SCSQUARED halfBy Paige Foreman, San Clemente, on behalf of San Clemente Partners Improving Education Responsibly

A new year conjures up thoughts of betterment, improvements and positive changes. Aside from making changes to better our own lives, many look for ways to help enhance the lives around us and the community we live in. I envision 2016 as the year that San Clemente comes together for our children and the educational future of our town.

I am a member of San Clemente Partners Improving Education Responsibly (SC PIER), a grassroots organization consisting of community volunteers passionate about improving the education experience and facilities in San Clemente. We are exploring the feasibility for San Clemente to become independent from Capistrano Unified School District and form its own district. We believe this new district should provide a higher level of local accountability, transparency, educational standards, teacher and administration support, community representation and fiscal management. When things are important, San Clemente has proven to have an extraordinary sense of community. I am excited and confident that we will come together to create what is lacking in our community: a framework that ensures our children will be prepared to lead the next generation. San Clemente is a multi-generational town. People grow up here and come back to raise their families. Why wouldn’t people return? All it is lacking is a top-notch, locally run school district that is supported and encouraged by our #OneTownOneTeam spirit.

CUSD has approximately 50,000 students. If San Clemente were to become independent from Capo, we would serve about 10,000 students. It is no surprise that smaller school districts perform better. All but one of the top 10 school districts in California has less than 15,000 students. In my opinion, CUSD is far too big and bulky to be successful.

In today’s political climate, it is popular to talk about how school districts focus on the students and make sure children are not left behind. However, if you look at the facts, CUSD lacks the leadership and vision to put our students first. For example, I find it disappointing and shocking to realize that only 53 percent of CUSD’s class of 2015 had completed “A-G” courses, the entrance requirements for California State and University of California systems. College may not be a choice for every child, but it should at least be an option, and about 50 percent are being left without that option because their school district did not prepare them. Which 50 percent will your child fall into?

SC PIER has worked together for seven months researching the possibilities of San Clemente seceding from CUSD. Let’s put the rumors to rest. It is a process, but it does not have to take eight to 10 years. We have been fortunate to meet with AMPS, the Malibu group that is becoming independent from Santa Monica Unified School District. Their process is close to completion after only three years. We have far fewer hurdles to jump and believe three years is doable.

For as long as I can remember, friends and teachers in town have commented on how great it would be if San Clemente had its own school district. Now is the perfect time. We are built out. We have a receptive City Council and a new young population. I want the best for San Clemente, just like you. I am proud of our small-town spirit and love when important causes bring us together. This is that next cause, and everyone should jump on board. Make this part of your 2016 commitment. Our children deserve better. Our community deserves better. We can do better. Join us. Go to our website to learn more, get involved and give us your endorsement at

Editor’s note: In the Jan. 28-Feb. 3 print edition of the San Clemente Times, the statement regarding the top 10 schools districts was incorrect. This version has been corrected to reflect the accurate statement.  

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comments (12)

  • This is a great article showing just how caring and committed San Clemenete residents can be to come together for a good cause! There is no ill intention here with this group and their plan is to officially form a Unified School District for this community that will allow for imrpovements on necessary issues like education and care of facilities. I have much more trust in this group than I ever had for Capo Unified. Let’s get this thing started! Go to for more information on how you can lend your support!

  • Thank you to Paige and the entire SC PIER team for diligently looking into the exciting possibility of our own school district. I look forward to this movement gaining momentum and support from our wonderful community.

  • Thank you for your efforts to restore San Clemente to having its own school district again. Doing so will obviously improve education which is key. It will also have a downstream effect of making San Clemente an even more desirable place for people who value education to live. This will help improve property values – what is not to like about that.

    You made an important point with the numbers that is very telling. San Clemente has 20% of the students in the district (10,000 of the 50,000) and yet we only have 1 Trustee out of 7 to represent us. Pretty sure by the crappy conditions that CUSD has left our schools in that the San Clemente tax revenue intended for our kids are being used elsewhere in the district. What is even sadder is how the talented proven teachers are fleeing the district. Today we have vacancies are harder to fill and lingering into the school year because the new leadership at CUSD makes our district a less desirable place to teach.

    The only way this gets better is with true local (meaning within the City of San Clemente) accountability.

    I saw a bumper sticker that said the larger the government the smaller the citizen. Well in the case of CUSD (aka CrapoUSD) we have seen how a larger school district means the smaller the student.

    Keep up the good work Paige & Friends

  • Mr. Romero, when you say “restore San Clemente to having its own school district again,” what do you mean? When did San Clemente ever have its own district?

    This opinion piece is very strangely silent on the cost. The school buildings, the school facilities do not belong to the residents of San Clemente. If SC splits from CUSD, the taxpayers of CUSD must be reimbursed for everything from the school property to the school buildings to the desks inside of them.

    Remember, if SC makes up 20 percent of the students in the district, that means that you own 20 percent of your facilities.

    Will your taxes support paying all of the teachers and administrators that are necessary?

    You’ll have to buy buses, too.

    Other cities have talked about splitting off — most recently Mission Viejo. Residents were ready, the Council was receptive. Then it hit the wall of reality.

    • Curious George,
      This is the exact same speech that was given last week by a CUSD district staff member. Maybe it was you? First, the schools, desks, buildings etc were paid-for by tax payers. Your logic that we only own 20% of San Clemente facilities also highlights that we also own 20% of every other CUSD facility outside of SC. If separation is successful, CUSD will have to pay SC for that 20%. There are other schools districts that have been through this process successfully and negotiated these kinds of details. What is at the heart of this effort is a goal to improve our education system in San Clemente through local control, accountability, transparency and trust. There will be independent studies that will be done and those results will determine whether San Clemente will meet the State requirements for separation. Ultimately, the residents of San Clemente will need to make this decision based on the results.

    • @Curious George: Yes San Clemente had its own school district before CrapoUSD ruined our schools.

      It seems your other points came right from CrapoUSD issued disinformation to protect their interests.

      Tell you what….drop the alias and come get involved. We have awesome people in our city and together we will make San Clemente a much better place for students and property owners.

    • Curious George….
      San Clemente has had its own schools and districts from origin until it merged with CUSD in the 70’s as a small town of less than 15,00 residents. We had a history of educating our own residents before the promise of a larger school district appeared – and we owned all of the schools, properties and everything inside before it was transferred to CUSD. I wonder – did they reimburse the taxpayers of SC at that time for taking that property? However, the question remains, in the years since, what has San Clemente gained? Are we in a better place? Most of our facilities are aging and have not received the funding and attention they deserve, over time local control and decision making has been usurped by Trustee’s who, regardless of political leanings, have done little to improve the state of affairs and reflect our communities needs/desires. We deserve better and for the first time in our cities history since merging with CUSD, we potentially have the ability to determine our own path on education for our residents. We are a dramatically different community than we were 40 years ago, in education, affluence and diversity. We owe it to ourselves to explore this option fully – because another 40 years of CUSD means more of the same neglect and empty promises – our very own educational Groundhog day. Our children deserve better.

  • This is George, he’s a bad little monkey and always very curious.
    Yes Curious George, in fact, San Clemente did have it’s own school distrcit. Here’s a quick little fun fact for you…

    “Mention the name Truman Benedict in south Orange County and any or all of the above labels can apply.
    For more than a half-century, the San Clemente resident has served children and adults alike in the region, dedicating himself to educational and community improvement during the most explosive period of growth in Southern California history.
    In 1948, when Benedict began teaching in the then-San Clemente Elementary School District, there were no local unified school districts, state standards, Advanced Placement examinations or SAT 9 tests. He taught 7th and 8th grades at Las Palmas School in the 240-student district for five years. After becoming a principal and then superintendent, he was instrumental in unifying it and three neighbor districts-San Juan Capistrano Elementary, Capistrano Beach Elementary, and Capistrano Union High School-into the new Capistrano Unified School District in 1965.
    Benedict served initially as assistant superintendent in charge of instruction and certificated personnel in the newly formed entity, helping to put its first budget together and strengthen its financial footing. In 1969, Benedict was named superintendent. In 1975, after three decades of service in public education, he retired.”

    One take on the “silence of cost” comment, is that SC PIER’s goal to establish it’s own disrtict, will be based on facts. That’s why they are currently fundraising on to have a Re-organization Study (or feasibility study) so that a cost can also be determined. Ya see, anything is possible when the man with the yellow hat on your side!

    Oh and one more thing… You may be underestimating the power of #onetownoneteam. San Clemente has proven to do many things above and beyond what some folks might think we are capable of. We are not as small of a town as we used to be, but we still unite when it comes to doing good things for this town!

  • Determining the viability of our own school district is essential to our community. CUSD’s actions speak louder than words. There are many, many examples of CUSD not putting the needs of our community in front of their own. We have little to no representation for our community. There are smaller and less affluent communities that have their own school district. Smaller school districts typically have higher performing schools and does not necessarily mean more money from San Clemente tax payers. San Clemente is a special community and our kids deserve great schools. Let’s not rush to judgement on either side, let’s get the facts.

  • The time is right! The citizens of our Country are clearly speaking-out against the status quo and are instead looking for innovative ways to improve the lives of all generations. I respect those that are asking questions and looking at ways to improve our education system.

    Capo Unified School District regularly reduces the conversation of education down to an excuse that they don’t have enough money. Now they are threatening to remove 10,000 desks and put them where? I didn’t realize Capo was expecting 10,000 new ADDITIONAL students in the district. Rather than looking at research, they immediately resort to fear. Why shouldn’t we look at the possibility of establishing our own school district. After all, the district collects money for each student that attends our schools. That money is then used to educate those students. Or, maybe that is Capo’s worry.

    My daughter performs in the SCHS Drama program. The arts are a critical component to a well rounded curriculum. Have you seen San Juan High School’s theatre? It’s incredible. I’m happy for the San Juan students. Why hasn’t CUSD used our tax dollars to build a first class theatre at San Clemente High School? Our theatre facilities are a joke. It breaks my heart to see our amazing and talented students perform to standing ovations in nothing more than a converted cafeteria.

    The entire school is in dire need of a major renovation.

    Anyone who has been to the Capo District “Palace” offices clearly knows the district’s financial priorities. They build themselves lavish offices while San Clemente High students attend a 1960’s run down collection of out-of-date buildings.

    Our kids deserve a school district that focuses its resources on San Clemente students.

    This will happen because it’s the right thing to do at the time in San Clemente’s storied history.

  • Cathi Casler Klarenbach Reply

    Wow Curious George. At least we all use our real names, we take this seriously. Why are you hiding? Unless you are a member of that embarrassing board that we have currently….. Funny thing is that I have not found one person that is happy with the Superintendent and board we have right now….

  • Over and above the numbers issue, which Paige Foreman so clearly makes here in the case of separation, this is a justice issue for our children. It is hard to refute the fact that Capo USD has made less than favorable decisions for San Clemente. San Clemente residents are without doubt fed up. Regardless of the numbers, cost estimates, ROI and net profit margins, it seems the citizens of San Clemente are taking matters into their own hands, as responsible citizens should and exploring the option of a separate, dedicated school district that will put their children’s welfare first.

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