By Allison Jarrell
Following an impassioned Capistrano Unified School District meeting on May 13—during which distraught parents, students and staff spoke in support of former San Clemente High School Principal Michael Halt—the district’s board of trustees has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday, May 21, at 4:30 p.m. to discuss “consideration of the employment/evaluation of performance/nonrenewal of public employee(s).” The agenda also specifies the presence of Attorney Frederic D. Woocher.
At the board’s May 13 meeting, trustee John Alpay requested to agendize an “independent investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding Michael Halt’s personnel matters.” The request came following nearly two hours of public comment in support of Michael Halt, who was removed from his position as principal in March and left the school campus earlier this month. Parents, staff and students are largely still wondering why Halt was let go because state law prevents the district from publicly discussing personnel matters.
Because Halt came from outside the district, he was subject to a two-year probationary period before a decision could be made on his future employment with CUSD. A release sent by the district indicated a decision had been made prior to March 15 to not return Halt to the post for next year.
Discussion of Halt’s removal was not on the agenda for the May 13 meeting, leaving board members unable to take actions beyond agendizing items for future meetings. During last week’s meeting, Alpay requested that the board discuss authorizing an independent investigation at a special meeting to be held before the board’s regularly-scheduled meeting on May 27. Alpay’s motion to schedule an early meeting received no support at the time.
“The review should focus not only on the facts and whether the allegations asserted have any basis in reality, but whether the process was properly respected,” Alpay said at the May 13 meeting. “The independent investigator should report directly to the board, have access to all files and materials, and ability to interview the parties.”
A notice has since been posted on the district’s website for a special closed session meeting scheduled May 21, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Alpay’s request does not appear on the board’s closed session agenda.
Trustee Jim Reardon told the San Clemente Times Tuesday he expected Alpay’s request—hiring an independent person to look into the decision not to re-elect Halt—would be discussed during the public part of the meeting. However, district officials confirmed Wednesday that the May 21 meeting will be closed session only. The public will be able to comment on the agenda item listed, and the board is obligated to report any actions taken during closed session. To view the agenda, visit www.capousd.ca.schoolloop.com. The next regularly-scheduled meeting is May 27 at 7 p.m.