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Dublin School Board Trustees Reject Proposed Zeiss Location for a Future Second High School Site at Emotional Public Meeting

May 24, 2017

DUBLIN, CA–It was a tumultuous scene in the Dublin High School Sports Complex on Tuesday evening. The room was packed with citizens that wanted their voices to be heard during a specially convened Board of Trustees meeting. The session was moved away from the Dublin Unified School District office to Dublin High School in anticipation of a large crowd. It ended up being a smart move with over 500 members of the community in attendance.

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The primary agenda item was to determine if the District should move forward on the option to vest an interest in a business office complex located at the intersection of Hacienda Drive and Gleason Drive. Zeiss Carl Opthalmic Systems is the current tenant and they plan to vacate in 2020. But how did the District arrive at this decision point?

The subject of a second comprehensive high school site has floated throughout this town for many years. The concept was debated during the period of initial development in Dublin Ranch and beyond. In subsequent years, parcel taxes and bond measures have successfully passed. However, the wording of these measures was intentionally expansive in order to maintain the greatest level of latitude for expenditures. But the one constant was that the bond funds could only be used for technology and/or capital improvements – not for salaries or human capital.

The historic model for building suburban schools in California resembled a three-legged stool. The revenue streams would include builder/developer fees, funds from Sacramento and local dollars. But this equation became crippled four years ago as Gov. Jerry Brown pulled the State of California out of the business of funding and building public schools. Mathematically, this made it close to impossible for new capital construction. Cities were then left to rely upon local bond measures that could only be exercised through fairly strict calendar schedules.

Thus, a conundrum exists for Dublin. An environment with seemingly uncontrolled housing development supported by the city that was coupled with somewhat limited foresight by the school district in how to properly house these students. There are so many ways to look at this entire issue. But, the district was hampered by inaccurate projections from their original demographer. The forecasts were routinely wrong and added to a cumulative effect that resulted in setting the planning process in a negative fashion. But from any setting, much of this now simply does not matter.

The Dublin School Board was initially presented with nine potential options/sites for a second high school site in June 2016. In the spring, critereon was established to evaluate these sites in the desire to whittle the list down to viable options. In March, a shorter list of site options was established. That included four separate sites. Ultimately, all of this analysis led to an agendized item on a special Board of Trustees meeting. The District accurately projected that there would be expanded interest in this topic which prompted the venue change to Sports Complex Structure.

81 public speaker slips were submitted – an unprecedented number for “regular” meetings. Under conventional circumstances, speakers are normally granted a three minute period for comments. However, after a debate, the board decided to limit statements to 1.5 minutes in order to successfully conclude the public comment period at 10:30 PM. One by one, the overwhelming sentiment by the public was a rejection of the Zeiss site as the location for the second high school site. Three primary reasons were cited:

  • Safety: Many parent cited the proximity to the Santa Rita Prison Site and the fact that there is a historical record of inmates escaping over the course of several years.
  • The size of the Zeiss site was cited as being insufficient – a potential location of about 13 acres vs. the existing location of DHS which encompasses over 40 acres.
  • Finally, an overwhelming sentiment expressed by the public was questioning why there was such an urgency to decide upon this issue on that night.

Many citizens were trying to balance the desire for a second high school against the sudden urgency for a final decision.

The public discourse straddled the line between passion and civility. Despite the repeated pleas from the Trustees to respect the process and to know cheer/jeer, many in the audience chose to ignore these instructions. This simply led to many unnecessary delays and demands for order from the crowd. Complicating matters was the presence of local television media which seemed to embolden some in the audience to just shout out their own positions. Rather than to encourage verbal statements, Board Trustee Megan Rouse suggested that attendees simply utilize a “visual wave” to demonstrate one’s support of a statement. Unfortunately, many of those in attendance chose to ignore those instructions and articulated their own positions.

Rather than to provide quotations from each member, we will attempt to characterize the position from each Trustee to assist in understanding how the final vote came to be. It is a strictly subjective account, but one that is intended to provide the atmosphere of the room.

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Trustee Joe Giannini: As it relates to funds from Measure H, Mr. Giannini stated that he is clearly concerned not only about the second high school, but he is equally committed to ensuring that the current and future students of our K-8 population are protected from the energies of added housing growth.

Trustee Dan Cherrier: Our opinion is that Mr. Cherrier was remained steadfast on what the future high school would look like – up to including an excess of 2,000 students or more. He would prefer that this secondary high school site represents a vision that is closer to the existing DHS site.

President Megan Rouse: The residing board President has maintained that a second high school site could arise as a potentially “out of the box” solution to what high schools might resemble in the next ten years. Additionally, almost all of the existing land options have been exhausted and it may be time to move forward in order to deliver a solution on the school calendar that provides workable solutions.

Vice President Amy Miller: As a former board President, she was attempting to view this item with a 360’ lens. While sympathetic to the desires of the economics of what the board was facing, Ms. Miller made a sudden shift to reject the Zeiss option while stating that “I wouldn’t send my kids to that school.”

Trustee Dan Cunningham: Dan has been the one consistently performing trustee that has spoken in favor of a limited second high school site. In addition, the atmosphere of the public session at the Dublin High Sports Complex quickly devolved into a relatively negative space, he attempted to restore a level of civility to the proceedings. [EDITOR’S NOTE: As correctly pointed out in the comments, near the end of the meeting Mr. Cunningham did tell an audience member to “Sit down and shut up” during a heated exchange. The author of this article was not present when that happened, having had to leave before the end of the meeting for personal reasons. Mr. Cunningham also threatened, twice, to have the room cleared. In the opinion of the editor there was uncivil behavior both by some Board members and by a small number of audience members during the course of an otherwise passionate but orderly meeting.]

At the end of this fairly long night that was also live-streamed on social media, a decision came forward. After a period of discussion, a moment of decision moved to the front of the room. In a 3-2 vote, the DUSD Board of Trustees declined to approve the agendized action to approve a move forward on the proposed Zeiss site for a second Dublin High School site. This decision now leaves the Board to research their next options.

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12 Comments
  1. Michael Utsumi permalink
    May 28, 2017 9:34 pm

    For anyone that elects to comment on anything on the internet, you may be subjected to trolls and anonymous criticism. Unfortunately, we have come to grudgingly accept this as an online norm. To read a comment that states: “This article seems to be more of a mouthpiece for DUSD Trustees, and definitely not expected from OneDublin.” is a complete insult to all of my sensibilities. The amount of personal attacks that I have received in the past week have completely crossed the line. Can you even state three facts about me? Can you specifically state one area in which my reporting was biased? Where have you been for the past 13 years when I have been an advocate for this city and school district? Have you even acted as a volunteer driver for a school field trip? Have you ever baked cookies for an Honors Night at your middle school? Have you ever served in a cabinet level position for a school organization? As I audited every word that I posted for this story, it is clear to me that you are interpreting what you want. If you are unhappy about the Zeiss option or any other, I have nothing to do with it. You simply need to devote your energies towards DUSD, get involved and become part of the solution. Criticizing my reporting will only take you miles away from where you and your family want to be. Personally, I am also unhappy about where we are heading. But, criticizing the messenger will do you absolutely no good. Obviously, my reporting had zero influence upon the outcome by the Trustees. Look in the mirror and reflect upon what you’ve posted. I’ll have no further comment on this issue. I will simply return to what I’ve always done for the last eight years. Celebrate education excellence in Dublin.

  2. Jeff Gebel permalink
    May 29, 2017 3:35 am

    In classifying the 3 primary objections to the Zeiss site, you list a concern about escapees as the first reason. Actually, it’s released inmates that are let out right at the mouth of the jail about 1/2 block from the Zeiss location. Speakers shared multiple stories of unreported incidents that weren’t included in the “safe” statistics quoted by some members of the board.

  3. Michael Utsumi permalink
    June 11, 2017 10:39 pm

    “The author should present the true picture, and not give opinion.” Seriously? You do not know three facts about me and I won’t take this criticism sitting down. I have contributed to this blog for eight years. What have you done, Manas? Don’t think for one moment that I’ll allow you to criticize any effort that I’ve made to advance programs within DUSD or the narrative that represents OneDublin.org. If you’re so strident, create your own blog. But, I know that you won’t. It’s so easy to criticize from your keyboard – without any accountability. If you do not agree with RE Developers – then take them on directly. Don’t cry from the sidelines. If you really care, get involved.

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