Updated at 12:59 p.m. Oct. 15, 2012
A dissident school board member says the San Diego County Grand Jury is investigating the Grossmont Union High School District over accusations that voter-approved bond money has been steered away from a promised new Alpine high school.
The school—a 12th campus in the district—was never built, leading to a community effort to break away from the school district.
East County Magazine quoted board trustee Priscilla Schreiber as saying 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, who is up for re-election in November, told the online site this would have inflated costs by $40 million.
“I stopped the process, but Helix got through,” she said, 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.”
The report by East County Magazine editor Miriam Raftery was posted Saturday and said Schreiber learned of the probe “by accident” while in the district’s office.
Raftery said “multiple sources” confirmed the investigation, although only one was cited and such investigations are never publicly revealed.
East County Magazine said a spokesman for East County Supervisor Dianne Jacob could neither confirm nor deny if she has been in contact with the Grand Jury on the matter.
The site also quoted Doug Deane, past co-chair of the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce Education Committee and chair of the GUHSD Boundary Committee.
“The Grand Jury investigation into the use of bond money by the GUHSD does not surprise me,” Deane is quoted as saying. “I believe that the GUHSD board has been at the very least irresponsible, and at worst negligent, in their use of Prop. U bond money.”
Schreiber has been critical of actions taken by the Grossmont school board majority of Gary Woods and Robert Shields of La Mesa and Jim Kelly of Santee. The fifth member is Dick Hoy of La Mesa.
Woods, along with Schreiber, faces challenges from four other candidates in the Nov. 6 election—former Grossmont Healthcare District board member Jim Stieringer, Alpine high school advocate Bill Weaver, writer Barbara Stevens and SDSU junior Zach Miller.
Weaver has been involved in an effort to form an Alpine Unified School District, effectively removing students from the Grossmont district.
Mark Price, a member of the Alpine Union School District board since 2000, told Patch: “The Grand Jury investigation couldn't be happening to a more deserving district.”
Sal Casamassima, chairman of the Alpine High School Citizens Committee, said neither he nor his group had a comment on the reputed investigation.
“But from my point of view, all of [the report’s specific] comments are spot on and accurate,” Casamassima told Patch via email. “There is no need to respond to an article that was excellently written and exposes what is really going on within the Grossmont district.”
He said the district unification effort continues to gather petition signatures.
“We are approaching the halfway point with the number of signatures that are needed to file our petition with the San Diego County Board of Education and the signature effort will be our primary focus for the next several weeks,” he said.
Casamassima said Monday that a community forum on unification will take place after the election—not Oct. 23 as first thought.
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.
He stressed that a Grand Jury investigation is “simply speculative and not confirmed.”
“I am confident that the district’s staff and governing board will do whatever turns out to be the proper action,” he said via email Saturday.
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.”
He shared some documents (attached) about the history of the Alpine high school project.
“We grow weary of the dishonest covert tactics practiced by this board—that pit district bounded communities against other district bounded communities, those greedy folks wanting to build that new high school,” Weaver said via email.
“This board forgets they made the offer, the promise [of an Alpine high school]…. These voters and taxpayers … should be treated as deserving of equal treatment, equal to all the other district constituencies, with local community domiciled HS campuses.”