Will the Grossmont Union High School District finally build a long-sought high school in Alpine?
At the request of new trustee Jim Stieringer, the school board is set to discuss the path to construction at its meeting Wednesday, Feb. 13.
An “action item” on the agenda [attached as PDF] says: “Adoption of Resolution (2013-32) Regarding the Submittal of Building Plans for the 12th High School.”
Such a school for the Alpine/Blossom Valley area was telegraphed in voter-approved Proposition H in 2004 and Proposition U in 2008.
Stieringer, a former La Mesa city treasurer and Grossmont Healthcare District director, had promised at an October debate that “if I get elected, I’ll check and find out if there’s enough money left in that bond to do exactly that [build the Alpine school].”
But Bill Weaver—a longtime Alpine high school advocate who lost a November bid for the Grossmont school board—isn’t so sure about the board item.
Neither is Sal Casamassima of the Alpine High School Citizens Committee, who called the item “a meaningless gesture.”
The agenda item, Weaver said via email Friday, “means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for anyone expecting the GUHSD to fulfill its Prop. H and U promise for a 12th HS. It is placating BS.
“Jim Stieringer has agenda-ized a resolution proposal to resubmit the 12th high school plans to the state, the Department of State Architects for plan review finalization.”
Weaver called this effort a “debauchery,” saying plans were submitted “way back” and that “all plan review fees were paid as required, up front.”
He asserts that last summer, district Superintendent Ralf Swenson—“under marching orders” from then board President Rober Shield—“pulled the plans back from DSA, stopping the plan review process.”
Weaver says the revocation was done in defiance of a 5-0 board vote, but contends there was no board vote to pull the plans.
The board “backdoored a retro-approval of the revocation action at the very last board meeting” when defeated incumbent Gary Woods was still seated.
Weaver said a grand jury investigating the district should be notified.
He concluded: “I personally am done working with [this] group of crooks” and said the “entire GUHSD administrative staff and the superintendent [should be investigated] for their mishandling and mismanaging of bond funds.”
Informed of Weaver’s doubts, Stieringer on Saturday praised Weaver as “a strong advocate for building the proposed high school for the residents of Alpine.”
“Bill and I agree that Proposition U included the high school,” Stieringer said Saturday via email. “We also agree that a local high school is necessary to obviate a 20-mile daily round trip to Granite Hills High School and Steele Canyon [Charter] High School, both of which are the nearest schools to the students’ homes.”
Stieringer said the agenda item, if passed, would “simply reaffirm the board’s intent to comply with the voters' wishes.”
(The 6 p.m. board meeting Wednesday is at the East County Regional Education Center, 924 E. Main St. in El Cajon.)
The agenda item stipulates that the district would proceed with the planning and construction “if the community rejects unification of the Alpine School District (a movement supported by Mr. Weaver and others) that would effectively remove the Alpine community from the Grossmont Union High School District.”
Stieringer framed the issue as a way of saving taxpayers money. If an Alpine Unified School District were to be formed, he said, the school would entail an added expense for its residents.
“I could never justify obligating our local property taxpayers for the cost of constructing a school for another district,” Stieringer said. “I find it interesting to note that in 2002 the Alpine [Union School] District rejected a $25 million bond issue that would have provided local property tax funds to build the school subject to district unification.”
Stieringer said he strongly disagreed with Weaver’s characterization of the Grossmont board and Superintendent Swenson.
“Although three of my colleagues have expressed reservations about the need for the new school, I find that those board members’ concerns are engendered solely by economic and student population considerations rather than by ‘dishonesty’ as alleged by Mr. Weaver,” Stieringer said.
“In my brief 90 days as a governing board member, I have been impressed by my colleagues’ integrity, thoroughness and genuine concern for the district and its students.”
Meanwhile, Casamassima of the Alpine High School Citizens Committee reported Saturday that his group was not asked for its reaction to the proposed resolution on Tuesday’s agenda.
“However, my understanding of the resolution is that it will authorize the filing of the 12th high school plans with DSA provided the Alpine school district withdraws its plans for unification.”
Casamassima said the K-8 Alpine school district is not the petitioner for unification.
“A petition for unification is required to be filed and brought forward by individual private citizens and not the local school board,” he said. “The AHSCC is providing coordination for the unification petition effort.”
He joined Weaver in calling the filing of the plans with DSA “a meaningless gesture. Those plans were filed last April pursuant to a July 2011 board resolution and they were improperly withdrawn from DSA by the superintendent without board approval.”
Casamassima, responding to a Patch query, added via email:
“Now they are making the nonsensical proposal to refile those plans provided the Alpine unification is halted. There is no promise or commitment to build the school and, in fact, the 2011 resolution stipulated that the GUHSD board would not even consider going forward with school construction until state [Average Daily Attendance] funding levels were restored to what they were in 2008—something that will never happen.
“Hence, that resolution effectively killed the high school.”
He said the position of the high school committee he chairs and unification petitioners is clear.
“We are proceeding with our unification effort and signature petition drive,” he said. “If the GUHSD board wishes to see a halt to unification, there is one clear step it can take—build the Alpine high school.
“Until the doors of the Alpine high school are opened, the unification effort will continue.”