SaveGirdValley.com needs your help on the Draft EIR related to Attempt #6 to build a huge high school in Gird Valley

 

Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD) released for public comment its Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a huge 1,500-student high school proposed for a site in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley.

The EIR is available for review via  BUSD  or on our SaveGirdValley.com  website.

The public review/comment period began February 5 and continues through March 22, a scant 45 days. That doesn’t give us much time to read, digest, write and submit comments on this massive 1,800-page document.

Required under California law (CEQA), this EIR is part of the process related to Attempt #6 to pass a bond to build a Walmart-sized school at the southern end of Gird Valley.

Meanwhile, at the same time this EIR is out for comment, BUSD (with 328 students housed in a brand new high school located at the Sullivan Campus in Bonsall) is calling 400 votersin the BUSD school district to see if they support building a new high school for 1,500 in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley.

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BUSD to survey 400 district voters in effort to justify Attempt #6 to build huge high school in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley

The Bonsall Unified School District’s (BUSD) board  is split 3/2 on moving forward on yet another attempt to build a huge high school in Fallbrook’s Gird Valley. Board members Timothy Coen, Erin English and Lou Riddle have voted as a block in favor of building while Sylvia Tucker and Dick Olson are concerned the small district cannot afford to build a second high school after just completing one in 2016 and that the district faces strong community opposition to building a high school in Gird Valley.
Fallbrook Union High School failed to pass a bond to fund a similar folly four times and BUSD has now failed once (Measure DD, 2016). At BUSD’s board meeting in January, a contract was presented to move a bond forward in 2018, Attempt #6 to build a massive 1,500-student high school in Gird Valley.
Tucker and Olson urged the board to proceed with caution, to start by talking with district residents. As a result, the board approved a telephone survey of 400. 

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BUSD calls special meeting to discuss building plans

SEPT. 27, 2017: As part of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed Gird Road site, BUSD has announced holding a special board meeting on the evening of September 28 to discuss the schematics for building another brand new 1500-student high school and performing arts center. You will want to carefully READ the info on this meeting and, if you can, attend the meeting. BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF THE CEQA WORKSHOP ON SATURDAY.  The BUSD Special Board Meeting on September 28 will start at 5:30 PM and will be held at at BUSD’s brand new  350-student high school in Bonsall 7350 West Lilac Road.

To learn more about the EIR process (under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), please DO ATTEND  a CEQA Workshop  on September 30. This will give us the tools we need to navigate this process. IF YOU CAN ONLY ATTEND ONE OF THESE MEETINGS THIS WEEK, CHOOSE THE CEQA WORKSHOP on September 30! (NOTE: LOCATION HAS BEEN CHANGED TO Harding Community Center, 3096 Harding Street
Carlsbad, CA 92008.)

The proposed location on Gird Road has lost at the ballot box fully five times. BUSD has been deficit spending for the last six years and it projects only 352 students enrolled in its high school by 2019/2020. So why does it keep rolling forward attempting to build this massive development so far north in the school district and so close to Fallbrook High School? Why does it ignore such long term and organized community opposition?

The Board has three members who refuse to commit to another site (Coen, English and Riddle) and two members committed to keeping within budget and finding a site for a high school (long term) in a location the community will support (Olson, Tucker).

If you love North County San Diego and Fallbrook and hate fighting poorly planned development, we need you!

Lest we forget, here’s what they told us in 2012

SEPT. 28, 2017: July 2012: California Department of Education (CDE) analysis notes that “Upon unification, the district’s plan for the high school facility is to convert the existing Sullivan Middle School site into a high school over a 4 year period.  The first year after unification would include 9th graders at the site, the 2nd year after unification would include both 9th and 10th graders, etc., until after 4 years of unification all 4 grades of high school (9 through 12) would be located at the site.  The current enrollment at the middle school is 533 students.  At this time, the site has 10 excess capacity classrooms for additional students if needed. This would provide ample space for the projected enrollment of 513 students for all four grades of high school. In addition, the site has a special education classroom and regional program currently housed on site. (Attachment 6.).”

The County Committee Study reports that the Fallbrook Union HSD has no school sites or facilities within the territory of the Bonsall Union ESD, but owns a 50-acre undeveloped parcel of land (Gird Road property) located in the Bonsall Union ESD. Because the parcel is undeveloped and has never been a school site, this study recommends the districts negotiate the value and disposition of the parcel. (At a meeting December 12, 2011, the Fallbrook Union HSD Board of Trustees declared the Gird Road property surplus.) (attachment 1) …“The board has studied the facilities issue and believes that SMS can house very adequately the small high school that it envisions. We do not want, nor do we need a massive brick and mortar high school that it envisions……Nor do we need fifty acres of dirt to accomplish our mission. …projections indicate that the ongoing state fiscal crisis, declining enrollment, and increases in operating costs have affected Fallbrook Union HSD’s fiscal health but recommends that SBE adopt the Negative Declaration in that there is no substantial evidence that the project (proposed unification) will have a significant effect on the environment. Based on BUSD’s submission, the CDE determines, “The proposed unification action will not result in a significant effect to land use and planning as construction of new facilities on undisturbed land is not proposed. The new parking lot will be located on mowed grass at an existing school. The Continuation School will be located on property that currently houses a fire station. As such, there will be no division of an established community, and no conflict with applicable land use plans. There is no existing habitat conservation or natural community conservation plans that effect either the existing school sites or the fire station site. (page 16)... Parking Facilities will include additional 100 parking spaces are to be located just south of the current parking lot of approximately 100 spaces at Sullivan Middle School. (attachment 9) …”

Site Advisory Committee Report released along with proposed contract with bond experts for another attempt (#6) to pass a bond to build a huge high school in Gird Valley

JAN. 8, 2018 (updated Jan 27, March 7, April 23, 2018): The Agenda for the January 11 BUSD Board Meeting is online and it includes item 9.4, the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee (SAC)  Presentation. Established in November 2017 to review potential high school sites, the SAC met met six times in closed session (observers were not allowed to sit in and there are no public recordings of their meetings). They were told, incorrectly, that the County Office of Education does not offer assistance with such planning. It does. All BUSD had to do was ask.

The report notes that the Committee was presented with eight sites of raw land for use as a high school. Without a five-year plan to guide them, the volunteers started the process with a goal to select a high school site, not to evaluate the needs over the long term.  They did not review any developed properties that could be repurposed. There was no attempt to look at the big picture, such as do we need two middle schools (requiring less acreage) with the high school centrally located (as the County and State advised BUSD during its unification process). SaveGirdValley.com’s Draft Environmental Impact Report comments includes comments on the inadequacy of this process (pages 15, 16).

Keeping to its limited mandate, the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee reviewed and ranked five large sites for building a high school. The other three were reviewed but tossed out and details why were not shared with the public via the ranking system. For example, if the committee thought a site was in a poor location or would be too too costly, a 0 would tell that story. An X would indicate no info. Removal from the entire report communicates nothing. We’ve requested the SAC share the rankings for all eight properties, even ones that got 0s for whatever reason (lack of utilities, topography issues, imagined cost, etc).

After tossing out Sites 1-3 without ranking them, the SAC then ranked the other five sites (Sites 4-8).  Site 8 on Gird Road (located at the north-eastern end of BUSD in a residential area within the County’s Master Plan for the San Luis Rey River Valley, next to one of North County’s golf courses/wedding venues) came in first. Second was Site 5, located on Old River Road, south of the 76, west of Olive Hill. The other sites were all within a few points of Site 5.

The Committee used a weighted ranking system, with points adding up to 100. There are various Rating Factors. For example, Location can receive a total of 15 points. The Ocean Breeze property, located next door to BUSD’s current state-of-the-art High School (completed in 2016), would offer a cost savings from combined services. It received 11 out of 15 points for Location. The Gird Road site, located in Fallbrook (which already has a high school) and would require whole new costs for separate services, received 13 points for Location. The December 2017’s Lilac Fire resulted in evacuation of the Sullivan Middle School Campus in Bonsall, located next to the Ocean Breeze property which lost 2 points as a result for Safety (18 out of 20). But the Gird Road site was not docked any points (scoring 20 out of 20 for Safety) even though the Lilac fire burned just a few hundred yards to the south of the site and Gird Valley was evacuated (for the second time in a decade). Hmmm. It does all make one scratch one’s head.

Public Acceptance for a site triggered only 3 out of a total of 100 points. Considering that the public votes on financing such endeavors at the ballot box and is THE key component to any community school project, it’s odd that Public Acceptance only receives 3 points. Site 4 on Mission Road received only 1 of 3 points in the Public Acceptance section and all the other sites received 2 points. Keep in mind that the Gird Road site in Fallbrook has lost five times at the ballot box so we think it should have clearly earned 0 points here, not that that would make much of a difference in this weighted ranking system. But imagine if Public Acceptance had been weighted with 15 or 20 points, not three, how different this report would be!

The report places the Gird Road property in the lead as a building site (not a big surprise for the politically jaded among us) but the other four sites are neck and neck in the running. The runner up is Site Number 5, located off Old River Road is the “second preferred site”.

Beyond property analysis, the Committee was supposed to represent the Community. Not included in the report is any detail as to how those serving on the Committee met the criteria set by the Board. So let’s go over the guidelines BUSD established for serving on the SAC:

“Committee shall be comprised of one representative and one alternate from each of the following geographic areas who are residents” in the BUSD: Pala, Bonsall West, Bonsall Elementary, Sullivan Middle School , Gird Road and Rancho areas. The map included is handy since most of these school-focused descriptions do not tie in to geographic area names. It’s school speak.

“Of these residents (if possible depending on applications submitted): At least two retirees who do not have children living at home; At least one with a child enrolled in BUSD secondary schools (middle or high school) living at home; At least one with a child enrolled in BUSD elementary schools or younger children living at home.”

We have asked, several times, for info on those selected and how they met the parameters set out. No response.

BUSD President Timothy Coen said in December, “This Advisory Board is the community, the whole community…we have to depend on them to represent the community, that’s their job.” 

Since BUSD did not supply any detail on how those selected to serve on the Committee represent the “whole community”, we did  our own research. We were bit surprised at how many committee volunteers actually make their living from BUSD and are dependent on the good graces of the Superintendent.  Superintendent David Jones said, “The board is interested in giving the public a voice,” and promised, “We welcome the community involvement and input. The advisory committee and the people on the committee will be people from the public within our community.

We assumed this meant the committee would be members of the general public, the community at large. NOT a BUSD inner circle or a BUSD-dependent community.

Next time BUSD establishes a committee to represent the public, we will have to stipulate that these volunteers have no financial ties to the school district and actually represent the public and the community at large. 

Feel free to let us know what we’ve missed but here’s what we have so far:

Area 1, Pala – Eric Ortega (Pala Tribe which was a major donor to failed Measure DD, the fifth failed attempt to build a high school on Gird Road. While entitled “Bonsall Taxpayers for Schools, YES on DD campaign”, zero campaign contributions came from district residents. DD was fully funded by only three entities: Erickson-Hall Construction Co., Pala Band of Mission Indians Political Contribution Account and LHR Investment Company LLC , aka Accretive Investments/Lilac Hills Ranch.), No Alternate; Area 2, Rancho – Tom Flanagan (another public supporter of failed Measure DD who also supports widening Gird Road), Alternate: David Toney;  Area 3, Gird – Eric Nordeen (wife Michelle is a BUSD teacher), Alternate: Kara LaRussa (vocal supporter of failed Measure DD, 2016, the fifth unsuccessful ballot attempt to build on Gird Road and BUSD substitute teacher); Area 4, Sullivan – Kassandra Costa (BUSD teacher), Alternate: Larissa Anderson (highly vocal and visible Yes on DD 2016 spokes-mom Larissa Scors Anderson was actually “Yes on DD”‘s paid Campaign Manager,); Area 5, Bonsall – Jeff Johnson, Alternate: None; Area 6, Bonsall West – Brian Olson (Brian spoke out after serving on the Committee in support of the Gird Road site noting that he’d voted against Measure DD. He and his wife Elizabeth Covarrubius Olson protested against Measure DD in 2016, noting that the pro DD forces were out of line during the protest. Brian’s mother-in-law, Teresa Covarrubius, is a BUSD employee and works for the union as Treasurer of California School Employees Association’s Bonsall Chapter 703 along with her long-time friend Teresa Suarez who serves as the union Chapter’s President and the office manager at the Vivian Banks Charter School located on the Pala Reservation. Brian and Elizabeth Covarrubius Olson own Clear Intentions Window washing located at 4217 Kari Lane, Bonsall 92003, a residence owned by the Luis H & Theresa A Covarrubias Living Trust 02-24-01.), Alternate: Eric Ford.

Just to make sure enough BUSD-dependents were included on the SAC Committee, BUSD  added two BUSD staff members: BUSD High School Principal Lee Fleming (Yes, BUSD has a high school, just built in 2016. Fleming earned $152k in salary/benefits/pension in 2016) and Assistant Superintendent William Pickering ($179k salary/benefits/pension in 2016), along with Bonsall Teacher Association President Julie Urquhart, a BUSD teacher. (Julie’s husband also teaches at BUSD, making this a $200,000/year BUSD-dependent family).

While the Bonsall Community Sponsor Group (Margarette Morgan) was included, the Fallbrook Community Planning Group (where 100% of Gird Road is located) was excluded. The County Office of Education (SDCOE), which offers support for Districts with site selection, was not invited to help and the Committee was told, incorrectly, the SDCOE didn’t offer this service anymore.

Lest we forgot, another group of community residents (none financially dependent on BUSD) gave time and energy working with BUSD staff reviewing sites in 2016. Superintendent Cunningham treated them shamefully when they delivered their report to the Board. They determined that expansion as necessary onto the Ocean Breeze property, located next door to the existing Bonsall High School, located in Bonsall, made the most sense. Here is that report. Interestingly, the owners of the Ocean Breeze property have offered some of their 1,400 acres to BUSD for no money down, payable via developers’ fees over time. BUSD projects that 30% to 34% of its high school and middle school children will come from the Ocean Breeze development when it it eventually built. How nice if they come walk to school!

Since the SAC report included metrics on enrollment, let’s quickly address that: BUSD currently has  328 high school students in its new high school (completed 2016) located on the Sullivan Campus in Bonsall, next door to the Ocean Breeze property. The SAC report projects another 375 for a total of 703 high school students for 2021-22. It projects 480 high school students in 2019-20. This raises eyebrows since BUSD just recently projected only 352 high school students for the years 2019-20. This is not the first time we’ve seen conflicting numbers or read reports with overly robust projections for high schools in Fallbrook or Bonsall (see the History section of this website). There is no mention in the SAC report that BUSD enrollment for grades K-3 and 4-6 has declined or that BUSD is currently operating at less than 80% of capacity. No mention that Fallbrook Union High School District’s enrollment has plummeted by more than 20% over the last decade or that San Marcos and Valley View have announced they’re laying off teachers (overbuilt, overstaffed, under-enrolled). There are  32 high schools in the area built and maintained by taxpayer dollars; plus another 15 privately funded high schools. 

Moving on, the Agenda for Jan 11 includes Item 9.1, a $100,000+ contract for bond advisors to provide a survey and campaign services so it looks like BUSD will try to barrel on forward and attempt to pass a bond in 2018.  This will be attempt #6 to pass a bond to build a high school on Gird Road. (Update Jan 11: Due to the efforts of financially conservative board members Tucker and Olson, the board approved $3,500 for a limited contract for  Step One: a 400-person survey to determine if there is any support for passing a bond in 2018 and if the location on Gird is why this issue has lost five times in the past. Board members requested input into the questions. Here are the questions we’d like to see asked.)

 

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 2,300-student school district) in an article entitled “Some superintendent salaries rising to the extreme.” Here’s the snippet from the article:

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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 was actually paid 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 posted to TransparentCalifornia. Cunningham retired in 2017, saying he had a bad knee. His pension will be based on this very high salary. Interestingly, pensions for County employees with 25 years on the job max out at 40.5% of their salaries (recently reduced from 57.5%) but the Village News reported Cunningham’s taxpayer-funded pension will be 80 to 85% of his salary.

So how did Dr. Cunningham manage to take $281k out of a financially struggling small school district in 2016, bumping up his pension in the process? How did this happen? That’s a good question.