Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this

“For our response, we will simply quote Benjamin Franklin: Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”  -- GUHSD, in its response to the Grand Jury report

By Miriam Raftery

July 27, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Yesterday, , the Grossmont Union High School District issued its response to the findings of a Grand Jury report, with attachments.  In May, the Grand Jury report, titled “Fool us once, Fool us twice” concluded that district residents deserve more clarity from the School Board regarding a proposed 12th high school in Alpine.

Voters twice passed bond measures intended to help fund costs of building the new high school, but the district’s board majority repeatedly delayed or blocked plans for its construction.

In May, the Grand Jury recommended that the Board "declare unconditionally, by December 31, 2013, if they are or are not going to build the 12th high school using funds from Propositions H and U.  That declaration was to include a credible time line and construction start date, , as well as funds placed in an escrow account to assure the work will be done, the Grand Jury proposed. 

If the Grossmont District decides not to build the high school, it must then “cooperate with the Alpine Union School District in support of the ongoing Alpine community effort to become a unified school district that can serve high school students as well as elementary and middle school students.

Now, however, the Board has issued a lengthy response.  The response disputed numerous facts in the Grand Jury report and insisted that the district cannot afford to build the school at this time due to declining enrollment and state budget cuts. 

The Board refused to make any commitment to build the new high school, noting, “For our response, we will simply quote Benjamin Franklin: Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”

As for the Grand Jury recommendation to cooperate with the Alpine Union High School District in support of its unification effort, should the Board decide not to commit to building the high school, the Board response offered this conflicted statement: 

“We agree to this recommendation….The GUHSD Board reaffirms our commitment ot build the 12th high school in Alpine when bond conditions permit, without compromising the quality of the education for the students served at other GUHSD schools and “upon the restoration of ADA finding for the district to the level it was at the time Proposition U was passed in 2008.”

Thus the District continues to claim it wants to build the high school, but without offering any specifics or clarity for voters that the Grand Jury had requested.  The District implies it will not cooperate with unification to empower the Alpine Unified District to build the school as long as the District continues to make vague promises with no timetables.

The Board response was supported by Chairman Jim Kelly as well as members Robert Shield and Dick Hoy.   Members Priscilla Schreiber and Jim Stieringer opposed the Board’s response.

Schreiber told ECM, “I will say, it is my opinion that the board majority has opened the district to even greater scrutiny. In an effort to defend their actions, it is my opinion, that they have compounded the issue with their 20 page response. The response offers, more of the same, which I believe prompted the initial investigation. Furthermore, I do not believe the response will settle well with the Grand Jury and may provoke the Grand Jury to further action.”

East County Magazine Radio interviewed three prominent Alpine community leaders  about the Grand Jury findings  before the Board issued its responseposted on the district’s website at   Our interviews were with Sal Casamassima, chair of the Alpine High School Citizens Committee, Chris Loarie, cofounder of Alpine K-12 solutions and an expert on Prop U and Prop H bond financing, Doug Deane, former chair of the GUHSD bond oversight committee and former chair of the East County Chamber of Commerce Education Committee.

Some of our guests had predicted that the District would ignore the Grand Jury recommendations—and discussed their plan of action should this very thing occur. Hear our full interviews with these critics of the board policy, taped shortly after the Grand Jury report was released in late May, and scroll down for excerpts of their remarks.

Casamassima said the District has engaged in “bait and switch” tactics to dissuade citizens from pursuing unification efforts.  “They’ve repeatedly broken their promises,” he said. 

“We have absolutely no faith that the Grossmont school district will follow up on either of the Grand Jury recommendations,” he predicted, “and therefore we are continuing to pursue our unification effort.”  Alpine citizens have gathered signatures to file a request for unification with the County  Board of Education, he said.

Deane told ECM that his committee conducted a Student Recovery Report which found the district would gain from 260 to 480 students to the district if the Alpine High School were built.  Average Daily Attendance money ($6,000 per student) multipled by 260 would be $1.56 million at the low range, up to 480 students or  $2.88 million at the high end “which means that building the Alpine High School would have actually made the district money.”

Loarie said the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee was kept in the dark about those estimates. “It was a complete shock,” he said.

Deane added that although the district is comprised of over 50% minorities, “the District ceems to be completely out of compliance with the CVRA (California Voting Rights Act) and the only reason that I can see for the district’s reluctance in passing that is that it could cost a couple of their trustees possibly losing their seats…”

Loarie added the Alpine unification effort “will probably be the only way for us to extricate ourselves” and get a high school built through the Alpine Union School District instead of the GUHSD. Potentially, a unification agreement could require the GUHSD to turn over a portion of bond funds collected to the AUSD.

Deane concluded, “In light of the mismanagement by the trustees of the Props U and H bond funds and in light of the reluctance of the trustees to enact or comply with the California Voting Rights Act, I believe strongly that the voters need to make their opinions known in 2014…and decide if they are truly acting in our students’ best interests.”

Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.


 2012: School Board Rift


2012: School Board Rift Explodes: Board Member Kelly Attacks Schreiber
Jim Kelly rips incumbent candidate Priscilla Schreiber for “cheap political tricks” with remarks. (
It was interesting to reread the above article in light of the board majority's response to the Grand Jury. A response filled with baseless statements, misrepresentations, and continued attacks against me. I seriously don't think this was an appropriate response, to a Judge, but that's just me. For Mr. Kelly to insinuate, in this 2012 article, that I went to the Grand Jury for the purpose of some "political cheap trick" against another incumbent candidate is just plain lunacy.  Many voters in our district have no knowledge or understanding of the politics on this board, but thankfully, the San Diego Grand Jury exposed the political bias towards the Alpine community.  I'd say, the really "cheap political trick" is to expect a community to pay taxes for 40, 50 or 60 plus years and still have to drive down the hill only to see their tax dollars redirected towards schools outside their community; risk the loss of more students, no K-12 program that would entice families to the area, no realized increased property values that come with having a high school in the community, and no growth due to this Board majority's failed actions to honor their commitment to Alpine. A commitment that was memorialized in a joint board resolution, whereby, Grossmont promised to build a school if Alpine would desist in their unification efforts (Fool me once, Fool me twice).
The commitment was to be fulfilled in Prop H but due to unforeseen circumstances would need to be fulfilled in the follow-on bond, Prop U.  So, contrary to the Board majority's comments, there actually was a promise made, then restated in two bonds. Here we are eight years later and all the bond money has been earmarked for projects other than Alpine. Is Alpine the only proposed project that should have to endure the biased argument that the school cannot be built due to declining enrollment, budget constraints, and increased operating costs? How is it that this doesn't apply across the district? Why are all the other campuses, which are experiencing the same issues, getting their planned projects and even bonus non-voter approved extras? Sadly, you won't hear that the proposed  800 capacity  school would have brought in additional enrollment to the district.
Unfortunately, the school has been pushed out to future bond issuances in 2019 and 2022 when the purchasing power will have decreased and construction costs increased. Even then, those two issuances won't be enough to build the new high school. So, you tell me, is this board committed to building that school? I think not and I think that's exactly what the Grand Jury determined. There has never been a plan or timeline to aggressively bring a new high school online, quite the contrary.  The land acquisition, is just that, an improved land asset.,  
To date, $15M from Prop H and $7M from Prop U has been spent on the Alpine H.S. Through the diligent work of the Alpine project coordinator, an additional $8M will be received from the State, in the form of a hardship grant.  
In closing, the only plan the board majority has put into place, is to spend money fast and furiously on every other project across the district.  I don't believe that the board majority's response lends real creadeance or respect for the findings amd recommendations of the Grand Jury, to finally, do right by Alpine.