The Capistrano Unified school board OK'd a new teachers contract but not without fireworks and accusations of political opportunism.
The agreement calls for a 177-day school year (two more days than last year but less than a normal school year of 180 days), a slight decrease in class size, a 1.2 percent raise for teachers, the elimination of open house night and three days of training in the national testing standards known as Common Core.
Trustee Jim Reardon made a motion that district staff take a few more weeks to find the $2.8 million he estimated it would cost to restore a full school year.
“We are still not fully restored to 180 days. That’s the normal school year that people in our community have come to expect,” he said. “The board has the ability and power to get it done this year.”
That had fellow trustees questioning his motives.
“I can’t help but feel that this is motivated for less than altruistic reasons,” said board President John Alpay. Later, Alpay called it “political gamesmanship,” criticizing Reardon for coming up with a plan that thwarts months of negotiations “in the 11th hour.”
Reardon said he was taking aim at money outside of the teachers’ contract. District officials recently learned many of the funds which previously had rigid restrictions were suddenly freed up to be spent in any number of ways. The district should investigate their best use now, not in a year, he said.
Trustee Lynn Hatton said with only weeks before having to submit a final budget into the county Department of Education, there wouldn’t be enough time to do the kind of analysis needed. She said such programs as music and International Baccalaureate could be jeopardized from such hasty slicing and dicing.
“We will have to raid something. We have cut so much money from our staff. The only thing to cut after that is programs,” Hatton said.
Reardon responded that in a $360-million budget, staff should be able to find the $2.8 million needed somewhere.
But others said such an effort in a short period of time was unwise.
“To throw this down anybody’s throat just this fast is irresponsible,” said Trustee Amy Hanacek.
The board voted 4-3 to approve the teacher contract, with trustees Reardon, Ellen Addonizio and Anna Bryson opposed.