After Superintendent Terry Grier asked principals to attend a meeting about volunteering to help pass Proposition S, the $2.1 billion facilities bond on the ballot for San Diego Unified schools, principals union leaders and bond opponents are concerned that the school district overstepped the line between informing its employees and advocating.
High school principals received an e-mail from their supervisor asking them to “please attend” an early morning meeting at the Girl Scouts headquarters, which is not a San Diego Unified building. Nobody knew what the meeting was about, said Bruce McGirr, president of the Administrators Association. They were surprised when Grier began speaking about the bond measure and asked them to sign up for phone banks touting Proposition S.
Bond campaign consultant Larry Remer said the meeting was held to solicit volunteers to help pass Proposition S, and to inform principals of how to avoid violating the law, which bars them from using public resources to campaign.
“Everybody was there on their own time as a volunteer and it wasn’t on school property,” Remer said, adding that he did not call or lead the meeting.
But McGirr said it left principals “a little bit queasy. It didn’t seem very voluntary to anybody.”
An outside expert said the meeting steered clear of campaigning with district funds because the meeting was not held on San Diego Unified property. As long as the employees weren’t expected to be at their schools, it probably wasn’t a violation, said Robert Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies. Principals have no set work hours listed in their agreement with San Diego Unified.