Trustee says lack of communication on Michael Halt’s removal “a textbook example of gross negligence”

By John M. Alpay, Trustee, Capistrano Unified School District

The manner in which Capistrano Unified School District Superintendent Kirsten Vital removed San Clemente High School Principal Michael Halt can only be described as a textbook example of gross negligence. The lack of official communication regarding his termination for almost six days caused a great amount of unnecessary yet completely understandable discontent, confusion and anger. As stated in the press release issued this past Wednesday, “Change is a natural part of moving a system to the next level and essential when ensuring the futures of our students.” I agree.

John Alpay
John Alpay

It was with great fanfare last year that we announced the hiring of Kirsten Vital as our next superintendent. Without question the post of superintendent for the Capistrano Unified School District is a challenging and difficult job that requires a special breed of person. The recruitment process took many months and required the services of two separate recruiting firms. We wanted somebody bold. We wanted somebody who was not afraid to make the hard call. We wanted somebody who would take us from a really good school district to something we could hold out as a national model of public education.

We found all of that in Kirsten Vital. And I still firmly believe that she possesses those characteristics and has the talent, intelligence and ability to make us into what we want to be. She even showed wisdom by choosing to buy a house and settling down in San Clemente. The only thing that we did not realize is that she also appears to be completely and utterly tone deaf.

Parents, teachers and students have all come to love and respect Michael Halt. After the board appointed him as principal for San Clemente High School, I personally challenged Michael to spend the time and become integrated into the community and not just learn, but truly understand how San Clemente is a special community and how central the high school is to its identity. I think we can all agree that as a Marine with command presence, he took on the task and achieved his objective in an efficient and expeditious manner.

With that in mind, did Michael Halt deserve to be terminated during the middle of AP/IB exams, a few short weeks before graduation and the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the high school? As indicated in the Wednesday press release, the Board of Trustees voted a number of months ago to end Michael Halt’s employment at the end of the school year. Because this is a personnel matter, I cannot provide further details. However, I can state without equivocation that at no time did the board affirmatively vote to put him out in the street in such an unceremonious and uncivil fashion.

The ability to put Michael Halt on leave for the remainder of the school year and duration of his contract is the Superintendent’s prerogative. I do not support her action. It was a blunder of monumental proportions. Given the tone of Wednesday’s press release, one can only wonder if it is a message to others in the district not to stand up and challenge the superintendent. I say this because for those who remain, they must continue the task of educating our students, but I sense that they may now do so in fear. Multiple teachers and staff members have told me in the last week that they are no longer permitted to talk to trustees. One employee even feared that he would “end up like Mike” if I was seen talking to him.

The need for corrective action and change is clear. First, we need to establish an effective and open means of communication. This kind of structure clearly does not exist within our district. We need to hire professionals on a full time basis or at this point somebody competent who can work with existing assets. Six days of silence is unacceptable.

Second, our superintendent should engage with our community, teachers and staff. It is not enough to simply say “I live here!” Instead follow a good example and be like Mike and sincerely engage. For example, the upcoming San Clemente Education Foundation’s 12th Annual Event would be an ideal event for the entire family.

And finally and most immediately, allow Michael Halt the honor and dignity to attend San Clemente High School’s end of year ceremonies, anniversary celebrations and to graduate with his seniors. At this point he may politely decline to participate, but at least the choice will be his.

It is my hope that Superintendent Vital will listen to this now public plea. If these actions are undertaken then I believe we will begin the healing process to repair the damage done in this past week while at the same time showing a United States Marine Colonel the proper respect that he has earned and fully deserves.

Anything short of this recommended course of action would in my opinion constitute a continued lack of communication and engagement to the detriment of our students. And in that kind of scenario, while exceptionally costly and disruptive, it may be in the district’s best interests to part ways with more than one employee.


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comments (182)

  • Mr. Alpay,

    Thank you for making this statement. I must say that after attending the (understandably) rather heated SC Times Beachside Chat this morning, I do respect Superintendent Vital’s decision to show up in a very heated environment. That said, I’m not sure she has any singular clue of how this would truly affect this very tight one-town, one-school community, much less the way in which it was carried out and the subsequent lack of communication.

    If, in fact, Mr. Mike Halt did fail in the metrics the Superintendent has alluded to, then I would strongly suggest the issue here is with the metrics, not the man. If leading like he has over the last two years (especially with what he was left with) is not within the guidelines of CUSD, then serious changes need to be made at the district level. It is clear to many of us parents that if there were *more* principals with the leadership and community-building skills as Mr. Halt, many of the issues found in schools all over CUSD would be far closer to a resolution. I challenge the district to study and understand this point.

    I don’t envy your position in being closer to the truth and not being able to share most of it. However, we parents cannot change that. What we can and MUST do, is change who we vote for.

    Any board trustee who does not seek to replace Superintendent Kirsten Vital and, especially and immediately, Michelle Le Patner, will face enthusiastic, determined and passionate opposition at the voting booths next time ’round. “Gross negligence” is not acceptable in those we entrust to guide the education system for our children. Shaking a top-performing school with huge parental and community support right to the core just weeks before the end of the school year shows a disconnect so large that it cannot be repaired.

    Chris Bernal
    SCHS parent

    • Kimberly Kennedy Reply

      Dear Mike,
      As a survivor of Kirsten Vital’s reign of terror as the Superintendent of the Alameda Unified School District from 2009-2014, I have to forewarn you that this is only the beginning. Vital and her cronies successfully drove out almost 25% of my school’s teaching staff, including administrators and intimidated our School Board members into compliance. Teachers that spoke up were fired, one walked off, and others were suddenly removed. It was like we were being ambushed, and nobody was safe. We had over 60 grievances, that Ms. Vital considered “baseless”, and she decimated many of our outstanding academic programs and services. I wish that the Capistrano School District had contacted AUSD before even interviewing her. We would have clearly told you the truth. She is going to be a difficult siren to behead.

      • I couldn’t support your POV more strongly, than I do at the moment. In fact, it is incredible that, yet another, highly capable principal of SCHS has been RAILROADED out of a job because of personal/political animosity from ‘a’ member of CVUSD.

        The most important constituents, qualified to make such a decision, are the parents of the same children/students that will suffer the outcome of an irresponsible/selfish/egotistical decision from one (+1?), non-invested critic. What is wrong with this picture?

        The administration of CVUSD has been fraught with controversy including: illegal surveillance/prosecution/defense costs to litigate resolution of same, multiple mis-steps to hire then immediately fire a Superintendant that brought immediate/measurable academic gains and higher attendance with management skills commensurate with the task, for which he was hired.

        CVUSD adminstration continually makes bad decisions by letting ignorant, egotistical politicians (board members) further their singularly-motivated agendae.

        That said: Is there any hope that ‘we’ commoners, who are adamant about our children recieving an uninterrupted/quality education, eliminate the ignorant whims of diametricfally opposed and politically-driven fanatics who have no ‘skin’ in the game.

        Sorry for the diatribe but, San Clemente is a community of concerned parents that have shown, above all else, a propensity to stand up to bullying and oppression by those who will constantly try to leverage their will when they think apathy is a factor. We are not apathetic and will not be lulled or bullied into anything less than what’s right for our kids.


      • You wanted someone bold, what you got was an egomaniac. I find it beyond comprehension how this could even happen. You mention gross negligence. There is only one thing to do, right your wrong. I’ve never heard of parents and students having to fight to keep someone they value. Typically, we fight to get rid of someone and nothing is done. Do the right thing.

        I find it equally alarming that the position of Superindent of CUSD is a “hard sell” requiring months of negotiations and two head hunters. We live in one of the most sought after counties in the nation. Sounds like there are much more pressing issues to focus on.

    • Elizabeth Gilbert Reply

      Unfortunately corruption is rampant at CUSD. After sending two undercover officials to view first had the excessive abuse of my daughter by her coach, the District decided to fire the coach. We were told not to speak of it until all of the paperwork was finished, and we did not but the coach did! She gathered support, and well intentioned, but ignorant to our situation, some parents demanded a reversal of the firing and they were ultimately successful! The bullying was so bad that we had to illicit help from our neighbors to be on the look out of our home, and had to file a police report. CUSD stole my daughter’s senior year, and 2 years of sanity for our entire family! I mention this because John Alpay conducted the hearing that reopened our case into weather or not the coach’s firing should stand. He put a strict 10minute time limit on our daughter, and was very dismissive. He did not appear to be the champion for our students that he presents in this article. I saw no righteous indignation. The Board voted 5 to 4 to reverse it’s earlier decision. The irony in all of this, the woman who was the spokesman for the Fireside chat held today, is the head of the anti bullying organization on SCHS designed to protect kids like mine, but she could not see what was happening right under her nose! My daughter is a pretty, athletic and smart young woman, she does not fit the stereotypical image of a kid who is bullied, but she was! Her coach, the CapoUSD Board and the so called anti bullying mom who is now the spokesman for the reinstatement of Mr. Halt, all have dubious reputations when it comes to knowing what is best for the youth of San Clemente. Now 2 years after my daughter’s ordeal, she is healing, but little things are still coming to the surface. Just the other day, she and I were in our kitchen, and she said ‘mom, did I ever tell you that this was my corner?’ and I said ‘what?’ She pointed to the corner where our breakfast bar meets the other cabinets of our kitchen forming an ‘L’ shape. She said, ‘yes, this is the spot, I would come home from school, and I couldn’t make it to my room, I’d just make it here to this spot, and I’d cry! I felt safe in this little corner!, I cried my eyes out, and I’m crying as I write this. I pray for all of my friends in San Clemente who have kids at that high school. You all deserve better! Mr. Halt deserves abetter spokesperson, and yes, the abusive coach is still there!

    • To all of your comments,
      Thank you! This is part of how a community starts to *organize, game plan, look at information and form options*. San Clemente is filled with dedicated and committed residents which only goes to prove, that passion shows up, gets involved and change happens. Can’t fix stupid, but maybe it will teach the next one, don’t mess with this city, we all know where our kids are! Lol you get the picture. I’m proud of this city in so many ways, this is just another example as to why.

      Admitting you were wrong, apologizing, humbling oneself, goes a very long way. If you can’t do that, then don’t pull the shocked *card* when * karma * comes knocking. I hope your listening CUSD!!

    • If you want to get involved in helping Bring Mike Back, please visit this web page!

      There is also an online petition to help keep Michael Halt at SCHS:

      Let’s get this rolling, San Clemente.

  • Thank you for your honesty and communication. I say everyday how proud I am of our town, our schools, our students and our community as a whole. It rocks us all when someone so amazing as Mike is treated so poorly. I guess it is a teaching moment for us to show our children how not to grow into a person that gives so little thought about others….
    Mike will be sorely missed and the next principal has some mighty big shoes to fill. I hope he doesn’t step on the wrong peoples toes along the way.

    Shame on you Kirsten Vital. Your have disappointed so many people. So selfish.

  • I completely agree with Mr. Alpay. Whatever the reason for “change” or termination of Principal Halt by District leadership, everyone is entitled to take part in due process. This is the United States of America, not a police state. We are all familiar with founding principles of our government that everyone is “innocent until proven guilty,” and that there are procedures in place that ensure protections against rumor, slander, or in the case of the community considering the case of Mr. Halt, utter and outraged confusion.

    Honest communication is how effective change is accomplished in any political, educational or social environment. The silence of the District’s leadership only signals that there is something to hide. San Clemente High School cannot move forward until its faculty, their students and their parents are ready to move with it, and with the District’s direction. Explanations, fairness, grace, and honesty are sadly lacking at the top in this District, and that will ultimately destroy the quality of education for the faculty and students that the Administration has sworn to support and serve.

    • Rick, the qualities you list have ALWAYS been lacking in CUSD. Over the last 30 years the District has become a second rate institution. As a long time employee, I’m sure you’ll agree.

  • The fundamental fact is that this entire town has witnessed as Mike Halt was THE driving force in turning SCHS around in so many ways. He has the full support of this community. So whatever reasons the district has for not re-electing him, they better be damn good. What are they? We have a right to know. I reckon when the facts come out, that this community will not be satisfied. You all screwed this one up royally and I’m sorry — this statement from Alpay is just damage control.

    If the district and the board of trustees want the kind of support that Mike Halt enjoys, they need to be transparent and vulnerable enough to admit they made a mistake and make it right. Un-do this colossal mistake and do whatever you can to make amends with Mike Halt. If you stick by your guns and are too proud/scared to admit your mistake, there will be no end to the grief you will see from this community. You guys blew this big time.

  • The pattern of neglect by the CUSD for San Clemente Students, Parents, Teachers and Facilities is obvious and needs to end.

    The CUSD board made a mistake in hiring Superintendent Vital as evidenced by how she has single handedly galvanized the people against her and CUSD. The credibility that CUSD had with San Clemente was already non-existent and now it has descended further.

    The fact that the CUSD board made this determination in March tells us that Vital is just the tip of the spear. The issue is that CUSD is completely incompetent.

    CUSD has no chance of convincing a Marine town like San Clemente that a retired and highly decorated (Bronze Star & Legion of Merit) Marine Colonel (also a USC Graduate), could not meet CUSD performance requirements. Particularly given that Principal Halt worked collaboratively with all stakeholders to build a more inclusive school culture. Halt increased AP and IB enrollment by 24% and reduced truancies by 40% and suspensions by 20%.

    Until CUSD becomes an open book with full and authentic transparency things will only get worse. If CUSD wants the support of San Clemente it will require honesty and courage from CUSD. For San Clemente to get behind something it will require true “open” collaboration and planning that is driven by scientific data where the Parents of all schools have their own representatives deeply involved.

    What’s this really about…
    In looking at online resources available it seems that the new Superintendent may have been hired because of her experience with getting local School Bonds on the ballet like took place in Alameda (source –,_Measure_I_(November_2014) )

    Good luck trying to pass a School Bond when all of San Clemente is against CUSD and fed up with being neglected and taxed with nothing in return.

    CUSD had awakened a sleeping giant. Getting anything done now will be painful for CUSD.

  • Alpay – Please save us the fake outrage, you voted to terminate his contract no less than 60 days ago and kick him to the curb after his amazing tenure and dedication to this town. Sure, Vital jumped the gun, but she is just doing what you and the Board supported – just 1 month sooner than you hoped. Now, after the deed is done, the contract terminated and Mike is on his way out of town, you change your tune and attack the Superintendent because of the manner it happened?

    Folks, this is political theater in its finest.

  • I, as a parent am dismayed and find this to be at the forefront of disillusionment. My SCHS senior student, his class of 2015, SC community, stakeholders, and myself expect this gross negligence to be resolved in Mr. Michael Halt’s favor and additionally, have him speak at his (and their) much earned graduation.

  • Thank you Mr. Alpey for your candor!

    First item on the agenda for next week’s CUSD Board Meeting should be a vote of no confidence on Kirsten Vital and Michelle Le Patner and the initiation of an independent, third party review of the Mike Halt termination. If it does indeed bring to light that his termination had no real merit, he should be reinstated as the Principal of SCHS. Only then will San Clemente parents finally regain their faith in how CUSD is managed.

  • If the Trustees are being told by teachers and staff that our district is starting to feel like a police state then it may be becoming a dangerous and toxic environment for our children to be taught in. Education works best when it is collaborative. Teachers and school site administrators should have the right and freedom to share their opinions and expertise. If Trustees do nothing but blog or slap Superintendent Vital’s hand then ultimately it is the Trustees fault. The trustees need to investigate this situation and others about how and why decisions by the CUSD Administrators are being made. Trustees need to research and ask questions before they vote on things that drastically affect thousands of students. Change is hard and change sometimes takes time. Mr. Halt was making positive changes to SCHS that are extremely appreciated as evident by the overwhelming support for him from the students, teachers and parents in the SCHS community.

  • I am a teacher in Alameda where Ms. Vital use to be the superintendent. We saw way too often if someone disagreed with her, they were soon dismissed. I can only guess that Michael Hall must have publicly disagreed with her.
    She also went after teachers relentlessly until they retired or left the profession. A colleague in my school was the victim of her ire.
    She did not have a good relationship with the teachers union either. We were glad to be rid of her.

  • Why are we even a member of CUSD? Many towns in America with much smaller populations than 65,000 residents have successful and vibrant school systems. Perhaps returning the school district to local control is the way to go. Does Laguna Beach with it’s own school system have the same level of discord and acrimony with regards to education that our town as a member of CUSD does?

  • Thank you for speaking out Mr. Alpay. I appreciate your transparency on this issue. I also share your belief that good communication is at the heart of any healthy organization.

    The San Clemente community was blindsided by this decision. Principal Halt’s immediate termination is not explainable by the very explanation included in the district press release. I understand personnel laws will preclude us from ever knowing exactly what happened. But good communication is still possible. The official press release, capping many days of confusion and stress, has only inflamed the situation. This is not a time of celebration. The laudatory language of the press release is simply off the mark, patronizing to our school community, and insulting to Principal Halt. And as a resident of San Clemente, Ms. Vital should have had a sensitivity to that.

    I do appreciate Ms. Vital’s appearance at the Beachside Chat this morning and agree with you that further opportunities for better communication in the future are needed.

  • Performance Evaluation Reply

    What “metrics” are used to evaluate Vital’s and le Patner’s performance? Is Vital still on probation? Doesn’t “Gross Misconduct” = “Termination with Cause”?

    How big a LACK in people skills does it take to slow walk a principal to the door a month before school is out? Managing the relationship with the employees and the needs of the community are job #1 for this position. I think her history of being ‘tone deaf” was underestimated.

    School Board – you can fix this!

  • Does anyone know if there’s a (public) resource where we can see how the trustees voted on the issues of Mike’s non-reelection and (“unceremonious”) firing?
    I would love to check the votes to see if Mr. Alpay is in fact backpedaling, as Lynn suggests.
    His statement “at no time did the board affirmatively vote to put him out in the street” has me wondering if there were any who voted yes.
    So we can fire them.

    • The Feb. 25 board meeting had a bunch of employee non-reelction votes in the closed meeting. I will post the link separately but if you go to the CUSD site you can see that Trustee Alpay and others voted yes. Trustee Reardon was absent for many of the votes.

        • I just read over the standards that were used to assess Mr. Halt’s performance. He met EVERY standard and then some except maybe a few criteria in the sycophant category, otherwise known as Standard 6. SCHS teachers are SO tired of the district treating San Clemente High School like second class citizens. We have a prestigious IB program, top notch athletic teams, incredible music, art, and theatre programs, the only auto academy in the district, a flourishing AVID program, an award winning yearbook, dedicated, hard working teachers and staff, and outstanding students, three of whom are attending Stanford in the Fall and countless many studying at all of the UC’s, Cal States, USC, Pepperdine, Yale, Harvard ….the list goes on. To top it off, we have the district teacher of the year at our site who says she has never worked with a better principal than Mike Halt. We have never had a better administrative staff in my twenty some years of teaching and now, just when we are really making some positive changes, the district punishes us for our strengths and pulls the rug out from under us. Shame on you, Michelle Le Patner, Ms. Vital, and CUSD board (whose positions we fought for) for your treatment of not only a fantastic leader, but a whole student body.

    • The vote – if it was a roll call vote should be in the minutes and on the Board Audio. If you know what meeting the vote was taken at just listen to the Board Audio and you will learn a lot.

  • Mr. Alpay, did you vote to remove Mr. Halt? You said “Parents, teachers and students have all come to love and respect Michael Halt… I personally challenged Michael to spend the time and become integrated into the community… I think we can all agree that as a Marine with command presence, he took on the task and achieved his objective in an efficient and expeditious manner.” In light of your stated opinion, I’d be curious to know if you voted to have him removed?


  • SC Resident Mom of 2 Reply

    It seems this community swell to tackle the numerous challenges and opportunities presented by this recent atrocity of the CUSD needs a forum or container to organize and prioritize a course of action. As a resident of the community who does not yet have children at SCHS but does feel strongly about the future of San Clemente, how can I help and be part of the solution? Is there a group leading the charge to explore what’s possible?

    • Capistrano Unified Stakeholders Reply

      Stake-holders in the community (students, teachers, administrators, parents, and concerned citizens) will be packing the CUSD Board Meeting on Wednesday, May 13 @7pm – 33122 Valle Road, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 in support of a “no confidence” vote in the leadership of Superintendent Vital.

      Trustee Alpay is correct – the manner in which Superintendent Vital removed Principal Halt was a text book is example of “gross negligence.” We believe that this should be a matter of public record.

      Superintendent Vital has a track record of ruling unilaterally and not communicating effectively with stake-holders.

      (see article:

      This type of arrogant behavior will not be accepted in South Orange County.

      • SC Resident Mom of 2tr Reply

        Yes, thank you. I attended the beachside chat this morning, and I will attend this Wednesday’s Board meeting to recommend a vote of no confidence. My question pertains to a longer-term strategy to organize and prioritize the opportunities to affect more permanent change for the future of San Clemente Schools. There have been a lot of suggestions posted here and elsewhere related to everything from a third party review of Principal Halt’s dismissal to seceding from the CUSD and recalling the board. Without further exploration — which would require an organized effort — and more information, I am not able to make an informed decision about what our family might support. Is there a more formal structure for concerned citizens to explore longer term strategies beyond Wednesday’s Board meeting? The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and I truly believe the diversity of our perspectives, skills, and input could bring about unimaginable change if organized, divided, and triumphed…for our community and, more importantly, our children.

      • #longtime resident SC Reply

        WE must initiate a RECALL process of this board and get rid of VITAL. These people are clearly out of touch with what is best for San Clemente and our children. I have lived in SC since 1989 – have had 3 kids at SCHS– last one going through SCHS and I have NEVER seen a better Principal at SCHS. MR. HALT is the best man/person for this job. I don’t want a new Principal and clearly an independent investigation needs to occur. The board CLEARLY is not looking out for the best interest of SC, the children or its residents. BRING BACK MIKE!!!

  • In my humble opinion, the district is too big, and the fact that Ms. Vitale has been here for less than a year one would think she would look to her “advisors” as to how this should/would be best handled.
    MLP, has the most to gain and is probably bitter to the fact that she did not receive the superintendents position last spring. Trustees need to ask teachers and classified staff while digging deeper. Ask those administrators and teachers that flee there sinking ship. MLP is the cancer.
    MLP has continued to lie and to manipulate situations for her personal gain.
    But let’s face it – in a week no one will care and business as usual will continue. Those silent will quiet continue to persevere and do a great job in their classrooms/school sites. In spite of the lack of leadership, CUSD will still be a great place for kids because teachers and staff care.

  • People at CUSD know that the driving force behind all the recent firings in our district is Michelle Le Patner. Along with the inappropriate action regarding Mike Halt, she also recently terminated the positions of numerous Executive Directors who had been part of our district for many years and had dedicated their lives to education, causing us to lose valuable knowledge and years of experience that we will never get back. She definitely has her own agenda and we should put our focus on her and our energies behind discovering what her ultimate plans are. Throwing Mike Halt unceremoniously on the street is one of many awful things that she has engineered. Is anyone seeing this besides those who work in the system? Take a look…she is ultimately the one who needs to be removed. She is destroying our schools and our district.

    • Yes, you are 100% correct. Lack of integrity, narcissistic, bully, lack of focus, lack of an understanding of CUSD stakeholders are on a partial list of adjectives applying to this administrator. Those to whom you refer were dismissed without cause. She has ignored Board policies (!) to operate by her own rules. She has never been a good “fit” for CUSD students, teachers, parents AND administrators. Whoever hired her should take responsibility and be held accountable. Board of Trustees: Terminate her contract before the District spirals further downward. Dr. Thornsley I miss you.

    • Yes indeed. LePatner is the instigator of this calcuted chaos. Do not underestimate Alpay’s role either, despite his words above. Look beyond the firing of Mike Halt and investigate the dozens of firings, reassignments and ” early retirements” across CUSD, right after LePatner arrived, preceding the arrival of Vital. You will begin to see the power grab Lepatner is making, with Alpay’s help.

  • Concerned CUSD Parent Reply

    Alpay needs to go as well as Lepatner and Vital. They are destroying this district. Not only did Alpay vote to rid of Principal Halt but he also voted on putting a couple of coaches up for firing with no pay for the past four years for a bogus Lapes investigation that CUSD claims to have made. One coach will be exonerated in a week or two as our district has spent close to two million dollars on a bogus witch hunt. Stand up CUSD and lets recall this school board and get rid of Vital and LePatner!!

  • Mr. Alpay, your letter completely fails to address the concerns of the San Clemente community. While Mike Halt certainly was “put out in the street in an unceremonious and uncivil fashion”, that is not what the uproar in our town is primarily about. The community is enraged because a beloved principal, a principal who has been a total success according to students, faculty, and parents has been fired. Your focus on the manner and timing of his termination is misleading, as is laying the blame for his termination on Superintendent Vital. The fact that it appears that Mr. Halt was terminated for purely political considerations is what has angered our community. You and the board of trustees are the ones responsible for that termination.

  • Dear John Alpay,
    I liked reading your words, now I’m looking forward to seeing your actions back them up.

  • I agree with many of the comments here. It is abundantly clear that Ms Vital’s hubris is not what the District needs. Mr. Alpays comments are politically expedient. He voted to remove Mr Halt but is now upset about how it happened? It would have been the same reaction if it were done after school was let out.

    As someone who has worked in public relations, community engagement for over 20 years…this type of behavior by a superintendent is completely unacceptable. It also serves as a giant red flag for character and leadership. This IS a community that must be allowed to be one in partnership with the school district. Clearly Ms Vital does not share that vision.

  • Willy - San Clemente HS Dad Reply

    Many of the comments I read above are on the mark (I found the Alameda Teacher’s remarks particularly insightful)… Principal Mike Halt is a superlative leader in every regard, the direct anti-thesis it appears, from Ms. Vital and Ms. Le Patner. Perhaps Principal Halt is better off not having to serve under their tyranny? Sadly, it is our students who will feel the greatest loss. Capistrano Valley Unified School District – an embarrassing example for our young people and the community. Vote for change at the earliest opportunity.

    • SC Resident Mom of 2 Reply

      Our earliest opportunity to initiate change is this Wednesday at the CUSD Board meeting @ 7. We can’t wait for the next election to do something!

      • Agreed! They must be voted out on Wednesday night because imagine what will happen to our district and anyone who disagreed with them if they are not? Le Patner, Vital and Hatton at the very least need to be gone.

  • Mike Halt for CUSD SUPERINTENDENT!!!!

    Bye bye Alpay, Vital, Le Patner. Nice attempt at spin control Mr. Alpay but it isn’t going to save you.

    As a non active Marine there is NOTHING the district can say to convince me that a Marine Colonel has somehow failed to meet some standard. He’s made a career of meeting and exceeding standards and nothing I have seen in the short time he was here shows me anything other than an exceptional man.

  • If the consensus is Mr. Halt’s termination is nothing more than the result of corruption, professional negligence, or both, AND IF IT IS THE GOAL TO GET MR. HALT REINSTATED, what can legally and procedurally be done to achieve this? What course of action can be taken and how can individual constituents, whether they are parents, teachers, students, concerned San Clemente citizens at large, most productively contribute to achieve the desired outcome?

    While blogs, the Beach Side Chat forum and so forth are thankfully providing platforms for enlightenment, communication and opinion sharing and the CUSD meeting next week will provide a forum to publicly express anger but perhaps nothing more, I am certain I am not alone in wanting to urgently understand what legal recourse exists and what procedural steps can be taken to get Mr. Halt reinstated if this is his wish at this juncture?

    • The Suda-Blake Family (formerly SC Resident Mom of 2) Reply

      Dear Karen (and All): Our family agrees wholeheartedly and is willing to assist in any way possible. Before we make another post, however, we want to first say “thank you” to Mr. Halt and his students for inspiring greatness in this town. We have never been more proud to be residents of San Clemente. The parents of the students who represented the community’s disapproval of Ms. Vital’s decision at the Beachside Chat should be proud, too; we can only hope, strive, and teach our two young children grow into role models as your children have become. Thank you.

      Our family is willing to initiate a website, open our home for meetings, organize volunteers, provide financial assistance– do whatever is necessary to help explore all possibilities to ensure change in the local system. We have not initiated something because we do not have children who attend SCHS, and so we don’t know if there are other organized efforts underway about which we may not have heard; we don’t want to duplicate or conflict with other organized efforts that may have already been initiated. Perhaps we can meet in the parking lot after the 20 minutes we’ll have at Wednesday’s CUSD meeting to discuss immediate next steps?

  • CUSD Parent and Long-Time SC Resident Reply

    Alpay and his ilk were only voted in to be stooges of the teacher’s union. This wouldn’t have happened with the school board of just a few years ago. Shame on the school board – RECALL !!

  • First of all I would like to say how badly I feel for Mike Halt. Not only is he a hero, but also an absolutely amazing administrator and leader. His only fault was that he went head to head with Michelle Le Patner and as many administrators can testify that if you do that, you should immediately start looking for another job because you will be fired. Unfortunately, Mr. Halt is just one of a long line of highly qualified administrators that has been fired, or “leveled down” by the Le Patner regime. Le Patner and Lynn Hatton are conspiring together to create a crew of administrators that are minions and that are needy for jobs, so they will do what they say. Someone should look at how many administrators have been let go or “ leveled out” in the last four years. These are administrators that have NEVER EVER had any blemish at all on their records and were beloved by teachers, parents and students alike. I am unsure how administrators of this caliber are just brought in one day and have their jobs removed with no prior action. Sure, they say things like “they tried to remediate them” or they “make up” reasons so they justify their actions, but it all comes down to whom did they defy? The answer is simple, one of three people: Jodee Bretlinger (head of HR) Michelle Le Patner (Asst. Superintendent) or Lynn Hatton. I personally believe Vital is a puppet for Bretlinger and Le Patner and although I think she is very ineffective as a superintendent, she is at best being forced to go along with what is really Michelle Le Patner running the show. Anyone interested in knowing what type of special privileges Lynn Hatton’s kids get at Capo Valley? Because there are more than a few. I am sorry Mike Halt was another victim in Le Patner’s desire to completely control the district, but she has given herself about three promotions in three years, all board approved so she clearly has some type of pull. Why is there not a way for administrators who they “think” are doing poorly to be evaluated like teachers? Why do they have zero protection? It is shameful and I agree that if the board does not immediately vote Le Patner, Vital and Bretlinger out, (and recall Hatton) then this district will continue to get substandard applicants for our administrators. After all, Le Patner was fired from Santa Ana (or was in the process of being fired) Vital it seems was being forced out of Alameda county after almost bankrupting the district and terrorizing teachers to the point of them quitting, so it seems they are hiring those in the same situation, I.E. Chad Smith the new principal of Capo Valley. Shameful and embarrassing. This is a call to action for the voting parents of this district. We need to get back to he greatness that we once had, where we promoted administrators from within and trained our administrators from the ground up. We recruited the best and brightest teachers around, that worked in concert with our administrators to do what is best for students. We need to do something drastic and immediate.

  • Capo Valley Parent Reply

    This mayhem is not new to our district. It is time for CUSD parents to take notice of what is happening in our district.

  • The more you dig into Vital’s past, the more you wonder ‘what where they thinking’. Read the following:

    AUSD Superintendent Kirsten Vital Weaves a Tangled Web

    Alameda Resident Files Complaint Against AUSD Superintendent Kirsten Vital

    Encinal High Teacher Transfer Affirmed


    School District Superintendent on Defensive Over Charter School Facilities Controversy

    And this is only what’s publicly available… So much for proper vetting. Why did the CUSD hire somebody that has a long history of questionable actions, closed door dealing, a total disconnect with the communities she was supposed to serve, and politically motivated hiring and firing?

  • Were YOU 'Like Mike,' Mr. Alpay? Reply

    Community: feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

    Mr. Alpay,

    As The Trustee Area 3 representative (San Clemente High School) on CUSD Board, we would like to know how you voted in favor of the dismal of Mr. Halt given the Board’s mission, “The mission of the Capistrano Unified school district, in partnership with the home and our richly diverse community…” Did you actively solicit feedback from our community before you voted on this important decision? Were YOU “LIKE MIKE”? If so, I imagine that you received and outpouring of comments from members of our community that support the Board’s decision regarding Mr. Halt? If so, it might be important for these folks to attend Wednesday’s meeting, so that we can hear from our fellow community stakeholders that informed your vote…So far they’ve been silent; it makes one wonder if any really exist?

  • If you want to get involved in helping Bring Mike Back, please visit this web page!

    Let’s get this rolling, San Clemente.

  • Someone started another petition @ It has more than a thousand signatures!!!!

    I suggest we sign both!!

  • The ILikeMike petition is great, it allows us to show that we support Mike Halt, however, there is no call to action. Sign both petitions, but more importantly, sign the petition at since there is actually a call to action request to the school board of trustees. We need to show them that they are supposed to represent us, their constituents, and that we expect them to do what they should have done all along, allow Mike to finish out his contract and approve a contract to retain him for the coming school year. Tell your email list of friends to do the same!

  • State-by-State Information on Initiating Reply
  • If you want to try and help San Clemente High School get Mike Halt back, please focus on this issue first. That is the best organized effort now. If we speak with one voice on this issue, it may help to solve other issues raised in the future.

    • While the focus needs to be on getting Mike Halt back, there can be nothing done until we get rid of Vital, Le Patner and Bretlinger. (You don’t actually think they are going to admit they were wrong and vote to reinstate Mr. Halt do you??? ) If we don’t rid ourselves of them nothing will change.

  • How many assistant superintendents are there?

  • Concerned CUSD Parent Reply

    Jodi Bretlinger needs to be go as well. She is very much a part of this district’s problem. That woman is horrid! I can’t believe the people who are involved at the district level. Their decisions are shameful and they need to go now!!

  • Of the 7 trustees, which ones voted to oust Principal Halt? I’m assuming Mr. Alpay won’t answer back, so if anyone else has that information, it would be appreciated if you could let me know. Thank you.

  • Whether John Alpay voted for or against Mike Halt’s termination is irrelevant at this point. The board’s decisions are made based on the recommendations by the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, all of which are suspect now. Let’s not forget that John’s been the driving force behind the Talega bond issue, ultimately to the benefit of all of San Clemente.

    I think the entire Board of Trustees would be wise to:

    – revisit Mike’s case and give it immediate and due attention. The public outrage will resonate again at election time if we do not get satisfactory answers.
    – immediately remove Vital and Le Patner before they do any further, irreparable damage. The recent blunders and facts in both their backgrounds that are now coming to light have shaken the confidence of parents, teachers, and staff beyond repair. Without it, they cannot lead effectively. Vital’s pathetic little homemade video distributed this evening is clearly a last ditch effort of somebody who knows the fire is at her doorstep, and definitely not worthy of an administrator costing us $300K+/year.

    For Wednesday, do not assume enough parents will be there just on the strength of the public outcry we’ve experienced in the last couple of days. Be there. If your children attend CUSD schools YOU SHOULD BE THERE. SCHS parents, also reach out to parents of other schools and ask them to support us. What happened at SCHS is likely to happen at other schools in the district if we do not fix this. This isn’t just about whether Mike’s termination was justified or not. See you on Wednesday!

    • We need a third party to come in and investigate exactly the reasons Halt was dismissed.

    • SC Resident and Voting Taxpayer Reply

      Dear SCDad-

      I agree with your assessment of what the CUSD Board of Trustees would be wise to do at this point, and we should all focus on this as the most pressing and immediate next steps. Until these two things happen it will be difficult to move forward with any kind of change for the future of our district.

      With regard to whether or not Mr. Alpay’s voting record on this issue is relevant, I have a different opinion. If the Board’s job is to simply ratify the administration’s recommendations on IMPORTANT issues related to personnel or building-level decisions of this magnitude, then the system is broken. If Alpay’s job was simply to “accept” Ms. Vital’s and Lepatner’s decisions, then I’m sure he would agree that the governance process is broken; I would expect him to be leading the way to change in the process when he’s up for reelection in 2016.

      See you all on WEDNESDAY, 5/13/2015 @ 7:00 PM: 33122 Valle Road, San Juan Capistrano, California 92675

      • Capistrano Unified Stakeholders Reply

        SC Dad – I agree with all of your sentiments and plan of action (very well articulated). We plan on being at the school board meeting on Wednesday night to support this plan.

        SC Resident & Voting Tax Payer – I agree that Trustee Alpay & the rest of the Board have made crucial mistakes in placing too much trust in Vital, Le Patner, and Bretlinger…

        however… I respect Trustee Alpay and others on the Board, for visiting the school sites over the past week and listening to the perspective of teachers and community members and beginning the process of re-evaluating some of the decisions they made without knowing the entire story. An integral component of leadership is being able to admit and apologize when you were wrong and make efforts to correct those actions. For most real change to be made, it takes community action to inspire elected leaders to have the courage and power to begin the process of re-evaluation. This process began with the Halt firing, dismissal, and unseemly press release.

        I have lost faith in the district leadership (Vital, Le Patner, Bretlinger), but I have not YET lost faith in our school board members – this can be corrected, this can be made right.

        We truly have some of the most talented and dedicated teachers, school-site administrators, and students in the nation. We need leadership at the District Office that supports and compliments these talents efforts, rather than undermine and degrade them.

        • Capistrano Unified Stakeholders Reply

          revision of statement – I know the Trustee Jones visited Capistrano Valley High School and engaged with teachers on Monday – I have no knowledge that other Trustees have made similar efforts as of this moment

    • “SC Dad”. I’m not sure where you have been for the past 18 months but Jonny Boy Alpay has done NOTHING to help the Talega Bond Issue. He recused himself with his tail between his legs and choose to not help the tax payers who will vote to re-elect him or not. He is a coward and will always chose the more popular option so he can further his political career.
      Whether Alpay voted for or against Halt has EVERYTHING to do with this issue and others. In November, Alpay will put his name in the ring for city council. And from his voting track record you will have to make an educated decision if you want a COWARDLY CHAMELEON as your leader.

  • Yes, Bretlinger is part of the problem. Employees are fearful of retaliation from her. All three need to go (Vitale and LePatner, too).

  • Thank you Jim Shilander for your fair and balanced coverage of our all-volunteer Talega citizens group’s efforts — especially during a critical time when we needed help getting the word out to Talega residents about the CUSD school board’s vote in August 2013 (without our knowledge and without any help from our directly elected school board member) to keep Talega taxpayers’ $17.4 million in bond refinance savings. We appreciate your ongoing coverage highlighting Mello-Roos inequities, and our volunteer group’s fight to stop the deluge of over-taxation by CUSD. We will miss you as you move onto the next chapter in your life and career, and we wish you all the best.

  • SC Resident and Voting Taxpayer/Buying Out Contracts Reply

    If the Board is going to remove Vital and Lepatner, they are likely going to need to buyout their contracts, which could total nearly/more than (?) $750,000. We need to “make it OK” for them to do this. What will it cost us to *keep* them…not only in potential litigation but the larger, more important cost to our children’s educational experience. I imagine the CUSD fiscal year begins on July 1. Let’s make this happen now, get the loss off of the books in *this* fiscal year, and work on a strategy for rebuilding for the future of San Clemente Schools…

    The four board members with the most at stake here are the ones whose terms expire soonest (2016) Alpay, Hanacek, Pritchard, and Reardon. Let’s make this happen, guys. If you have any chips to cash/call in, now is the time to do so.

  • CUSD Parent and Long-Time SC Resident Reply

    Good luck to everybody in the right. Unfortunately, “you can’t fight city hall”. Alpay, Hatton, Le Patner, Vital – they’re all in bed together with the teacher’s union and will continue to give the middle finger to San Clemente until all the noise dies down. The union $ will fight the recall and we’ll be back to square one before we know it.

    Prove me wrong SC !

    • Voter and tax paying resident Reply

      Be sure we are going to do our “darnedest” to make this happen! We need you, too, and your friends, and our local servicemen and women, students, etc…

  • Frustrated with CUSD Board Reply

    Dana Point is behind you!!! I am sick and tired of CUSD board abuse.

    • Voter and tax paying resident Reply

      Please show up Wednesday An bring your friends and neighbors!!!! Maybe we need to get these folks out, and then begin to work on seceding (with Dana Point) from the CUSD!

  • I Support the Superintendent / Goodbye Mike Reply

    I know I might be the only person to say this but I actually support the Superintendent’s decision to let Mike go. His performance for the metrics for SCHS show the school at the bottom of almost all the rankings for the district high schools and most show a deterioration with only a few showing improvement. I don’t pay taxes for people to like Mike I pay them to have high performing school. So I don’t care about when or how he was let go. If you don’t perform, it is time to go. No different than the private sector. So I stand in support of the Superintendent. And the witch hunt at the Cafe event was disgraceful. The accusations are unfounded and absurd against the Superintendent.

    • Are you saying that you have seen his performance review? Please clarify.

    • Capistrano Unified Stakeholders Reply

      @ I Support the Superindent / Goodbye Mike –

      Can you clarify to what metric you are referring to for his performance and how reliable that metric is?

      The quantifiable metrics that occurred under Halt’s watch include but are not limited to: increased AP and IB enrollment by 24%, reduced truancies by 40%, and suspensions by 20%.

      The qualitative metrics as stated by community members, teachers, and students include but are not limited to: High integrity, outstanding communication skills, a collaborative leadership style that earned “buy in” by multiple stake-holders, and class.

      All of these definable metrics exceed those of Vital and Le Patner as measured by their press-release where they sullied the reputation of a highly respected member of the community.

      I eagerly await a revealing of your “mystery metrics”.

      • SCHS Poor Performance Reply

        Report 1 – High School Graduation Requirements – March 25, 2015. SCHS had the lowest high school progress rates for Grade 9, Grade 10 and Grade 11 compared to the other 4 HS in the district (ANHS, CVHS, SJHHS and THS). In fact, for Grade 10 the progress data shows only 63% compared to 80% for ANHS, 77% for CVHS, 75% for DHHS and 80% for THS. He should be held accountable for the poor performance of the HS. This report is available for all to see and read. The school is clearly not performing relative to the peer HS in the district.

        Report 2 – School Accountability Report Cards (SARCS) reported during the 2014-15 School Year. The report shows several items of decreasing performance including the School Year 2013-14 adequate yearly progress overall failure in 3 o 6 categories. Why should someone remain with a 50% pass rate.

        So again no “mystery metrics”. I am looking at statistics of the poor performance of SCHS relative to the peer HS in the district. So as I said “you may like Mike, but I don’t like the performance”.

        • I can’t seem to find the data in the SARCS report that supports your assertion. I really tried.

          However, I did see find the increase in A/P enrollment and the info on the reduced truancy rate within other data sources on the California Department of Education website.

        • Capistrano Unified Stakeholders Reply

          @ SCHS Poor Performance-

          It is embarrassing how you are manipulating the data to make San Clemente High School look bad. What exactly is your agenda?

          Let’s have an objective look at the two data sets that you cite as to how SCHS is failing under Principal Halt’s leadership:

          Report 1. You reference the High School Graduation Requirements power-point that was given to the board on March 25, 2015. You conveniently leave out the most crucial year in the data base 12th grade (and in-arguably the most important piece of the data set) – where 94.94% of students graduate. This figure puts SCHS 2nd in the district with regard to graduation rates and Aliso Niguel High School last. Based on this metric (that you have cited) should the Superintendent fire the current Aliso Niguel HS Principal who is taking over San Clemente High School next year?

          The data for the graduation rates can be found here:

          Report 2. You write, “School Accountability Report Cards (SARCS) reported during the 2014-2015 school year. The report shows several items of decreasing performance including the School Year 2013-2014 adequate yearly progress overall failure in 3 of 6 categories. Why should someone remain with a 50% pass rate.”

          This statement is misleading and manipulative. After thoroughly studying the data, the report shows several places where SCHS increased their performance in the 203-2014 year, including Science, English-Language Arts, and students scoring proficient or advanced in the Mathematics High School Exit Exam.

          SCHS Students also beat the district average for High School Exit Exam Results for English Language Arts and Mathematics.

          Your last statement is completely manipulative, “adequate yearly progress overall failure in 3 of 6 categories. Why should someone remain with a 50% pass rate.” You should well know that this metric has serious problems and was a big reason why the STAR test was abandoned in 2013-2014 though-out the State.

          It unfairly punishes high performing schools for example, University High School (in Irvine) – widely considered one of the top public high schools in the nation also “failed” in 3 of 6 categories, just like SCHS. Nobody in Irvine would say that University High School with an API score in 2013-2014 of 913 was a “failing” high school. But by your metric it was and the principal should have been fired after that year.

          The truth is San Clemente High School is an outstanding school, with dedicated and talented teachers, students, and administration. It’s API score in 2013-2014 (the last year it was measured) was amongst the top in the State. And it continues to improve and excel.

          You can find the data for SCHS here:

          You can also compare and analyze the data for 2013-2014 against any school in the State here:

          It’s funny, back in 1998 – my Senior Year at SCHS my AP Stats teacher warned me about people like you, with the adage – “Statistics never lie, but liars use statistics.”

          I guess we won’t classify your “metric” for denigrating San Clemente High School, the Teachers, Students, and community as “mystery metrics” any more… I guess they are just plain old “metrics of manipulation.”

        • Dear Sir…Children are not “metrics,” they are human beings facing the challenges and hurdles of growing-up in the Modern World,” within the challenges and limits imposed by the multiplicity of personal learning styles and capabilities, cultural (and sub-cultural) mores, and home-life situations. Never before has a school system demanded so much of it – a truly Public School that serves and satisfies the needs and concerns of its students and their parents,…and the drive to live up to the radiant and resounding virtues of the American Exceptionalist ideals of Equality, Justice, and Liberty for all. LA Unified alone has over 100 different languages in its school district. In every school district the significant populations of special-needs students who need the support necessary in the goal of attaining as much personal autonomy as possible; families in distress because of economic or familial hardships; students experiencing serious losses and traumas. You cannot reduce the performance of a school, or its District, or its Administrators, or its Teachers, or its Students, or its Support Staff, to one or two standardized-test scores (the Holy Metric). We are human-beings, not metrics…The totality of what a school does to serve the needs of its communities is scantly reflected in a bubble-form or a computerized test.

    • “Metrics” is that you, Vital? or Hatton?

      • Vital, Hatton, or LePatner?

        • No It is Not Vital, Hatton or LePatner but a Citizen and Taxpayer Reply

          Yes! Metrics! Yes, Accountability. Yes, poor performance of SCHS relative to the other CUSD high schools. Yes, lowest rated HS in the district!

          • Geez “No It is Not Vital…” “I Support the Supt.” and “SCHS Poor Performance”–why don’t you choose one moniker and stick with it. Your sudden identity shifts make you look extremely shifty and not legitimate. Secondly, all of your “facts” were addressed and summarily dismissed “CapoUnified Stakeholder” in terms of interpreting the data. Your cherry-picked statistics don’t hold a candle to “Stakeholder” with an obvious one pointed out: Irvine’s finest school (finest in the state, no doubt) also “fails 3 of 6” goals. High performing schools have difficulty becoming HIGHER performing.

    • Just for the Record Reply

      To I support the Superintendent/Goodbye Mike.

      While I agree that we certainly do not pay our Principals to be liked, it is certainly a side effect of good leadership. We know that when students have developed positive relationships with their teachers and administrators that they will perform better so as to not let the people they respect down. An example of this can be seen by the students decision to shorten the duration of their “sit out” on Friday out of respect for Mr. Halts feelings on truancy. Now I don’t know about you, but in my experience it is difficult to get a small group of students to do something, let alone the number of students that were involved in this display of support for Mr. Halt. I wasn’t there but it was significant enough for the district to send a phone call home to inform parents of the action.

      Again, Mr. Halt must have displayed a significant level of leadership and respect to the student body for them to return the favor in such a vociferous manner. I would disagree with you in regards to the performance level of SCHS, which can be seen by the latest US News and World Reports rankings. We must remember that these “metrics” are simply things that we strive for and hope to meet over time. I feel that SCHS is a tremendous institution of learning and am proud to have a student there.

  • I find it hard to believe that a man of the highest integrity and a war hero would be terminated when student achievement increased and parents, students, and staff were happy. What is interesting is that there are no negative comments about Mr. Halt on these blogs by teachers and you know as unionized as SCHS is, there would be something posted on the numerous blogs if there were issues.

    Dr. Michelle Le Patner, Ed.D. is Mr. Halt’s immediate supervisor and superintendents act on recommendations of their staff that oversee the principals. Let us examine this further:

    In 2013-2014, Le Patner left Santa Ana Unified to take the Executive Director of Secondary position under the supervision of Dr. Hatchel, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services. Inside sources allege that while working in Santa Ana as the Director of Research and Assessment, she attempted to climb to power pulling the same stunts she has become known for in CUSD. It is alleged that the former Superintendent of Santa Ana, Thelma Melendez, reassigned Le Patner’s office next to her so she could keep an eye on her and prevent Le Patner from doing further damage, and was in the process of releasing her when she got hired by CUSD.

    The position Le Patner applied for in CUSD was open because Deni Christensen took a postion in Laguna Beach as an Assistant Superintendent. During this time of 2013-2014 school year, the Executive Cabinet in CUSD consisted of Dr. Farley, Dr. Hatchel, Ms. Bretlinger, Mr. Clark Hampton, and Le Patner. During this time, the principals of Shorecliffs and San Juan Hills retired under questionable circumstances, the principal at Vista Del Mar Middle School was reassigned into the classroom, and the principal at San Clemente High School was reassigned to Ladera Ranch Middle School. While there was concern about the principal at the time at SCHS he was reassigned instead of being fired. It makes one wonder if the fact that this principal and Le Patner attended the same doctoral program had a factor in retaining his job instead of receiving the same fate as Mr. Halt. On a seperate note, the principal of VDM elementary, Concordia, and BAMS all took early retirement. In addition, they reassigned the Lobo principal and Marblehead principal. Why such drastic movement localized to San Clemente when the schools outperformed similiar demographic schools in CUSD in which there was little to no change in leadership? Sources allege that this was all orchestrated by Alpay and executed by Le Patner.
    At the end of the 2012-2013 school year, Le Patner was rewarded for her obedience to Mr. Alplay by being promoted on equal title as Dr. Hatchel, as Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education. Please note that during this time, student achievement in the secondary schools actually declined across the district. Also, sites with less impressive academic achievement compared to San Clemente schools retained their principals.

    During the 2013-2014 school year, Deni Christensen was appointed back into CUSD after less than a year with Laguna Beach Unified, without going through the interview process. Sources allege that she resigned in Laguna Beach in lieu of termination. Mrs. Christensen was appointed as an Executive Director of Special Assignments without having a specific assignment under Le Patner. Le Patner then assigned her to work with San Clemente High School. This process completely circumvented the voice of the community of San Clemente. It is also alleged that this move was to place a source loyal to Le Patner at San Clemente High so she could have someone on the inside of the administration team of SCHS to report to her.

    During the current 2014-2015 school year, at the March 2015 board meeting, which was the same meeting the Trustees voted to non-relect Mr. Halt, they also voted to move Dr. Hatchel out of the Educational Division into a new position that was created for her as Assistant Superintendent of Communications retaining her title and pay. This position was formerly a director position at a fraction of the cost, and oversees no one. Le Patner was appointed in this meeting by the board as the sole Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services by the Trustees including Alpay. Inside sources allege that this was an orchestrated negotiation between Alpay and Le Patner.

    In addition, it was recently announced just prior to the delay in communication of the decision to remove Mr. Halt for the remainder of his contract, that Jodi Bretlinger, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources is being moved out of Human Resources in which she oversees multiple directors and staff to a newly made up position of Assistant Superintendent of Parent Involvement, which oversees no one. This was also approved by the Trustees including Alpay This announcement coincided with the announcement to appoint Deni Christensen to the principal position at Aliso Viejo who was working with Mr. Halt at San Clemente High School. Was this to reward Mrs. Christensen for her part in the alleged coup? It makes one wonder. At the least, Le Patner again circumvented the hiring process and the voice of these two communities to be represented in selecting their leaders for their community and their children. While the reason for Mr. Halt’s termination are not disclosed, it would not shock one to find that it was in part due to testimony by Mrs. Christensen as well as Le Patner, who are the same two people who had an interest in Mr. Halt’s demise.

    Why would Alpay come out and blast the superintendent for executing the recommendations from Le Patner and not mention Le Patner in his blast? Why would he blast the delay in communication when he himself gets weekly board briefs? Why would he also blast the removal of Mr. Halt for the remainder of his contract when Alplay himself approved his termination in March?

    It allegedly all ties back to a well crafted, systematic, and intentional plan by Alpay and his co-conspirator Le Patner. In one fatal move, the groundwork for the removal of Dr. Hatchel, Mrs. Bretlinger, and Mrs. Vital has been laid out. Who stands to benefit from this? All three of these leaders stand in the way of Le Patner from the superintendent seat. Now the only other person that stands in the way of Le Patner and Alpay’s plan is Deputy Superintendent Clark Hampton. One would not be surprised if some failed financial news or failed budgetary oversight allegations will be leaked to the media and emerge in which people will try to pin on him to pave Le Patner’s uncontested road to the superintendent seat.

    For someone that puts so much emphasis on San Clemente, Alpay does not even send his own kids to San Clemente schools. In addition, Le Patner does not even live in CUSD or have her kids attend CUSD schools, let alone San Clemente schools.

    As a citizen of San Clemente or resident in CUSD what can you do about these injustices?
    * Repost this article on all social media (Facebook, Twitter, link it to other articles about the subject), get the truth out there.
    * Lobby your Trustee in writing to demand they place a vote of no confidence on the agenda for the next board meeting with Le Patner solely.
    *Lobby your Trustee in writing to demand an independent investigation of Le Patner and Alplay’s alledged unprofessional and unethical behavior involving the release of Mr. Halt. Also to really question the validity of any alledged evidence being provided by Le Patner and Mrs. Christensen.
    * Lobby your Trustee in writing to demand an independent investigation of any terminations, demotions, or reassignments of all subordinates of Le Patner for the last three years.
    * Attend the board meeting on 5/13/2015, get a comment card (everyone needs to get a card), and express your concern with Le Patner and how her strong arm, unprofessional, and unethical conduct is driving CUSD into a designed intentional chaos that she benefits from trying to piece back together. Also, read the comments posted about these concerns into the record at the board meeting. These posts will fade, but the minutes of the board meeting last forever.
    *If you are a teacher in CUSD email your site union reps, school level union reps (elementary rep, middle school rep, high school rep), and union president that you wish for them to back an ethical representative for the San Clemente Trustee area. A vote against Alpay is not a vote against the union. The union can still back a candidate that will also be an ethical role model and actually have their kids attend school in San Clemente. It will only hurt the union’s cause to back a candidate in which unethical behavior will eventually come to light.
    * Pull or decline to endorse Alpay in the upcoming election and back a candidate with ethics and morals.
    * Do not contribute to the election campaign of Alpay for any political office. The evil needs to stop now before he climbs to greater political power.

    The main fault of Mrs. Vital has been to carry out the wishes of Trustee Alpay and listen to the advisement of Le Patner. It is hard to fault her for this though, as it is the role of the superintendent to serve at the will of the board, and she is too new to know who she can trust on her cabinet.

    Mrs. Vital: if you cannot see by now, you are being played by Mr. Alpay and Le Patner.

    Mr. Alpay if you cannot see from all the concerns, your crony Le Patner is a sinking ship and you really need to consider if she is your best asset. Mr. Alpay you are extremely intelligent and logical being an attorney, and since ethics seem to not bother you, you must see that the person you need to throw under the bus next is Le Patner. Your plan to run the district through Le Patner is going to fail and only lead to your downfall.

    Le Patner: You must see by now, like in Santa Ana, that people are onto you. It is time to move on and start putting in your applications in other regions or states before the truth comes out.

    • Thank you for this information.

    • The Real Truth is Nothing But Accusations Reply

      Your portrayal of events and accusations of the various actions of the CUSD is one huge laughable conspiracy theory. And to claim that the performance of SCHS is acceptable is not to me. The March 2015 study shows quite the opposite. The worst high school in the district. The school report shows failure in 50% of the metrics. Stop falsifying that the school is improving when that wasn’t the case. The school needs new leadership. I applaud the Superintendent for making this about performance and not likability. And the slander and alleged accusations of the CUSD is nothing but hysteria.

      • The school does need new leadership and that leadership was Mike Halt. You can’t expect a principal to turn around a school in two years. The changes that were made in the two years he was there were more than impressive and a great leap forward. Two years as a principal is not enough time to be judged as a failure, but it is sure enough time to see if the ship is headed in the right direction and San Clemente wholeheartedly agrees that it was.

    • While some of what you say here is true, some of it is false. First, Alpay’s kids are in San Clemente Schools, they all attend the Spanish dual immersion program at Las Palmas. They may not be at their neighborhood school but they are definitely at a San Clemente school that offers a program that their neighborhood school does not.

      Also, you pose a grand conspiracy theory here. Don’t under estimate the power of the administrators you have pointed fingers at to also manipulate the information that the board of trustees gets to make their decisions. Alpay and the Board can only go by the information they have been given by the administrative team.

      Again, a third party investigation needs to be called in to determine what has happened here. I hope the board agree to do so. If Mike Halt has the integrity that he has been made out to have by his supporters I’m sure it would be fine with him if his files were made public. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he himself made his files public.

      • The District just posted that there will be a special meeting this Thursday, May 21st at 7:00 p.m. to discuss the issue of hiring a private investigation firm to look into Mike Halt’s firing. Please help get the word out around the District to show up in support of this action. They give us little notice hoping word cannot get out in time for everyone to show up to the meeting. Please help spread the word that we need to show up in force for this meeting.

    • It is becoming clear how LePatner operates. Did LePatner and Bretlinger lead the charge by providing Vitale information about how many of the employees that served Dr. Farley really needed to be dismissed or demoted? Some of these employees had served the district for many years, and Dr. Farley found them competent. Are there other principals who are being “released” because LePatner, Bretlinger and Vitale don’t like them? I just heard that the principal at Capo Valley High will not be returning to the district. Are there other principals not returning because of of LePatner, Vitale and Bretlinger? Hatchel is also leaving and Bretlinger is moving into another Asst. Superintendency position.

  • Capistrano Unified Stakeholders Reply

    @ SCHS Poor Performance-

    It is embarrassing how you are manipulating the data to make San Clemente High School look bad. What is your agenda?

    Let’s have an objective look the data, that you cite:

    Report 1. You reference the High School Graduation Requirements power-point that was given to the board on March 25, 2015. You correctly point out that SCHS lags behind her sister schools in grades 9, 10, & 11 in students being on track to graduate. You conveniently leave out the most crucial year in the data base 12th grade (and in-arguably the most important piece of the data set) – where 94.94% of students graduate. This figure puts SCHS 2nd in the district with regard to graduation rates and Aliso Niguel High School last. Based on this metric (that you have cited) should the Superintendent fire the current Aliso Niguel HS Principal who is taking over San Clemente High School next year?

    The data for the graduation rates can be found here:

    Report 2. You write, “School Accountability Report Cards (SARCS) reported during the 2014-2015 school year. The report shows several items of decreasing performance including the School Year 2013-2014 adequate yearly progress overall failure in 3 of 6 categories. Why should someone remain with a 50% pass rate.”

    This statement is misleading and manipulative. After thoroughly studying the data, the report shows several places where SCHS increased their performance in the 203-2014 year, including Science, English-Language Arts, and students scoring proficient or advanced in the Mathematics High School Exit Exam.

    SCHS Students also beat the district average for High School Exit Exam Results for English Language Arts and Mathematics.

    Your last statement is completely manipulative, “adequate yearly progress overall failure in 3 of 6 categories. Why should someone remain with a 50% pass rate.” You should well know that this metric has serious problems and was a big reason why the STAR test was abandoned in 2013-2014 though-out the State.

    It unfairly punishes high performing schools for example, University High School (in Irvine) – widely considered one of the top public high schools in the nation also “failed” in 3 of 6 categories, just like SCHS. Nobody in Irvine would say that University High School with an API score in 2013-2014 of 913 was a “failing” high school. But by your metric it was and the principal should have been fired after that year.

    The truth is San Clemente High School is an outstanding school, with dedicated and talented teachers, students, and administration. It’s API score in 2013-2014 (the last year it was measured) was amongst the top in the State. And it continues to improve and excel.

    You can find the data for SCHS here:

    You can also compare and analyze the data for 2013-2014 against any school in the State here:

    It’s funny, back in 1998 – my Senior Year at SCHS my AP Stats teacher warned me about people like you, with the adage – “Statistics never lie, but liars use statistics.”

    You can talk about “metrics” all day – but the citizens of Capistrano Unified School District can see through your agenda, and we will not stand, while you and others try and rip apart our school and district – with political games and manipulation.

    • SCHS Ratings Lowest in District in SARC and 2nd Lowest in API Reply

      My agenda . . . I have no agenda but to discredit your statements with facts and not emotional outbursts. There is absolutely no manipulation of data! It speaks for itself.

      March 2015 Report – Last place in 3 of 4 grades and 2nd in one is last place overall. If you like having the worst performing HS in the district and that is acceptable just come out and say it. I don’t. I expect better! I have every right to demand my tax dollars are spent to improve performance of SCHS. SCHS progress data is clear on page 6 of 23 of the report! Grade 9, SCHS last place, Grade 10, SCHS last place, Grade 11, SCHS last place and Grade 12 2nd place. And the issue is the severity of the differences in Grades 9, 10 and 11.

      Grade 9 – 82.7% for SCHS in last place.
      Grade 10 – 62.7% for SCHS in last place, even lower than California Preparatory Academy. Compare this to DHHS at 75%, SJHHS at 76%, THS at 80% and ANHS at 80%. Really! 63% for SCHS that is awful compared to the peer HS.
      Grade 11 – 75.8% for SCHS in last place.
      Grade 12 – 2nd place, but those students were under another principal.

      So if you call that acceptable I don’t. These statistics don’t lie but belief that one 2nd place ranking is acceptable is not only insulting to the community but insulting to me that experts more from my educators and SCHS and the students. So why was SCHS in last place in 3 of 4 grades?

      And to use the API scores for SCHS to prove that the Principal has done a good job is also misleading as the APE scores only show the progress through 2013 prior to when he arrived. Compared to the peer HS in the district SCHS was 846 compared to 857 for DHHS, 882 for THS, 885 for ANHS all higher. SCHS was only higher than SJHH at 843 by 3 points. Again 2nd to last place.

      So if you want to use the word “funny” to describe statistics you must have had a really bad AP Stats teacher as compared to the peer CUSD HS: 1) March 2015 SCHS last place overall and 2) API scores 2nd to last place overall. I call that last place. I am not saying that SCHS is not better than many HS in the county and state but it shouldn’t be last place in the district.

      I have every right to speak up as you do and others. I have every right to share the facts as you do and not stand for last place for SCHS. As an alum myself it shameful to me that the school progress data is in last place.

      Unfortunately it appears I am more concerned than you about the outcomes of the children in the school and performance. Tell me how you think being the worst performing school in the district is acceptable to you? Really? You think that is ok for the children to know their high school ranks lowest in 3 of 4 grades and only 2nd in 1. Overall, the lowest?

      Don’t you expect more? I do. And if you can’t hold someone accountable do you just let the low ranking and poor grade 10 continue so the students will be worse in grade 11 and then even worse in grade 12.

      Again until you can prove to me that SCHS academic performance has actually increased in most categories and not showing declines as in the SARC report and in last place in the March 2015 report I will continue to see the leadership as a failure and support the Superintendent’s decision.

      • Capistrano Unified Stakeholders Reply

        @ SCHS Ratings Lowest in District-

        Great little emotional outburst there. I love how you cherry pick the data to prove a pre-existing thesis.

        Anyone interested in reading the entire reports can go here:

        and here:

        …and by the way… I had an excellent AP Statistics teacher at SCHS. You should have taken the class, you could have learned something:)

      • Nice try but no takers, sorry. Your ready access to these data shows that YOU DO have an agenda. Covert damage control? None of the parents are fooled by your statements and the data you present. There are areas where a principal does have an immediate impact, others not. Individual Subject scores year-over-year are heavily influenced by the level of incoming students, the individual teachers, and the unions that make it virtually impossible to fire them when they don’t perform. Even more shame on Vital and Le Patner if they set their principals up for failure like this and then just ‘dump’ them overnight, if the numbers don’t MAKE THEM look good. We can play this game game all we want, but as a community that has many (former) Marines, we have more fundamental metrics to measure against first: honor, courage, commitment, and respect and in that regard Vital and Le Patner get an F and should be gone. We should not tolerate any administrators that lack basic civility and do not listen to the communities that pay their salaries.

        • Absolutely no agenda other than showing that SCHS is the worst performing HS in the district and getting worse. Prove to me otherwise that it isn’t the worst performer. Prove to me the statistics in the March 2015 report. I am part of the community I also deserve to be heard. And if the community wants subperforming HS that is a shame on the community. I expect more from both SCHS. This is about performance. As everyone in the public and private sector know performance and likability are two completely different things. Halt was given performance reviews and a chance to improve with support from the district and he didn’t measure up. Why should that not be any different than anyone else in any job. Especially a job paid by taxpayers. I demand more from the HS and the principal. I want a higher performing HS, I want accountability by the principal. If anything his lack of performance brought this on not the other way around. If he had performed and met the metrics and standards he wouldn’t have been let go. If he wants to come clean then show us all the performance review. What is there to hide?

          • @SC Dad,

            We spent some time last night reviewing the March report you are likely referring to (to be specific: Correct me, please, if you were referring to something else.

            I must say, the fact that this was presented to the board in such a manner is highly suspect. The numbers on Page 6 are completely laughable. If no one questions the radical assertion that 37% of SCHS sophomores are not on track to graduate, they need to give their head a good shake. The way the curriculum works at SCHS (or any other school in CUSD), this is not even remotely possible. 6 classes per day for the first two years is mandatory. This puts any student on an approved schedule right in line with minimum graduation requirements. Maybe those just squeaking by will not be sending out stellar college applications, but 98%+ will be graduating — not 67%. Only in junior and senior years can a student take fewer classes, but they still must meet the minimum requirements to get a schedule approved.

            The only way for those figures to be true would be for 4 in 10 students to be either failing their required courses or in serious truancy. We have kids in the freshman and sophomore classes. Those numbers to not remotely pass the sniff test, and I challenge Dr. LePatner to show the source data *in its entirety* for public review. This report her baby (she presented it to the board at a public meeting), so she owes that to the CUSD and SCHS communities.

            Keep mind that this data was reportedly collected and complied last fall, after the inexcusable and unmitigated disaster that registration turned into (which Mr. Halt stepped up big time to lead the fix). Also remember that Mr. Halt was starting his second year as principal, working with a guidance staff (he inherited) whose most *senior* counselor was starting her 3rd year and two were brand new to the position. Consider additionally that graduation rates also count in their totals English learners, who naturally will have a much harder go of it than native English speakers. Let’s not even open the Common Core can of worms… Is it not plain to see that there was something seriously wrong here regarding the numbers in the report? There was, and it was not Principal Mike Halt.

            Please, @SC Dad, take a much closer look at what is going on here, well beyond a few platitudes and nodding heads. I believe the board was seriously taken for ride here, which perhaps some are starting to come to that realization. Plenty of blame lies at their feet for allowing it to happen, trusting someone with letters behind their name, yet with perhaps their own agenda to pursue. Individually, they either side with her or they lacked the discernment required of board members if they took this report at face value.

            I welcome a full and independent investigation into Mike Halt’s personnel matter, which just might reveal plenty of things the public might not have the stomach for. Of course, don’t expect full support at the next board meeting. It’s now an agenda item, but will it pass a vote? We will get to see who the cowards are.

            In the meantime…. Dr. Michelle LePatner: Please show us the raw data, not a massaged summary. It is your duty, so please don’t disappoint.

    • Thank you for taking the time to clarify this for us.

      • Thank you Chris. I also have a suspicion that this is Michelle LePatner (or somebody on her behalf) introducing misinformation. What a hornet’s nest. Just the “@SC Dad” monicker alone. Pathetic. Back@You. Why don’t save yourself and CUSD the embarrassment of what the independent review will bring to light and quit. Whether this year or at election time, you cannot recover from this and the more that is written about you and Vital in the press, the less likely you will ever be hired by another school district.

        I am going to rally behind Tim Brown to have San Clemente pull out of the CUSD and forming its own district, assuming San Clemente’s 10 schools. If the total dispassionate response by the other Trustees at Wednesday’s meeting is an indication, we should just do away with all of them. Beyond Mike Halt’s termination, that would be the biggest blemish on this board. Let’s not forget all the other CUSD blunders that preceded this. Maybe we can make Mike Halt our first superintendent. That would be the ultimate poetic justice. Get rid of the conniving witches and politicians.

        • Could we be that lucky? Reply

          To secede from the CUSD AND bring Halt back as superintendent? What a dream this would be…SC would shine even brighter, especially amidst all of this darkness. Let’s make it happen!

  • This has new HIRED PR firm all over it. Reply

    As one PR person who recognizes another PR person when they see it….it appears that CUSD has a PR company on this. Read closely because their speaking points are in the posts that you will over and over again. Might want do a FOIA request for those documents and how much they are being paid. Or ask the question tonight to get them in record denying it. And according to PRSA ethics…..PR people should declare up front who they work for and who they are…

    • I am not part of any PR firm, I don’t work for any PR company. I am a person speaking up on what I believe. PR is what all of you are doing buy hiding from the facts that SCHS is the worst performing HS in the district. Prove me otherwise. The March 2015 is very clear.

      • Concerned CUSD parent Reply

        Looks like you been proven wrong.

        • The Real Truth is Nothing But Accusations Reply

          Proven wrong about what. I don’t work for a PR firm. Never have.

          • Proven wrong re: SCHS being the worst performing school in the district. With all due respect, scroll down or search “US News & World Report High School ranking,” and you will see that SCHS ranks better than half of the high schools in the district.

  • SCHS/CUSD supporter Reply

    Deni Christensen is a dedicated, loyal, and much respected CUSD educator. She began here as a teacher many years ago and has worked as an administrator at DHHS, CVHS and SCHS. She had an opportunity to lead in Laguna, resigned there and came back here at the request of many who respect her, including our past superintendent. She has proven her loyalty and commitment to the students and schools of CUSD over and over again. She is tough but fair and puts kids first. She most recently has worked tirelessly at SCHS both on the upper campus and then took over to help create order and sense in the guidance department and student registration process. Nobody who has worked with her would question her integrity. She and Chris Carter have both supported Mike Halt and have nothing to do with his dismissal. They are equally at the mercy of their bosses as are all employees – they must work where they are assigned. Both are quality educators of indisputable character. Ask any longtime Capo parent, student, or teacher who has worked closely with either; don’t make up connections where there is no evidence.

  • Concerned about Vital & LePatner Reply

    After reading about Vital’s tactics in her previous district, I am wondering if CUSD principals last year who are now teaching @ CUSD were in fact demoted by Vital. Last years’ principals of Del Obispo Elem. and Palisades Elem. both took teaching positions this year. I do not know these men, so I do not know the reason given for stepping down. Does anyone know why they are now teaching and not principals? Are there any other principals who took teaching positions? There seems to be an awful lot of shuffling in administration. Sorry for being a little off topic — just trying to put some things together in my mind. Thanks!

    • It happened to me! Reply

      Thank you for asking this question as it is not simply San Clemente where this is happening. There have been 40+ administrators over the last 3 years both at school sites and at the district level who have lost their jobs. There have been 3 in Personnel who had refused to make things up for Brentlinger and Leptner and were told to move on or retire early. The last one sent out a wonderful e-mail to administrators stating to be ethical and do what is right even if it meant losing your job. To never give in to the ones threatening you.

      I know this because the same thing happen to me. I was lucky enough to get a position in another district so I am not afraid to speak up. The others who were not as lucky were placed back into the classroom under the assumption that they chose to leave administration. This is NOT what happened.

      Anyone who stood up for students rights or did what is in the best interest of the school site and community became a target for Michelle LePatner, she has an agenda and if you are not with her, she works to get rid of you.

      Michelle LePatner took our jobs from us and Jodi Brentlinger along with Leona Olson carried out her dirty work for her. They sent reports to the board with nothing but false accusations and the board voted to let us go without any due process. There was also no warning or knowledge that this was going to happen to you. They asked you to come down and meet with them in March and they told you that you wouldn’t be back. The whole story that they work with you for a year or that the administrators knew about it is completely false.

      I do not blame the board as they only know what they are given, but I hope they now go back and put a system in place to provide for feedback from the party they are removing from their position.

      They also need to open an investigation into this. I have friends who lost their jobs and are too afraid to say anything after what happened to them. They were great, well respected administrators who were either made to retired early or were put back in the classroom.

      We were all threatened to go quietly and not talk about it. I am so glad that this is finally coming out and I hope something is done about it.

      I ask the board to open an investigation into the past 3 years of re-assignments.

      I ask a reporter to find out who has left the administrative ranks in the last 3 years and talk to them about what happened. There is an incredible TRUE story behind all of this.

      I also ask that an attorney get involved and let’s sue LePatner and Brentlinger personally for defamation/slander and the district for liable. They need to be held responsible for ruining the reputation and careers of some great administrators.

      This REALLY happened across ALL of CUSD and it is not alleged or simply false accusations, it is the TRUTH.

      • This comment is 100% true and correct. I personally know four administrators that were ” leveled out” or forced to retire last year. They were brought in and given their walking papers at the end of the year. I know that there are seven administrators this year alone including Mike Halt, that have been “reassigned” or “suddenly choosing to retire.” This is outrageous and I cannot believe that the board has sat by and watched this happen and voted to allow it to happen. I am going to hope that they were given little to no accurate information on these cases so they could not make the most informed decision. As much as I hate what happened to Mr. Halt, and I don’t agree with it at all, perhaps the positive is that his case will bring about a much needed change. Without them being so greedy and punitive with his case, perhaps many more of these administrators who have been literally screwed over will come forward and tell their story.
        There is no remediation for these dedicated professionals, there is no ” working with them.” They are literally given no warning and they are called in and given their walking papers and then have their keys taken away. It is a horrible process. These are professional people not criminals! Then Jodee Bretlinger and Le Patner make up all sorts of things in their report to the board, never giving the board the chance to talk to the administrator being let go. Why not? What are they trying to hide? How does the board know the truth? They don’t. They are relying on Le Patner, Vital and Bretlinger to give them correct information and they are all liars! I agree with it happened to me when they state that the board needs to investigate ALL of the administrators that were ” re assigned” in the last three years and see if they were rightfully let go. I can confidently tell you that they were not. If the board is not willing to get rid of these three women, I think we need to find a way to get rid of the board. We need a board that will support the students, parents, teachers and administrators, not protect those that are ruining our district from the inside out.

    • Everyone should be concerned about Le Patner and Vital. Since Le Patner has been here, many outstanding CUSD administrators have been leveled out and or fired. If an administrator has teaching tenure, then they have to offer them a job as a teacher. Most of them teach for a year and leave to get another administrative job if they can get one. The district won’t allow them to get recommendations from anyone, so their career is literally killed. What everyone should be doing is contacting their board representatives and demand they ask for an investigation not only for Mike Halt, but also any administrator who was mysteriously gone in the last 2 years. If they say no, then they are hiding something or protecting someone, in this case. Le Patner. She is so intertwined with the board and the union it will be almost impossible to rid ourselves of her. I personally would love to see Hatton recalled. She spends most of her time demanding things for her children of the Capo Valley Staff flaunting her position and power over there. Even if you don’t live in San Clemente, ask your board rep to agree to the investigation. What do they have to lose except that they will find out they were wrong. Probably because they were not given all the information needed to make a decision on people’s jobs. They will find out they were lied to by Le Patner, Bretlinger and Vital and realize they have let valuable people go because they were unwilling to ask questions. They should all be ashamed. They don’t represent the people, they represent the district. I am pretty sure I did not vote for that.

  • It happened to me! Reply

    The Board should also look into the administrators that LePatner has recommended for positions in CUSD. If CUSD has such high standards, then why are administrators who were let go in their district being hired in CUSD? One in particular was let go with many others from Santa Ana following LePatner’s near escape in that district. He interviewed here and was ranked near the bottom of all who interviewed, but to the surprise of all who were on that panel, he got a job. Now less than 2 years from being let go in his district, he was recommended for a Principal position at a CUSD High School? I ask that someone look into this and the interview rating sheets to see why he was given special treatment. CRONYISM by LePatner so she would have someone who would help carry out her agenda. This is just one instance…

  • concerned cusd parent Reply

    To the one CUSD parent who is trying to stick the teachers union to Alpay and such is absolute non sense! The teachers at CUSD have been getting screwed now for a decade. They have taken big payouts and their benefits have been raised over 300%. Stop with your anti-union rhetoric and lets visit the truth. The people who are in power are the ones making the money like Le Patner and Bretlinger, etc.. The teachers need support!

  • @Concerned CUSD Parent Reply

    “Teachers big payouts and benefits raised by over 300%”. Prove it! The average high school teacher salary for CUSD is $72,871. That is for only 9 months of work. That is a very high salary. Especially during a time of the great recession when most people were getting laid off, pay cuts, additional work, and a reduction in benefits or paying more for their benefits. Prove to me that the teachers experienced the same cuts. $72,871 is a great salary.

    • I’m sorry, weren’t you in CUSD the over the past few years? You ask: ” when most people were getting laid off, pay cuts, additional work, and a reduction in benefits or paying more for their benefits” what about teachers? Hmmm, weren’t we the ones getting laid off, having pay cuts, putting in additional work and to pay more for fewer benefits? We still haven’t recovered cuts we took when Bush/Swartzenegger were running things. Oh yeah, you think teachers and their union works against education, but you must also think that teachers are overpaid. I suggest you let everyone know how you plan to cut teacher salaries, and hire better teachers. Perhaps it works like trickle down economics?

  • concerned cusd parent Reply

    Do you know how long it takes for that teacher to get to $72,000? 15-20 years with a Masters Degree! You need to know your facts! Garbage collectors make more. It’s amazing how anyone can bash a teacher salary like that and I know a lot of teachers. The starting salary in Capo is $42000 after a lot of education to get a credential. Do you think that’s a lot? Big benefits? Benefits have gotten worse!

  • Nothern California was more than happy to get rid of Vital! Unfortunately CUSD is in a downward mode of disrespect to it’s Administration, Teacher’s and Staff. In turn, the students suffer!

  • US News Report - HS Rankings Reply

    US News & World Report just released their High School Rankings.

    Tesoro High School
    #120 in California
    #613 Nationally

    Aliso Niguel High School
    #152 in California
    #602 Nationally

    San Clemente High School
    #153 in California
    #604 Nationally

    Dana Hills High School
    #169 in California
    #885 Nationally

    Capistrano Valley High School
    #175 in California
    #923 Nationally

    San Juan Hills High
    #188 in California
    #969 Nationally

    • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    • To put those numbers into a larger perspective, the USN&WR data covers over 21,000 public high schools across all 50 states. That puts SCHS in the 96.2 percentile nationally (it’s actually ranked #804, not #604).

      Of course, these numbers only give a partial assessment, which is based heavily on test participation and scores (state, AP and IB). Yet there is so much to evaluate beyond just those metrics. I would put good money on an even higher ranking if the staff and students could be properly surveyed, adding in a 2-4 year post-graduation assessment (sort of a “where are they now?”). From what I’ve seen first-hand, that would be rather impressive!

      I would not say all is perfect, but can someone please describe the problem to me again, and how Mr. Halt was not performing, especially when the most critical stats were heading solidly in the right direction? Apparently this engineer is not grasping some of the “numbers” being tossed around. Of course, we all know how most engineers view statisticians…

  • Sadly, it’s much easier to create a desert than a forest. – James Lovelock

    Slash and burn is no way to run an organization, unless you want to run it into the ground.

  • Where has CA been during all this? The union has backed and elected all but one current board member (Reardon) and their hand picked board hired this superintendent.
    Not to mention that one of the reasons Halt had to fight so hard for physical improvements is the lack of money. Prop 30 was supposed to change that, but school improvements were not in this latest budget… That went to salaries.
    The outrage against this firing is great, but where was it the last 20years while SCHS was rotting away?
    Get involved and see what this board has been up to for the last few years and who has backed those who continually vote against or ignore San Clemente

    • Until Gov. Brown’s budget, a series of Republican Governors cut money for education, especially higher education, every year. Certainly many teachers because they love the kids, but a teacher’s union is limited to considering “wages, hours, and working conditions.” Moreover, teachers in this District have sacrificed a great deal “for the kids”: years of salary cuts, years of class size increases, years of cuts in support staff, years of cuts in supplies. Now that California’s economy is strong, with more business start-ups and lower unemployment than, say Texas. Finally, as I tried to point out three years ago when I stood for the Assembly: The CUSD gets less money per student than any comparable district. In fact, on a per student basis, we get about HALF what Laguna Beach gets, and less than 70% of what Newport gets. Given that handicap, I’d say we’re doing quite well. How much more should teachers sacrifice?

      • Keepin it Real Mom Reply

        What Jim Corbett doesn’t tell you:

        CA legislature has been controlled by the democrats for so long many people in CA don’t even know we weren’t always so left that rest of the country thinks we are crazy. The last time republicans held the majority in the Senate was in 1956 and the last time they held the majority in the Assembly was in 1994-1996.

        The teachers in CUSD have sacrificed nothing. They did take a pay cut, which was immediately restored by their selected and elected trustees at their first meeting after installation. And don’t forget that pay cut they did take was in the form of furlough days, so it also came with additional don’t have to work days. When the restoration was implemented they got pay and still no students days. Jim teaches high school classes in which students can earn college credits. He confuses that with teaching college classes. They are not the same as much as he would like them to be. He teaches minors and some topics are not appropriate when teaching minors. In 2013, Jim Corbett’s salary (without benefits) was $96,799. For that he was required to teach 174 days (I believe), 6 hour per day. For most people a full time job is 260 days at 8 hours per day. That means Jim’s annualized salary (not even considering he works 2 hours a day less that most full time employees) is $144,642.18. Hardly considered a sacrifice now is it? Plus he just received a 2% raise and 1% lump sum bonus. In addition, Jim, in the past did not teach a 6th period (may still be the case). That means on a block schedule he was off work at noon 2 times a week and around 1 one day a week. During his work time he has been seen in the grocery line in Dana Point (which included meats so he wasn’t going back to work). In addition he is eligible for free medical benefits for his family.

        Regarding Laguna Beach, that Teacher, district, PTA battle cry is old. Laguna Beach funds their district on Property Tax and they do not get “revenue limit” funding from the state. CUSD on the other hand get revenue limit funding via the state. Instead of cherry picking the two district in the county to compare to that don’t take state funds why does Jim compare CUSD to all the other districts with the same funding model (Saddleback, Irvine, etc)?

        So who really got us here?

        CA Governors over last 60 years
        1/1/11 (last 5 years and counting) Jerry Brown Democrat
        11/17/03 to 1/3/11 (7 years ) Schwarzenegger Republican (kind of as he was married to the royalty of democrats)
        1/1/99 to 11/17/03 ( nearly 4 year) Davis Democrat
        1/7/91 to 1/4/99 (8 years ) Wilson Republican
        1/3/83 to 1/7/91 (8 years ) Deukmejian Republican
        1/6/75 to 1/3/83 (8 years) Brown – Democrat
        1/2/67 to 1/6/75 (8 years) Reagan Republican
        1/2/59 to 1/2/67 (8 years ) Brown Sr. Democrat

        in the last 60 years there have been 4 democrats and 4 republican governors

        CA Controlled Legislature
        2015-16 Senate 25 dem-14 rep/ asm 52 dems-28 rep

        2013-14 Senate 25 dem-12rep/ asm 55 dems-24 rep

        2011-12 Senate 25 dem-14 rep/ asm 52 dems-27 rep

        2009-10 Senate 24 dem-14 rep/ asm 50 dems-27 rep

        2007-08 Senate 25 dem-15 rep/ asm 48 dems-32 rep

        2005-06 Senate 25 dem-15 rep/ asm 48 dems-32 rep

        2003-04 Senate 25 dem-15 rep/ asm 48 dems-32 rep

        2001-02 Senate 26 dem-14 rep/ asm 50 dems-30 rep

        1999-01 Senate 25 dem-15 rep/ asm 50 dems-29 rep

        1997-98 Senate xxdem- xxrep/ asm 43 dems-37 rep

        1995-94 Senate 21 dem-16 rep/ asm 39 dems-39 rep

        The last time republicans held the majority in the Senate was in 1956 and the last time they held the majority in the Assembly was in 1994-1996. So the democrat have had control for of the Senate for about 60 years and control of the Assembly for about 20 years.

        So who is really at fault here? Seriously, Jim thinks it is because of the 4 republican governors in the last 60 years?

        And finally, we all know unemployment is only down because many have just stopped looking for work or taken jobs where they are underemployed.

        • You are absolutely correct. For most of those years we had a Republican Governor, or enough Republicans in the legislature that it was hard for Dems to implement their plans. Now that we have a Dem legislature and a Dem Gov., the budget is in surplus. We are now creating more, AND BETTER, jobs than any Red state (yes, including Texas).

          BTW–If your boss told you to go home for a week without pay, would you really see it as an opportunity to avoid work? \

          • Keepin it Real Mom

            TotalGovernors May Revise budget $162.5 billion
            K-12 Education $83 billion (51%)
            Higher Education $29 billion (18%)
            Total Education $112 billion (69% of the entire CA budget)

            All that money and CA is still stuck at the bottom. It is time to discuss the real reason Students aren’t learning.

            Prop 30 – raised $1.5 billion in 2014-15 and $1.6 billion in 2015-16
            General fund revenue increased since the January Budget $6.7 billion

            The CA surplus is to in part to the overtaxation of citizens via Prop 30. The the dems can’t even do a good job when they control everything – they only are good at taking more money from hard working Californians.

            And having your boss tell you to go home for a week happens in A LOT of companies. In fact, for many they are told to go home permanently. They don’t have a union or a state-funded pension on which to fall back. Oh, and they can’t go on strike to save their jobs or increase their salaries and reduce their hours of work while throwing newly hired co-workers under the bus. It’s tough out there for the average worker without a union. They are evaluated on their performance 2-3 times a year and it is far more than a pass/fail evaluation. This unlike most tenured teachers who are evaluated every 3 years. I could go on, but you get the point.

          • Yep, I get the point. Teachers’ unions are what’s wrong with education because they protect incompetent or unethical teachers such as myself. Do you figure without the union that better people would be recruited for teaching? It does make sense, less job security, lower pay, higher class sizes and more administration would lead to a better teacher corps. You should go into politics.

  • SCMomAndConcernedCitizen Reply

    Someone mentioned a PR Firm. It does appear that a David Cordero is listed as the Interim Chief Communications Officer on the CUSD website. The same individual is listed as an Account Manager for Communications Lab, a PR firm. He was at the District Meeting. Don’t think it’s confidential that the district has hired a PR Firm. Believe they were brought on board at the same time that Vital came.

  • Alpay is phony baloney, and Dr Corbett should have been fired years ago... Reply

    SURPRISE! Jim Corbett, aka “Dr. Corbett” is a teacher at Capo. He was there when I was a student and he is still there now. At the time of the article (linked below), his status was “Teaching AP European history and AP art history; faculty adviser to the Free Thinking Atheist and Agnostic Kinship student club.” He was also known on campus for his radical leftist views and for regularly forcing those views on minor, impressionable students. It’s clear from his comments here that he supports Alpay and the ongoing corruption at CUSD that works to his benefit. Staff and politics first, while students, families, and taxpayers come last. Always. It is the Alpay way.

    Corbett was even sued by a student some years ago for displaying hostility toward Christians in a lecture. He said, among other outrageous statements, “… [W]hen you put on your Jesus glasses, you can’t see the truth.” The suit made national news. I also remember another time where he came under scrutiny when a student recorded him referring to stay-at-home moms in a negative way and saying they don’t contribute to society but instead spend their time doing nothing but being “barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.” Recently, my brother had a negative experience in his class as well. This is what we are up against, folks! Teachers like Corbett who indoctrinate and offend, and moronic, pandering board members like Alpay who think we are all dumb enough to drink his Kool-Aid. It is so depressing. . It’s my hope that voters will see Alpay for who he is–a lying, cheating, self-serving narcissist whose only goal is to climb the political ladder and gain more and more power. I hope san Clemente is smart enough this next election to vote him OUT! And I hope that people take comments from a guy like Jim Corbett with a grain of salt; whiny Union-protected teachers like him are part of the problem (on so many levels), not part of the solution.

    Corbett (CUSD) gets sued by student:

    • thanks for remembering

      • If our students are not doing as well as they could it is because of a lack of funding. CUSD is one of the most underfunded school districts in the United States. You cannot educate a student for $7,002 per pupil.

        I believe that California’s new LCFF is designed to intentionally underfund wealthy suburban school districts. We are funded almost entirely by the base grant which is $6,500 per student. The State of California is withholding about $200 million dollars per year from our students. We need to sue the State of California and challenge the Constitutionality of the State’s new LCFF law. And it would be in the best interest of students to break CUSD into smaller districts since the new LCFF law removes the responsibility of policing districts from both the State and the County Office of Education. Unless parents really have a voice in district decisions there is no one watching the District and you will continue to see unilateral decisions that are not made from the perspective of what is in the best interest of students.

        If you would like to understand LCAP and LCFF from a CUSD perspective see:
        California’s Local Control Funding Formula – A Parents Perspective

        If you would like to understand why a constitutional challenge to the funding we receive would be successful see:
        Basis For A Law Suit In Federal Court Challenging The Constitutionality of California’s New Education Funding Law

    • When Dr Corbett was sued 100’s of students came to his defense. A good teacher encourages and challenges you to think. They don’t just simply tell you what you should think. Good teachers provoke deeper conversation and debate. This is what Dr. Corbett does.

      • Thanks. Again, anyone who is interested, I wrote a piece for Salon about my case that has relevance for Irquidi’s situation. You can find it by searching for “Teachers much Challenge Myths”

    • Whatever you think of Trustee Alpay, he is listening to the people he represents. He didn’t simply switch his vote on this. He considered the possibility that he might have been wrong. He then investigated it and is now calling for an independent investigator. Don’t we want our politicians who represent us to listen to us and consider what we are telling them? There are always two sides to every story. The Trustees have been told one story and the community, parents, teachers and students are telling them another. The Trustees need to listen and consider both sides of the story. Currently, Trustee Alpay is the only Trustee who is.

      • Shelly, I agree. So far Mr. Alpay is the ONLY one asking for an independent investigation of the situation and trying to ferret out what happened. Many people make uniformed decisions and hopefully he is realizing there is a possibility that the board was not given all the information needed. I applaud Mr. Alpay for his desire to find out the truth. I challenge his cohorts to do the same considering it could be their principal next. I see Lynn Hatton did nothing to help out Kevin Astor. Considering what he has done for her, you would think she would have fought for him. Anyone who thinks he left voluntarily is really misinformed.

    • I respectfully wish to point out that Dr. James Corbett – represented by the esteemed Constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, current and founding Dean of UCI Law School – took that case you mention to the United States Supreme Court – and he prevailed…meaning – Dr. Corbett won. And also – Unions do not protect scofflaws and evil-doers…they protect Due Process. Maybe deep down you don’t really have an issue with Unions – just Due Process…

  • All of the Districts School Accountability Report Cards can be found at the following link:

    Note: this data is for 2013-14 not 2014-15

    So be careful making it sound like a new Principal 2 years? could have made a big difference in one year (good or bad) for data being reported for 2013-14.

    • Dawn,
      The responsibility for all the high schools is the person at the district who was in charge of secondary education. She was promoted while Principal Halt was fired.

      Most people know that statistics and data can be used to paint any picture you want of something.

      You misuse data and statistics all the time.

      And after only a year and a half Principal Halt has managed to gain the support of his students, teachers, parents and community members. They are in the school. Their kids are in the school.

      • Shelly-

        I am in support of transparency at CUSD and as such, I feel that the way this situation was handled was poor. Under the new Local Control Funding Formula Law, Parents and The Public are suppose to have a real voice in the decision that the District makes. We now all know that that is not the reality. To correct you, I did not paint any picture one way or the other, the reason for my comment was to make sure that as people were discussing the academic performance of San Clemente High School before and after Principal Halt that they realized that the data is not current – it is from 2013- 14 not 2014-15.

  • SCMomAndConcernedCitizen Reply

    Shelly Welcome, thank you for your comments. Right on point. Let’s not forget that our main goal is to reinstate Mike Halt. John Alpay is the only one brave enough to fight for that right now. Let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. Stay focused. Reinstate Mike Halt and embrace anyone helping us to do that.

  • SCMomAndConcernedCitizen Reply

    I agree with the overwhelming majority of these comments. LePatner has been corrupted by her power and has been abusing it for years. Farley tried to keep her in check. When Vital came, it was a match made in heaven. (Or somewhere else.) The board needs to roll up their sleeves, quickly stop the bloodshed and get them in check. Proud of our San Clemente community for putting the breaks on things. Enough is enough.

    • District Resident Reply

      We all need to show up this Thursday night, May 21st, at the Special Board Meeting at the District Office at 7:00 p.m. Hopefully this will be the beginning of the end of the Le Patner bloodshed. I hope she is beginning to realize that her personal agendas are not going unnoticed. Just the fact that Vital would come into this district and put all her faith in someone like Le Patner is very telling. I know they are hoping we just go away, but we need to stand up for what is right. Let’s all be at the Board meeting in support of Mike Halt! Thank you Mr. Alpay for opening our eyes.

      • Wake up San Clemente Reply

        Don’t be fooled Alpay is only saving his political rear-end. He does not care about the students, the parents or the taxpayers. He is only concerned with catapulting himself to higher political office and this is his last chance. Don’t forget he voted to oust San Clemente’s principal Halt with a clear conscience just two months ago–where was his concern for the well-being of the principal, parents and students back then? Take a moment to Google Alpay’s past. Remember, a person’s past is indicative of their future behavior.

  • San Clemente CUSD Parent Reply

    I attended the CUSD school board special meeting Thursday night and listened to the 26 impassioned speakers supporting Principal Halt. It is always inspiring to see people exercise their democratic right to stand up for what they believe in. While parents and students pleaded for transparency about Mr. Halt’s dismissal and for his reinstatement, I realized that this frustrating fight could all come to an end right now if one thing would happen: if CUSD would release the principal’s personnel records with his permission. Only Principal Halt himself can waive his employee confidentiality and allow the release of his personnel records and satisfy the public’s plea for answers about the non-renewal of his employment contract in the name of transparency. This would be good for everyone.

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