Jim Reardon takes Capistrano Unified School District in a rough love embrace!


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Have you heard of Jim Reardon?  Have you heard of the Capistrano Unified School District? How about the strange relationship Jim seems to have with the district, on whose board he now hopes to serve representing San Juan Capistrano?

Yes, Jim Reardon is the guy who sued the district a few years ago because the autocratic Superintendent James Fleming had him on an enemies’ list … and then, despite having promised not to actually take any money, when he prevailed he made off with about $200K from the cash-strapped district.

After which, he promptly removed his son to a private school, and ever since then, no longer has a child attending a school in the district.

The Board decision to award Jim and his fellow plaintiffs the 650+ grand was not only rife with conflicts of interest on the Board, but also retrospectively utterly unnecessary when a Court ruled that there was nothing illegal about a Superintendent, no matter how nutty and mean, keeping a list of folks he didn’t like.

But Jim Reardon loves the Capistrano Unified School District!

He loves it, even though he helped make the propaganda documentary “Not As Good As You Think:  the Myth of the Middle-Class School back in 2009, which grossly exaggerated every little flaw that could be perceived or invented in the fine district, as part of a privatizing, anti-public-education agenda, greatly embarrassing and damaging the reputation of the district and the area.  (But helping Reardon and friends become heroes in corners of the rightwing anti-education fringe.)

Still, Reardon REALLY loves this district, even though he has no children attending school there.  His appetite whetted by his 2009 victory, he again sued the district this year for alleged Brown Act violations, but didn’t prevail this time.  Now he’s running to take over the district he loves, as part of a slate of reactionaries who want to drain its resources to fund private charter schools, cut teachers’ salaries up to 40%, force them to work with no job security on at-will contracts, and emphasize – even more than the dismal Bush and Obama administrations have already pushed schools to – teaching toward dreary, mind-numbing standardized tests.

Why do we keep emphasizing how much Jim Reardon loves this school district, at which he has no kids, no skin in the game?  Because somehow, he identifies with it so strongly that he thinks the District IS Jim Reardon.  Or at least, we don’t know what else to conclude from the advertisement he put up last week in the Ladera Times, reproduced to the right, in which he includes, with no permission, the district’s logo next to his face – something that even district employees aren’t allowed to do – while also illegally neglecting to say who paid for the ad!  [Click for larger image.]

Whom will Jim Reardon sue when he gets notice of the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) complaint filed against him?

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Running against Jim, on the moderate “Capistrano Unified Children First” slate, is the worthy Carol McCormick, a Republican mother with three kids in the district, and Volunteer of the Decade.  We’ll be featuring Carol in an interview later this week.  Carol’s chances are probably magnified not only by Reardon’s bull-in-china-shop lameness but also the fact that an actual hardcore Creationist, name of Don Franklin Richardson, will also be on the ballot, along with some lady whose name actually IS “Bible,” thus splitting the wingnut vote.

[Carol McCormick of Capistrano Unified Children First.]

THIS BLOG, the Orange Juice Blog, has a fabled and intimate relationship with that school district, Capistrano Unified.

In brief, the Dark Ages of the district were the decade and a half leading up to the ouster of autocratic Superintendent James Fleming in 2006, along with the trustees who kept him in power.  These years were marked, by most accounts, by staggering waste, corruption, and intimidation.

2006-8 marked a revolt against the Fleming contingent, a revolt that united most of the district across the political spectrum.  But remember the Glorious Iranian Revolution of 1979 when the secular liberals led by Bani-Sadr joined forces with the extremist mullahs led by the Ayatollah Khomeini to overthrow the cruel tyrannical Shah… and then in very short order the liberals were chased out of the country or killed by the ayatollahs?  (I remember it like it was yesterday.)  2006-9 was like that in Capo Unified, with a rightwing reactionary faction calling themselves “reformers” taking over the district, and sidelining any voices of moderation or dissent.

The so-called “reform board” in power from 2006-10 was all Republican, backed by the Education Alliance, the libertarian propagandists of the Pacific Research Institute, and the generally opportunistic and newly anti-union OC GOP.   The Board was insanely litigious, never passing up a chance to file a lawsuit, and their mistreatment of teachers and school employees was so heavy-handed that they provoked a strike and a huge backlash.  The board’s troubador in those years was conservative Orange Juice blogger Larry Gilbert.

By 2010 a bipartisan coalition opposing these “reformers” had formed, calling themselves Capistrano Unified Children First, and managed to wrest control from the reactionaries that November.  *I* was their troubador on this blog, contributing such influential screeds as A Capo Recall Primer and The John Alpay Interview, and good-humoredly enduring constant vilification from the reactionaries down south along with numerous lawsuit threats from the litigious numskulls.

Well, the Children First majority have been a stellar board these two years despite all the budget cuts they’ve had to endure – a $50 million hole thanks in a large part to being represented in Sacramento by anti-education legislators Don Wagner, Mimi Walters and Diane Harkey who refuse to fight for any resources for the area.   But the reactionaries, now styling themselves “Hold CUSD Accountable,” are mounting one last attempt at counter-revolution.

And they have apparently managed to take over all the local media down there – i.e. the Patch.com outlets and the ever-execrable OC Register.  So once again, for the next two months, the Orange Juice Blog will be the place to come, for parents, teachers and activists who really care about public education and Capo Unified, to get YOUR side of the story out!

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Oh – one more thing – in 2010 we also fought, successfully, for “district elections” – it was called Measure H back then, and we wrote about the issue convincingly here and here.

This will be the first election in the district where we can watch how well that works.  It should cut the costs for each candidate in about 1/7, while saving the district itself hundreds of thousands and ensuring that each trustee is familiar with the issues in their “area” and will be accountable to that area.

Since we’re fighting for the same thing right now in the City of Anaheim, we will be taking a special interest in how this pans out.  Does this reform make it easier (as some fear) or harder (as logic suggests) for big special interests to get their way?  Let us observe with clear eyes!


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County. Performs regularly with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem, and at regular concerts at the Huntington Beach Central Library.