trustees: Trustee Casabianca and myself. The district lost a very costly lawsuit in the process—thus the beginning of the pro-recall group and politicians.
Years of inept, corrupt management by the old board, remnants of which remain, are responsible for creating and fostering the “us” vs. “them” attitude and resulting discord over CUSD. While some are obviously disturbed by the “noise” within CUSD during the last few years, I view the disquietude voiced in CUSD during the last few years as a good and necessary thing. Thomas Jefferson, the author of our Declaration of Independence, wrote: “… [A] a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical…It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.” We have the right to challenge our government when we disagree. Without the recent unrest, administrators now under felony indictments would be running CUSD.
Our students, faculty and staff have been forced to endure far too much over the years. They’ve been subjected to corrupt leadership, poor decisions and much more. We’ve the dubious distinction of having our past superintendent indicted and possibly more to follow. However, with the efforts of a great many people, this district has been able to chart a new course. We have new leadership, retained a great faculty and staff, and restored accountability to district. Fortunately, much of this is now behind us. I believe 2009 is going to be a great year for our schools despite the budget woes emanating from Sacramento. Together, we can accomplish much.
Whatever the causes of unrest in the past, we must move forward and work together to ensure the needs of students and staff are met in light of the fiscal challenges ahead. In order to accomplish this, the board must fully disclose any and all policy decisions made in executive sessions, complying with the Brown Act in order that staff, parents and the community at large have complete information provided them. Also, in order to work together, the board must give equal weight and value to all public comments. Finally, whatever differences of opinion arise, the board must ultimately strive to maintain the highest standards and academic competitiveness of our schools because students and staff come first.