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Principal Michael Halt speaks with people following the June 4 CUSD meeting. Halt was reinstated as a district principal, but was not offered his former position at San Clemente High School. On Thursday, San Clemente Times received a letter from the district that stated Halt had refused employment offers from CUSD. Photo: Allison Jarrell
Principal Michael Halt speaks with people following the June 4 CUSD meeting. Halt was reinstated as a district principal, but was not offered his former position at San Clemente High School. On Thursday, San Clemente Times received a letter from the district that stated Halt had refused employment offers from CUSD. Photo: Allison Jarrell


By Eric Heinz

A letter from the Capistrano Unified School District sent to the San Clemente Times on Thursday stated former San Clemente High School principal Michael Halt had declined an “offer of employment ” from CUSD. The letter was sent on behalf of Julie Hatchel, assistant superintendent, communications and public relations, and signed by district Superintendent Kristen Vital.

“While Mr. Halt has declined the district’s offer of employment, we are glad he will be part of the graduation ceremony and this special time for the students,” the letter stated.

The letter also stated Halt would be at graduation ceremonies on Friday to congratulate students as they walk across the stage to receive their high school diplomas.

Emails from San Clemente High School parents and community members continued to pour in since Monday, asking CUSD allow Halt to preside over graduation ceremonies, taking place 4 p.m. Friday at the school.

The negotiation offers and reasons why Halt has reportedly declined offers of alternative employment were not mentioned in the letter.

Click here to read letter

Since the beginning of the week, the SC Times has received dozens of letter from parents and people asking the district to have Halt officiate the graduation ceremonies.

“As a resident of CUSD communities we formally demand that Mike Halt conduct the Graduation this Friday at San Clemente High School,” Shay Arnett wrote in a letter to the district and also forwarded to the SC Times on Wednesday. “If you reject this we demand that you provide a legal basis for this rejection. Note that any failure to comply with this demand will be seen as a failure to perform your public duty.”

There are at least 75 more emails that echo this sentiment. Most of the letters also demand legal basis of a decision from the district and Vital should CUSD not allow Halt to preside over the Friday ceremonies.

In a telephone interview with Halt on Wednesday, he told SC Times he would be part of the graduation ceremonies in the role that was “most appropriate” for him. At the time, he did not mention anything regarding his status with the district.

On Friday, Newport-Mesa Unified School District announced Halt had been selected as principal of Estancia High School, and his hiring will be recommended for approval to the district’s board of education at the next regular Board meeting on Tuesday, June 23.

“Details of Mr. Halt’s transition are still being finalized,” a press release from the district stated. “It is anticipated he will begin with NMUSD on July 1.”

Halt was ousted as principal of SCHS about two months ago amid foggy details as to why he was fired.

Halt was contacted for comment Thursday afternoon and has not yet responded. CUSD officials were contacted after the letter was sent to SC Times, but they could not be reached.



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comments (19)

  • Did Superintendent Vital or any members of the CUSD Board of Trustees ever apologize, publicly or privately, to Principal Halt?

    When will the public have the opportunity to see the “offer” that Principal Halt was given?

    Did the District formally offer Principal Halt a high school principal position within the District?

    Why is the Board refusing to allow an open investigation into CUSD personnel practices?

    What is the status of Superintendent Vital’s evaluation?

    Why is Michelle LePatner on paid administrative leave when there is just cause to let her go without pay?

    Who is paying for the security guard positioned outside of Superintendent Vital’s home?

    Why on the CUSD June 24, 2015 agenda is there an item (#18) that will no longer allow an individual board member to put an item for discussion on the agenda without a second?

    Since the CUSD Board is now elected by each individual district ( Measure H, Nov. 2010) not the entire District, is the Board trying to silence certain Board members and protect others from a possible recall?

  • I know in my heart of hearts that if Mike Halt was offered a Principal position at SCHS or any other high school in the district that he proudly would have accepted. He is a committed, dedicated, true leader and truly loves and believes in education. Given Kirsten Vital’s handling of his removal, his reassignment (I’m sure a demotion) and his involvement in our graduation – it’s obvious she can’t handle running a district this size and that she is incapable of learning from her numerous blunders…both here and in Alameda.

    We need to now turn our focus on investigating and evaluating what in God’s name is going on at CUSD. I think Michelle Le Patner’s embarrassing unravel is just the tip of the iceberg. We need to restore trust in this district and it’s starts with holding Vital accountable for this huge, ugly mess. She has accomplished a lot in just 10 short months and in my opinion, none of it has been positive.

    Ironically, a few short weeks ago the number two in command left the district in shame. Today we have heard that Principal Mike Halt will not be coming back to CUSD. The most amazing Principal SCHS has seen in a long long time is not coming back. I guess another district is about to hit the principal jackpot!!! #welovemike

    • Your reply is strong and I’m very proud of you. You are so right. Glad everyone is still fighting for what is right. I believe that all demands must be answered. Especially #18 needs to be answered. They shouldn’t be able to change it. That they will no longer allow an individual board member to put an item for discussion on the agenda without a second. Why? You should be allow to add items to the agenda if you feel it is important.

    • The silence from all of the other board members is deafening. Somehow we must make each and everyone of them accountable to those who voted to put them in place to represent us.
      Instead of identifying and fixing what went wrong with the firing of Mr Halt, Vital is more concerned with shoring up her contract and attempting to make herself bulletproof with her new agenda items.

  • Please watch this incredible video produced by San Clemente high school students about the firing of their beloved high school teacher.

    Then go to

  • Dear San Clemente Neighbors and Friends in the CUSD, Reply

    I have a heavy-heart about the news, as I’m sure many of you do. I think we were all holding out hope to the end that goodness and leadership would prevail; this latest CUSD disgrace would end the decades’-long corruption among its Board and administration; and justice would come in the form of Principal Halt’s reinstatement at SCHS. I’m hopeful that the news means that Principal Halt and his family have peace, closure from this chapter, a potentially productive legal case against the CUSD, and/or rewarding offers from other districts. I know I speak for everyone familiar with this latest CUSD scandal when I say “Thank You” to Principal Halt and his family for all that they have done for our community. Their greatness has inspired us and provided a clearer picture of what justice needs to look like. We have our marching orders, and will do our best to ensure that justice takes on the form of permanent reform within CUSD, or divorce from the union. Perhaps by the time my toddlers enter high school, CUSD – or at a minimum San Clemente Unified School District – will be worthy of Principal Halt’s return, and attract leaders to the administration and board with the same professionalism, integrity, leadership, and compassion. Until then, those in power better have a squeaky clean record…It’s too late to clean the skeletons from *your* closets because we’ve been collecting them for a while now. We’re hunting the “there”-there, and we’re going to pursue it from every angle. Sleep well. 🙂

  • What a sad day for our school and our town. Thank you Mr Halt for all you have done for our students. You are respected and loved. Shame on CUSD, you have disregarded our town, students and parents. We must continue to fight the district, they are out of control and do not represent us. What a gigantic mess they have created.

  • Is it possible that Mike just got sick of dealing with the ridiculous antics of this school board and it’s superintendent?
    The citizens of San Clemente have repeatedly asked for an investigation into Mike’s dismissal. We believe that he (and many others) was targeted for dismissal by a power-crazed element in the district offices. (said element has recently left the building for a “leave of absence”).
    Our area Trustee, John Alpay, motioned for the investigation to be put on the next meeting agenda, which, under current board bylaws, would be sufficient.
    Not only does the agenda for June 24th NOT contain that item, but it lists an item for consideration that would require a motion to be seconded before it will be placed on the agenda. There is a brilliant article about this (sleazy, underhanded, short-sighted) move at

    “Board Agenda Item #18 is asking Trustees to change the Board Policy to require that when a Trustee requests that an item be placed on a future Board meeting Agenda, a second Trustee must agree or the request will not be honored. So, in short, the District is attempting to limit the power of an individual Trustee to represent the Public.
    I question the legality of such a policy change, especially when you consider that CUSD does not elect Trustees at large, but rather by area. If a single Trustee now represents the Public of a specific area, and the District will not allow a single Trustee to place an item on the agenda, the result is that the Public no longer has representation on the Board.”

    Please read through these extremely well-written, informative blog entries for a really good education in school board politics.

    We will continue to push the district for the investigation. If we can expose the misconduct at the district offices, clear Mike’s name, and keep this from happening to any more CUSD employees, THAT will make US “glad”.

    Oh, and by the way, CUSD officials probably could not be reached because they are probably at home, basking in the warm glow of self-satisfaction and the safety of private security services, which an anonymous source in the district says costs $30,000 a week.

    • oh yeah, we’re paying for that.

    • It is a very disgusting situation. I think a site where resources and funds can be accumulated so that in the other districts, the elections for the existing board members will be deeply challenged.

      That is, we support the ousting of the board members by educating other districts of the type-of-people that are currently suppose to represent them. Enough-is-enough and the board can no longer try to hide their degressions and perhaps illegal activity. Because there is so much effort to hide the circumstances of the dismisall it is reasonable to assume that their activities at best are questionable, and perhaps illegal.

  • Thank you Principal Halt for your amazing work at San Clemente High School. You are respected and loved. The same can’t be said for CUSD. I watched in disbelief this past 7 weeks as this board and superintendent have squirmed and disrespected our entire community including hundreds of students who have begged to have their Principal reinstated. Mr Halt’s immediate supervisor was just escorted out of the CUSD building for LYING on her resume and Mr Halt’s file also contained misinformation. Removing a Principal before the end of the school year is normally reserved for a employee who commits SERIOUS offenses. This can’t be the case or he would not have been offered another job in the district. This community is not stupid. Wake up CUSD. We have yet to hear one APOLOGY for the horrible way this has played out. CUSD you do not represent San Clemente.

  • Imagine then working under the oppressive reign of Vital and cronies…I hope that Mr. Halt goes on to bigger and better things. Our loss; another’s huge gain. Mr. Halt was offered position at CUSD in a not so smooth move by Vital and Board in attempt to appease and placate and effectively re-gag Halt per terms of contract. By reappointing clearly no wrong doing occurred (other than that by these bureaucrats). However this offer of reemployment opened a legal loophole that I hope Mike is jumping into feet first.
    Anyone “hoping” that there is no law suit is entirely misguided…it will ultimately benefit everyone involved in this school district.

  • Excellent news for both Colonel Mike Halt and Estancia HS of Newport-Mesa USD!

    Very sad news for SCHS and CUSD as a whole! Will we learn from this? Will we push hard and long enough to see the necessary changes all the way through? There certainly are a few that don’t believe we will. Let’s not let the relaxing summer by the beach overtake what is required of us to forge our local education system back on track.

    Can CUSD ever be reformed? Haven’t we tried already? Is CUSD too big and too spread out to meet the needs of all 50,000+ students to a reasonable level? Or, is this district so large that it readily attracts the politically motivated?

    There are solutions to this, maybe not entirely perfect, yet far better than what has been going on for years. Can we work together to build a strong foundation that can handle transparency and resist the behind closed door dictatorship we see our teachers currently under? Do we go it alone, or will the beach cities unite to bring our children back under our own responsibility? Either way, it would difficult to envision a worse job than what has been done, especially as of late.

    • At the board meeting on the 24th, Ms. Vital, “at the request of other trustees”, will introduce a change in the by-laws to require a 2nd to any trustee request to add an item to the agenda. Not only has Ms.Vital ignored Mr. Alpay’s request for an investigation into the firing of Mr. Halt, she is changing the by-laws to make it more difficult.

      Looking at this article on splitting a school district,, I think it is time for the citizens of San Clemente to start the process of leaving CUSD.

  • San clemente and white privilege are getting what they deserve. I read about the issues and laugh because most of the complaints are from box wine drinking, pill popping, phoney RHOC wannabes.

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