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By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

Photo: Creative Commons NC-ND via Bing

March 4, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- El Cajon and Lakeside voters gave solid thumbs down on Tuesday night to school bond measures put on the ballot by the Cajon Valley Union School District (CVUSD) and by the Lakeside Union School District.

Cajon Valley

Cajon Valley’s ballot measure, which would have issued $220 million dollars in school bonds went down in a major defeat with 100 percent of precinct votes counted and only late mail-in ballots remaining. 12,301 votes were cast against the bond measure (55.65%) with 9,803 (44.35%) votes cast for it. The bond measure required 55% in favor to pass, but throughout the evening, never came close to gaining traction needed for passage.

The district said that the new bond issue was necessary to finance basic infrastructure improvements and to implement installation of advanced security technology at its schools as recommended last year by a County of San Diego Grand Jury report.

Cajon Valley is the tenth-largest school district in San Diego County, with 17,468 students. 

But ever since the CVUSD Board of Trustees voted to put the measure on the ballot in mid-September (with trustee Jill Barto voting against), the bond measure has been on shaky ground in light of a spate of controversies surrounding the measure and the district.

Dale Scott of San Francisco-based firm Dale Scott and Company presented to the board its proposal to market the bond which included a telephone-based survey of local Cajon Valley District parents. Although the school district is composed of a student population of nearly 40 percent  Latino and Arabic-speaking students with English is a second language, Dale Scott and Associates emphatically told board members that it would only include in the phone marketing survey families identified as English speaking “whites only.” Some 69 percent of the families in the district are considered to be low income. The only board member who directly questioned Scott on such an exclusionary race-based marketing approach was Barto.

After the measure was filed with the San Diego Registrar of Voters, CVUSD faced investigations by East County Magazine and NBC San Diego revealing that the district had spent some $600,000 on promotional videos, including $40,000 on a “flash mob” video filmed at Parkway Plaza. In November, NBC San Diego published its investigation that CVUSD superintendent David Miyashiro, EdM, had racked up travel expenditures  to many locations including foreign countries amounting to $1.1 million dollars.  

Last week, NBC San Diego reported on another ongoing investigation revealing that Miyashiro was San Diego County’s highest-paid school superintendent, citing data from the California Dept. of Education. Miyashiro is making more than $425,000 in salary, benefits, and other compensation. NBC also revealed that Miyashiro would be also taking home more than $76,000 by cashing out his unused vacation pay accrued since 2017.  The district has disputed the accuracy of NBC's reporting, without any evidence of any inaccuracy, according to the station, but NBC stands by its reports.

San Diego Union Tribune reporter Kristen Taketa also wrote about Miyashiro receiving two salary raises with board member Barto dissenting.

East County Magazine also revealed that in spite of accolades on its “World of Work” career curriculum, the district had earned a “D” grade on the California Department of Education’s School Dashboard which measures overall district performance, and once again came out with dismal performance results in the latest dashboard released a couple of months ago.

Miyashiro, and board members president Tamara Otero and vice president James P. Miller, have taken turns claiming that the school dashboard ratings don’t measure the right metrics, though the California School Board Association on which Otero has served has supported the mandated measurement.

A recent article by the San Diego Union Tribune also recognized the district as carrying the third highest budget deficit of all San Diego County Schools, although the State of California still declared the district as solvent and able to meet its obligations.

Also plaguing the district has been reoccurring news of an ongoing dispute between the board and Jill Barto which has ended up with Barto suing the district in Federal Court on accusations of civil rights violations. The district in December countersued Barto for on allegations on misappropriation of office supplies and mistreatment of district employees.

In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Cajon Valley Board President Tamara Otero said that the district may put the measure on the ballot again in November if it does not pass, though the negative perception that some parents have over Cajon Valley’s free-spending ways and legal cat fights are not likely to be resolved anytime soon by November.

Otero said, “We knew that March was uncertain,” adding, “But if we got it, we could start upgrading schools over summer.”

Lakeside Union School District

Although the Lakeside Union School District has not had to deal with any of the controversies that its neighboring district has gone through, it did not fare any better on Tuesday night.

With 78 percent of precincts reporting, 4,593 (60.23%) voted “no” and 3,033 (39.77%) voted “yes” on their measure which would have authorized the sale of some $33 million in bonds. The annual tax rate would have been $30 per $100,000 of assessed property.

Andrew Hayes, the only Lakeside school board trustee to vote against the bond measure, told ECM, “I think Lakeside is representative of what people are feeling in the state. We’re done with taxes. No more tax increases.”

Proceeds of the bond measure would have been put towards increasing student safety and security, classroom and building renovation. It would have also been used to repair aging classrooms including replacing outdated plumbing, electrical wiring, heating and air conditioning. It also would have qualified the district for state matching funds to complete the repairs.

Disclosure: East County Magazine Contributing Editor Paul Kruze recently filed a government claim against the Cajon Valley Union School District after  alleged incidents in August 2019 and January 2020. The claim involves a district employee causing him “injury to reputation, portraying claimant in false light, and defamation.”

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