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, email@example.com, 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.