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Capo Had Wanted to 'Minimize Publicity' About Teacher Pay

Documents obtained from a Public Records Act request reveal that, at first, officials wanted to hide restoration of teacher salaries.

Capistrano Unified School District officials initially strategized to "minimize publicity" of a decision to restore teacher salaries, a tactic that irked at least one trustee and which a spokesman later called a mistake.

That strategy, spokesman Marcus Walton explained to Patch, was intended to keep communication positive about the district, and was a “mistake." But “that was the direction I was given,” he said. He would not reveal from whom.

Copies of e-mail communications obtained pursuant to a Public Records Act request filed by Patch show that the district prepared a press release  Feb. 1. However, it originally was going to be made available to members of the media only if they asked for the release.

When the action—taken behind closed doors—was eventually announced, it drew criticism. Some critics said they didn't agree with restoration because the state has yet to give the district the $4.6 million it needs to cover the costs. One  in an effort to declare the restorations “null and void,” because he believes the restorations were not made in accordance with the union's contract.

"As we can see from the aftermath, [Superintendent Joseph] Farley’s concerns about this issue were correct,” Walton said, referring to the controversy and lawsuit that ensued once the district's action came to light.

The short chain of e-mails begins with an e-mail Walton wrote to the school board Feb. 2.

“Just a clarification,” he wrote. “To minimize publicity, the news release is being sent only to members of the media who inquire about possible changes to employee salaries.”

Trustee Ellen Addonizio replied 2½ hours after Walton sent his e-mail that she disagreed with the district's approach.

“A confidential, obfuscating press release?" Addonizio wrote. "The community I represent deserves better than what appears to be happening here,” she added. “I do not approve of the press release or the methods used in this issue. I strongly recommend reconsideration of this item.”

In response to Addonizio’s e-mail, Farley wrote a half-hour later: “I have never heard of a confidential news release. We will distribute the news release to the general media. We are trying very hard to keep the publicity about CUSD positive.”

Trustee John Alpay said he was not familiar with the concept of a confidential news release, adding “?!” in the parenthetical. None of the other trustees contributed to the e-mail thread.

Walton ended the thread by saying, “There is no such thing as a confidential news release.” The next day, he sent the release to the approximately 45 news media outlets on his media list.

SJCfamily April 18, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Why don't you ask the union to "help"? We parents are all tapped out!
Capo mom April 18, 2011 at 08:38 PM
shelly shelly shelly Volunteering, fundraising? We have been doing this for years. My family has contributed twice to keep class sizes down. It hasn't solved the problem. It is time to do something different.
Pam Sunderman April 18, 2011 at 09:42 PM
So your message is clear...you are tired of paying more so you want the teachers to pay instead. At some point they won't or can't. Then what? Who else will you expect to pay for you (since you are done paying). And who will be paying the rising costs of gas, food, housing? I'm sure you're tired of paying for those as well.
Ellie Thompson April 18, 2011 at 10:31 PM
Out of my property taxes there is a grand total of $48 specified for CUSD.I know others pay more but exactly what do you contribute through property taxes? How many kids do you have and want educated for that? Wouldn't buy much of a voucher.
SJCfamily April 18, 2011 at 10:58 PM
"Ellie Thompson" - Please do your homework with respect to how we are taxed for our public education system. It's not as simple as what is listed on your property tax bill; that's only for bonds for things like facilities ON TOP OF state and federal taxes that fund our public education system. The bonds that you see on your property tax bill are assessed on the valuation of your home. Some people pay hundreds, others pay $48. It's a shame that you really don't know how your kids' education is paid for, or what the "Capo USD bond" payment on your property tax bill is for (there are probably several amounts listed - there are 3 listed on mine - did you check?). The lion's share of funding comes from state and some from federal taxes. Did you know that the teachers and employees salary and benefits eat up nearly 90% of your kids' education budget? Did you know that teachers and employees' benefits amount to millions of dollars every year out of our kids' education budget? Did you know that if the teachers and employees simply pitched in more towarsd their benefits alone, we would probably not have to incerase class sizes? Given these facts, what's wrong with asking them to pitch in more towards their benefits?
Ellie Thompson April 19, 2011 at 01:45 AM
Whoa!! Settle down. I specificly spoke to property tax alone. I have no children so I helped pay for your child. It is not 90% of the total budget by the way. It comes from unrestricted funds. Other funds are already designated for use when they get them. And yes I checked prior to posting. As consumers we all pay in one way or another for everyones benefits and raises through increased prices and taxes. Don't forget-lower class size means more teachers,more classrooms to support,and more support staff.If more children were truly prepared to learn in the classroom one or two more students in the class would not be as big a deal.
SJCfamily April 19, 2011 at 04:29 AM
"Ellie" - why did you make such a silly statement about your property tax only being $48 and asking "How many kids do you have and want educated for that? Wouldn't buy much of a voucher." That is such a disingenuous comment when you clearly understand that the $48 on your property tax bill has nothing to do with educating kids and vouchers for heavens sake... I guarantee that public employees do not pay for my benefits, so that's another silly statement. I hope you're not a teacher!
Pam Sunderman April 19, 2011 at 04:32 AM
If you are employed SJCfamily then the proceeds of your company pay for your benefits. Where do those proceeds come from?
shelly April 19, 2011 at 05:46 AM
Capo mom, The budget is yearly. The problem may sometimes be yearly so if we want smaller class sizes for each year then you must contribute each year. The problem or need is dependent on how much education funding is available each year. So if it is a lean year then parents need to fundraise to save programs. The years that parents have fundraised successfully for class size the "problem" was solved for those years.
shelly April 19, 2011 at 05:50 AM
If the public buy products or services from the company that you are working for then the public are supporting your benefits. People who belong to unions are part of the public. Basically though someone in the public is supporting your job because if someone isn't paying into where you are working then where does the money come from?
shelly April 19, 2011 at 05:55 AM
My children are in CUSD schools and their teacher, schools and education is important. So as a parent I am not tapped out but willing to help and make sacrifices to help because a good education is essential for our children's futures. What is your limit for teachers and administrators? How much is enough before they are tapped out?
SJCfamily April 19, 2011 at 06:00 AM
My family is self-employed. We generate the revenue, pay for ours and part of our employees benefits and we pay ENORMOUS taxes, which cuts our income substantially. Our benefits are not guaranteed should we have a bad quarter or a bad year, by the way. Not so for the public sector, whose pensions are guaranteed and whose benefits are paid by taxpayers like me who are also paying for our own pensions and benefits. It's just unsustainable.
Pam Sunderman April 19, 2011 at 06:15 AM
And that revenue comes from???? Is your product or service provided to the public for free or do you charge for it. That would be how we all pay for your benefits. Benefits for teachers have been reduced. And if you have a very good year you enjoy the proceeds of that. Not so for teachers. They have been fortunate to get COLA raises for many years. We all made choices. I don't begrudge you the opportunity to make good profits. I hope you do. Please don't begrudge the more stable (but with lots less potential for huge increases in pay) choice that teachers made.
Shripathi Kamath April 19, 2011 at 07:16 AM
"we pay ENORMOUS taxes, which cuts our income substantially" Aren't taxes paid AFTER your salaries, benefits, etc. (compensation) have been counted in the expenses to be subtracted from the revenues? If you are then still paying ENORMOUS taxes, I congratulate you on having created a very profitable business.
Capo mom April 19, 2011 at 02:34 PM
I DO begrudge teachers the opportunity to increase class sizes on the one hand and seek higher wages with the other at the expense of my children and every taxpayer in the district. Teachers demand to share in the benefits of an expanding economy. And in hard times? This is how they behave. As Capo Parent points out, it is obvious this was coming for at least the last couple of years. CUEA has actively worked to make this happen. They demonize anyone who doesn't agree with them. But we are now seeing who was correct. I notice you and shelly don't have anything positive say about the waiver. Why is that?
SJCfamily April 19, 2011 at 02:39 PM
There is a big difference between public and private employees; consumers have a choice whether to pay for the goods or services of a private company. Tax payers on the other hand, have NO choice whether to pay for the salaries and benefits of public employees. One additional difference is that in the private sector, employees are not guaranteed raises, nor are their pensions guaranteed by tax payers. CUSD employees salaries and benefits are 87% of the budget. If I had a CHOICE, I would vote to make public employees chip in more towards their health and pension benefits, thereby keeping the cuts away from the kids.
Pam Sunderman April 19, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Ah yes...the old choice argument. What difference does it make? Your revenues still come from the public no matter who chooses to use your product or service. And the reason you have no choice about paying for schools is that, of course, you receive the services and/or the benefits of free public schools. Teachers are not guaranteed raises...those are negotiated every year and when times are bad they don't get a raise...they get a pay cut. The pensions are part of a contract negotiated over many decades. Historically they have been a very strong system. And no one ever objected to them until the current financial downturn. They were part of a benefits package to encourage the strongest candidates to choose teaching over other more lucrative careers. And teachers contribute 8% of their pay into pensions every year. They are not a gift. If it becomes necessary for teachers to contribute more, they will. They don't have a choice about that. Manipulating figures (that keep changing in every post on here BTW) is a common way for people to make a point when they have nothing else.
Pam Sunderman April 19, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Of course you would vote to make teachers pay more for benefits (which they already do this year). You would much rather have someone else sacrifice for your child...because your sense of entitlement has increased as your personal revenue has decreased. You want more for less. And teachers are the scapegoat du jour. It doesn't matter to you whether it will solve the problem. But it might make you feel better for some reason.
Pam Sunderman April 19, 2011 at 04:32 PM
What waiver are you referring to? And why shoudn't teachers benefit from an expanding economy like everyone else? They share in the cut backs of a struggling economy. How has CUEA actively worked to make the economy tank?
SJCfamily April 19, 2011 at 06:12 PM
“jollygirl”, “shelly” and all other union members: Public schools ARE NOT FREE. That’s the point – they are VERY expensive for us taxpayers to support, largely because of the salaries and benefits of the employees. You state that teachers had to contribute 8% of their pay to their benefits – are you kidding me??? I and most people in the private sector have to contribute 100% to our pensions – and we are forced to make up the rest of the pension contributions for teachers. Only a union member would call taxpayers who are forced to pay for union members’ salary and benefits “entitled” because we dare to suggest that you pay more for your benefits. This is why the union is so strongly disliked by most non-union citizens.
Bob Rohwer April 19, 2011 at 06:15 PM
"All that serves labor serves the nation. All that harms is treason. If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. There is no America without labor, and to fleece the one is to rob the other." -- Abraham Lincoln
SJCfamily April 19, 2011 at 06:22 PM
Bob- the unions of today bear no resemblance to their original intent, which was to protect workers from abusive employers. Honest Abe would roll over in his grave at the strongarm tactics of union members in attacking non-union taxpayers who dare to question the ever-increasing amounts of pay and benefits that union members get at the expense of taxpayers. Now it's the taxpaying public that needs protection from the increasing calls for more taxes and cuts to kids' programs, in order to "feed the union beast".
Bob Rohwer April 19, 2011 at 06:35 PM
I'm done. I won't change your mind. You won't change mine. Have a happy, loving life... and hug a teacher.
Pam Sunderman April 19, 2011 at 07:01 PM
Me too Bob. I think I have accomplished a major goal here. At least no one is referring to teachers as greedy here. The rhetoric, though inaccurate and misleading, is at least more civil.
Pam Sunderman April 19, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Oh...just reread and saw the union beast remark...oh well...
Shripathi Kamath April 19, 2011 at 08:05 PM
I am hoping that one failure will not deter you, and that you keep trying. You may not change one mind, but you'll give many a lot more to think about. The problem is that we now live in an age where forcible, unchallenged opinions tend to fester and often erode facts. I understand that it is frustrating, and usually fruitless, but do remember that some who read but stay on the sidelines will learn from you. And from him. The contrast persuades reasonable people.
Shripathi Kamath April 19, 2011 at 08:07 PM
Dunno about your goals, but keep up the discourse. I do not agree with you on some things, but it is good to see some baseless assertions not go unchallenged. A differing viewpoint is always good. Most intelligent can entertain a contrary POV without having to accept it.
Ellie Thompson April 20, 2011 at 02:59 AM
I hope the children of some of these folks don't grow up with a desire to teach. What would they say of their child?Just a thought.
Lori Walker April 20, 2011 at 04:29 AM
Wow! I cannot believe the fuss that continues to be made over restoring two furlough days. Those two furlough days were days when teachers like myself would have been at home with no pay. Instead, we are now in the classroom, teaching the children. I imagine everyone who is writing on this blog is paying taxes every year, just as I do. Yet I recently heard that nearly 50% of ALL Americans pay no taxes at all. Perhaps the real problem here is that not everyone does their part. Do we have too many tax breaks? I do not know about that. However, it seems to me that everyone should be required to give something. And just for the record: California continues to be one of the states with the LOWEST amount of dollars spent for each student. How is it that teachers are being paid too much when California ranks close to the bottom in their expenditures for education? It does not make sense. Some have complained that we spend too much of our budget on Salary and Benefits. However, most California School Districts do spend between 80 and 90% of their money on salaries and benefits for employees. Teachers received a little restoration this year. Yet, we are still taking a pay cut overall! We do pay a portion for our benefits and it is now much more than it was last year. From what I have heard, it sounds like just increasing the class sizes next year would not be enough. We may be looking at another pay cut and/or change in benefits. Nothing has been finalized!
shelly April 20, 2011 at 06:15 AM
SJC Family, Just because I support teachers does not mean that I am a union member. I am a parent with children in the district. My husband works for a private company and he is not a union member. He receives benefits, retirement and stock options. He was offered and receives these benefits because he is a good employee and his company wants to keep him. If his company did not offer benefits then he would not be working for them. Education is not free. It costs money because teachers are people and they need to eat. Contrary to what kindergarters believe teachers do not live at the school. Teachers have families and mortgages and they pay taxes. Of course, it is not free. And of course salaries are the biggest percentage of the school budget. Why shouldn't it be? Books, programs, smaller class sizes (oh, wait, that doesn't make sense that would be more teachers), better buildings, paper, etc..? What good are these without enough teachers? If there is not enough money then we all need to help because that is what a community does. Not just one segment of the community helps but the whole community helps.

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