Is The New Capistrano Unified Board As Creepy As The Old One?

Even with June's final ousting of the remaining trustees who served under Nixon-wannabe superintendent James Fleming, the South-County shitshow that is Capistrano Unified School District hasn't been showing any less shit lately.

In fact, the newly monolithic slate of “reform” trustees (the final two were elected in November) seems just as clueless as their hit-list-writing predecessors when it comes to not seeming like an anti-democratic cabal of soccer moms with secret agendas.

Last night, a little before midnight, School Board President Ellen Addonizio emerged from a closed-door meeting to announce the trustees had voted 6-1 to put Superintendent Woodrow Carter on paid administrative leave. We don't know whether the board has just cause to to suspend the retired Army colonel, but let us count the ways that this is a public-relations disaster:


  • There was no explanation given for the board's actions.
  • The Capistrano Dispatch reports that more than 500 people showed up at last night's meeting, many of whom spoke to advocate that Carter keep his job. This came after a Dec. 18 meeting when the board began reviewing Carter's job behind closed doors, where hundreds of supporters came to protest Carter's potential firing and Carter himself gave an emotional speech: “With a sense of regret and bewilderment, I stand before this audience awaiting my fate in closed session, which almost assuredly spells my removal from this District.”
  • The trustees haven't said why they're putting Carter on leave.
  • Board members have repeatedly claimed there was no reason for anyone to believe Carter would be axed. Addonizio had said after the last closed meeting that talk of Carter's suspension was merely a rumor that “mushroomed.” Trustee Ken Maddox called it “mistake” to think Carter was in trouble.
  • Counting interim positions, Carter is the fourth person to hold the CUSD superintendent position since Fleming retired in 2006. Sending him away, leaving the district without a chief officer for a while, certainly does little to combat previous supe-for-a-month Dennis Smith's complaint about district “uncertainty and instability.”
  • Trustees Addonizio and Sue Palazzo were found in Carter's office during a district holiday in July. They say they weren't snooping, but Carter was a little weirded out. More shades of Watergate.
  • Seriously, they still haven't said why they did it.

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