Board meets May 13; Critics slam GUHSD for secretly stacking advisory board with conservative political figures
By Miriam Raftery
May 12, 2010 (Alpine) – Why doesn’t the Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) want the public to be given the names of people appointed to serve on a committee to name Alpine’s planned new high school?
“It’s a secret that East county’s high school district evidently would prefer you didn’t know,” stated a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial. The GUHSD board forced the newspaper to file an official public records act request to obtain committee members' names.
The list suggests the GUHSD trustees hand-picked political figures, a large majority of whom support naming the new school after former president Ronald Reagan.
The ten committee members including Ron Nehring, chairman of the California Republican Party, former Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter Sr. , Bob Watkins, a former Republican candidate for Congress, Sylvia Sullivan, Republican Central Committee member, Louis Russo, a Republican member of the Alpine Planning Group, Mark Price, founder and trustee of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Task Force and member of the Alpine School Board, Steve Hunyar, former Alpine School Board member whose endorsements included Nehring and Price, Leona Bennett, an Alpine resident who has said she voted for Reagan but started a petition to keep Reagan’s name off the high school, Doug Deane, education chair of the East County Chamber of Commerce, and Jennifer Martinez, a member of the Alpine Planning Group.
Deane criticized the Union-Tribune's implications. “I’m not a political operative,” said Deane, a registered Independent voter. “I think that it was unfair for the U-T to predict an 8-2 vote. That implies that some or all of the members have a predisposition to one name or another, and that they are going to ignore the investigation process that the committee conducts. That’s certainly not the case for me, and I sincerely hope that it’s not the case for all the other committee members,” he said, adding that he’s had discussions with a Viejas representative and plans to represent the tribe’s views during the investigation process.
Larry Urdahl, a conservative Christian and former GUHSD trustee, said he favors the Reagan name but objects to the process, believing that full input should have been followed to built community support. “My objection is that the Board picked out the name for them,” he said of the committee.
Ray Lutz is the Democratic nominee for the 52nd Congressional seat and founder of Citizens Oversight Panels (www.citizensoversight.org), a citizens’ watchdog group. “I think it’s inappropriate to name the high school after Ronald Reagan,” he said. “He is a very partisan and divisive figure…This is yet another example of how out of touch these leaders are with what’s appropriate. They are continuing to push these ideological points of view and their particular religious or partisan points of view at every possible chance.”
Lutz criticized the GUHSD trustees for excluding Democratic, liberal and progressive voices from the committee. “They should have some people representing the other point of view,” he said. He noted that naming a high school in Alpine after Reagan could also cause confusion, since there is already a Ronald Reagan Community Center in El Cajon. “Bringing partisan politics into the naming of the high school is not part of the education process,” he concluded.
Curiously, the GUHSD also failed to appoint a single representative of Alpine’s largest business venture and major community philanthropists: the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, even though the tribe has been a major supporter of local schools. Nor are any other area tribes represented.
A source close to a prominent tribe, who asked that his name not be disclosed, indicated that tribal leaders were disappointed that none of them were asked to be on the naming committee and are concerned that their perspectives may not be represented.
The Union-Tribune’s editorial board, which predicts an 8-2 vote for the Reagan name, issued sharp criticism against the GUHSD’s manipulation of the committee. “What a shame politics will keep the policymakers from focusing on devising a quality curriculum and school facility the people of Alpine, Blossom Valley and points east deserve,” the newspaper editorial concluded.
The GUHSD meets Thursday, May 13th with public session starting at 6 p.m. in the East County Regional Education Center, 924 East Main Street in El Cajon. Speaker cards are accepted prior to 6 p.m. for all agenda items. Although the naming issue is not specifically listed, VII (2), includes a report on plans for the new Alpine High School.