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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.

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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