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CUSD Seeks Public Input, but Fails to Let Board of Trustees See It

The school district set up a special email account to receive comments about redistricting. But trustees didn't get copies of the emails until 13 days after deciding the issue.

Emails that the  solicited for public input on proposed boundary changes for school board elections didn't reach board trustees until after they selected one of the maps.

At their meeting on Jan. 25,  they had been considering since December. Map J divides several cities into pieces: San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Niguel into three sections each and Mission Viejo, Dana Point and San Clemente into two.

The school district created a special email address, redistricting@capousd.org, so the public could comment on the redistricting process and the proposed maps for school board trustee areas. Ten people sent in 11 emails, but trustees didn't receive copies of the emails until Tuesday, 13 days after they chose Map J.

Patch confirmed the late delivery with several trustees.

Capo Unified spokesman Marcus Walton was asked about the delay in an email Patch sent Wednesday morning. There was no immediate response.

But school board trustee Sue Palazzo said, “I would like to apologize to the people who sent them.” She declined to speculate why district staff did not include the emailed comments in the trustees’ agenda packets for the Jan. 25 meeting.

Patch also reached one email correspondent, who said he was disheartened to hear his comments didn’t reach the trustees in time.

“It is very frustrating to hear the process did not work when being asked for our input. I'd like to say I am surprised,” said Ron Ruef of Mission Viejo.

A majority of the emailers urged the school board to keep Mission Viejo in one trustee area. Map H was the only option that would have done that.

But the board voted 4-3 for Map J, with trustees Palazzo, Lynn Hatton and Ellen Addonizio opposed, which extends the Laguna Niguel trustee area into Dana Point to include  in its boundaries. At the Jan. 9 board meeting, Trustee Anna Bryson was very vocal in asking for this configuration.

David Meyer, a consultant with the firm hired to devise the maps, National Demographics Corp. of Glendale, told Patch the only way to accommodate Bryson’s request was to tweak the map boundaries in other areas, effectively slicing and dicing Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano and impacting almost all the other areas.

“Originally, the borders were supposed to follow city borders and high school boundaries,” Meyer said. “We wanted to give them a variety.”

Many of the community members who wrote to the redistricting email address urged the trustees to keep Mission Viejo under one trustee. 

“The citizens of Mission Viejo had been mistreated by CUSD for many, many years prior to this administration, resulting in mistrust and bitterness toward the school district and trustees,” wrote Susan Dennis. “We are moving in the right direction with the current superintendent and trustees. Please continue on that path and vote for Map H. It would go a long way to restore faith and confidence among the voters in Mission Viejo.”

Wrote resident Jane Shafron: “Mission Viejo is already a divided city – half of the city is in Saddleback Valley Unified School District – the other half in CUSD. It is important to have the city unified as much as possible.”

Ruef signed his email: “Thanks for allowing us the opportunity to give our input.”

The board is expected to finalize its decision for Map J at its next meeting, 7 p.m. Monday at the district headquarters, 33122 Valle Road in San Juan Capistrano.

Capo mom February 09, 2012 at 02:12 PM
The board doesn't need input from the community to confuse the issues, they get their direction from CUEA.
Pam Sunderman February 09, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Capo mom...please cite any evidence that the board is inappropriately influenced by CUEA. And please note that a trustee who was endorsed by the union voted with a trustee who was not. This happens many times in votes made by trustees. This board shows every evidence of a balanced and diverse approach...which is good for CUSD. They appear to study the issues and vote based on what they each think will be best for the students of CUSD. In truth, the majority of the board did not receive support from CUEA in the latest election.
Capo Parent February 09, 2012 at 06:27 PM
JG Let's see, (1) the most screwed up map is selected [that is what David Meyer is diplomatically stating] that leaves several large areas unrepresented; (2) Palazzo & Addonizio are lumped together, achieving the openly stated goal of the teachers union & Union First, uh I mean Children's First, to get rid of Palazzo; and (3) put the two most "rebelous" areas of CUSD (RSM & MV) together to minimize and marginalize both. Another sterling example of putting our kids second and political objects first. Union politices at its worst.
Capo mom February 09, 2012 at 10:59 PM
jollygirl, this board is the gang that can't shoot straight if the union doesn't provide the target. They originally tasked National Demographics with preparing a map that drew trustee boundaries that paralleled city borders. But when they were presented options that accomplished that objective, they rejected those options in favor of one that clearly doesn't. Under the map they have adopted Laguna Niguel, San Juan Capistrano and Mission Viejo are served by 3 trustees, San Clemente, Dana Point and Laguna Hills are served by 2. Where is the local control? Don't strain yourself; many families are starting to recognize that slogan was a sham. In truth, 3 out of the 5 trustees who were elected in 2010 received union support. Despite your double talk, the board got their orders to divide the district and we see the result. This maps divides communities in CUSD in the union's favor.
shelly February 12, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Capo mom, There are 7 trustees and 4 of these 7 ran against union endorsed candidates.
Penny Arévalo February 12, 2012 at 02:36 AM
OK, but what does anyone think about the subject of this story? :-)
Capo mom February 12, 2012 at 05:02 PM
It depends on what you think the subject of this story is, Penny. It is demonstration that there is a culture within public education that rejects the real need for communication with the public. They are the educated education experts after all, never mind that most of their personal educational results don't pass muster. (Teachers have among the lowest GRE results, masters degrees don't translate into classroom benefits. Ask anyone with a PhD in education how their thesis defense went and you'll get a blank stare because they don't have a thesis). We, in the community, are the great unwashed who aren't smart enough to understand education's higher purpose. Those in the system know they should create the impression of communication with the public. But requests like this are really just window dressing. Communication isn't wanted or needed. Examples abound; The closed session salary restoration and cover up and the subject here in CUSD. Or consider what is going on in LAUSD at Miramonte and Telfair (probably countless others). School districts in California are primarily concerned with placating unions.
Pam Sunderman February 12, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Could this possibly have been an oversight rather than a nefarious plot? All one needed to do to have an opportunity for input was attend the board meeting...which was advertised on the district website. I believe info was also sent through school emails to parents. By raising this question Penny you have discovered (through an absence of comments addressing it) that this is a non issue with most...other than the usual teacher bashers...who will find a way to connect all the ills of the world to teachers. BTW you can find my husband's Masters thesis in the library of his university...a bound copy was required to be submitted upon completion.
Pam Sunderman February 12, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Ah yes...the inevitable connection to child molesters. You failed to mention the teachers from private schools and charters all over the country under investigation. Oh, and don't forget parents, other relatives, religious leaders, youth coaches, strangers lurking in malls and all the other opportunities these sick people find to seek out their innocent victims. Your ignorance is truly appalling Capo Mom.
Capo mom February 12, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Another "oversight", jollygirl? Do you really think that district staff is that incompetent? If true, what do you suggest the consequences of all these missteps should be? There won't, of course, be any. That is the way the system works. And why should people comment on the topic when they must send their kids to school everyday and risk the displeasure of those who might be offended? What effect would it have? When an institution fosters and protects pedophiles at the expense of innocent children and a particularly vulnerable community, ignoring input on a boundary decision is a relatively small offense. But it symptomatic of the same problem. Public education is maintained not for the benefit of our students and community, but for the benefit of the union members it employs.
Capo Parent February 12, 2012 at 06:28 PM
JG How could it been an oversight when the e-mail address was setup solely for the public to comment on the proposed maps. The most likely answer is that it wasn't an oversight, just simply another example of CUSD doing what it wants, the public be damned. If it was simply and oversight, it is another example of how incompetent CUSD is and its indifference to the public, and that's the best case scenerio.
Capo mom February 12, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Right back at ya jollygirl. In the real world, private schools charters and everywhere else, when people are accused of child molestation they are usually taken away from environments where children are present, they might even be immediately fired as we have seen at JSerra. In public education, they are sent back into the classroom unsupervised and when caught (again) paid off to enjoy their publicly underwritten pension for life. Hey that is their protection for their years paying of union dues. What do you think discipline of a problem employee looks like in a system where termination isn't an option? Probably a lot like a Miramonte Elementary posting. Low performing students and no parent support, administrators who are really powerless to supervise teachers in any meaningful way and can't wait until their rotation is up. Add to that a population that is disinclined to confront authority because of cultural issues or immigration status, this is what union protection of teachers creates and it is a virtual roadmap for the situation that developed at Miramonte. But the issue that gets swept under the rug is that this information is withheld from the public until the situation became so outrageous it can't be ignored. And we are all used to it.
Pam Sunderman February 12, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Capo mom, so you advocate firing someone when they are accused? Would that extend to taking away your children permanently if a teacher reports you to social services because your child shows up with a suspicious bruise? Teachers are mandated reporters and every teacher I have ever known takes this responsibility very seriously. They also know they must report even if they have doubts about whether the parents abused their child. If they do not report they are risking their own job...not to mention the safety of a child. And yes...they must also report a fellow teacher. You know little about child molesters if you think they must have known. Many cases of molestation take place in the home while the loving parents are in another room. These sick people are very good at what they do. As for the union being responsible for the vulnerability of a population that you yourself have denigrated on these same boards (.you know...those who are lower on the ladder), how does that work? In the case of Miramonte, it is the union who is stepping in to make sure that the innocent (and highly regarded by parents) teachers can return to their school when the investigation is completed. The teacher who was fired by J Serra is beloved by many students and parents. If he is guilty he will suffer the consequences. If he is innocent he will have lost his job and his reputation. Is that what you advocate?
April Josephson February 12, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Penny, to answer your question, I was extremely disappointed in the district for missing the mandated opportunity for written public comments. Jollygirl's comment regarding there being ample notice to attend the meeting may not have been feasible for some commenters, nor does it address legal requirements to accept written public comments. With the district in such poor shape—having gotten worse since the last election (and the recall of competent, independent board members)—it is a shame to see the violations (or even oversights) stockpiling along with their deficit. Seems to me the district needs another shake-up, just to be able to follow basic laws.
Capo mom February 12, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Nice try jollygirl, with the straw man argument. I have never denigrated the population you are refer to here or anywhere else. I have consistently maintained that these people are exploited by the public school system as a revenue source but never taken seriously because we all know "they don't value education" BS! We can see how well your system works at Miramonte where teachers released students to someone who had previously been accused of molestation; no apparent justification, no supervision, no questions. Teachers are collaborative, right? I advocate, first and foremost, protecting children, I guess that is where we part company. One year after LAUSD discovered that Berndt was molesting kids at school they let the community know. For 5 months after Chapel was arrested, no one was told. How many other victims are there? I don't blame every teacher at schools for the bad acts of several individuals. I do blame the system that puts union members rights ahead of the interests of children and their families. And to bring this back to the topic of this article, the attitude is pervasive. The public school system in California that discourages communication with the community. They put on a show like setting up an e-mail address, but there is no real concern with exchange of information or transparency. Parents who ask questions or address problems are characterized as whiners or enemies of public education. We have seen plenty of that in CUSD.
Capo Parent February 13, 2012 at 05:33 PM
JG What's the union going to do if it comes out that teachers at Miramonte knew or should have known that evils things were happening to students at the school but they did nothing? Clearly there is more than meets the eye, given that LAUSD replaced the ENTIRE staff at the school. As for school districts in the OC, Scott Martindale's article clearly shows the power of unions and striking. No coincidence that the 2 teachers unions that went on strike, SAUSD and CUSD, where the only 2 school districts that had an increase in pay/benefits. On top of that the union boss, Vicki Soderberg got a raise. She is paid almost $100,000 [not including health & welfare benefits] by CUSD out of its general fund, and she doesn't even teach! She's paid by CUSD to be the union boss and to negotiate the best deal for her union members. And people wonder why CUSD has to cut, by its own admission, from $30 million to $50 million.
cusd mom February 14, 2012 at 02:30 AM
What I found very interesting in the OC Register Database for our district was that every teacher and principal/administator I checked experienced an increase in salary from the prior school year. However, if you looked at people working at the district office in areas like payroll and accounting as well as clerical staff in the schools, their salaries decreased.

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