On March 19 at 6:00 p.m., Hoover High School’s auditorium was filled with people. Students dressed in cardinal-red jumpsuits sat next to neatly dressed faculty and staff. Members of the girls’ softball team, in dusty practice uniforms, sat beside parents in work clothes. The school’s varsity football coach stood at the front of the auditorium -- the whistle around his neck dangling against a black sweatsuit with “Friday Night Lights” written on the front.
When Hoover High School principal Chuck Podhorsky grabbed the microphone, the crowd cheered.
But this wasn’t a school pep rally or ordinary school assembly. The crowd of a hundred-plus was there for a meeting -- organized by the San Diego Unified School District -- about proposed improvements to Hoover High.
Those improvements include a new 20-classroom building, a “green” construction facility with a woodshop, a new football and softball field, light towers for night games, visitors’ bleachers, and a concession/press-box building.
Sitting in the middle of the crowd was a group of concerned residents from the surrounding community who have opposed certain aspects of the project.
In recent months, the school district has made several changes to the project in an attempt to mitigate the neighbors’ concerns. The neighbors, however, want more.
Mainly, they want some kind of guarantee regarding the number of nighttime events and a promise that the school won’t rent out the field for non-school events. The neighbors went to the meeting expecting to discuss the project and express their concerns.
“What was supposed to be an update ended up being more of a pep rally,” said one resident the day after the event; they felt blindsided by the meeting’s format.
“The community came in good faith to a non-neutral meeting place to hear detailed updates on the project and instead were the target of criticism from the school representatives and student body.”
During the meeting, parents, students, and teachers petitioned the school district to bring lights to Hoover High. Some speakers accused the residents of “opposing the progress” of their children.”
The residents say that’s wrong. All they want is a guarantee from school administration. After nearly 20 speakers, all in support of the lights, one resident tried to get that guarantee.
“I’d like to say I’m extremely impressed by the speakers. But, I have a question for the principal: You have used an expression that strikes fear into my heart. You have said many times that you don’t have any plans at this time to rent out the field. That doesn’t say you won’t, and we need to hear that.”
After a few unclear statements about the number of events from the principal, the school’s athletic director, Ron Lardizabal took a shot at addressing the question.
“I stand by Dr. Podhorsky that that will definitely be in writing.”
“Why don’t you just say it now then,” shouted one resident from the audience.
“I thought I just did,” answered the athletic director.
“No, you just danced all around it.”
Cynthia Reed-Porter, spokesperson for the school district, didn’t return this correspondent’s request for comment.