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Guest editorial: Use bond money for Alpine school

Posted: December 25th, 2015 | Editorial, Featured, Guest Editorial, Opinion | No Comments

By Jim Stieringer

I’m pleased that the La Mesa Courier is covering the Alpine High School controversy [Volume 5, Issue 11 or lamesacourier.com/schoolyard-fight].

I was elected to the Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) Governing Board in 2012. I had earlier served 18 years as a member of the Grossmont Healthcare District Board from 1992 to 2010.

In 2008, prior to my election in 2012, the East County voters had passed, by the slimmest of margins, Proposition U, a $417 general obligation bond issue that included many projects including the new high school in Alpine and Blossom Valley.
Along with Trustee Priscilla Schreiber, I am part of a 3-to-2 minority that favors the immediate commencement of construction. The board majority (President Rob Shield, Jim Kelly and Gary Woods) argues that the current student population no longer supports the construction, although both Shield and Kelly are on record that they support the eventual construction of the school.

The proposition specified that the school could be built only after districtwide enrollment at the existing comprehensive high school sites “equals or exceeds 23,245 according to the California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS) data.”

In February 2011, the board directed that specific actions be taken for the construction of a 12th high school. Those actions included, but were not limited to:

––Continuing with property acquisition.
––Escrowing the necessary Prop U funds
––Authorizing the preparation of site and building packages for phase 1 building plans.

On July 14, 2011, the board adopted Resolution Number 2012-05 that specifically acknowledged that the enrollment threshold set forth in Prop U was met in 2010-11. The district’s enrollment has since declined below that threshold.

A proposed building site at 3148 Alpine Boulevard was purchased at a cost of $15,574,956, and has been subsequently approved and permitted by applicable local, state and federal regulatory bodies.

Sufficient Prop U funds remain available, thanks in part to a ruling by Superior Court Judge Joel Pressman that the district set aside an additional $42 million for construction costs for the project in case the courts later rule that the school must be built.

A group called Alpine Union School District and Alpine Taxpayers for Bond Accountability is waging a two-pronged attack against the GUHSD. They have petitioned to declare the Alpine District a unified district that will include a high school. Their request has been approved by the San Diego County Board of Education and forwarded to the State Board of Education where it awaits a decision. Supervisor Dianne Jacob has enthusiastically supported Alpine’s unification and spoke publicly at one of the three public hearings. And they have filed a lawsuit in Superior Court asking the court to forbid GUHSD from spending additional bond money until the high school is built.

Ironically, the board majority has criticized Schreiber and myself for wasting taxpayer money for supporting a “frivolous lawsuit.” I would argue that the real waste is the expenditure of nearly $2 million fighting a lawsuit to build a school that the board majority has indicated that it will eventually support. For the record, both Schreiber and I have voted against spending additional money on the lawsuit.

––Jim Stieringer is a member of the governing board of the Grossmont Union High School District. Write to him at stieringer@cox.net.

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