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Fact-Checking Two CUSD 'Hit Pieces'

Candidates for school board don't like each other's mailers.

The two main candidates for the Capistrano Unified school board seat that will represent parts of San Juan Capistrano, Ladera Ranch and Coto de Caza are unhappy with recent mailers sent to voters.

Here’s what Carol McCormick and Jim Reardon – and Patch – say about various contentions in the "hit pieces."

The Case Against Carol McCormick

Republicans received a mailer from Reardon that says McCormick wants to continue her liberal agenda by fulfilling a “to-do” list that includes increasing class size, giving teachers raises and shortening the school year.

McCormick said she can’t “continue” anything because she’s not on the board yet. She also said she's not a liberal; she’s been a Republican since she was 18.

Reardon is referencing her support from Capistrano Unified Children First, which is often closely aligned with the teachers’ union. This past year, according to what was publicly available, most of the union’s negotiating points were adopted by the board, including more furlough days. A paycut the teachers don’t want is open for renegotiation if Prop. 30 fails.

McCormick said she does not want to increase class sizes or shorten the year. And she takes issue with the mailer’s contention she will do anything the union says.

“I do not do whatever anyone says.  I am my own person, with my own opinions, opinions I am not afraid to voice,” she wrote in a letter to voters. “I did not take a dime from the union. This is a fact that can be easily checked as all monies received by a campaign must be reported. This is a state law. I did not take money from the union however; I will do my best to work with them to reach amicable resolutions on every topic."

However, union help did come her way. According to financial statements filed in early October, the union’s political action committee donated $10,000 to school board President Gary Pritchard’s re-election campaign, which turned around and gave nearly $6,000 in “non-monetary contributions” to candidates in other trustee areas, including $2,107.60 to McCormick. Pritchard raised very little money outside of union donations.

McCormick never listed the non-monetary contribution in her finance disclosures.

Reardon’s piece against McCormick claims she has a “plan for a parcel tax.” McCormick said she has no such plan. When asked by email if she would support someone else's plan for a parcel tax, she did not respond.

The Case Against Jim Reardon

In a mailer sent out from a PAC called Taxpayers for Safer Neighborhoods – whose contributors include supporters of Children First – Reardon is described as the cause of the shorter school year and larger classes.

His responses to the mailer can be found at his campaign site where he writes a blog. 

The mailer blames lawsuits Reardon has filed against the district for causing bigger class sizes. Reardon has brought one lawsuit personally against the district, while two others were filed in the names of his children.

The lawsuit he filed accused the school board of violating the state’s open-meeting laws in late 2010 and early 2011 by making certain decisions behind closed doors. The lawsuit was unsuccessful.

In October 2011, Patch asked the district how much Reardon’s case, originally filed in March 2011, had cost the district in legal fees. The answer was $10,886. The case concluded three months later

Reardon believes his original allegation was confirmed by a scathing report released last year by the district attorney's office after it investigated similar complaints, even though it could not conclude the board violated any laws.

"The conclusions of that investigation are disappointing, but the statements made by [the Orange County District Attorney] about the board members and their conduct is most interesting – worse than a finding on the Brown Act issue," he said.

Two other lawsuits brought against the district were on behalf of Reardon’s two sons, one of them autistic, the candidate said. One lawsuit had little monetary value other than to provide services, he said. 

The second lawsuit, tied to the so-called "enemies' list" created by a former superintendent, resulted in a payout of about $60,000-70,000 for denying a free public education to his children, he said. The settlement was paid by the district's insurance company, he said.

In a Sept. 26 email to Children First President Fran Sdao, Capistrano Unified spokesman Marcus Walton wrote: “There have been no settlement agreements with, or payments made, by CUSD to James Reardon or Helen Welch Reardon in the last 10 years.”

As has been documented in numerous Patch articles, the school board shortened the school year by five days and increased class sizes by laying off teachers in response to a $31-million budget shortfall this school year. The budget gap would grow to $51 million if Prop. 30 fails. The budget then would call for an additional 10 days cuts from the school calendar.

Capo Parent November 06, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Penny Maybe you can do an article about the cyber warfare that Alpay, Korpi and Children First engaged in during this election cycle. I guess that cyberfraud will be one of the new courses at CUSD's virtual high school, California Preparatory Academy, deliberately named to confuse it with Oxford Preparatory Academy. Maybe Alpay and Korpi can be featured instructors given their cyberfraud experience.
LeAna Bui November 06, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Maybe we can all just stop the "hit pieces" and other devious and negative campaigning so we don't need these fact checks and explanations........
Capo Parent Too November 06, 2012 at 05:02 AM
There were about five or six articles about that subject.
concerned parent November 06, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I think this article is good, but it should have come way before election day so people had more time to evaluate the claims of each candidate.

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