Grossmont Union High School District Governing Board is Out of Touch with Reality

Kudos to Board members Schreiber and Hoy for their support of what could have been a great community garden and partnership with Helix Charter High. Shame on the rest of you.

The Grossmont Union High School District Governing Board is out of touch with reality.  The arguments behind their refusal to back the community garden at Helix Charter High School are so far out there that it would be laughable if not for their negative consequences.  I fear we may have elected some folks who have lost their minds.

According to the American Community Gardening Association, there are over 18,000 community gardens in the U.S. and Canada.  Based on board member Jim Kelly’s assertions, you would think that having a community garden was a radical experiment, unsuited to our peaceful community.

The Board cited as one of their reasons for not supporting the project that people might contract food poisoning because organic gardening techniques would be employed.  Really?  Can’t say I remember a single recall or e-coli outbreak for organic food.  There have been quite a few for the more conventional, “factory-farm” produced vegetables the Board must hold in higher regard.

Vegetable gardens are just too risky, what with trained master gardeners from the UC Extension allowed to run amok and mingle with experienced community volunteers.  How could we possibly expose high school students and interested members of the community to this type of dangerous environment?  

After all — growing your own food is dangerous.  Perhaps it is so risky that we should no longer allow science students to grow plants from seeds — our kids might get sick from handling nutrient-rich soil.  

Another reason they cited was the destruction of a vacant sand lot by a vegetable garden.  Destruction of a vacant sand lot:  Apparently the preservation of endangered vacant sand lots on high school campuses is a big problem.  I’m sure that by preserving the sand lot over growing organic vegetables, we will have improved/maintained a superior quality of life and ensured that future generations will not be deprived from the joys of ignoring the vacant sand lot as they walk by.

As for their assertions that the garden could be overrun by hordes of homeless, or that the vegetables could be the target of vandalism, if we allowed worries like these to influence our actions, we would never build anything.  Besides — the District was to be protected by a “hold-harmless” agreement, and the gardeners were prepared to carry $1 million in liability insurance.   The gardeners had the support of the community, and were funded by a federal grant.  There was no real risk to the District.

One can only assume that Superintendent Swenson, Jim Kelly and the Board members who voted against the garden are either leading lives insulated from reality, or that they have lost their minds.  Clearly, it will be our civic responsibility to not return these Board members to their offices next election day, and perhaps the district should re-examine its choice for superintendent.

Kudos to Board members Schreiber and Hoy for their support of what could have been a great community garden and partnership between La Mesa and the students of Helix Charter High.  Shame on the rest of you.

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barry tarvin February 11, 2012 at 07:12 PM
<<One can only assume that Superintendent Swenson, Jim Kelly and the Board members who voted against the garden are either leading lives insulated from reality, or that they have lost their minds.>> That, and It is very clear that demanding that Dr. Smith resign was not enough to keep Mr. Kelly and his minion from continuing to do whatever they can to punish Helix Charter High School's many attempts at creating a better school experience.
Swimmer John February 12, 2012 at 02:46 AM
You and I had a difference of opinion once before, but on this we are 100% in alignment. For an elected official tasked with oversight of a mulit-million dollar public enterprise with so many employees and such an important public mandate (educating our children) I can't believe our fellow East County citizens elected someone like Mr Kelly. Oh wait, this is the same group that elected Duncan Hunter just because of his name. Thank God for re-districting. But that won't help the Grossmont District that will continue to be subjected to narrow minded extreemist views from the far right.
Things I Learned February 12, 2012 at 03:12 PM
"QUESTION: What are some of the larger misconceptions people have about public education? ANSWER: The most troubling misconception is that schools don’t work and that teachers aren’t as effective as they need to be. I have been a high school educator for over 32 years, and I can honestly tell you that I have never seen a time where teachers have faced greater challenges, been under greater scrutiny, and suffered from such a lack of broad public support as they do today. Schools are judged by a number — the Academic Performance Index — and while that number is an important indicator of mastery of curriculum standards, it does not reflect other essential learning activities that our schools provide. The API does not measure the impact of the fine arts, the leadership skills being developed in student government and student clubs, the character development that is provided across the curriculum and across the campus, nor the incredible experiences of the thousands of young people engaged in school sports teams. Schools work, teachers are highly skilled, and students have access to an increasing menu of meaningful learning experiences." Ralf Swenson http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2010/jul/16/q-ralf-swenson-new-superintendent-grossmont-union-/?page=2#article
John Garrod February 12, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Mr. Swenson - great comment with regard to the benefits of extra-curricular and arts activities. I think many people have forgotten that we are not educating our students for the sole purpose of passing a test - we're educating them to succeed in life. At least we should be. Seems we missed an opportunity here to provide a great extra-curricular activity, at no cost to your "underfunded" district. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't you vote against the garden proposal? I would also say that perhaps part of the reason schools don't have the kind of support you mention, is that people are generally unhappy with the job the schools are doing, and feel powerless to do anything about it, as their elected officials are unresponsive to their calls for change.
LemonGroove February 13, 2012 at 12:00 AM
We have gardens at our school in Linda Vista and I can't tell you the last time someone died from eating kale or snap peas. Please, what a bunch of sissies!! I would call them a bunch of old women but that would be insulting to old women. There is so much funding for these kind of projects, it's not even funny. It's all about politics. The First Lady, a supposed Demoncrat, has a better foods in school initiative to try to get our kids to eat healthier, therefore it Must be an Evil Plan. So, now those of you whom elected Kelly, I did not because he, in my opinion, is just plain loco, are you feeling like you backed the wrong person? I sure do hope so. Maybe he thinks if we don't have a community garden it will bring on the apocalypse sooner than later. Remember folks, he also believes that if we don't inform our kids about sex, birth control, STD's, they won't have sex, get pregnant or get STD's, (just like the red states in the South that have the highest teen pregnancies and abortion rates). Vote the guys in LaLA Land OUT!!
Kevin George February 13, 2012 at 11:45 PM
John, you and I see eye to eye on about everything. As an avid home gardener I completely agree that a community garden is a great idea. But I also know that we live in the most litigious society in the history of man. Every community garden site that I went to mentioned insurance, one even had a horror story of being sued by " slip and fall" attorney. I am sure the insurance problem could be easily solved, but when you are dealing with a " deep pockets" organization such as a school district I would say erring on the side of caution would be a good thing.
John Garrod February 14, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Kevin, If we worried about being sued, nobody would ever do anything. Besides, the garden was prepared to carry $1mil in liability insurance - the School District would have been insulated.
Kevin George February 14, 2012 at 12:49 AM
I was not aware of that fact. See, we do agree on most everything.
Scott H. Kidwell February 14, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Why didn't the city set aside some space in one of the city parks as one of their recreational programs? Or the proponents could pool their resources, buy a piece of property, navagate the normal government logistics for all that is necessary to run a garden and have the joy of fully interacting with government as well as the agricultural experience.
Janet Mercer-Grey February 14, 2012 at 02:05 AM
A one million dollar liability is not much in todays world. 5 Mill is the minimum in more and more instances. The insurance might protect, but not insulate the school from litigation. Just because the city would hold the school harmless does not mean a litigant would do the same. Any attorney worth her salt would go after all parties involved, not matter their exposure. Besides the policy does not come without cost. And who pays the premium? The citizens of La Mesa of course.
Kevin George February 14, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Scott that is a great idea. If the City put a community garden at Collier park maybe the bums and criminals wouldn't want to live there any longer and it would be restored to a place where families could go again. Two birds, one stone.
Bill Weaver November 07, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Congratulations to our re-elected GUHSD top vote getting incumbent Priscilla Schreiber, and our very welcome new Board Trustee Jim Stieringer!


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