Jim Kelly isn’t up for re-election until 2014, but he attacked current school board candidate Priscilla Schreiber this week for what he called “cheap political tricks and needless controversy”—her assertion that the Grossmont Union High School District is subject of a Grand Jury investigation.
“It is time to answer these misleading, politically motivated attacks,” Kelly said in an Oct. 30 letter posted on East County Magazine.
His response was posted 17 days after Schreiber said the district was under scrutiny for board actions involving bond money first promised for a new Alpine high school.
In an 860-word letter, Kelly accused Schreiber, who is up for re-election Tuesday, of “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.”
Kelly said the Alpine high school wasn’t built because of “massive cuts in education funding,” which would keep the district short of funds to operate a new school “without laying off dozens of classroom teachers and increasing class size.”
He also argued that “building a new school in a time declining student enrollment would be a violation of the intent of [Proposition] U. Currently, there is no need to build a new high school. Overcrowding is no longer an issue.”
Finally, he wrote, building and operating a new school would hurt existing schools and especially Steele Canyon and Helix charter high schools.
“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,” Kelly wrote.
Kelly said Schrieber was backed by a “handful of community agitators.”
He said Alpine high school advocate and board candidate Bill Weaver was a close ally of hers—but that neither “even hinted” in their ballot statements that they support a 12th school in the district.
“This is an acknowledgement that their position is not popular with East County voters,” Kelly wrote. “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,” he said without specifying who they should vote for.
But at least one candidate—Barbara Stevens—has joined Kelly in criticizing Schreiber, who told East County Magazine that Proposition H and U funds were “only supposed to be used to improve facilities with 16,000-square-foot multi-purpose facilities. But our staff inflated that into these performing art centers with 35,000 square feet.”
Schreiber told the online site this would have inflated costs by $40 million.
“I stopped the process, but Helix got through,” she said Oct. 13, referring to a $15.2 million, 34,194-square-foot performing arts project on the La Mesa campus, arguing that that the board never approved the spending. “Now, Grossmont wants one.”
In an Oct. 14 comment on her Facebook page, however, Stevens accused Schreiber of having a short memory and “must have forgotten her own involvement in not only the way money was spent on projects, but her own involvement in terms of actually voting to approve these projects.”
“The decision process for replacing the old Helix theater and associated classrooms was not some surprise project that ‘slipped through’ under the radar as Ms. Schreiber would like to say now.”
And as far as “where has the Alpine school money has gone?” Ms. Schreiber has had a hand in that, as well. Starting with the hiring of a program manager in 2007 under the guidance of a Bond Advisory Committee formed under the leadership of Ms. Priscilla Schreiber and then board President Larry Urdahl.
With those decisions how much has the Program Manager cost the district? Then to hand a $11 million no-bid contract to this very same company with no competition, and if my memory serves me correctly wasn’t there a U-T Watchdog article regarding Ms. Schreiber and this exact same program manager?
Stevens wrote of the Schreiber accusations: “This is exactly why I decided to run for the Grossmont Union High School Board! It’s time for board reform in the Grossmont District! We need to start focusing on the real needs the entire student population within our district and not just one community. The board needs to stop using this district for their own personal political gains and start focusing on student education!”
The Oct. 13 East County Magazine report said Schreiber learned of the probe “by accident” while in the district’s office.
The report said “multiple sources” confirmed the investigation, although only one was cited and such investigations are never publicly revealed.
Another leading candidate for the Grossmont school board is former Grossmont Healthcare District board member Jim Stieringer, who said he supports an Alpine high school.
On his campaign website, Stieringer said: “The new school will provide many benefits to our communities, not the least of which is obviating the time and resources our students waste while conducting their daily commute on Interstate 8.”
Other candidates for the two seats are one-term incumbent Gary Woods and Zach Miller, a 19-year-old junior at San Diego State.