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O.C. trustee drops plan to rechristen winter break

January 13, 2007|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

After her proposal to rename the winter break for Christmas met with discord, a south Orange County school trustee announced Friday she was withdrawing the idea

"This simple inquiry has resulted in some news reports and some inaccurate and rather exaggerated public discussion," Capistrano Unified Trustee Ellen Addonizio wrote in a news release she e-mailed Friday afternoon.

"Upon further consideration, I have no interest in causing [the district] to pursue such a name change and have confirmed with our staff that no action related thereto will be taken."

The Christmas controversy is the latest to dog Capistrano Unified. Although many of the district's 56 schools are ranked among the state's best, recent brouhahas have included an Orange County Grand Jury probe; a raid of district headquarters by the district attorney; allegations that the board violated the state's open-meetings law; the resignation of its superintendent after accusations that he kept an "enemies list"; and disputes over attendance boundaries, a new school's location, portable classrooms and a costly administration center.

Angry parents unsuccessfully tried to recall all seven trustees in 2005.

The three candidates they supported in the recent election, Addonizio, Anna Bryson and Larry Christensen, won.

The vacation renaming issue surfaced Monday at a district board meeting. During a discussion of school calendars, Addonizio asked whether the holiday break could be renamed.

Bryson and Christensen said on Wednesday that they supported the move, arguing it was not putting religion in schools but rather recognizing the federal holiday that falls on Dec. 25.

The subject drew heated debate on community message boards. Attempts to reach Addonizio and Christensen were unsuccessful.

Bryson said she was weighing the proposal and would decide whether to pursue it before the next meeting Feb. 12.

Addonizio "can do whatever she wishes as a trustee," Bryson said. "I have to make my own decision."

Bryson added that she had heard support for the name change from community members, including Jews, "because they have often suffered egregiously and historically when total abandonment of values comes into play."

Addonizio added in her news release that she has called for three proposals to be placed on the next board agenda: terminating the district's funding of defense attorneys for former district employees, including former Supt. James Fleming; adopting an anti-nepotism policy; and creating an internal audit committee.

Community members questioned Addonizio's Christmas flip-flop.

"What does she stand for?" asked Jill Case, a Laguna Niguel mother of two sons in the district who ran against Bryson and opposed the vacation name change.

"Either she didn't believe what she was doing ... which means she was playing some other person's tune. Or, she believes in what she's doing and she's withdrawing it because people got mad at her. Neither one shows strength of character."

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