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By Patricia Holloway, member of the Capistrano Unified School District Board, representing Trustee Area 3 (San Clemente)

Trustee Patricia Holloway

When I was elected to the school board in 2016, I saw firsthand from my years as a parent volunteer and substitute teacher that our students were receiving an outstanding education in San Clemente schools.

What I didn’t understand was why our children were being taught in such inferior facilities, with leaky roofs, no air conditioning, inadequate bathrooms, and jerry-rigged technology. 

Our schools in San Clemente are old—really old. Las Palmas Elementary, where my daughter attended, was built by Ole Hanson more than 90 years ago. Concordia Elementary is 65, Shorecliffs Middle School is 43, and our beloved San Clemente High School, built in the 1960s, is a weary 55 years old.

Why then, when we live in affluent South Orange County with high property values and a well-educated population, are so many of our schools dilapidated and run down? And why is it that less affluent communities in Orange County and California have modern school campuses with the latest technology?

The short answer: Communities with modern facilities have passed school bonds.

In California, all school districts have two important, but separate pots of funding:

  1. Classroom Instruction – School districts receive state funding for classroom instruction (i.e., teachers, books, computers) based on the number and demographics of students enrolled. The Capistrano Unified School District receives $8,900 per student, the very low end of funding, because we have fewer low-income students and fewer children learning English.
  2. Facilities Improvements – School districts get no state funding to modernize existing older schools unless two things happen:
    • Voters in the district pass a local school bond, and
    • Voters in the state pass a statewide school bond.

The reality is that once ourschool district passes a localized bond measure, we’ll become eligible for state matching funds to help upgrade older schools. But we must make that local investment first.

In the past decade, 84% of California school districts have passed bonds. Closer to home, Tustin, Orange, Irvine and San Diego Unified School Districts have successfully passed bonds.  Construction is underway in these communities, benefiting not only their schools but their local economies.

It’s a fact that out of 29 school districts in Orange County, CUSD has the lowest tax bond levy at under $8 per $100,000 of assessed property value, compared to $83/$100,000 at the high end, and an average assessment of $38/$100,000.

To remain competitive and to show students that we care about their physical environment, we must approve a school bond. To support our chance for approval, Capistrano Unified is learning from the past.

This includes following advice of the independent Facilities and Finance Committee, which includes members who opposed Measure M, the unsuccessful 2016 school bond. The Facilities Committee recommended these key improvements, which our school board recently adopted:

  1. Instead of a districtwide bond, propose a small regional bond measure only for San Clemente and Capistrano Beach. This means that funds raised here will be used to fix our neighborhood schools, not schools in Mission Viejo or San Juan Capistrano.
  2. Instead of a general list of improvements, conduct an engineering survey of every school to document and prioritize specific needs.
  3. Exclude Talega’s Mello-Roos District because residents there are still paying off school district bonds used to build Vista Del Mar, San Clemente’s newest elementary and middle schools.
  4. Appoint a local Citizen’s Oversight Committee to scrutinize all expenditures if the bond passes.

     With these changes, it’s my sincere hope that San Clemente and Capo Beach residents will support a bond in March 2020. A positive vote is the only way to modernize San Clemente High and our neighborhood schools.

Patricia Holloway is a 30-year resident of San Clemente. She’s a member of the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees, representing Trustee Area 3 (San Clemente). The views she expresses in this opinion are her own.

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comments (3)

  • CUSD just borrowed $26 million in CREB Bonds to pay to put solar panels on 6 high schools pplus the district office.

    The State of California is enjoying record high revenues.

    Revenues have increased by $66 billion since 2007-08.

    $55 billion of that new revenue is sitting in the High Speed Rail Account.

    I have a Message to the Board of Trustees at the Capistrano Unified School District

    It is the responsibility of the CUSD Board of Trustees to ensure that students and staff have facilities that are safe and well maintained. Trustees are responsible for maintaining and repairing facilities within the annual operating budget.

    Instead, Trustees have provided across the board compensation increases every year since the great recession.

    Superintendent Vital is paid $100,000 more than her counterparts in LAUSD and San Diego Unified

    CUSD Trustees have allowed Adult Jobs to be a financial priority over the education of students..

    CUSD has just placed 2 school facility bonds on the March 2020 ballot totaling $420 million dollars. Much of what is proposed in the bond language are repairs to bring CUSD facilities up to minimum health and safety standards.

    As taxpayers, we rely on the Board of Trustees to be our voice to the State of California. We rely on the Board of Trustees to make use of any and all tools at their disposal to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff. For instance, the Williams Settlement requires that schools be kept in “good repair”. It provides a mechanism that school districts can use to obtain the necessary funds to ensure that all students have access to school facilities that are clean, safe, and functional (working plumbing, roofs that do not leak and HVAC systems that are operational).

    Taxpayers should not be required to come in “after the fact” and finance repairs in the form of a long term (30 year) bond measure.

    It is not good governance to finance what should have been short term repairs into long term debt.

    Local Governments should be extremely concerned about the amount of “local debt” California School districts are accumulating. California has over $1.3 trillion dollars of debt, and most of it is from California public schools. Local School Facility bonds make up $337 billion of that debt.

    SEE: Funding from Local School Facility Bonds





  • Utterly ridiculous. All one needs to do to see the TRUE interests of CUSD is to visit their beautiful administrative campus. The vast bulk of CUSD’s budget goes to salaries and pensions, and CUSD REFUSES to fix those or reduce their administrative ranks. California schools already get over half of the State income taxes, and they are not careful stewards of that money.

    Actions speak louder than words; cut your administrative staff and switch to a 401k-style pension, which saves the teachers as well as the taxpayers. Oh, and quit taking orders from Planned Parenthood regarding sexual education for OUR children. Show us that you’re fighting for our kids by fighting AGAINST this no-opt-out nonsense.

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