By Allison Jarrell
Six candidates are running for three seats on the Capistrano Unified School District’s Board of Trustees in Areas 1, 2 and 3, which cover schools in South Orange County. Each area has two candidates vying for a seat, and in Area 3, both candidates are newcomers, as incumbent John Alpay is running for a seat on the South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees.
There is also a fourth seat up for election in Trustee Area 5, which covers schools in Aliso Viejo and Laguna Niguel. Incumbent Gary Pritchard is running against three candidates: Jorge Velastegui, Monica Maddox and Jake Vollebregt.
The Dana Point Times asked the six candidates running in Areas 1, 2 and 3 to submit a statement on who they are and why they’re running for a seat on the CUSD Board of Trustees. Candidates’ responses are listed in the same order that they’ll appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
Additionally, the CUSD Board of Trustees voted in August to call a school bond election within the newly formed School Facilities Improvement District #2, which encompasses the entire district except for Rancho Mission Viejo. If 55 percent of voters approve the $889 million general obligation bond measure on Nov. 8, residents living within SFID #2 will be taxed $43 for every $100,000 of assessed value on their homes to help the district leverage state funds to pay for over $800 million in deferred facilities maintenance.
Trustee Area 1: R.H. Dana Elementary, R.H. Dana Exceptional Needs Facility, Palisades Elementary, Las Palmas Elementary, Shorecliffs Middle School
Wendy Shrove, Software Development Business Owner
My husband, Richard, and I moved to San Clemente 20 years ago. We are grateful to call South Orange County home. We have two children who both attend CUSD schools. We are continually impressed by the commitment of parents and businesses supporting our schools.
I am running for CUSD Trustee because we need better leadership and representation on our school board. Too many feel we don’t have “a seat at the CUSD table.” Residents feel unheard and unrepresented. We can change this. Let’s get away from the “top-down” approach and start engaging our communities.
Working alongside our educators, we can make the quality of local education match the quality of our communities. More students need the opportunity to stretch their abilities in advanced courses. We have too many students below minimum standards in English and math. Our occupational training programs should match skills needed in the current job market. We can meet these challenges because we are engaged in our children’s education.
I don’t support Measure M, the $889 million bond. We cannot commit to unnecessary debt and expect our children to repay it. Our school board must be a better steward of our tax dollars and earn community trust. I will insist on clear, detailed reporting of spending and look for reasonable ways to save money and redirect funds back to our kids. No family should be asked to subsidize the school district unless all other means of funding have been explored.
I have been a small business owner for 20 years, specializing in software development. I design solutions to complex problems within tight budgets. On behalf of students, taxpayers and educators, I will apply my skills and experience for solutions to issues facing CUSD.
Now is the time to elect better leadership on the CUSD Board.
Amy Hanacek, Incumbent
As an involved parent of two CUSD graduates, I witnessed firsthand what our Founding Fathers knew: public education is essential to our country’s common good. During my time on the board, we have experienced rapid growth in science, technology, engineering, arts and math, and have expanded school of choice opportunities. My personal mission remains focused on the needs of all students and creating productive citizens through high-quality education.
As a longtime resident of Capistrano Beach and retired small business owner, I am keenly aware of the positive impact successful local schools have on property values and how they maintain the vitality of our communities. My commitment as School Board Trustee is to enhance the academic strength and quality of Capistrano Unified School District schools and to reinforce the direct correlation between strong, healthy schools and vibrant, safe communities, protecting our investments in our homes and in our neighborhoods.
I utilize my background as a small business owner and experienced board member to practice fiscal prudence while working to maximize every possible resource and to keep those resources in the classrooms and for our students. I serve on the College and Career Advantage Board (formerly South Coast ROP), which provides relevant cutting-edge career technical education and college/career pathways for CUSD students and adults. I am also working to launch the comprehensive College and Career Center in the Shops at Mission Viejo, serving the needs of 21st-century students and their busy families. Despite severe fiscal challenges created in Sacramento, my focus is to provide our children with maximum educational opportunities so that they may pursue their college and career goals to become tomorrow’s educated workforce and innovators.
More than ever, our children deserve a quality public education that provides unlimited opportunities to effectively compete and excel.
Trustee Area 2: Harold Ambuehl Elementary, Chaparral Elementary, Ladera Ranch Elementary, Las Flores Elementary, Oso Grande Elementary, Wagon Wheel Elementary, Ladera Ranch Middle School, Las Flores Middle School, San Juan Hills High School
Gould Workman, Sales Manager
I have worked the past 22 years as a project manager and sales manager. I have learned to value “the team,” lead by example and effectively plan and communicate. I am active in our community, serve in a key role on our PTA board, and am active in my church, serving and working with our valuable youth. I am also a graduate of Brigham Young University.
As a father of five children in our district, and the husband to an amazing wife and CUSD teacher, I want to continue taking an active role in the improvement of our local education system. I am deeply committed to helping our schools adequately plan for the challenges of future growth within the district’s limited funding resources. At the heart of it all, I believe, unequivocally, in the value of public education. I believe in the democratic process and understand that a trustee’s role is to act in line with the interests of the entire school community, with total fiscal responsibility. For the past 15 years, our district board of trustees has not actively put the constituents first. I am the solution to this and the advocate for change, putting our kids and families in our district first in everything.
Unfortunately, many in our community are outraged by the dismissive treatment of the current school board. It is my resolute commitment to listen to and represent all members of the community and allow their voices to be reflected in the decisions the board makes. If elected, I will use my voice to refocus our administration on what is truly important—our children, teaching and learning. I hope you will give me the opportunity to serve you and our awesome district by voting for me this coming Election Day.
Jim Reardon, Incumbent, Business Owner/Engineer
As the school board vice president, I am able to see past the rhetoric of educational insiders to protect our students and schools. I favor classroom reform, school choice, local control, program innovation and fair taxation. I represent the communities of Ladera Ranch, Las Flores, Wagon Wheel, Coto de Caza, Trabuco, eastern San Juan Capistrano, Sendero and Esencia, most of which pay Mello-Roos taxes that supported new school construction.
In 2012, I promised never to vote for a tax increase. I vigorously oppose CUSD’s $889 million bond, Measure M, on the November ballot that will triple-tax Mello-Roos areas. It unfairly burdens younger communities. I will guard against abuse of this enormous $1.8 billion local tax if it should pass. I recommend a “no” vote.
Since 2013, as a board member I have championed fairness in management of Mello-Roos tax districts. This has produced tax reductions of $81 million, while ensuring that CUSD’s credit rating remains solid.
I will continue work to open new schools to serve Esencia and surrounding areas on time. These projects, as well as expansion of San Juan Hills High School are underway, and their funding is unaffected by Measure M.
I am a parent, computer engineer, active business owner and founder of a successful nonprofit school serving 6-12 grade students with autism. I seek to raise quality of education for all students including those with disabilities, and increase enrichment, vocational and sports opportunities in our schools.
I am proud of my reputation as the most accessible and responsive member of our school board. The duty of a member to help families to work with our enormous organization to resolve individual problems for students is one I take most seriously.
Reelect me, Jim Reardon, to the Capistrano Unified school board.
Trustee Area 3: Truman Benedict Elementary, Concordia Elementary, Marblehead Elementary, Clarence Lobo Elementary, Vista del Mar Elementary, Bernice Ayer Middle School, Vista del Mar Middle School, San Clemente High School
Laura Ferguson, Public Information Officer
As a parent, I am grateful to be raising my children in San Clemente. I’ve enjoyed serving residents as a city employee for 17 years. I am running for school board because I am committed to making the district work for all students and parents/taxpayers. Leaders at CUSD promote the district as being the top performing school district in California, when it ranks 31st in math and 23rd in English. This presents an opportunity to encourage continuous improvement. We can do better!
Volunteering is my passion. Most recently, I led a citizen advocacy group. Together we fought for Talega taxpayers who CUSD was overtaxing by $2.3 million annually and remedied the abuses, saving $60 million over the life of our Mello-Roos payments.
If you elect me, I will hold the district accountable to all of San Clemente and ensure the responsible use of tax dollars, while minimizing consulting costs so more money can be spent in the classroom. I will be accessible to you and care about your concerns.
I serve on Assemblyman Bill Brough’s Education Advisory Committee. I’ve been involved in a parent-led effort to bring quality school choice to the southernmost part of CUSD where none currently exists. Our number one goal must be to provide a quality education to the diverse children of our community.
I’ve attended school board meetings for three consecutive years, speaking on behalf of parents/taxpayers at many meetings. We need new leadership who value the public’s voice. I oppose CUSD’s billion dollar bond because of the absence of specificity, haphazard compilation and lack of assurance that the projects will ever be completed.
Our chance to hit the reset button on this school board is Nov. 8. Reject the status quo and vote for new leadership.
Patricia Holloway, Retired Business Owner
For 30 years I’ve lived, worked and volunteered in San Clemente. I’ve raised funds for our nonprofits including Casa Romantica and the Marine Monument. I understand the culture of our beach-oriented community that values our ocean, historic buildings, downtown, local businesses and education. A healthy community must include strong public schools that prepare our young people for their futures.
I’m running to represent San Clemente on the school board so I can work to strengthen our schools, build trust between our community and CUSD, and be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars. When I’m elected, I will form a San Clemente Education Council—consisting of parents, educators and community members—to increase transparency and local input regarding district decision-making, budgets and bonds. To address the unique needs of military dependents, I’ll create a permanent CUSD/military liaison position.
Because I know children have different educational needs, I support school choice. I’ll fight for San Clemente students’ fair access to CUSD’s language immersion programs. I’ll expand our fine career technical education programs for those who elect not to attend college or who want to explore post-college careers. To support high achievement, I’ll be sure our students are educated in 21st-century facilities with up-to-date technology.
I’ve demonstrated commitment to education as a substitute teacher and PTA president, and by introducing arts and education programs at Casa Romantica, Shorecliffs and Las Palmas schools. I graduated from UC Davis and earned my master’s from UC Berkeley.
As proud parents of a SCHS graduate, my husband, Jim, and I love that our hometown high school has been a center of excellence in academics, sports and the arts for over 50 years. I’ll work to continue that tradition and ask for your vote.