John Alpay, Former Capistrano Unified Trustee, Area 3
When I was first elected as Trustee for Capistrano Unified, my oldest daughter, Autumn, had just entered kindergarten, my daughter Saige was new to preschool and my wife and I still measured the age of our son, Logan, in months.
As I now leave office, Autumn is at Bernice Ayers Middle School and Saige and Logan are well into their tenure at Las Palmas Elementary School. After two terms of office, I am grateful and thankful for having had the opportunity to serve.
For those who remember, my first election into office was during a period of instability for Capistrano Unified after three sets of recalls. While the slate I was a part of did not win a majority of the seats, Trustees Gary Pritchard, Lynn Hatton-Hodson and I did something unexpected by working “across the aisle” with Trustees Anna Bryson and Jack Brick. I am proud to say that the five of us were successful in ending the corrosive discord and returning attention to classroom instruction. Back then with negative press written about Capistrano Unified on a near daily basis, an early metric of Board success was how often we were not mentioned in the Orange County Register.
Having returned focus back on education, the district achieved noteworthy things, including creating educational opportunities for all students. With the help of San Clemente resident Thalia Tong, the board created what I consider to be the greatest achievement reached while I was in office: Orange County’s first and only successful public Mandarin Immersion Program. This program was ultimately recognized with an award by the Orange County Business Council. And during the same period, Capistrano Unified received, reviewed and approved more charter school applications than any other school district in Orange County.
Fiscal management was another area of success. With Capistrano Unified subject to Sacramento’s chronic underfunding, Mello-Roos is a fact of life in many parts of South Orange County. With interest rates at historical lows, the Board refinanced existing bond obligations, saving taxpayers $81.1 million without reducing any facilities funding to our schools. This kind of responsible management led to the Orange County Taxpayers Association nominating CUSD for the coveted Rose Award.
None of this was achieved by individuals but rather by people working in concert. For example, while serving as Board President for two consecutive terms and holding the same role with the South Coast Regional Occupational Program, I would have long since been buried in the obligations of both offices without the support of Superintendents Joe Farley and Kim Thomason. In that same spirit, I also owe debts of gratitude to Chris Korpi, Trudy Podobas, Linda Verasater, Vicky Soderberg, Greg Young, Jane Boos, Kristen Nelson, Michelle Benham, Ronda Whalen and many others.
Now that I have done my part, it is time for others to address the current issues facing CUSD, including the looming teacher shortage, lack of modern facilities, adequate senior leadership, and community trust. For the sake of my children, I wish them success.
My decision not to seek another term in Capistrano Unified and move on to other adventures was the right move for me. Instead of focusing on education policy, it will be on the education of my three children. One immediate benefit will be the lack of board functions and more time for my children’s volleyball and soccer games. After some time, perhaps, I will seek to serve again, but for now I thank the voters of CUSD for the amazing experiences and for allowing me the opportunity to serve.