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CUSD Recall: Pro and Con

Marlene Draper   Sheila Benecke   Sheila Benecke   Marlene Draper

The South Orange County Democratic Club published in their June Newsletter Pro and Con arguments regarding the Capistrano Unified School District Recall. Here they are, in no particular order, after the flip.

Recall Is the Solution
by Sharon O’Brien

The indictment and removal from office of James Fleming did not end corruption and poor management in CUSD. It exposed the incompetence and criminality that has been everyday business for over 15 years. The old-guard trustees worked closely with Fleming and continue to rule over this district without regard for its 51,000 children. The recall of Draper and Benecke can halt the destructive direction of CUSD. This change must occur before state budget decisions are finalized and before they lead the board into inflicting more irreversible damage.

Five of the many reasons why you should vote on June24th to recall Benecke and Draper:

Extravagant District offices while students sit in old portables. The $52 million spent on the district office could have been spent on schools. District leaders have admitted to misleading the public in how the building was funded. Result: The Superintendent has a personal shower in his office, and kids at Newhart Middle School eat lunch on shower-room floors.

No long-term strategic planning. Schools in decay have been ignored, while lavish expenditures are made elsewhere. Result: Draper’s primary attention has been to SJHHS, the state of the art school in her hometown. She has publicly claimed it will be her crowning achievement. She was the sole vote opposed to hiring a firm to assess all CUSD schools. Her daughter is CEO of the firm hired to complete the SJHHS environmental report—and wrote it herself.

District Attorney investigations into violation of public meeting laws. Making public decisions behind closed doors is illegal and the District Attorney has found that the Board violated the Brown Act on countless occasions. The DA continues to investigate matters of CUSD. School boards making sound, intelligent and legal decisions do not need closed doors. Result: The new trustees left meetings to avoid breaking the law.

The state is in a budget crisis and decisions made now will affect the district for years. Important decisions on school funding at the state level are being made now. The decisions CUSD makes this summer will affect the success of our district. The Board has voted to increase class sizes 4 times in 7 years, and our children feel the impact every day. CUSD is at the minimum reserve requirement and has resorted to cutting basics. They are responsible for 5 years of deficit spending, including $200 million spent on the district office and SJHHS. Result: The election will cost $600,000, and the money has already been spent. Draper and Benecke vote to spend millions at each meeting.

Public service means honest, open and intelligent service to everyone. The public trust is gone; the ability to move on as a community cannot be accomplished without new leadership. We now have a district with vast inequities and has relied on parental infighting to distract from their mismanagement. Result: The same week teachers and student-support personnel received RIF notices, the superintendent was awarded a $60,000 pay increase after 6 months on the job. His salary is higher than both the state superintendent of schools and the governor’s. Parents were asked to fund raise for teachers while majority board members focused on increasing the pay of top-level administrators.

Reform Not Recall at CUSD
by Linda Verraster

The June 24th, 2008, recall election for two current CUSD Trustees represents a slippery slope for the students, parents, and teachers of the district. While there have been issues in the past concerning former Superintendent James Fleming and the previous group of trustees, a rush to oust Marlene Draper and Sheila Benecke six months before the end of their term is an expensive attempt to hijack the board majority.

The CUSD recall group, whose last three “A-B-C” candidates are currently seated on the board, are seeking to elect two additional members in the June election. This would mean that their candidates will run as incumbents this November should the recall election be successful. The potential for a 5:2 majority on June 25th should cause everyone to stop and think about the ramifications of that decision. Do we really want to go from one voting block of trustees to another?

The recall group is supported by those who espouse “values based education” and “parental choice,” code words for faith based curriculum and school vouchers. This group also lacks respect for the role of the teachers’ union in education. All these are ideas that sound appealing on face value to some. But ask your friends in the Vista, Orange, and Westminster school districts about the chaos that was created when the boards were taken over by groups on the extreme. Years of progress toward improvements or reforms were wasted while skirmishes over these issues overwhelmed the agenda.

The state budget crisis is reason alone to make sure that we have a balanced approach to the allocation of our education dollars. Steady, experienced leadership at CUSD with engaged teachers and committed families will be key to the future success of our students.

As appealing as it may sound to “throw the bums out,” stop, think, take a deep breath and join me and the members of Capistrano Unified Education Association and vote NO on the CUSD recall on June 24th. Let’s use this time to evaluate candidates who will represent all the families of CUSD. Reform, not recall, is the answer.


  1. Ken Maddox Ken Maddox June 15, 2008


    I’m one of the candidates running during this recall election. I’m often surprised to read what my philosophy is with regard to education by persons who have never met me or asked me my positions.

    For example, neither I or my collegue, Sue Pelazzo, support vouchers. We are both committed to full funding of our public schools.

    I know both Sue and I would welcome any questions you or your readers may have regarding our views on public education.

    My e-mail is


  2. Lefty Lefty June 15, 2008

    I don’t like recall.

    But if there ever was evidence for gross malfeasance in office – here it is.

    “Trustees” Draper & Benecke (the last remaining) let Fleming run amuck – diverting $50 million dollars from much needed school improvements to build a Taj Mahal administration building for themselfs, a bloated administration at the cost of teachers, & keeping “enemy lists.”

    Keeping them in office one day longer than necessary is an insult to students, parents & teachers – it should not be.


  3. Recall Is Reform Recall Is Reform June 15, 2008

    Not one of the CUSD reform leaders (in the past four years) or the ABC reform trustees (in the past two years) has advocated faith based curricula or vouchers. This is just more bogeyman scare tactics of the old guard and their union buddies.

    The ABCs have voted as a block less times tht the incumbents, and when they have voted as a block, it always has been in the best interests of students, teachers and taxpayers – something that cannot be said of the incumbents.

    Recall in this case IS reform. Waiting for November is a moot point, since the recall expense has been incurred and voting “No” on the recall will not save a dime. We should make the best of the election by finding out the truth about the new candidates, any one of whom would be better that the admitted, chronic lawbreakers and financial failures who are there now.

    The incumbents have offered the kind of “steady and experienced leadership” we don’t need, because it’s their consistent, failed and corrupt leadership that led the district to this disaster in the first place. The incumbents already are lying about the current budget crisis, blaming it all on the state and denying or ignoring the district’s own significant part in it. These dishonest incumbents should be the last people we turn to for leadership to address something as important as the state budget crisis.

    They already have failed as elected leaders and have demonstrated no willingness to change their corrupt ways. That’s why they should be recalled now so that the district can start making the right decisions and begin to heal.

  4. cook cook June 16, 2008

    I hope the voters get what they are asking.

  5. Teacher for the recall Teacher for the recall June 23, 2008

    It amazes me that my union has taken a position with these two women. I am currently a teacher at CUSD and I am in full support of a recall. Petition signatures have already spoken. We are committed to the cost of the election so we need to make the best of it. I welcome a change. I am sadden that I belong to a union that has chosen to speak incorrectly for me. I would have appreciated that support a month ago when I was a RIF’d teacher but I got little support from them. No protests, no bumper stickers, nothing but a weak attorney that talked in circles at the RIF hearings. I have attended the last 7 board meetings. I have watched Larry Christensen vote in favor of teachers every time! He has called for administration cuts every time! I have watched Marlene Draper ask the CUSD Foundation to raise another million dollars to save classified employees and then five minutes later approve three nice salary increases for administration because “no one could do the job they do!” Somehow I don’t think in these times of recession that we couldn’t find someone willing to do the job just as well.

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