Traffic safety concerns fuel TVUSD school board race

Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

Daniel Ryer, Special to the Valley News

A child was struck by a vehicle outside Bella Vista Middle School on Oct 19th, but the incident went unreported. Greg Shull, a former fireman who helped the boy who was struck said he urged both the driver and the boy’s father to make a report, but he also explained why the father of the child chose not to press charges or report the incident, “There were two unique factors…the kid being more of a non-communicator related to autism, and the second being the fact of a translation barrier between myself and the dad (ESL).”

The safety concerns, including this specific incident have been the focus of social media videos by Temecula Valley School board candidate Jen Wiersma and incumbent board member Barbara Brosch. Safety concerns surrounding this and other similar incidents have been met with denial by Barbara Brosch, the current school board incumbent. In a social media post, Brosch asserts, “When I was called out in this video, I went ahead and made a couple phone calls just to ensure this hadn’t happened, I thought it was a little weird considering that we probably would have heard about it. We’re a very close-knit community. And I was able to verify that this is not true.”

When asked if Barbara Brosch has been honest with the public, Shull replied, “Absolutely not. Barbara lied to her constituents and that is dangerous as an elected official.” Indeed it seems that Brosch is attempting to solve the problem by burying her head in the sand. “Barbara was not open to hearing facts, instead she blocked me. She would rather deny the incident and act as if nothing happened vs. retracting her false statement,” said Shull.

Some cite a crossing guard shortage as the main contributor to the accidents. There are as many as 20 TVUSD unfilled crossing guard positions according to the website Edjoin.org in the Temecula Valley area that have been open since the job posting was made in late July. Jen Wiersma, a candidate currently running in the school board election, credits the positions staying open with the low pay and short hours, she points out what she sees as a major hurdle in getting them filled, “These positions are only paying $16-17 an hour and only last a couple hours each day, it should be $25. For the depth of responsibility, it should be higher. They need to put their money where their mouth is. There is the image we project and then there’s the true life story.” In fact, the job posting shows that the position pays slightly less, starting at an hourly rate of only $14 and going up to just under $17.

Asked specifically if he thought the crossing guard shortage was at fault for the incident, Shull said, “What would be the realistic number of crossing guards needed to make a community/ school area safe? I see the crossing guard at Browning and Pourroy regularly and she seems to do a good job. Could we add additional guards? Yes, however when we look at this from the hierarchy of controls, we need more engineering solutions at the distant intersections such as Rosales and Pourroy where this incident occurred. Adding a crossing guard would be more of a short term, administrative control. We need long term solutions.”

As crossing guards are clearly not in ample supply for the wages being offered, it does seem that the issue may be addressed effectively through the implementation of other safety measures. Shull agreed stating, “I believe the county should equally be involved in the engineering controls to add visual indicators such as flashing crossing lights for kids to push before crossing.”

A video on Wiersma’s Instagram shows information brought forward by a concerned citizen, Lacy Lyn Canava, which states, “Another child was hit by a car today at Rosales and Pourroy. Thankfully, he is OK. I’ve received an email and a phone call stating that a light will be put in at that intersection, but it won’t be for at least a year.” The rest of her post goes on and urged community members to be more mindful when traveling through their community, especially in regards to the safety of children.

“While the community waits for new measures to come into place, we must look at what safety measures we can currently provide for our children,” said Wiersma, who speaks highly about the current level of parental involvement, saying, “Parents have been very engaged in their children’s safety,” but she also stresses the importance of the school board improving their outreach to parents, saying, “Getting parents to volunteer would make a big difference. The school board needs to reach out, especially when the positions are not paid enough.”

Regrettably, it is all too easy in our busy lives to enter a sort of tunnel vision and to falter in our considerations of others. In light of this, Shull recommends parents work to educate their kids to the best of their abilities to better regard their own safety in hazardous areas. Shull says parents should “Teach their kids to stop at all intersections. They need to learn to ride their bikes defensively because parents are in a rush and not paying attention. Kids need to learn to keep their head on a swivel and be aware of their surroundings at all times.”

Parents may not be doing these things, because they are not being made aware of the issues. Wiersma is adamant that a policy should be in place to report incidents. We simply can’t fix a problem that isn’t being acknowledged. “School is a microcosm of the greater cultural problem at play. How often we are concerned about image. If you don’t acknowledge the problem, because you think it looks better to deny it, it can’t be fixed,” said Wiersma. She continued, “If there is no official report, detractors will say it didn’t happen. We should have an official policy.”

“If they were with me door-door, they would realize what they need to address as the reality of the issues,” said Wiersma. Parents have been doing a great job staying involved, but as parents and as a community we need to start holding the school board and its members accountable. “With Barbara denying this incident and refusing to acknowledge student safety, one would ask why she is receiving the income she gets annually for her position. We should be holding her and the other board members accountable since our tax dollars pay them $10k a year in benefits and pay. Folks need to really ask questions and look deeper into what we get out of the elected school officials,” said Shull.

Editorial Dept.

These stories are curated and posted by Valley News editorial staff members.