By Jim Kelly, Grossmont Union High School District Governing Board Member
October 30, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--I appreciate the East County Magazine’s coverage of the Grossmont Union High School election and a Grand Jury investigation into the issue of using bond money for a new high school in Alpine. As a GUHSD Governing Board Member for the last 10 years, I have crucial information regarding these subjects.
For years Ms. Priscilla Schreiber has been trying to get the taxpayers of the Grossmont District to build a new school for the Alpine School District. She has repeatedly attacked the other four board members and the Superintendent for not moving forward at this time in building the new school in a time of devastating economic crisis and declining student enrollment in Alpine.
It is time to answer these misleading, politically-motivated attacks.
First, due to massive cuts in education funding, the Grossmont District would not have the funds to operate a new school without laying off dozens of classroom teachers and increasing class size.
Second, building a new school in a time declining student enrollment would be a violation of the intent of Prop U. Currently, there is no need to build a new high school. Overcrowding is no longer an issue. The Grossmont District has declined about two thousand students since 2008. This year alone our District has lost another 642 students. We have 500 fewer freshmen than seniors this school year...the opposite of normal years...which tells us that we face continuing losses in enrollment into the foreseeable future. The feeder District with the sharpest decrease in enrollment is the Alpine School District which lost 150 students this year alone.
Why is this important? Because the justification for spending tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to build a new school is because the District was GROWING to such a point that it is running out of classrooms at its existing schools. The truth is that the District has more and more EMPTY seats...not to mention millions of fewer dollars due to lower ADA. In fact, it was Priscilla Schreieber who, when the board voted to place Proposition U on the ballot, picked the minimum number of students in the District to justify building a new school. She picked the lowest possible number possible...the number of students in the District at that time! In other words, if the District simply remained flat or did not grow at all the new school would be built. But the Grossmont District is now significantly below the trigger and going lower.
In addition to all four of Ms. Schreiber's fellow board members being opposed to building the new high school at this time, the majority of the following groups are likewise in disagreement with her and her allies: the teachers, principals, Grossmont P.T.A. Presidents, the C.B.O.C. (Citizens Bond Oversight Committee) members as well as senior administrators.
What has been the reaction of Priscilla and her handful of community agitators? To continue to publicly ascribe all sorts of conspiracy theories to her fellow board members and the superintendent. Ms. Schreiber plays on the public's natural distrust of elected officials to pressure the board to act irresponsibly. A week ago Priscilla made an announcement to the media that the Grossmont Board is under investigation by the Grand Jury for mismanaging bond money by not building the new school. It's an old political trick to have your surrogates demand an investigation of your political opponent, right before an election, and then go to the media and announce that your opponent is under investigation.
And third, building and operating a new school would hurt existing schools and especially our charter schools Steele Canyon Charter School and Helix Charter School. The simple truth is that the Grossmont trustees are trustees of the entire East County District—not just Alpine. Our class sizes are already intolerable—not because of a lack of classroom space, but because of a lack of teachers--we cannot afford to lay off additional dozens of teachers and further increase class size so we can build a new school which is not now needed. In a time of massive educational cuts, we need trustees who are fiscally responsible with taxpayer money—not a tax-and-spend politician who wants to keep on building new unnecessary schools to keep her campaign contributors happy.
Rather than cheap political tricks and needless controversy what we need is an open, honest discussion as to whether the Grossmont District should build a new high school for the Alpine District despite declining enrollment and revenue cuts—or should we invest the remaining bond funds on the still outstanding needs of the existing Grossmont high schools and complete the ADA improvements as promised in Prop U. Neither Priscilla Schrieber nor her close ally, Bill Weaver, even hinted at building the new high school in their ballot statements. This is an acknowledgement that their position is not popular with East County voters. Rather than have the courage of their convictions and proudly stating their positions, they use cowardly tactics like demanding the Grand Jury investigation...knowing that it will be rejected AFTER the election is over. The voters of East County can send the Grossmont District a message by voting for the candidates who support their views. The Governing Board is listening.
The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. If you wish to submit an editorial for consideration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.