It only took us six months to find out what the last Superintendent was paid in 2016. It’s a shocker!

January 9, 2018 It only took us six months but we finally found out what the last Superintendent was actually paid in 2016. It’s a shocker!

In 2015, The San Diego Union Tribune commented  on Dr. Justin Cunningham’s Superintendent’s salary, benefits and pension ($191,000 for overseeing a small school district) in an article entitled “Some superintendent salaries rising to the extreme.” Here’s the snippet from the article:

Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 12.07.49 PM.png

Superintendent Justin Cunningham signed a 3 year contract in 2015 for approximately $170k plus benefits. In 2016, the Board approved raises for staff, increasing the Superintendent’s base pay to $178k. However TransparentCalifornia reveals Superintendent Cunningham’s salaries and benefits were a shocking $281k in 2016, more than the Governor of California!

It took SaveGirdValley.com six months and dozens of emails to BUSD to finally see the correct figures for 2016 being posted to TransparentCalifornia. Cunningham retired in 2017, saying he had a bad knee. His pension will be based on this very high salary.  The Village News has reported Cunningham’s taxpayer-funded pension will be 80 to 85% of his salary. This is interesting since County employees only receive 40.5% of their salaries.

How did this happen? That’s a good question.

Fallbrook Community Planning Group (FCPG) comments on proposed high school in Gird Valley

MAR 20, 2018 Fallbrook Community Planning Group (FCPG) comments on proposed high school in Gird Valley

Gird Valley neighbors attended the Fallbrook Community Planning Group’s March meeting (Agenda, Item 5 ) to engage in discussion on the Draft EIR for Bonsall Unified School District’s proposal to build a 1,500-student high school in Gird Valley in Fallbrook. Thank you to those who spoke and shared concerns regarding the very large project creating a massive increase in traffic, parking problems and accidents while pointing out that the proposed site is not centrally located within the Bonsall Unified School District.

Planning Committee Vice-Chairman Jack Wood noted that endangered species were found on the property, detailed how the property had been declared surplus and was to be sold when Fallbrook High School owned it, that it had been declared not suitable for a high school. He noted that the FCPG requires that we “don’t disrupt the natural terrain of the land, this is absolutely contrary to that.” Commenting on  the undulation of the property, he questioned the volume of cubic yards of land that would have to be removed. He had concerns about the “undulation of that property, the inadequacy of the parking,” noting that the school was being built to a 1,500 student population. “That location would clearly disrupt Gird Valley and would create traffic that is far in excess of what you have there today.” “There are a number of reasons why this property is not suitable for a school. This would create, with the current zoning, 2-acre lots, this would create about 17 to 18 houses on that particular property and that would be my recommendation. So based on the interest of saving the Gird Valley from the unwanted traffic and congestion, I strongly oppose the development of a high school on this location.”

Planning Committee Chairman Jim Russell stated,I think a major egregious error in this EIR is the fact that the property is not centrally located where a high school should be so folks can feed in from all around. This is the very extreme edge of the school district,” “on the very extreme edge, the northern edge, of the district and in my opinion is not an appropriate place for a high school.” Russell stated BUSD understated parking needs for students, staff, “they will have parking for less than 10% of the student body.” “I think [this development] would totally devastate Gird Valley with all the students trying to park out on Gird Road and I seriously question the logic of the folks who put those numbers in the EIR and think that is an appropriate thing to do.”

Comments submitted re: Draft EIR for BUSD school proposal

MAR 22, 2018 Comments submitted re: Draft EIR for BUSD school proposal

Whew! We did it! Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD) set a short 45-day public comment period on its proposal to build a 1,500 high school in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley.

Lots of praise for the staff at environmental attorney Kevin Johnson’s office. They did an amazing job. A Big Thank You to everyone who shared information and supported the work on these comments!  You’ll want to read them!

Highlights include:

The proposed high school will generate an additional 2,700 vehicle trips per day, a whopping 73% increase in traffic in Gird Valley.  Gird Road currently experiences accident rates far higher than the statewide average of 1.32 per million vehicle miles: 2.36 from the 76 to south of Oak Cliff Drive and 1.90 to the north of Oak Cliff Drive to Reche Road. Accidents will increase along with the additional traffic. School-related traffic, accidents and parking problems are district wide problem yet BUSD has made no effort to establish a carpool program to address this huge negative.

Before beginning its required biological assessment of the flora and fauna on the proposed site, BUSD used 600 goats (with sheepdogs), plus mechanical methods, to clear its 50 acres on Gird Road. It also strung barbed wire fencing around the site, a barrier to wildlife movement. In spite of this effort to denude and isolate the property, endangered species were found on the site (burrowing owl burrows, nesting least Bell’s vireo, kangaroo rats, pocket mice) and a mountain lion was recently spotted nearby. The property has over 16 acres of federally-designated critical habitat for the arroyo toad but BUSD’s Draft EIR ignored the fact that a federal biologist had found an arroyo toad on adjacent land.

Per the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services’ Know Your Hazards mapping tool, Gird Road is in a VERY HIGH WILDFIRE HAZARD LEVEL zone (7350 W. Lilac Road, where the current BUSD high school is located, is rated MODERATE) and Gird Valley has been evacuated twice in the last decade. Fires in 2017 ran just south of the proposed school property on Gird Road yet BUSD includes only one entrance/exit in its proposed high school design. Please read the letter from the Fire Chief on why this is a terrible idea and why this huge project must have at least two entrances/exits! School children’s safety is non-negotiable!

Fallbrook Community Planning Group (FCPG) commented on the Draft EIR after discussing it at a public meeting on March 19 (see transcribed comments below in March 20 posting) where Vice Chair Jack Wood stated,  “There are a number of reasons why this property is not suitable for a school.I strongly oppose the development of a high school on this location.” Chairman Jim Russell noted BUSD greatly understated the parking needs, stating, They will have parking for less than 10% of the student body… I think [this development] would totally devastate Gird Valley with all the students trying to park out on Gird Road and I seriously question the logic of the folks who put those numbers in the EIR and think that is an appropriate thing to do.” … I think a major egregious error in this EIR is the fact that the property is not centrally located where a high school should be so folks can feed in from all around. This is the very extreme edge of the school district,” “on the very extreme edge, the northern edge, of the district and in my opinion is not an appropriate place for a high school.”

You’ll want to know more so read all about it!

Endangered Habitats League (EHL) submits comments 

MAR 26, 2018 Endangered Habitats League (EHL) submits comments 

Endangered Habitats League (EHL) submitted comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for Bonsall Unified School District’s proposal for a huge 1,500-student school north of the 76, at the southern end of Gird Valley.

EHL stated:

“…the consulting biologist did not conduct protocol level surveys as requested by USFWS/CDFW for the arroyo toad or focused/protocol level surveys for gnatcatchers.”

…the proposed development is in conflict with San Diego County’s Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) and its San Luis Rey River Park Plan.

The DEIR may have used an improper baseline in connection with biological impacts. It is our understanding that before biological surveys were conducted, the district cleared the property by using goats which likely removed sensitive plant species and impacted sensitive animal habitat. This issue should be candidly addressed in the DEIR and biological reports and the appropriate baseline should be employed. The project site’s pre-clearing status should have been used to assess biological impacts and mitigation and avoidance strategies. An applicant cannot avoid the environmental review process by preemptively clearing the property of all environmental sensitivity.” 

Read all the comments here!

What happened? 

APR 12, 2018 What happened? 

Thanks to everyone who showed up! Jason List of Urban Futures presented results of a telephone survey of 400 district voters. Yes, the answers went a little shaky when the Gird Valley site came up. With mixed results and controversy in the community over the site, Mr. List urged the board to not move forward with a bond but to do more outreach. The Board listened and heard from audience members who felt those opposed to a huge high school in Gird Valley were “selfish” and those who felt historical Gird Valley is worth saving from such a huge development (especially when a school on that site has been rejected five times at the ballot box).

Others felt Bonsall should build its high school in the center of the district in Bonsall (as it was told to do so by the State and the County during its unification process), not at the northernmost edge of the district in Fallbrook. Several speakers worried that the Sullivan Campus in Bonsall (located in a moderate wildfire hazard zone) was dangerous but were pushing for building on Gird Road (located in a very high wildfire hazard zone). Brian Olson noted that BUSD has presented a proposal for Gird Valley, a school for 1,500 students plus staff, that has only one exit/entrance, a point that is non negotiable for the community wherever the school will be built. Teresa Platt of SaveGirdValley.com noted that a Fire Chief’s letter supporting two exits/entrances had been submitted during the EIR comment period. Traffic concerns came up over and over and over again. A 1,500-student school on Gird Road will generate a 73% increase in traffic and traffic is a concern on West Lilac and at all the BUSD schools but BUSD has made absolutely no effort to be a good neighbor and reduce its traffic, district-side, through the adoption of a carpool app. Teresa Platt of SaveGirdValley.com researched available carpool apps, recommended one and committed $1,000 toward this project. That was June of 2017. As of April 2018, BUSD has done nothing to advance the effort to reduce the negatives of its out-of-control traffic. Community engagement came up but BUSD does not archive recordings of its meetings online so it’s impossible for district residents to really learn about the issues. BUSD’s Board called a break then returned and deviated from its stated objective on Agenda Item 9.2, “Board Discussion and Approval of Building New Bonsall High School Campus at Gird Road Site”. Instead it voted to “affirm” the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee’s Site Report (not included in the Agenda) stating Gird is the best site for a high school and to educate the public on why. Here’s our analysis of that report [direct link: https://bit.ly/2sObxYs] and additional comments (pages 15 and 16) on the inadequacy of such submitted during the Draft Environmental Impact (DEIR) process. Will there be a bond measure in November, Attempt #6 to build a high school on Gird Road? We still don’t know.

BUSD Board Meeting Agenda includes “foot in the door” money: $38M for Attempt #6 to build a huge high school in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley 

APR 24, 2018 BUSD Board Meeting Agenda includes “foot in the door” money: $38M for Attempt #6 to build a huge high school in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley 

The Agenda for Bonsall Unified School District’s (BUSD) April 26 Board Meeting includes one item on which the board members (Timothy Coen, Dick Olson, Eric Ortega, Lou Riddle and Sylvia Tucker) will be voting on a Resolution for a bond measure to be placed on the November 2018 ballot:

EXHIBIT A: “To improve the quality of education; improve safety and security on all campuses; construct a new high school to reduce student overcrowding; renovate/replace track and field structures and facilities; shall Bonsall Unified School District issue $38,000,000 of bonds at legal rates, levy approximately 3.75 cents/$100 assessed value, generating approximately $2,300,000 annually while bonds are outstanding, with annual audits, independent citizens’ oversight, NO money for administrative salaries and all money staying local?”

Developers are circling North County, hoping taxpayers will commit to picking up the tab for building new schools before the County forces them to pay for them directly as part of the required development mitigation. There is no mention in the the Resolution that BUSD desires a huge new high school for 1,500 to be built in Fallbrook but currently has only 328 high school kids housed in an 18,000 building in Bonsall’s core area that was just completed in 2016. No detail on budget for each purpose listed. No mention that it’s simply impossible to build a high school for 1,500 students for $38 million or less. No mention that this is just for Phase I of III for the high school so BUSD will be back for more bond money, more tax money. The actual cost, financing fees included, is about double so budget paying $76 million for Phase I. No mention of Gird Valley but BUSD “affirmed” Gird Valley was the best site for the proposed high school earlier this month and that’s where it has been pushing to build, at the northern edge of the district next door to a golf course/wedding venue, down the street from Monserate Winery, Myrtle Creek Botanical Garden and Live Oak Park. All in Fallbrook. Estimate a 73% increase in traffic from this one Walmart-sized development. Fallbrook Community Planning: Group said the project “would totally devastate Gird Valley” and “…a major egregious error … is the fact that the property is not centrally located where a high school should be so folks can feed in from all around. This is the very extreme edge of the school district, …on the very extreme edge, the northern edge, of the district and .. is not an appropriate place for a high school.”

Take a drive out to Fallbrook’s Gird Valley and see the proposed location soon! If you live to the south, east or west within the Bonsall School District, would you vote to tax yourself $76 million for 30 years to build a third of a high school you’ll never use?  Probably not. 

Update: What happened? 

APR 27, 2018 Update: What happened? 

Last night’s BUSD Special Board Meeting was extended to Friday April 27, 6 PM, The resolution is a 9-page legal document (due at the Registrar of Voters office by August) and there were lots of questions and contentious moments. Some board members wanted it spelled out what the public would get for its debt but others wanted buzz words that poll well to ease passage of Attempt #6 to build a huge brick and mortar high school in Gird Valley.

Others wanted “flexibility” in the wording so they could spend on anything including maintenance work (generally done under the regular budget). Facilities Manager David Medcalf was a supporter  for “flexibility” so BUSD could use bond dollars as cash in the bank for matching funds for maintenance grants, indicating BUSD’s cash and reserves (legally set at 3%) are running dangerously low. Is BUSD attempting to borrow for cash flow reasons, and secure that debt to homes in the district, while attempting to build a portion of a high school for large scale developers who have not yet cleared the planning department because their proposed mega projects are in conflict with the County’s General Plan? That’s a real stretch and the tension was obvious at last night’s meeting.