Formation of a “new” School District in Mission Viejo?

At last night’s meeting of the Mission Viejo city council we listened as residents addressed three Agenda items relating to the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. SVUSD serves the majority of the 100,000 residents of Mission Viejo. Just as we have multiple water districts serving our city we also have two school districts with the second being the Capistrano Unified School District.

While school districts have their own elected Boards and Administrations, there is linkage between these two government agencies and a city government in that school board decisions impact our children.

Last night’s Agenda Item #31 called for approval of a $15,000 city wide poll regarding our school districts. The heading reads in part: “Topics to include school closings, traffic safety, school district consolidation, and support for charter schools.”  While all of the council members expressed support of a survey, council member Schlicht questioned the depth of the back up information that should be provided by the pollsters to those residents being contacted. Putting the cart before the horse.

Splitting schools off our two school districts to create a Mission Viejo district is more complex and costly than simply winging it with a feel good survey. There is no question that many Mission Viejo parents are unhappy with the SVUSD and CUSD treatment of our kids. To ask that basic question is a waste of time and money.

One example, very close to where we live, was a decision by the CUSD Board to force families living in Canyon Crest to transport their high school students to CUSD’s Tesora HS several miles away in unincorporated Wagon Wheel when they live less than 2 miles from Trabuco Hills HS that is in the SVUSD. Not to long ago we threatened legal action against the CUSD over planned reduction of bus service for our students as part of their cost cutting measures.

The most recent angst was a decision by the SVUSD to close two of our schools
citing a reduction in student enrollment. Parents were up in arms when the SVUSD refused their application to form a charter school at O’Neill Elementary, one of the two being closed in that district.

Councilman MacLean complained of a lack of representation on the (SVUSD) Board responsible for making decisions impacting our children. So I guess Lance is arguing “taxation, without representation.”  According to the SVUSD web site only one-third of the elementary schools they oversee, (9 of 26), are located in Mission Viejo. The opposite is true when it relates to intermediate and high schools where 75% (3 of 4 in each category) are located in Mission Viejo.
In the CUSD we have a much lighter hammer to wield in that only 6 of their 37 elementary schools are in Mission Viejo. We have 2 of 12 middle schools and only one out of 7 CUSD high schools. I point this out in that creation of a new school district is not something for which Mission Viejo residents have full control of the outcome.
 Council member Cathy Schlicht was correct in her comments regarding the proposed poll. This is a no brainer. I am certain that 90 percent of the parents would prefer their children attending a school in the city in which they live. Ms. Schlicht said the council needs to provide details of what is involved in the formation of a school district as part of any polling. Considerations such as cost, timing and approval by the existing districts who may oppose our desire to withdraw.

In my discussion with council member Schlicht today she pointed out that “students from our neighboring cities are being bussed into Mission Viejo” to fill some of the classrooms.
In our telephone conversation regarding a new school district Councilmember Schlicht asked “whose driving the bus?” Adding. “Parents will need to get organized, similar to the NOPE group”s opposition to additional overhead power lines by Edison. She adds: “How does this (new school district) effort give birth?”

On the CA. Dept of Education web site is a District Organization Handbook covering public hearings and election procedures and “requirements for elections and public hearings as they pertain to school district organization” etc.
I have some good news. I will not post all 22 pages from Chapter 7 other than to report that you must hold public hearings conducted by the county committee, reorganization by Petitions, LAFCO and OC-BOS, Board of Supervisors and State Board of Education participation.

Don’t think that the impacted school districts will simply throw up their hands and say no problem, form your own school district. At a time when head counts represent dollar signs for school districts they will not yield control without a fight.
Simply look at what the “big five” just agreed to in K-14 education cuts.

Based on the current district boundaries we have students with friends living virtually across the street from each other who are forced to attend different schools because they live on opposite sides of Marguerite Parkway by Olympiad Road.

About Larry Gilbert