Capistrano Unified School District

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Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) is the second largest school district in Orange County, California, the 8th largest in California [1] and the 78th largest in the United States.[2] The District currently has 54,036 students [3] and administers 33 elementary schools, 2 K-8 schools, 10 middle schools, 6 comprehensive high schools, 5 charter schools, and multiple alternative education programs.

CUSD has 40 California Distinguished Schools, 11 National Blue Ribbon Schools, 19 Golden Bell winning programs, 36 California Business Honor Roll Schools, among many other award-winning schools and school programs. [4] The District has a graduation rate of 97.2%, much higher than California's average of 85.1%. Every CUSD high school is ranked in the top 1000 US high schools by U.S. News & World Report.

Formed in 1965, Capistrano Unified School District encompasses 195 square miles (510 km2) and employs 3,992, making it the largest employer in South Orange County. [5] With Laguna Beach Unified School District, it is part of the South Coast Regional Occupational Program (ROP).

Service area[edit]

The school district serves all or part of the following cities and unincorporated areas:


Elementary schools[edit]

K-8 schools[edit]

Middle schools[edit]

High schools[edit]

Alternative education programs[edit]

Student ethnicity[edit]

Ethnicity This District State Average
White, not Hispanic 60.2% 28.6%
Asian 5.4% 8.3%
Hispanic or Latino 25.1% 48.6%
Multiple or No Response 5.7% 3.1%
African American, not Hispanic 1.3% 7.4%
Filipino 1.6% 2.7%
Pacific Islander 0.1% 0.6%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0.1% 0.8%


In 1994, a science teacher refused to teach evolution because he felt it was a religion. In Peloza v. Capistrano School District, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the school district.

In 2015, a principal was removed from San Clemente High School. This prompted community outrage and resulted in the removal of the Assistant Superintendent.

Controversies regarding district management have prompted two efforts to recall school board members.

School Board[edit]

The Capistrano Unified School District has a seven-member board of trustees, with each trustee representing one of seven geographic areas within the school district. Each trustee is elected to a four-year term of office. Trustees must reside in the area they represent.

Current board of trustees:

  • Amy Hanacek, Area 1
  • Jim Reardon, Area 2
  • John M. Alpay, Area 3
  • Martha McNicholas, Area 4
  • Dr. Gary Pritchard, Area 5
  • Gila Jones, Area 6
  • Lynn Hatton, Area 7

The board of trustees is the policymaking body for the school district. It is charged with providing a quality educational program for students in grades Kindergarten through 12 in accordance with the California Constitution, the laws of the state, adopted board policies, and the desires of the community.

As elected officials, trustees are state officers responsible for the governance of a political subdivision of the state. The school district is independent of city and county governments, but cooperates with them. In addition to establishing school district policies, the board adopts an annual budget and approves all expenditures, employment decisions, curricula, textbooks, and courses of study, and makes decisions on school sites, building plans and construction contracts. Trustees have no power to act individually in the name of the board. Formal action can be taken only when the board is in session with a quorum of at least half of the trustees.

The superintendent[edit]

The administration of the school district is delegated by trustees to a professional administrative staff headed by the superintendent. The superintendent acts as secretary to the board of trustees.

Superintendents since unification:[6]

  • 1965-1969   Dr. Charles F. Kenney
  • 1969-1975   Mr. Truman Benedict
  • 1975-1991   Dr. Jerome R. Thornsley
  • 1991-2006   Dr. James A. Fleming
  • 2007-2007   Dr. Dennis Smith
  • 2007-2009   Mr. Woodrow Carter
  • 2010-2014   Dr. Joseph M. Farley
  • 2014–present   Ms. Kirsten M. Vital

See also[edit]

External links[edit]