Spa Getaway Bites Ex-Superintendent in the Butt

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Late yesterday the Capistrano Unified School District released a 54-page termination report detailing the charges that led to ex-superintendent Woodrow Carter's firing on Monday March 9. Carter's spa getaway weekend-- paid for partially by the district and by an architectural firm which was later awarded a lucrative district contract --and reported by the Weekly on March 3, was among the charges that were "sustained" by the board after consulting with attorneys.

The lengthy report also finds that Carter misappropriated school district funds by becoming politically involved (which is illegal) in last November's hotly contested school board elections.

  • To Peggy Lynch, of Springboard Schools he wrote in an email: "...if there is anyway [sic] you can influence or support the following candidates running in our district, it would be greatly appreciated. The ones I am hopeful will get elected are: [p] Erin Kutnick [p] Duane Stiff [p] Andrea Kooiman [p] Ken Maddux [sic]...If they prevail we will have a dynamite school district once again. If they don't, well I doubt I'll see Christmas in Capo!!"
  • He later directed his assistant Heather Wheeler to "prepare an agenda that allows Andrea [Kooiman] to visit 2-3 schools per day" and "alert the principals that she will be visiting."
  • He also contacted county superintendent of schools William Habermehl asking for the endorsement of the same four candidates. Habermehl later pulled his endorsements.
  • To ex-trustee Sheila Benecke (who was recalled in June 2008), he wrote: "What's the word on the street? Will I be stuck with [candidates Sue] Palazzo and Mike Winsten? If so, I need to give notice to my landlord!!"
The termination report, dated March 17, and signed by board president Ellen Addonizio, also found that Carter illegally inserted an additional line into his contract giving himself 18 months of severance pay without board approval; deceived the board on several occasions regarding reimbursements; repeatedly prepared misleading agendas or withheld information that was requested by the board; and behaved inappropriately with parents. Carter's rebuttals to each of the charges (not all of which were sustained) are included in the report, along with 58 pages of exhibits. To see the report, click here; Carter's rebuttals, click here.

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