Third hearing on GUHSD redistricting held in Alpine
The San Diego County Board of Education sat at Joan MacQueen Middle School Gymnasium to conduct a Public Hearing on the Proposed Change o Election System and Establishment of Trustee Areas for the Governing Board of the Grossmont High School District. The meeting was called to order just after 6 p.m.
This hearing is the third hearing, of six hearings, to take place to hear public comment on the Grossmont Union High School District’s request for redistricting. On February 10, 2016, a resolution of the GUHSD governing board to initiate the process of implementing trustee area elections was transmitted to the County Board of Education, acting as the County Committee on School District Organization. On March 9, 2016 a resolution of that Governing Board approving trustee areas to be used to implement by-trustee-area elections was transmitted to the County Committee. The six hearings that are in process are in accordance with guidelines approved by the County Committee. It is anticipated that the county committee will approve or disapprove and proposed change of election system and trustee areas at its regular meeting to be held on April 13, 2016.
Per the Resolution No. (2016-21) Recitals, item 8.: On or about November 18, 2015, the District received a letter contending that the District’s at-large electoral system violates the Act, and threatening litigation if the District declined to adopt by-trustee area elections for use in November 2016 and there after; and 9.: Though the letter was not accompanied by any evidence to support the claim of a violation, and in fact contained several demonstrably false statements about the demographics of the District, the Board of Trustees nevertheless concluded that the public interest would be better served by avoiding the expense of unnecessary litigation;
This above statement seems to be the instigation of the redistricting of the Grossmont Union High School board of trustees. This action also weakens voter authority for board members at the upcoming election by creating an election where one may not vote for the whole board, but only for the trustee of area.
The attendees of the meeting were asked to fill out speaker cards, and their comments were to be kept to less than two minutes. Superintendent of GUHSD Ralf Swenson warned the sitting board that they would hear a lot of emotional rhetoric that had nothing to do with the proceedings, he then introduced his spokesperson to explain why the district must redistrict. At that time, he walked away from the podium and stood at the back and proceeded to pay attention to his cell phone.
This whole process is to initiate a change in the way school board members are elected has been proposed by GUHSD governing board. A change in the election system would affect the way Alpine, and other communities are represented on the school district’s governing board for years to come. Under the new election system, the district would be divided into geographic areas, and one board member living in each area would be elected by the voters who live in that area.
As of this publication there will only be one hearing left on April 11, 2016 at 6 p.m. at the Lakeside union School District Administration Center at 12335 Woodside Avenue, Lakeside.
The proposed redistricting will create geographic areas of representation that can not be properly served by the indicated board members. The districting map that is to be adopted creates an area, labeled Area 5: that encompasses part of El Cajon, part of Lakeside, Jamul, Crest, Harbison Canyon, Alpine, Viejas, to be represented by Jim Kelly. The area of his proposed district is geographically huge. This map also encompasses Area 4: Winter Gardens, Eucalyptus Hills, Santee, and West Hills given to Robert Shield and Priscilla Schreiber. The doubling of representation in Area 4 creates the opportunity to delete either Shield or Schreiber. Area 1 on the districting map includes Lemon Grove and Spring Valley, and currently doesn’t have a resident representative. (see map) This redistricting issue comes just before Alpine’s court hearing on April 11, 2016.
During the public session George Barnett addressed the committee and said that the attempted redistricting smacked of gerrymandering to delete Alpine’s only supporting board member, Priscilla Schreiber at a crucial time for Alpine.
Mark Price commented that placing Jim Kelly as Alpine’s board representative is akin to putting the ‘fox in charge of the hen house.”
Mike Fowler said that the funds spent on litigation would be better spent on the students.
Sal Cassamassima told the committee to “Do the right thing and hold this off and let the voters decide.”
Nick Morenovich, came to Alpine three years ago, from the South County. He was appalled that he was facing the same behavior in GUHSD as he was in the Sweetwater board. He said, “Do the right thing and say no to this baloney.”
Chris Laurie said that the timing of this thing has a horrible outcome. He said, “With Mr. Kelly representing us, my rights are being stampeded.” Laurie also said that Kelly referred to Alpine as a few activists. He said, “A petition of over 3,000 signers is not a few activists, that is a whole community.”
Robert Shield was the last speaker to speak and introduced himself to the committee by saying, “Welcome to my world.” He said that he had been sitting on the GUHSD board for nine years and in the last election he was the winning candidate in Alpine. He said that GUHSD was not redistricting because they wanted to, but because they had to. He also pleaded with the committee to ‘look past the emotion and the irrelevant rhetoric’ of Alpine when they make their decision.
Mark Anderson, Board of Education member for District 4, said “We do not tell school boards what to do. We make sure they are within the law—We make sure the I’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.” He also dismissed the idea that the BOE would dismiss the emotion and passion that was presented at the hearing. He said, “The passion wouldn’t be there unless there was something to create the passion.” He recommended that the community involve the state representatives, and the state senate representative. He said that these are powerful people who are there to serve you.
Guadalupe Gonzalez, BOE member, District 2, said that they have expanded the meetings to hear from the people.
Alicia Munoz said, “I don’t find the passion troubling. We’ve listened to you very carefully, we are going to take all your concerns into account.”
The hearing closed at 7:05 p.m.