Critics call action "meaningless"
February 12, 2013 (El Cajon )—Newly elected Grossmont Union High School District Board Trustee Jim Stieringer plans to introduce a resolution on the 12th high school for Alpine at the board meeting at 924 East Main Street, El Cajon. The public portion of the meeting will begin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, February 13.
The motion directs the GUHSD to developed modified building plans and submit to the Division of the State Architect (DSA) –but only after it is determined that the Alpine School District Unification plan is either abandoned or fails to achieve voter approval. In addition, the site and building plans must be modified to stay within the remaining budget.
The District has already expended $22 million, including property acquisiton and plans, leaving $43 million of the original $65 million budgeted. The project was twice approved by voters in Propositions H and U. Plans were submitted, but Superintendent Rolf Swenson pulled them back last summer without a board vote to do so. The Board later approved the action retroactively, said Bill Weaver, who formerly chaired a citizens committee on the Alpine High School and ran for the board last fall.
Weaver said that Stieringer’s resolution “means absolutely nothing.” He called for an investigation of the Superintendent and administration staff for “mishandling and mismanaging of bond funds.”
Weaver said that he is pulling his own child out of the district, adding, “The greater Alpine area's students and parents are treated like illegitimate cousins at best!"
Sal Casamassima of the Alpine High School Citizens Committee told Patch.com that he concurred with Weaver’s view that the filing of plans with DSA is a “meaningless gesture…“Now they are making the nonsensical proposal to refile those plans provided the Alpine unification is halted. There is no promise or commitment to build the school and, in fact, the 2011 resolution stipulated that the GUHSD board would not even consider going forward with school construction until state [Average Daily Attendance] funding levels were restored to what they were in 2008—something that will never happen. “Hence, that resolution effectively killed the high school.”
He emphasized that the position of the high school committee he chairs and unification petitioners is clear. “We are proceeding with our unification effort and signature petition drive,” he stated in an e-mail to Patch.com. “If the GUHSD board wishes to see a halt to unification, there is one clear step it can take—build the Alpine high school. “Until the doors of the Alpine high school are opened, the unification effort will continue.”
Stieringer defended the motion and reaffirmed his support for an Alpine High School in an email to Patch’s editor and to Weaver, forwarded to ECM.
“Bill and I agree that Proposition U included the high school. We also agree that a local high school is necessary to obviate a 20 mile daily round trip to Granite Hills High School and Steele Canyon High School, both of which are the nearest schools to the students' homes,” he stated.
“My proposed agenda item will, if passed, simply reaffirm the board's intent to comply with the voters' wishes. The agenda item stipulates that we will proceed with the planning and construction if the community rejects unification of the Alpine School District (a movement supported by Mr. Weaver and others) that would effectively remove the Alpine community from the Grossmont Union High School District.”
Stieringer added that he could not justify obligating taxpayers to the cost of construction a school in a different district. “I find it interesting to note that in 2002 the Alpine District rejected a $25 million bond issue that would have provided local property tax funds to build the school subject to district unification,” he noted.
Stieringer defended fellow board members and the Superintendent,adding, “In my brief 90 days as a governing board member I have been impressed by my colleagues' integrity, thoroughness and genuine concern for the district and its students.” He voiced optimistim that he will eventually find a third vote to proceed to construction.
“In the meantime I anticipate that the more thoughtful Alpine residents, a vast majority, will allow the process to continue to conclusion without ad hominem attacks on the district and its employees,” Stieringer said.
ECM asked for comment from Superintendent Swenson on the situation. District spokesperson Catherine Martin sent the following reply:
“We're following Board direction on the 12th high school. Following is language from GUHSD Superintendent Ralf Swenson,” she wrote.
“In July of 2011, the Governing Board authorized staff to proceed with the planning for the 12th high school but because of the precipitous drop in per pupil funding over the last several years, the Board has decided to wait until funding was restored to 2008 levels ($6,514) before approving construction of the school.
GUHSD has declined by over 1,200 students in the last 2 years and we anticipate a further decline of 850 or more students in 2013-14, resulting in a net loss of over 2,000 students to our District. Per pupil funding today is $400 per pupil lower than it was when the bond passed in 2008. GUHSD is at a funding level that is over $1,700 per pupil lower than it should be had the State followed Prop. 98 funding requirements during that same period.
The Governing Board took the following action in December:
Retaining the $65 million budget; direct staff to complete ACOE and LAFCO permits and seek Governing Board approval for execution of those permits. Ratify the withdrawal of building design plans from DSA and place the school construction (including grading) on hold until enrollment thresholds and per pupil funding levels are met.”