By Miriam Raftery
October 22, 2018 (Alpine) — Recently, East County Magazine published an article revealing that a gag order in a legal settlement with the Grossmont Union-High School district prevents Alpine education leaders from speaking out in political discussions on the Alpine High School. The nondisclosure clause may also have had a chilling effect that prevented Alpine candidates from challenging GUHSD trustee Jim Kelly, an opponent of the Alpine High School who is running unopposed.
Times of San Diego reprinted our story and obtained reactions from former GUHSD trustee Priscilla, a staunch supporter of the Alpine High School, as well as additional remarks from George Barnett, a plaintiff and member of Alpine Taxpayer for Bond Accountability and president of the Alpine Education Association
Schreiber, a member of the Grossmont school board for 16 years until 2016, said there was little doubt that the nondisclosure clause suppressed candidates from running. “Kelly and [fellow board member] Shield took that opportunity to ensure clearing a potentially threatening field,” she told Times of San Diego.
“Since all that has happened to the good folks of Alpine, I can’t imagine anyone who has fought for Alpine that would want to serve in such an environment that used that community for their own politically motivated self-serving purposes,” she added. “Plus running against a long sitting incumbent with all his loyal endorsers is a bit to overcome even in a smaller trustee area, I imagine.”
Schreiber, who lost her seat amid a move to district voting, called the bond program “the candy store used by Kelly to satisfy the other 95 percent. No one was going to run against him from that pool of constituents. No one cares to question anything as long as they are getting what they want. “They don’t care that this board has mismanaged bond funds violating the requirements of Prop. 39. Courts, constituents and the CBOC didn’t understand or uphold the accountability requirements of the law.”
Alpine had little choice but to sign the settlement, having also lost a unification proposal that sought to break the AUSD away from the GUHSD and allow it to build the high school, a plan that fell apart when Alpine lost its legal bid to have a portion of bond monies transferred from the GUHSD to the AUSD to fund the school’s construction.
The settlement lessened the financial liability of the AUSD, but at a high cost to the community, denying the rights of many of those most involved in the fight for an Alpine High School to speak out on the issue, support or oppose any candidates for the AUSD or GUHSD, or take a position on any future bond measures.
It also effectively prevents many leading education voices who have long advocated for an Alpine High School from running for either school board, since it would be difficult to run to represent Alpine without answering voters’ questions on this vital topic, nor avoiding criticism of an opponent for undermining efforts to bring a high school to Alpine.
But Barnett told Times of San Diego, “The settlement does not preclude anyone in Alpine from running for the GUHSD Board,” adding, “Trustee Kelly has no opposition from Alpiners as near as I can tell.” Barnett said both parties negotiated an agreement that acknowledges GUHSD’s rights while agreeing not to speak ill of each other going forward.
“That makes total sense because AUSD as a feeder and GUHSD as our high school requires both parties to have great operational relationships,” he told Times of San Diego. “And they do as shown by the mutual school bus operations that are a statewide model.”
But as an Alpine resident with four grandchildren in local elementary schools, “I am disappointed,” Barnett said.
A Grand Jury previously found that Grossmont erred in leading voters to believe funds from two school bond measures would be used to build an Alpine High School and directed the board to either set a firm timeline to build the school, or turn over a portion of bond funds to the Alpine Union School District so that it could build the school if a unification proposal to expand it from K-9 to high school was approved by the state.
But after judge ruled in favor of Grossmont, finding that an enrollment trigger required to build the high school was not met, the state ruled against Alpine’s request for unification as well.
So, is there any hope that Alpine will ever have a high school? Barnett offers glimmers of hope.
“The state [school] board provided we Alpiners with two ways forward — re-submitting a unification proposition that did not rely on any GUHSD assets or seek an Alpine Union authorization for a directed charter,” he told Times of San Diego.
He said the Alpine High School Citizens Committee is pursuing those options with counsel and would provide whatever it learns to Alpine Union for its consideration.
That doesn’t mean that if GUHSD decides to build an excellent high school in Alpine that Alpiners would not support it totally, he said in a Facebook chat, but earlier told East County Magazine this was not on GUHSD’s plans until 2030 or later.
“My personal efforts continue to be devoted to Alpine having its own local-control high school – unification or charter. And if GUHSD has a role to play within those parameters, that is fine to me,” he concluded.