Capistrano Unified School District Recall and Candidate filings

So, the recall is official and so is the opportunity to run for CUSD Board of Trustees is wide open. The Orange County Registrar of Voters has a special candidate filing handbook for the CUSD recall election.

Santa Ana, CA March 25, 2008* – “The candidate filing period for the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees recall election begins Wednesday, March 26, 2008. This is a Special Recall Election to determine whether or not the officers named in the recall petitions shall be recalled (Sheila Benecke, Capistrano Unified School District Governing Board Member, Trustee Area 5; and, Marlene Draper, Capistrano Unified School District Governing Board Member, Trustee Area 2). If a majority of the voters determine the officer(s) sought to be recalled shall be removed from office, then the candidate(s) receiving the highest number of votes for the office(s) shall be elected for the unexpired term(s). “””

“Nomination papers may be obtained at the office of the Orange County Registrar of Voters beginning at 8:00 a.m. on March 26, 2008 and must be filed by the deadline of April 10, 2008, at 5:00 p.m. The election will take place on Tuesday, June 24, 2008.

Any person who is 18 years of age or older, a citizen of California, a resident of the Capistrano Unified School District Trustee Area for which he/she wants to run as a candidate, and a registered voter may be issued nomination papers. A candidate handbook and election calendar is available at the Registrar of Voters’ office and on their website [ ].

So this is an ongoing issue that many are familiar with, I am not, however and did a great deal of research. I quick visit to the website ( by the parents who started this campaign shows exactly why the Board of Trustees is being recalled. And not only that, the recall is supported overwhelmingly by the communities that this school district serves.

Capistrano Dispatch Final Poll Results:
Should CUSD opponents continue the attempted recall against trustees Marlene Draper and Sheila Benecke?

Yes, they need to go ASAP……………..80%
No, because it’s a waste of money now…..7%
No, they’re done in November, anyhow…12%

There are not just small complaints laid against the Board of Trustees, there are widespread issues of accountability, law breaking and a general lack of confidence in their ability to best serve the interests of CUSD students and parents.

The grounds for the recall are available at and read as follows:

“You have permitted a culture of corruption to infect our school district.

You permitted district personnel to use scarce district resources to create unlawful lists of your political “enemies” — including children. You engaged in illegal closed session meetings where district business was conducted in secret. You and your staff repeatedly provided false information to the public regarding district finances. You failed to effectively control your staff – even giving your former superintendent (now indicted for multiple felonies) a standing ovation and lucrative retirement package just hours after police investigators armed with search warrants raided his office.

You grossly mismanaged district finances.

You are recklessly spending $52,000,000 on an administration building and over $140,000,000 for a single high school next to a dump — while our schools are in dire need of repairs and students are crammed into substandard portable classrooms with non-functioning restrooms. Your reckless deficit spending has created a self-inflicted, multi-million dollar budget crisis that has put our children at risk and resulted in massive program cutbacks – overcrowding classrooms and severely diminishing the quality of education.
You have arrogantly disregarded the public by repeatedly ignoring problems until they become crises.

You have broken the public’s trust.”

But of course this is merely the tip of the iceberg and as I waded through all the charges and accusations I could feel the blood draining from my face. Granted, I understand that this is just one point of view, but there is so much evidence and meticulous documentation by the CUSD recall group. They’ve already endorsed candidates and outlined exactly what their intentions are in correcting a grave abuse of power by the current “Trustees”.

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Sue Palazzo and Ken Maddox announced today their candidacy for seats on the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) Board of Trustees in the upcoming recall election. The CUSD Recall Committee proudly endorses Palazzo & Maddox – the “P.M. Reform Slate” Candidates.

After an exhaustive search for the very best candidates, the CUSD Recall Committee is confident that Palazzo & Maddox will put the best interests of the children and the taxpayers above all other interests in each decision they make. We are also confident these reform candidates will ask the tough questions, hold the CUSD administrative staff accountable for their actions, and work to create a transparent organization that is responsive to the community.

It’s nice to know that the system works and that the ability of a community to organize can right such a wrong. I’m impressed that the parents of CUSD care so much about their children’s education that they took this recall on and they have worked so tirelessly to cover every possible issue. I’m proud to say that my daughter will be attending a CUSD school in the fall and I look forward to working with other parents to make the district work for the most important people in our lives, our children.

Heather Irene Justus

My blogging here is not an endorsement of any other opinion but my own. I'm no longer new to blogging, I've been writing locally and nationally since 2007 starting here at the Liberal OC. I was born in New York and grew up in Huntington Beach, CA and currently live in Aliso Viejo. I graduated from Smith College with a B.A. in English and Film and eventually may go back to school, but I'm still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. Until then, I work and write and try to do something useful here in the OC by using the word to point out the things that make me frustrated. It's a daily struggle. Issues that peak my interest the most are environmental (yes, I don't just 'believe" in climate change, I listen to all those whacky scientists), gender and body issues (women deserve equal pay, I'm a feminist too, crazy) to the continuing widening economic gap we are not enjoying here in the US (which ties to education, stagnant wages and debt). So many issues, but those are the top three right now. I am an unabashed corgi lover, nerd and all around strange girl. I am lucky enough to be raising a wonderful daughter as well and enjoying being unmarried.