Bid to Recall School Board Fails

Times Staff Writer

An effort to recall all seven members of the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees failed to garner enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, election officials said.

The campaign, begun earlier this year by parents and residents upset over board decisions on new construction and attendance boundaries, came several thousand signatures short, the Orange County registrar of voters said Thursday.

A spokesman for the group behind the recall effort, Capo for Better Representation, said the group would now focus on challenging three trustees who will be up for reelection next year.

“We are disappointed, obviously,” Thomas Russell said. But “a lot of effort went into a very good cause, and this is not over.... The issues haven’t changed.”

Board President Marlene Draper said the recall campaign was a distraction, and its failure vindicated trustees’ decisions.


“We are very thrilled we don’t have to go through with a recall election,” she said. “Now we can focus on what we do, and that is educating children.”

In March, after months of debate, trustees in the 50,000-student district approved new high school attendance boundaries, anticipating next year’s opening of San Juan Hills High School.

San Juan Hills will draw students from disparate neighborhoods in the sprawling South County district, including less affluent, primarily Latino areas, as well as wealthier beach communities. Many parents from the more affluent areas protested the new boundaries.

Russell of Capo for Better Representation said the boundaries issue motivated enough people to start the recall campaign, but it was not the effort’s focus.

Russell said the real issue was the district’s building of a $35-million administrative center and San Juan Hills’ $130-million construction cost. The money could be better spent improving existing campuses, the group maintains.

Draper said that the new high school was needed to alleviate overcrowding, and that the administrative building would save the district money over the long run in lease costs.

Capo for Better Representation needed 20,421 signatures, or 10% of the number of registered voters in the district, for each trustee’s recall petition.

The group collected more than 25,000 signatures for each candidate, but in each case invalid signatures brought the total below what was needed. One candidate’s petition contained 9,394 invalid signatures.