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Promised Alpine High School Sparks Debate at School Candidate Forum

6 candidates in Grossmont Union High School District also tackle furloughs, Brown tax measure.

Assailing what he called the school board’s lack of transparency, Grossmont Union High School District candidate Bill Weaver told a forum Monday night that he was running because he doesn’t trust the current board members.

“We have an expectation of what the bond’s going to be used for and then the smoke and mirrors come out,” said Weaver, a parent of Alpine students and an Alpine Education Foundation board member. “Our money’s not being spent the way you said it’s going to be spent.”

All six candidates running for two seats tackled the screened questions of roughly 30 attendees at the Grossmont Healthcare District conference center in La Mesa. The forum, moderated by the League of Women Voters, was sponsored by East County Magazine

Although a report of a Grand Jury investigation into the board majority’s use of bond monies wasn’t noted directly, many of the candidates’ responses addressed accusations that voter-approved bond money has been steered away from a promised new high school in Alpine.

Incumbent Priscilla Schreiber, a candidate who has championed building a 12th high school in Alpine, said she is often “marginalized” for speaking out on the issue during board meetings.  

“Character is doing what you said you would do,” she said.

Voters passed Proposition H, a $274 million bond measure in 2004, and Proposition U, a $417 million bond measure in 2008, to repair and modernize district schools and construct a new high school in the Alpine/Blossom Valley area.

Candidate Jim Stieringer, a former La Mesa city treasurer and Grossmont Healthcare District director, said voters in the district clearly said they wanted a new high school.

“If I get elected, I’ll check and find out if there’s enough money left in that bond to do exactly that,” he said.

As a trustee, said incumbent Gary Woods, his job is to “fight for what’s best” for every student in the district. Woods added that he has refused to begin construction on a new school because the district hasn’t yet reached its target of 23,245 students.

In fact, the district has nearly 2,000 fewer students in now than in 2008, he said.

“When I first got on the board, I was real excited about all the potential of what we could do, and how we could develop a school that would be cutting edge in technology,” Woods said. “After I got on the board, I realized we are in a steep decline.”

Woods, who said he is honored to serve on the board, praised the district for its other achievements, including higher test scores and increased student participation.

“In the last four years, we have faced some of the hardest economic times in my lifetime, and Grossmont at the same time has made great strides,” he said. “But this board is continually attacked for breaking its promise.”

Another hot topic of the evening was whether the candidates support staff furlough days and expect furlough days during the school year.

“We can look at the budget and find better ways to save money,” said candidate Zach Miller, a San Diego State junior who graduated from El Cajon Valley High School in 2011. “We just have to take the time and effort into looking at what we don’t need.”

Schreiber agreed and said it was “deplorable” furlough days were even up for discussion.

Weaver said board members should support funding opportunities to prevent furloughs and other cuts, which is why he said he is in favor of Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal for a temporary increase in income and sales taxes.

Of the six candidates, only Weaver and Miller said they were in favor of the proposition, which promises to prevent another $6 billion in cuts to schools and prevent college tuition hikes, according to www.yesonprop30.com.

“I can’t believe that a school board trustee could be against the propositions that are going to help prevent that from happening,” Weaver said.

Although candidate Barbara Stevens agreed that furloughs are a “horrible thing,” she said “taxpayers deserve their money, too.”

“It’s no more fair for a taxpayer to lose a couple days or a week or a month of pay than a teacher or a student losing their teaching days,” said Stevens, a writer/editor. “There’s a balance. It’s not unconnected, and we all have to consider that.”

Woods called the proposition a “Sacramento trick.”

Stieringer agreed, calling Brown “cynical.”

“Our school district will do whatever we have to do,” Stieringer said. “If we have to stop paying, we will stop paying. If we have to reduce our school days, we’ll do that.”

John Gillihan October 24, 2012 at 01:56 PM
"Tax payers"? The board should be fighting tooth and nail for the students...not worrying what the state government is collecting in taxes. Barbara Stevens may be running for the wrong office.
Things I Learned October 24, 2012 at 02:09 PM
The taxpayers are just resources for the process.
cathy zmijewski October 24, 2012 at 02:20 PM
I believe anyone running for a school board or on a school board in Ca. should be supporting Proposition 30. If a candidate understood what's at stake if it doesn't pass, the huge scheduled cuts and guaranteed furlough days that will be implemented if prop 30 fails, they would be supporting it. The state of education funding and the pending trigger cuts ( right or wrong) has most school board members across the state supporting prop 30. The lack of support by these candidates shows they are out of touch with the current funding of ca. Public education. No matter how they personally feel about taxes, they should be informed enough to put personal political views aside and make a decision for the students of GUHSD.
Things I Learned October 24, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Hey remember when schools still haven't spent all the money we gave them last time and they are already back for more try cutting first you don't need brand new buildings tell the kids to pick up a broom instead of a monster energy.
Barbara October 24, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Hi, John, this is Barbara Stevens. I do propose to fight for the students. The problem is that the propositions are just another way for the Sacramento crowd to get their hands on money that is supposed to be given to the schools. Currently, Sacramento has ALREADY diverted at :Least $58 Million that was due the Grossmont District. That's more than HALF of what we need to build an entire new school, as promised to the Alpine area. While taxpayers have ALWAYS put students and education first, the Sacramento crowd consistently thumbs their noses at taxpayers, students, AND Educations. They only give that concept lip service. And what do they do? Well, we get a "Bullet Train," And companies continue to flee the state in record numbers. We are going to have to knuckle down and find local solutions that don't just feed the Sacramento "highwaymen." They KNOW exactly how to rob the stagecoach that is supposed to deliver the money to what we, the citizens want. In the meantime, check your own property tax bill for the amounts you, as well as the rest of the property owners here have agreed to pay ON TOP of what we expect from Sacramento. There is no end to their greed and personal desire to spend, spend, spend. We have a mountain of a problem before us. Let's all come up with ways to solve the problem rather than add to it.
Barbara October 24, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Cathy, if you read the language of the Proposition, and if you review the history of past bond projects that have run through Sacramento, you will know that this is another run by politicians to get more funds that they can control. As I said above, the District has already had over $58M "diverted" from funding due them by the same people who are promising that "This time, things are different." The business climate in CA is abysmal. The schools cannot even make a budget that will stick because they have no idea if Sacramento will keep their promises already. They are spending addicts. We need to stop supporting their habit and instead focus on the students, This is a shell game. Whatever money is gained by the taxes proposed will be subtracted from what is given the schools from the normal funding sources. Anyone who is on a school board and who supports these two Propositions, in my view are pandering to the special educational interests who are find with the status quo of sucking money away from what is needed in the classrooms.
Priscilla Schreiber October 24, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Well, I guess it's only appropriate that this incumbent weigh in on the discussion with some facts. For Dr. Woods to declare that the district has lost a whole campus of students, (2,000) is just not true. For Dr. Woods to say that he was excited for the prospect of a new school in Alpine/BV, when he was first elected, is just plain false. Dr. Woods wrote a rebuttal statement, in the sample voter guide, against Prop U at the same time he was a newcomer candidate for the Grossmont Board. In his rebuttal he specifically opposed building the Alpine/BV high school. If Dr. Woods had been on this board at the time Prop U was placed on the ballot, this district would not be experiencing the many facilities and technology improvements that our students, teachers, and communities are benefiting from today. This district would not be providing much needed jobs, for local contractors, because of the voters support to improve the conditions of our campuses. Sadly, if it were left up to Dr. Woods and his "Recruiter Extraordinaire", Mr. Kelly, who strut around our campuses, at ribbon cutting ceremonies, as if they had anything to do with making this happen, is frankly, disgusting. Dr. Woods touts how he supports all these improvements, his excitement over the new infrastructure for technology, etc..., but if he opposed Prop U, which is the only means by which to get dollars for capital improvements, then how would he have gotten these things done? Seriously!
Kevin George October 24, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Nice job Priscilla! Keep up the good work!
Barbara October 24, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Prop H and U were both local Propositions, and not cash grabs by Sacramento. I think we need to keep that in mind. Good points, Ms. Schrieiber!
Priscilla Schreiber October 25, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Hi Barbara, I was commenting on the references made by Dr. Woods at the forum. I guess putting my response in the middle of your State Tax Props discussion does make what I said a bit confusing. Thanks, P:) Hi Kevin, Thanks for your continued support always, P:)
Bill A. Weaver October 25, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Gary Woods, or the Dr. who can't keep his facts straight, or correct... offers up doctored (truncated/intentionally altered) GUHSD enrollment charts, that skew what is factual. How do we differentiate between the smoke and mirrors he referred to up in Sacramento, as compared with this GUHSD Bd majority, whom are outright dishonest as they play their own shell game with the Prop H and U fund and projects? Asst. Supt. Scott Patterson has an official opinion by the GUHSD legal council that refute as fact what Gary Woods said Monday night. The legal opinion was offered up to them by their San Francisco council, openly admitted and discussed during an open regular meeting. It was a video taped admission, and in public record it fully explains that their Legal Council says the 23,245 enrollment trigger is not legally binding, So woods really is (again) twisting facts to say they cannot legally begin to build the HS12 because the trigger 23,245 exists. Woods knows otherwise. Besides, the trigger has been met, and they hired the lease-lease back contractor, in Eric Hall and Associates, to build it! All moot, this board is bent to not move forward on the only bond project that is actually predicted to bring in new students and millions in new funds. Incumbent majority bd. members Jim Kelly, Rob Shield and candidate Gary Woods are sadly hurting all our kids by their deceitful twisting of facts.
David B Secor October 25, 2012 at 05:10 AM
A new high school in Alpine most certainly should already be under construction. The Grossmont district's theft of that dedicated money is just that - theft. Zach Miller and Bill Weaver are right in supporting Prop 30. Even an old-timer like myself will not have students, our future, suffer while we taxpayers pay $50,000/year to house each state prisoner.
Fred Robson October 25, 2012 at 05:16 AM
Maybe instead of renovating the district office at Grossmont, they should have closed Santana HS, split those students between other LOCAL campuses and then built a school in Alpine so those students don't have to drive for miles and then moved the district office to the Santana Campus and the "former district building" be converted back to classrooms for Grossmont.
Priscilla Schreiber October 25, 2012 at 11:24 AM
The possibility of turning Santana into a magnet school at one time, was a thought, but any thinking outside the box was not going to happen with this board. There answer was to change the boundaries and shuffle students to declining enrollment campuses instead of bringing in more students to the district, thus supporting their ongoing effort to deny Alpine/BV their school. We have functional capacity designated for each campus and making the district office, additional classrooms, would exceed Grossmont's capacity. Your suggestion would require having thoughtful discussions before millions of dollars were expended at each campus. This board majority is only there to occupy seats, not to have meaningful conversations.
Priscilla Schreiber October 25, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Mr. Secor, you've just stated the obvious, the system is broken. Taxing without any substantial structural reform is precisely why people who support education are reluctant to support more taxes. If the State legislator's two top constitutional responsibilities are to balance the budget and fund Prop 98 at 40% for education, and can't do that right, why would we trust them with another band-aide approach?
Barbara October 25, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Again, not all bonds and Propositions are equal. If you are truly FOR improving educational improvements, support LOCAL propositions, The State's Educational Bureaucracy has entrenched themselves comfortably, and take advantage of every opportunity to use our children as pawns to gain more money and more control for their own purposes. Let's continue to develop strong, local efforts to do what it takes to improve our own local schools. If we count on the folks at the State level to be our knights in shiny armour, we will be sadly disappointed yet again. Again and again, voters prove they care about education as a priority, and again and again, the thieves at the State level use that concern to fund their own special interests. We have a Bullet Train no one wants while our students squeeze into crowded classrooms and teachers are out of jobs. It's past time to stop that. Should the Alpine School be built? I don't know. Are the funds are really there? Can we trust the enrollment figures? Do plans include operating costs, maintenance, and other associated commitments?
Barbara October 25, 2012 at 03:13 PM
If there ARE only 850 students who would attend this school locally, spending some $80+ million to build a school seems to be an unreasonable burden on the students in the rest of the district. If there are truly enough students, and the money is there, and the school makes sense, by all means, let's build it. It's easy to make promises with other people's money. But we are talking about students in the ENTIRE district, we have to keep that in our mind, as well. Ms. Schreiber mentioned during the Forum she felt the Board was not presented with a full and accurate budget prior to the construction of the current upgrades and rebuilding. We need to be vigilant Watchdogs of the funds that are being spent on these projects.
Bill A. Weaver October 25, 2012 at 09:45 PM
OMG, Barbara, I respect you, but do some more homework! There are over 1200 students, with predicted new students and district growth attracted by an HS12 there would likely be soon 22600 or more... that is why Steele Canyon is busting out of its designed for 1800 student capacity, with its current 2400, and a waiting list to get in! More silly Granite Hills HS is over crowded, unsafe because of overcrowding (Prop H was dubbed,"The Overcrowding & Safety Measure") and the whole "Boundary Study" was recommended by the BAC {June 14, 2007} report to prevent the crazy shuffling around of students that the Board just got in hot water over. It was meant to reduce GHHS overcrowding, and unsafe student commutes, Steele Canyon Charter HS included. Almost 700 Alpine/Blossom Valley students go to GHHS, 340 go to Steele Canyon. Both are overcrowded and unsafely impacted, student body and education suffers at both by sheer mass of students per campus. The Prop H CBOC was owned by Jim Kelly, the Prop U CBOC, better, but intimidated by the GUHSD bureaucracy and the administration BS as spin and excuses are shoveled out. Yes we need watchdogs... that would be you, me, the public, Zach, others. The CBOC is part of the ineffective bureaucracy, that is why I shudder when I hear, "Strict Oversite" or supervision, that cannot exist under the current system.
Bill A. Weaver October 25, 2012 at 09:54 PM
PS... A PowerPoint was rolled out by Previous Supt. Bob Collins, he recommended only 800 students, it was bad then, still bad now. But it has a History, there were reasons. Based on a bad, incorrect, Jim Kelly bought and paid for 5 year student population study, that erroneously left out entire zip code areas of population that would / should attend a new 12th HS. That would be around 1600, and likely more. Ask GUHSD Professional Demographer Vince O'Hara about Steele Canyon HS growth. New students came out of the wood works to attend! Outside the district they came, address borrowing, moving, commuting from SDUSD, etc : )
David B Secor October 26, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Ladies - To argue that a new Alpine High School would lack sufficient students is disingenuous at best. Mr. Weaver is correct. Your use of the 850 number, which you either must know is not close to accurate, or, if you don't know it's inaccurate - in either case, since your argument is based on that number your conclusions, by definition, can be of little probative value. I also agree a new high school in Alpine would be very attractive to parents and students, and fill up very quickly. We must not continually increase the pressures on teachers and the kids because current state revenues are down. Yes, economic times are tough. Like a parent with little food in the house, I would not starve my child so that I could remain comfortable. Those, and there are many, who see taxes only as theft should understand many believe Prop 30 is not theft, but an investment in the children that we must make. Will every dime go where it's supposed to? That depends. If the people who control the GUHSD board and those funds are the same people who controlled them when funds were earlier dedicated for an Alpine High School, that's a very good question.
Barbara October 26, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Hi, Bill, I used that figure because it was the extreme low end of the numbers being tossed around. And if that were the figure, of course it wouldn't make sense to build something that large. As you and I both have observed, estimates vary wildly. We need to make an accurate accounting and make sure we serve the needs of all the students in the District. Why this is still being debated at this point, is very telling. Let's get in, take an accounting and start getting things accomplished.
Bill Weaver November 07, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Congratulations to our re-elected GUHSD top vote getting incumbent Priscilla Schreiber, and our very welcome new Board Trustee Jim Stieringer!
Bill A. Weaver November 07, 2012 at 06:22 PM
A MINDFUL POINT OF ORDER: I qoute the Patch, "Stieringer, also responding to a Patch query, noted that he had expressed strong support for the construction of a high school in Alpine. And he said he respected differences among the current board members, “all of whom have my highest respect. I applaud their positive action in having procured the site for the proposed school.” But he said he found it distressing that district Superintendent Ralf Swenson has “arbitrarily withdrawn the building plans submitted to the State Architect [Office]. If that allegation turns out to be true, I am certain that all five board members will demand to know why that was done.” If elected, he said, “I would make engendering collegiality my first priority. As part of that effort I would make every effort to convince my new colleagues that we should promptly move toward construction of the voter-approved school. Weaver told Patch that even though “my opinions are cause to be suspect” because he is a school board candidate, “I respond because history makes the case strong that this GUHSD board majority is disingenuous to their mission of governing to the needs of the high school district, as best served.” He said he was tired of false hope and asserted that the current board has “lied, twisted truth and created delays that should have succeeded long ago to accomplish their goal—kill the HS12 project.” THE VOTERS HAVE SPOKEN, AGAIN!
alvinaruby December 19, 2012 at 06:40 AM
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