UPDATED: At 9:30 and 9:50 p.m. Wednesday with reaction quotes.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story identified a speaker as a parent. In fact, Bill Perkins – who after publication came forward as a candidate for CUSD – does not have any chidlren.
The divided trustees of the Capistrano Unified School District took the unusual step of preventing debate Wednesday night as they approved a $331-million budget and a teachers’ union agreement that will result in larger class sizes and a shorter school year.
Twice on budget-related items, trustees of the voted to not allow debate, effectively shutting out any in-depth discussion.
The first item was . As Trustee Ellen Addonizio was starting to discuss a motion to approve the agreement with the Capistrano Unified Education Association, Trustee John Alpay moved to stop all debate on the matter.
Alpay’s motion passed 4-3, with trustees Addonizio, Sue Palazzo and Anna Bryson dissenting. The contract itself was then passed by a similar 4-3 vote.
Approvals of agreements with other unions were then approved without comment.
When it came time to discuss , Trustees Bryson and Palazzo were able to make a few comments, but when Addonizio signaled that she too wanted to chime in, Alpay again moved to close debate. A heated exchange followed.
“I have a constitutional right to speak to my constituents,” Addonizio said loudly. “You should be ashamed of yourself. Are you that afraid? What are you afraid of? We’re going out of procedure.”
But President Gary Pritchard said Alpay’s motion complied with board procedure.
Several parents spoke out against the budget, which chops five instructional days from the academic calendar – and another 10 if doesn't pass. Their comments came after the first move to halt debate but before the second.
One chastised Alpay for his treatment of fellow trustees.
“Don’t act like children up here,” said Bill Perkins. “Never, never – and I’m talking to your Mr. Alpay – cut someone off when they want to have discussion. Mr. Pritchard, don’t let that happen. You know better. This looks like a back-door deal.”
Alpay called the budget “less than ideal” and confirmed that every employee, including Superintendent Joseph Farley, would be taking a hit. He also included an addendum that the trustees’ stipends would take a similar reduction.
After the meeting, Alpay explained his actions:
I moved to close the debate because there have been continued and extensive open- and closed-session discussions over negotiations and the steps needed to solve the shortfall. In the interest of moving the meeting forward, I motioned to close the debate, to which my colleagues agreed.
As far as Addonizio is concerned, Alpay's and Pritchard's reactions were tantamount to an "assault on democracy." She also took issue with Alpay's comment that there had been much debate on the budget.
"There was no debate. He shut down the debate before it began," she said, adding that she had both questions and comments she wanted to air. "My constituents deserve to know what our students are about to lose."