Days before Christmas, the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees announced that Superintendent Kirsten Vital Brulte’s contract would be terminated on Dec. 31.
Trustees voted on the matter during a special closed session meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 21. Board President Krista Castellanos did not give a reason for the termination when announcing the decision following the closed session.
Trustees Gila Jones, Lisa Davis and Judy Bullockus voted against ending Brulte’s employment with the district. Jones and Davis left the meeting after the closed session.
Brulte had been the superintendent since 2014.
In an email sent to CUSD families afterward, Castellanos said the board voted, 4-3, on the decision to terminate Brulte’s contract.
“It is important to emphasize that the action taken was not for cause, and we wish the Superintendent the best in her future endeavors,” Castellanos said. “The District’s contract with the Superintendent, like most contracts with school district superintendents, contains provisions that allow either party to terminate the contract before it expires, without cause.”
“The contract has included a severance provision since 2014, and counsel for the District and for the Superintendent will be working on an agreement to implement that provision,” Castellanos continued.
Starting Jan. 1, Deputy Superintendent Clark Hampton will assume the role of interim superintendent while CUSD engages in the recruitment and hiring process for the district’s next leader, Castellanos further said.
“We want to assure our students, employees, and families that this will not affect the extraordinary work of our teachers, classified staff, and administrators who provide an excellent instructional program every day. We will keep our CUSD community informed as we move through this process,” Castellanos said.
Board Vice President Michael Parham said he would not provide any additional information about the rationale behind the decision, because “personnel matters are highly delicate.”
“I look forward to beginning the process to identify a permanent replacement, a process which will include public input and a thorough search to attract the best candidates from around the state,” he said.
Davis said she, Jones and Bullockus voted to keep Brulte on.
“She is an excellent superintendent that has lead CUSD with strength, integrity and grace,” Davis said. “She has gotten us out of the mess we were in before she came on board.”
Brulte was instrumental in the “safe and early reopening of CUSD schools,” a decision that “reduced the learning loss that all other districts are dealing with today,” Davis further said.
“She stood up for kids, kept CUSD schools open, not forced the vaccine but worked on choice, and protected our district from the influences of neighboring counties,” Davis said.
Trustee Amy Hanacek, who voted to end Brulte’s contract, had no additional information but, as a personal comment, said “it is fairly unique in K-12 (schools) to have a Superintendent serve as long as Kirsten Vital-Brulte has and that I appreciate her service to Capistrano Unified School District.”
Brulte’s salary under her most recent contract, which was due to end on June 30, 2026, was $361,262.
This is a developing story.