Gilbert Public Schools New Salary Schedule

computingHere’s what Gilbert Public Schools doesn’t want you to know <THIS TIME> about the new salary schedules.

Sheesh, you would think the Good Old Boys would figure out that working in the dark is not a good way to earn trust, but the Peter Principle* seems to have taken hold of GPS and won’t let go. Feel free to discuss among yourselves.

The new salary schedule that’s being discussed.
The exhibits that go along with the salary schedule.

Members of the committee, according to the GPS website [we couldn’t resist highlighting some GOBs we all recognize]:

Jill Humpherys, Governing Board Clerk <sure, she would NEVER cut your pay> <dripping sarcasm>

Diane Drazinski, President of the Gilbert Education Association <sold dues-paying GEA members down the river again?>

Jeff Gadd, CFO <just remember, he set the stage for the Dysart District’s teacher position losses, see our post

Dr. Suzanne Zentner, CTO <we’re so disappointed in her, sigh, she could have been a contender>

Barbara Arroyo
Jason Barletta
Dale Lunt
Lorna Christie
Nancy Masterson
Karen Coleman
Shawn McIntosh
Kelly Dibella
Jay Morris
Sharon Orr
Albert Dutchover
Cheryl Redfield
Casey Fraughton
Laura Sup
Sam Valles
Dinah Guhy
Matt Wheeler
Ward Heinemann

This was most definitely worth an *emergency* post to disseminate this public information.  We warn you about speculating where we got it. We don’t like seeing claims that someone surreptitiously gave us *privileged* information. If you want to make an accusation, you better damn well be right next time.

Expect the new bought-and-paid-for board to accept the superintendent’s recommendation and approve this schedule at the next board meeting.

Peace out.

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Big Fat Asterisk: It was tempting, but we didn’t indulge in the many free associations that could swirl around one’s mind. Feel free to discuss the Loose Zipper Brigade if you wish.

Gilbert Public Schools Wants More of Your Tax Dollars for the Same Old Stuff

PREDICTION for the New Year: Gilbert Public Schools will try in every way possible to convince voters that the Governing Board has changed, and the new superintendent, Christina Kishimoto (also known as 7-0 Kishimoto) desperately needs an infusion of money in the form of a tax override to fund … well, everything, but it’s all for the kids [so just do it and sit down and shut up].

Okay, that’s not even a fair look into the future, seeing as how Her Newness 7-0 Kishimoto has already been telling the media about it:

“There’s very old or aging equipment in the schools. The elementary schools have computers that are 10 years old,” Kishimoto said. She cited a few reasons for the technology push related to replacing the antiquated hardware. Students need more modern technology to excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, and she said an upgrade is needed so students can take the new AzMERIT exam — set to start this spring — online. She said what the district currently has is insufficient for all students to test digitally — the district has a three-year plan to reach that goal — and it could require an influx in funding to pay for all of the upgrades.

“We really are relying on future overrides to be able to get students testing online,” Kishimoto said.

There you have it, so get ready for a new level of secrecy as the new Good Old Boys plot to get into your wallets, taxpayers! BTW, we filed a FOIA for the three-year plan Her Newness mentioned, but we were told to sit down and shut up wait until GPS is ready to let us see it. Besides, it’s not like most voters understand the VALUE of “testing all students digitally,” and OF COURSE it’s the top priority right now and sure to get the community all excited <dripping sarcasm>. Yeah, and when all that new technology equipment is in place in the schools, do you really believe the infrastructure, you know the *intertubes* that connect the schools to the Internet, will be able to handle the unprecedented load?

We figure Good Old 7-0 Kishimoto hasn’t been fully briefed by her staff about the Technology Override voters previously approved for Gilbert Public Schools. Yeah, everyone is going to have a LOT of confidence in this new superintendent’s money management ability while she’s asking for a do-over with MILLIONS of your tax dollars! (Because the last infusion of millions of your tax dollars for technology is ending this year.) Cue Jill Humpherys: “Because we need a new OVERRIDE!” <wiping crocodile tears>

The district currently is funded in part from a capital override approved by voters in 2007; a 2007-approved bond for up to $82 million and a 10 percent maintenance and operations override that is being phased down until it expires in 2016. GPS’ seven-year, 10 percent M&O override will be phased down by one-third beginning in 2014 until it expires in 2016. According to district information, the override, which has brought $17 million to the district since 2008, has been used to:

* Maintain current levels of salaries, wages and benefits for teachers and support staff.
* Maintain class size and student-to-teacher ratios.
* Fund instructional methods and programs.
* Provide fine arts, athletics, electives and extracurricular activities.

While this scenario plays out, let’s look at the last district 7-0 Kishimoto damaged. Yes, damaged, and the new Hartford superintendent has been working side-by-side with the community to rebuild what 7-0 Kishimoto damaged, starting at the district offices where there were too many administrators (sounds just like how she increased the number of administrators in GPS, huh?):

Hartford public schools chief Beth Schiavino-Narvaez is reorganizing the Central Office leadership structure for the 21,575-pupil system, restoring some former posts and recasting a handful of others. The city school board Tuesday approved Schiavino-Narvaez’s restructuring plan, her first big move since the release of a transition report on Oct. 20, the district said. She was hired as superintendent in July.

From the October 2014 Transition Report: Throughout the Transition Team process, we heard the voices of Hartford stakeholders frustrated by “business as usual” politics in recent years that have hampered efforts to make system-wide change possible… HPS should work through the recommendations to identify the targeted strategies that will strengthen the capacity of the entire school district to focus on raising student performance. It is important to focus on a few areas that can be done well, and phase the work over time, rather than add to the multiple initiatives which already create a lack of understanding about what is really important to the system’s efforts to improve.

That transition report was a very big hairy audacious effort. [Like all those buzzwords?]  Lookie here:

Narvaez’s transition team of school administrators and outside educational leaders produced the report after analyzing years of internal data and soliciting perspectives from more than 1,500 people invested in the Hartford school system, including parents, school principals, corporate representatives and community leaders. 

The new superintendent’s approach to the problems left behind in Hartford involved an entire community, it appears, not just a few hand-selected parents and committees that operate in a cone of silence. That *solution* has proven very effective in letting 7-0 Kishimoto hear exactly what she wants to hear.  After all, we watched as she worked hand-in-glove with the Gilbert Education Association and their sugar daddies. There was no way anyone was going to try to reach out to 1,500 people in Gilbert, Arizona; not unless they knew they would get what they bought and paid for.

Contrast this environment (7-0 Kishimoto also was hired as new superintendent in July) with what now has been discovered, directly related to 7-0 Kishimoto’s grand plans that fell flat (or worse):

The Hartford School Board President Richard Wareing said “What the transition team found in the past 3 1/2 months was not surprising to those who have long known what our problems are.”

Gaps in the curriculum, a disorganized central office with a lack of “consistent decision-making,” and widespread concern that there are insufficient resources for English Language Learners, students in special education and those who attend Hartford’s neighborhood schools were some of the emerging themes in the report.

But Wareing, who described the review as a “road map for change,” said the simple fact that the school system is admitting its flaws is a positive shift.

While Her Newness Christina Kishimoto attempts to replicate what she did in Hartford and plots ways to get more, more and more taxpayer money into her GPS coffers, look at other areas of her report card:

“Dr. Narvaez has helped us put aside a bad and self-serving habit. … We celebrate what we do well, but we ignore what we do poorly,” said Wareing, who had been an outspoken critic of Hartford’s previous superintendent, Christina Kishimoto.

“If we want to change our schools, we have to change,” Wareing said during a press conference at district headquarters. “The biggest problem is us. We’ve known about these problems for years and, in some cases, even decades. We assign problems to others but not to ourselves.”

“Curriculum across schools lacks consistency and significantly more curriculum work is needed at all levels,” the report stated. “Decision-making autonomy for high-performing schools has also led to more curriculum inconsistencies across schools.”

With student-based budgeting, principals said the funding can be inadequate when school enrollments fluctuate after Oct. 1 or decline steadily over time. Overall, educators said there has not been enough guidance from central office leaders to steer the complex work.

“The lack of a clear, districtwide teaching and learning focus has led directly to misaligned and poorly coordinated teaching and learning initiatives,” the report stated. Hartford school staff described being “overwhelmed and overloaded by the sheer number of district initiatives, most of which are not yet being implemented with fidelity.”

The report also calls for creating a stronger pipeline of leadership talent within the school system and offering more targeted, professional development to teachers.

There were many good reasons that Hartford didn’t renew 7-0 Kishimoto’s contract as Superintendent.  There were many good reasons that Hartford sent Christina Kishimoto on vacation in March 2014 and hired an interim superintendent to sweep up:

Jacqueline Jacoby was appointed as “special assistant.” Jacoby is a retired Glastonbury superintendent who has held several interim leadership roles at area districts over the years, including in Hartford.

Jaqueline Jacoby was paid $900.00 PER DAY while Christina Kishimoto was *on paid vacation.* These Educartel deals are sweeter than honey!

Superintendent Makes GPS Board Meeting Videos Vanish – Westie to the Rescue!

Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s explanation for why the Livestream videos of meetings of the GPS Governing Board vanished from the Internet a couple of weeks ago strains the bounds of credulity. In other words, she thinks we’re all as gullible as Forrest Gump. To phrase it succinctly, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

We suspect the real reason for Kishimoto’s prevarication is that whoever is performing the wizardry of transferring video archives from one version to another will be able to revise, alter, change, destroy or otherwise mess with those videos in the darkness. But what would we know about such ulterior motives?

Gosh darn, it’s just so CONVENIENT to have those public records disappear right now! You knew, didn’t you, that GPS Policy BEDG designates those archives as public records and directs the superintendent to maintain them, right? “The video recording of the meeting shall be available for public review on the district website three working days after the date of the meeting, except for confidential executive session minutes.” Could it be that 7-0 Kishimoto (7-0 was the a vote by the Hartford Board to send her packing) doesn’t want any official record online of her staff admitting to such shenanigans as overspending the GPS budget by $15 Million and keeping it a secret since 2010? Nahhhh…

Problem is … what Superintendent Christina Kishimoto reported to the Governing Board about the 110 vanished video archives is not quite true (her *explanation* appears below). If you go to the old GPS Livestream link, you will be redirected to a URL that contains only the video of the December 16, 2014 meeting and a recently added October 2012 meeting. But that’s not the only GPS Livestream archive.

This is where Westie comes to the rescue of concerned Gilbert citizens and taxpayers! At the moment, ALL the GPS archives are accessible from this link. Scroll down below the displayed video to view the archives. Just to prove the point, should the video archives vanish again, here’s a printout of the web page linked above (check the document properties to authenticate that the web page was accessible on January 10, 2015).  Note: if you follow the link and choose an archived video to watch, you may first have to endure a short, non-opt-out commercial before the meeting footage begins.

[Note to the techies transferring the video files: You’ve got the images so stretched horizontally, your clients and their audiences will complain voraciously. Never make your clients (or the people who pay their bills) look fat on purpose! It’s not hard to fix, but if you need help, shoot us an email.]

Here’s 7-0 Kishimoto’s disingenuous report to the Governing Board about why the Livestream archives vanished:

We are now in the process of transitioning our two years of archived videos into the new program. The following steps will be followed:

Step 1: Video uploading – completed.

Step 2: Download the videos from most recent to oldest, into the new version. This will take some time since there are more than 192 hours of video to transfer. The downloads are done in real time and we estimate it will take approximately 4 to 5 weeks to complete the process.

What 7-0 Kishimoto could have truthfully told the board is that video archives are hidden from the public, while some ersatz technological procedure is happening in the dark. What possibly could go wrong with the way GPS is handling those videos?

We know that there’s no way a real Information Technology professional would purposely destroy important public records while transferring some files from one server to another. Redundancy is a watchword for techies. We ask again and then answer our own question … Q: What possibly could go wrong? A: If GPS can’t screw it up with technology, they can have someone go in and change the public records that are already posted online, right? Guess it all depends on what the boss *really* wants you to do. <sigh> Remember, these are the same folks who promise to work with the new $1.3 Million HR and financial software *in parallel processing model* so no information about past budgets and expenditures will be lost.

There’s no way even a non-techie would believe that it’s really necessary to make online archives vanish in order to update the system. While GPS would like to tie citizens up in FOIA knots to get “access to an archived video before it is downloaded into our Livestream system,” you can find many archived livestream videos on our WesternConnections Youtube channel. We didn’t anticipate anyone from GPS would try to mess with ALL livestream videos, so we didn’t archive all the meetings. You might find something useful in our 43 online videos about GPS, though.

We have to agree, with what’s coming down the pike with GPS and tax money, it’s probably better for Superintendent Christina Kishimoto if the public is kept in the dark as much and as long as possible. For example, all of you trusting GPS employees who believed the hype about salary increases during the candidacies of Good Old Jill and Good Old Charlie will feel burned when you read this newest blurb from Her Newness 7-0 Kishimoto, who is not all that in to you, employees. She told the press before she told all those trusting GPS employees she *leads* with such dedication [snark]:

Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said the district has a few goals linked to its 2015 operating plan, two of which involve improved technology and some differentiation among the district’s multiple campuses. On the first front are some early steps in a multi-year project to incorporate new pieces of technology to the district’s campuses.*

In the end, maybe 7-0 Kishimoto was trying to hide the fact that the *official* GPS archives included advertisements … including ads for alcohol (yep, we saw one for Smirnoff Vodka). Not really appropriate for a school district, is it? Nope, alcohol and school districts don’t mix, nor do advertisements affixed to official public records. See how complicated this was getting to be? It appears Good Old 7-0 Kishimoto made an executive decision to hide evidence. She made angels weep and got our birdies chirping. (Hurray!)

When will the *new* GOBs and their GEA / AEA / Planned Parenthood  bought-and-paid-for board members figure out that HONESTY is the best policy?

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* Big Fat Asterisk: Another comment from 7-0 Kishimoto in the above linked East Valley Tribune article: “A second goal is to add uniqueness to the campuses so schools could opt to specialize in certain areas, for example auto repair.”

We’re sure all the GPS schools are waiting with bated breath to find out which school will become the auto repair school. Maybe someone should explain to 7-0 Kishimoto about Automotive Technologies taught at East Valley Institute of Technology … you know, the school where GPS sent high school students that were discriminated against. Sheeeesh.

Anonymous Gilbert Public Schools Teacher Warns of Further Turmoil

There’s a birdie out in GPS Land who is chirping the truth to colleagues about what will be happening in Gilbert Public Schools come January 2015. This birdie is a veteran GPS teacher whose poignant warnings point out many things Westie has been trying to bring to light.

This post originally appeared on a Facebook group page that regularly excoriates conservative Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board members, resulting in truly horrible media coverage of the school district. Guess those political neophytes didn’t realize that the bad press will not be going away any time soon. No, you can’t paper over all the accumulated bad press with glossy mailers sent out without a target audience or a compelling message. Everyone knows that word of mouth and Google reign supreme when it comes to reputation and public perception of a school district.

This anonymous teacher is warning that the old *good* board, the incoming liberal board majority and the new (as of 2014) district administration are going to be more of the same old, same old. An out-of-touch administration, layoffs and frozen pay scales for veteran teachers while new hires get paid more, ridiculous class sizes (in the real classrooms, not on the tone-deaf administrators’ pie charts) have devastated morale.

We were especially glad to see the comments on this Facebook post reflected some sobering perceptions of the real culprits. For example:  “Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it has and no one in the ivory tower really cares.” When did anyone believe the populace of the Great White Temple of Doom was out for anyone but themselves and their pocketbooks?

[Keyboard to Westie: The former board members who got themselves unelected and their various pals have been happy dancing that their bought-and-paid-for candidates won in the 2014 election. Guess they all forgot that the former *good* board set the table for the budget morass of the past two years.]

[Westie to Keyboard: This teacher sees clearly what the coming *reform* administration has in mind. We’ll share more about that in our next post.]

With no further ado, here’s the on-target post from an anonymous GPS teacher. Read and heed. 

I am a secondary school teacher who has been with GPS since the early 2000’s. With a new board taking the helm in January, allow me to point out the following:

1. Just this academic year the district, to make up for budget shortfalls, has eliminated 80 teaching positions.* No programs have been eliminated, and, to the best of my knowledge, activity fees have not significantly increased. Many of my colleagues have classroom where students are packed in like sardines. The “average” class size is a misnomer – that number includes smaller special education classes – in reality many secondary classes have 30-35 students per period.

2. Our school board hired a superintendent who was terminated from her last job at one of the highest salaries in the Valley, if not the state. Instead of an inspiring message to a demoralized staff at the beginning of the year, our new superintendent, in her inaugural address, emphasized the need for more data acquisition from the classroom. An inspiring message from an engaged leader? No.

3. We have been informed that teachers will be held accountable for student success or failure. Educational research shows that certified teachers in the classroom can correlate to improved student achievement. But to place the responsibility for student success SOLELY on the teacher? Preposterous.

4. Our salaries have been frozen since 2009. In fact, it was a “good” school board that froze salaries. (In all fairness, this was due to the Great Recession). However, the “good” board and superintendent RIF’d teachers and staff without following school board policy at the time and without consulting with the GEA. When the GEA presented the breach of protocol to the district, the response was “Oops. Sorry. We promise not to do it again.” It is easy to forget that what has happened to district employees began under what many perceive to be better times.

5. Some newly hired teachers are actually getting paid more than veteran teachers. We are told that offering higher salaries to brand new teachers is the only way to get them to come work here. While that may be true, it is demoralizing to those of us who have stayed true and loyal to GPS. Not only is this practice demoralizing and insulting, we are having a difficult time supporting our families on a shrinking income. Yes, shrinking. The increases in health insurance premiums, deductions, and mandatory state retirement contributions have surpassed our small raise this year to the extent that our take-home pay is now less than it was in 2009.

6. The electorate of the district told district employees that they do not value us nor do they believe district administration financial reports by twice failing to pass budget overrides. A member of the school board actively campaigned against the second override.**

So there it is. District employees have tolerated layoffs and frozen salaries for six years, and that our pain started with a “good” board and district administration. Just put yourselves in our place as a district employee for the past 6 years—would YOU stay? Many of my fellow teachers are brushing off their resumes and looking at other districts. A new superintendent and a “good” board come January does not mean all is well with employee morale. Morale is terrible in fact.

That we have tolerated these conditions for as long as we have is a testament to the dedication and loyalty of those who stuck with the district. I left corporate America to teach, and I love the profession and my school. Respect and equitable treatment are things we should expect as employees, not platitudes. Expect the teacher exodus to continue.

We think this anonymous teacher is right on target. We’ll share details we’ve unearthed that help to prove these points. Anonymous teacher, we would have loved to reach out to ask your permission to share your post; we’d love to give you credit, but we urge you to remain anonymous. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the retaliatory ways of the old *good* board and their BFF admins will be any different than in the past. BTW, their morale is just fine.

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Big Fat Asterisks:

* Anonymous teacher, it’s worse than what you wrote.  In addition to getting rid of teaching positions that you cited, there are now 98 administrators,  an increase from 75 administrators last year, for a total increase of 23 administrators.

** Actually, a lot of people campaigned against the override, including active posters in the Facebook group where this post originated.

Thank You, Staci Burk

As the year 2014 draws to an end, so does Staci Burk’s service as a member of the Governing Board of Gilbert Public Schools. As Board President for two consecutive years, Staci bore the brunt of political attacks from all sides, especially from local and national teachers’ unions and associations and their pals, who spent more than six figures trying to stack the next Governing Board in their favor.

Let’s look back at Staci’s time on the board and where GPS is now. A list of accomplishments includes:

• The budget and spending process within Gilbert Public Schools is the most transparent and open that it has ever been. In the past, even board members had to file public records requests to get specifics.
• Gilbert Public Schools has transitioned from one of the lowest in parent satisfaction with the Special Education Program to one of the highest, recognized as No. 1 in the state in academic progress in this area.
• Gilbert Public Schools has transitioned from a B-rated school district to an A. The separate scores for individual schools continue to improve, too.
• Gilbert Public Schools board meetings are now live-streamed and have been archived over the Internet for all to attend at their convenience.
• Gilbert Public Schools instituted a true pay-for-performance plan for teachers.
• Gilbert Public Schools implemented a physical-education credit waiver for hard-working marching-band students.
• Gilbert Public Schools implemented a self-contained gifted classroom.
• Gilbert Public Schools discontinued the use of a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the teachers union and transferred all the important language into policy to benefit all teachers.
• Gilbert Public Schools restored an American tradition of having an invocation at the beginning of board meetings.

There’s quite a back story about why Staci decided to run for a seat on the board.  As Mark Twain sagely noted: “A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” We posted about a lie / rumor / gossip about Staci suing GPS and collecting MILLIONS of tax payer dollars that a superintendent finally addressed for the public. Jack Keegan (remember him?) sent out a memo to set the record straight, starting by explaining that Board President Staci Burk NEVER sued Gilbert Public Schools:

What I am concerned about is the outright misinformation that has been distributed throughout the District. My purpose in this memo is to make the facts available to all staff.

The rumor, however, just won’t die. According to the real story that was in the press, GPS filed a due process lawsuit AGAINST Staci Burk, not the other way around. GPS filed that lawsuit as retaliation against her because she advocated for her kids. GPS also retaliated by influencing Pop Warner Football officials to drop her boys from their teams. (Say it all together now: “Business as usual in GPS.”)

Mom charges retaliation in fight with Gilbert school district
Staci Griffin-Burk and the district have had a shaky relationship for the past couple of years due to disputes over two of her children’s education. Griffin-Burk also has been an advocate for about a half-dozen other families whose children have special needs, including some whose children attend Gilbert Public Schools. Griffin-Burk said she has won a few disputes on behalf of the families and wonders if now, because of that, the district considers her a threat.

We’ll turn to Staci’s words, reported contemporaneously in local media, explaining why she ran for a seat on the board and what she hoped to accomplish:

Need to help others motivated Burk to run for GPS board
Although Burk is passionate about special education, she stresses it’s not the only issue she’s concerned with. She said the budget is just as big of a concern, and wants to find better ways to cut, if the need arises, without affecting teachers or classrooms. Burk wants to retain excelling teachers and find ways to pay them what they’re worth. She also wants to set up a system where teachers and other district staff can address the board without fear of retribution.

What are your top three priorities, if elected, and how would you address them?
Improve responsiveness to parent concerns
Address budget issues in a fiscally responsible manner
Support retaining quality teachers and maximizing tax dollars getting to the classrooms

What a shock to the Good Old Boys and Powers That Be when Staci not only won a seat on the board, she was the highest vote getter by far! Before Staci and fellow newbie Shane Stapley were seated, the GOBs took some steps to preserve their beloved status quo … or status quo antebellum, as they feared would be the case. First up, GOBs renewed Good Old Dave Allison’s contract through 2013, a year earlier than normally would be done. Good Old Dave (GOD?) feared that he would have to retire in 2012. As we all know, it would have been much better for GPS if that had happened. As reported in the press at the time:

Fiscal conservatism aided Burk, Stapley in winning GPS seats. Burk said she is “very appreciative and grateful” for her low-key campaign’s win. “I am happy to have been invited by the voters to continue to advocate for children, parents, teachers and the community on the Gilbert Unified Governing Board,” said Burk in an e-mail. “I have a solid reputation of expecting outcomes from school administration,” she added, warning “if that takes disrupting the status quo, then so be it.”

Staci let it be known that GOBs had taken other measures to shore up their power base before she was seated:

As a side note, on 11-23-10 after I was elected but before I took office, GPS signed a deal with Climatec for $6.8 Million dollars for energy efficient light bulbs. There was supposed to be a guarantee that the new light bulbs would offset the cost combined by the e-rate reimbursement, but my understanding is neither Climatec nor GPS put the guarantee actually into the contract. I have closely monitored the energy savings and have not seen the reductions in energy costs that were proposed by the deal.

Advocating for all GPS students was strenuous work for Staci, especially with the push-back coming from within the GPS superintendency when the district had failing schools under No Child Left Behind:

In Gilbert, a group of failing special-education students hindered schools from meeting the requirements, especially because of problems in math, said Barbara VeNard, an assistant superintendent. None of the special-education groups in Gilbert’s six junior highs met the requirements, so all of the district’s junior highs did not meet adequate yearly progress.

Apparently, the GOBs had never experienced the kind of advocacy that Staci Burk exemplified. During those years, Dave Allison strived to keep quiet that GPS SpEd kids were harassed and experienced discrimination at the East Valley Institute of Technology. Others in the community became impassioned advocates following Staci’s successes in reframing the dialog:

Does anyone else in Gilbert find it unseemly that an assistant superintendent would throw struggling students under the proverbial bus? Do any other mothers of a special education students – in Gilbert or anywhere else – find the language used in the article offensive? To openly blame students, who courageously face their challenges every day, for the district’s failure to meet adequate yearly progress seems dishonorable. According to the article, none of the junior high schools met the requirements for adequate yearly progress because none of the special education groups met their progress requirements. Regardless of who is to blame…pointing the finger at a handful of students, who are not in the position to defend themselves, is spineless and pitiful.

Staci succeeded in opening the board meetings to the public. At first, people who started attending board meetings were political conservatives and people who had a bone to pick with the administration. These people were not welcomed by the superintendency or the GOB board, especially after they started videoing board meetings and then … scandalously posting those videos on websites for all of GPS stakeholders to see! OMG!

While the GOBs retained the majority of votes, they came out with some ridiculous ways to stop Staci’s voice from being heard. When Staci requested agenda items that the GOBs didn’t want discussed in public, a year later the board adopted Tram’s Rule, named for then-president Lily Tram:

…Shane and Staci, who wanted to do something about streamlining resources, improving efficiency, improving student learning, fostering more transparency, started asking questions. They also started adding far too many “Items for Future Consideration” to the Governing Board Agenda. This created too much “busy work” for staff, thought other Board members.

Finally, President Lily Tram couldn’t take it anymore and swung into action. After several meetings, questions, issues relating to possible violations of Open Meeting Law, consultations with attorneys, Ms. Tram issued “Tram’s Rule” ala Rube Goldberg. Tram ruled that all Items for Future Consideration wouldn’t see the light of day unless it was approved by a Majority of the Board members.

No matter how hard they tried, the GOBs on the Governing Board and in the GPS Superintendency couldn’t hold back the coming citizens’ war against the way the school district had been run. Staci had plenty of other ideas, including broadcasting board meetings on the Internet – apostasy from previous GOB control of information!

Staci Burk: I love that we have had so many speakers. It is a night and day difference from when I came to board meetings as a parent. Millions and millions of dollars were being spent on things such as light bulbs and worthless software. I love, love, love that we have so many parents and teachers attending. Whatever it takes to keep eyes watching, I’m for it.

In addition to the loss of control of the public message, GPS lost funding in the Great Recession. All Arizona school districts experienced the same losses. GPS chose a novel approach, as we learned several years later: GOBs have admitted to overspending by 15.3 MILLION DOLLARS; they also confessed to hiding that from the Governing Board and from the public since 2010. Let’s see what neighboring districts did at that time in comparison to GPS:

State’s school districts cope in varying ways with cuts in funding. The Great Recession battered the state’s take from sales, property and income taxes and public-land sales, causing Arizona to chop its per-student funding, hike the sales tax and patch in with federal stimulus aid. Basic funding slipped in fiscal 2010 and 2011. In November 2009, 20 of 36 override votes failed in the Valley. In November 2010, six of 16 overrides failed. Chandler has long known that growth will stop one day and has money-making ideas for when that day comes. For example, the district has a $25 million “rainy day” fund it has built over the past 30 years for tough financial times.

With that dismal record, in 2012 then-Superintendent Dave Allison recommended the board go to voters for an override (while hiding the $15.3 Million loss).

GPS board approves fall budget override ballot measureJason Barney, a Gilbert dad, land developer and school board candidate, said while he supports the override being put on the ballot, he also supports fiscal accountability. “The voting public may defeat this if we don’t explain how the district spends its money,” said Barney, who has worked with administrators to put together a 100-page simplified budget that should be available soon on the district’s website. “If the override fails, don’t fire teachers and coaches. There has got to be a better way to manage the budget.”

Burk questioned some of the recommended cuts and wondered if the district would actually make those cuts when the time came. She questioned where some of the savings were the district has said in the past would help the budget, such as savings from installing energy-efficient lighting. She also questioned “excessive” costs to pay for consultants and software. Burk also said she doesn’t know whether this is the right time to put the override on the ballot. “I hear from the community they want to make a statement by voting no,” Burk said.

Showing that GPS couldn’t put together a well-defined message to the public, and especially not to voters, there was another epic battle for control of the GPS power base: the money. The 2012 override failed. The union  Gilbert Education Association had lost too many skirmishes to Staci Burk and feared complete loss of what little reputation GEA retained, so they made Staci the all-purpose bogeyman for all of GPS’s problems. Staci remained true to the promises she had made to the people who elected her:

Gilbert Public Schools board trades restored pay for smaller class sizes. A battle during a Gilbert Public Schools board meeting Tuesday night over spending about $1.05 million to restore lost pay or reduce classroom sizes ended with a decision to let non-teaching staffers continue taking a 2 percent pay cut so some classes can be smaller. Board President Staci Burk and members Julie Smith and Daryl Colvin voted in favor of class-size reductions while Lily Tram and Jill Humphreys voted to use the money to lessen the impact of the current wage cuts.

Burk said she was concerned about the message the board might be sending to skeptical voters if the board approved a lesser reduction in staff salaries and then asked them to vote in favor of an override. “To say we gave our staff this 1 percent and then to say to the community ‘we want you to give us an override’ — I don’t think that’s what community is asking for,” Burk said. “I think what the community is asking for is decreased class sizes and when we say that’s what we put as our top priority, we would have a better chance of getting an override passed.”

Yeppers, while many in the community were comparing the demands for employee raises to a jobs program using taxpayer money, the union GEA and their pets on the board refused to listen. The way things worked: GEA was opposed to Staci; therefore, everything that was wrong with GPS was Staci’s fault. The gloves came off when GEA lost any semblance of power or authority they had held through a purported Memorandum of Understanding that by tradition had been *negotiated* with the board and superintendency, the BFFs of the GEA president.

The GPS governing board refused to approve the Certified Memorandum of Understanding, and instead approved a new district policy governing teachers’ rights and privileges. The result of moving the MOU language into district policy is UNPRECEDENTED INPUT and A POWERFUL VOICE FOR TEACHERS. The governing board gave back to teachers what the GEA had taken away.

It appears GEA decided they would get payback or die trying. The screaming meemies who so loudly demanded GPS go hat-in-hand to voters AGAIN in 2013 were furtively working behind the scenes to undermine the vote. Ah, the revenge of GEA, along with former school board members who got themselves unelected and their acolytes. All this, of course, depleted funds available to the district to…wait for it…EDUCATE students in Gilbert Public Schools.

Staci’s opponents made things downright personal prior to the 2013 election:

Members of a pro-override committee for Gilbert Public Schools suspect election-related sabotage is behind the hacking of their website and damage to a supporter’s personal phone line. Citizens for Strong Schools committee member Staci Burk said she discovered Nov. 5 that her phone line had been physically sliced. “Someone hacked into our committee website right before that apparently and took our site down,” said Burk, who also is president of the GPS Governing Board. Liz Nicholls, a committee member and GPS parent who created the website, said she found the site was down on Nov. 2. “It was literally just deleted,” said Nicholls, who has created and maintained websites as a hobby for 14 years. “I was very surprised because usually when someone hacked into a site they added malware, never deleted the site.” Burk said she believes the two incidents are linked because the website contained e-mails among committee members, including one in which she mentioned her home phone.

But a funny thing happened along the way to *financial ruin* when the 2013 override failed: GPS racked up a list of terrific accomplishments and achievements!

The 2013 Mayoral Award goes to the organization that laid the foundation for Gilbert to be known as a community of education excellence — Gilbert Public Schools Quality education is an essential component to the success of Gilbert’s economic-development efforts to attract and retain businesses. As a community, we strive to build a high-performance education network that will help our K-12 students become college- and career-ready and support our local business workforce needs. In the past 12 months, GPS has had many accomplishments, including a 90 percent-plus graduation rate, the highest number of national board-certified teachers and the 28th-best high school in the nation, Gilbert Classical Academy. Currently, GPS educates more than 38,000 students in 40 schools, including three academies.

There were many examples in which Staci Burk was a voice in the wilderness while she was on the board. The aforementioned screaming meemies just about peed their pants gasped when Staci refused to bow to pressure to approve a big giveaway of taxpayer money to benefit a rich as Croesus private company:

Apple move may hinge on Gilbert vote Apple announced on Nov. 4 that it was buying the site and will lease it to a subsidiary that will make sapphire-based glass components for Apple products manufactured around the world. State and local economic-development officials hailed the deal as a huge win for Arizona, elevating the state’s growing profile in the tech world. But several government entities, including Gilbert schools, needed to sign off on the proposal because it has tax implications springing from the Apple site’s hoped-for designation as a foreign-trade zone.

End result: Staci Burk was right. The company filed for bankruptcy at a cost of 890 jobs less than a year later. Staci Burk also battled The GPS Powers That Be over destruction of public records and computer servers that held the email history of the district. This subject is a gift that keeps on giving, and we’ll have lots more to say on this subject soon. [Love ya, Birdies!]

Gilbert school board strengthens public-records policyGilbert Public Schools’ board president hinted at a 2013 internal investigation into public-records destruction during a discussion about a new policy to strengthen records management at a school-board meeting Tuesday night (April 8, 2014). The board unanimously approved adding language to an existing records-management policy. The new language includes a statement that public records include electronic documents and that district staff will receive training on records retention. The policy also states that any person who alters, destroys or hides public records is guilty of a class-4 felony. Class-4 felonies carry possible prison sentences of up to three years and nine months.

During a discussion about the policy, Burk said that when “the e-mail system was deleted, there were a number of people that had outstanding public-records requests, including myself, for some of the records that were on that server that was erased.” Burk said some of the documents people had requested were “related to financial dealings and concerns” in the district.

Staci Burk’s service came to a close when she chose to not run for reelection. That decision really upset a lot of apple carts for folks like former board members who had gotten themselves unelected and the GEA / AEA / NEA and their educartel pals. Plenty of people understood that while Staci Burk was stepping down as a member of the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board, she had served the public at a great personal price:

Gilbert school board president works while battling diseaseGPS board president Staci Burk has pulmonary arterial hypertension, a rare cardiovascular disease. “They’re (my kids are) very worried about my health and being able to keep up with everything, and I guess their worry and concern has weighed in on whether or not I think I can continue to balance being on the board and supporting them through my health issue,” she said.

Farewell, GPS Board Member Staci Burk. We’d be willing to bet you’ve still got lots of fight left in you! Although the GEA and Planned Parenthood are celebrating the expensive wins of their bought-and-paid-for GPS board members, the educartel took their eyes off the ball and lost the war in the state of Arizona when Diane Douglas was elected as Arizona Superintendent of Education:

“Our victory is clearly a mandate to implement Arizona based and controlled education standards.… My campaign was the clearest way for the citizens of Arizona to reject Common Core and that is what they did with this election,” Douglas said.

 It’ll be one hell of a ride. As for GPS, remember as all this plays out, you could have had Westie as Superintendent.

Another Contracting Fiasco in the Making for Gilbert Public Schools?

Every now and then, we respond to viewer requests with a post dedicated to them. Today’s post was promoted by a birdie’s chirp: “What’s in it for GPS Chief Financial Officer Jeff Gadd? I’m referring to the Mohave contract. Very bizarre last night. Maybe Westie can go down the rabbit hole.”

[Keyboard to Westie: Hold your nose! There’s a stench coming from that rabbit hole.]

Our birdie was wondering why, in November 2014, it suddenly was essential for the GPS Governing Board to approve a new $1.3 Million contract for new finance and human resources software. It was especially concerning that just the month before, in October 2014, the GPS Chief Financial Officer confessed that GPS had overspent by $15.3 Million and kept it a secret:

Why would the GPS finance dudes and top superintendent dudette suddenly come clean about this missing $15 Million? We’re sure it’s because they now want to get in front of the bad press that ultimately will explode when GPS once again demands a tax override and new bonds.

We were, of course, asking a rhetorical question then. There are more questions that beg for answers: Isn’t it strange that Gadd decided October 2014 was the right time to *confess* that $15 Million in cash is missing from GPS? And that the administration knew it all along? And admin didn’t tell the board? That’s why money started disappearing from the already published GPS budget a couple of months ago.

There’s still a Wild West attitude and plenty of fast-and-loose capers with public dollars that seek to evade oversight. Sometimes the truth can get in the way of professionalism in GPS, such as when Dr. K recreated the Purchasing Manager position and left the Internal Auditor position in Business Services vacant.

It took two board meetings to ram this new software project through. Board President Staci Burk asked CFO Jeff Gadd to provide the board copies of the underlying contract that GPS used through Mohave Educational Services (MES) Cooperative, Inc. (an entity through which school districts make big purchases without the regular bidding process).  President Burk kept asking for documentation of the RFP process – which ought to be on file.  CFO Gadd did everything he could to sidestep; he promised he had done his due diligence, etc.

Wrong! Due diligence is the board’s responsibility, and it’s a red flag of fraud that Jeff Gadd didn’t provide the simple documentation the board president repeatedly requested. No sireee, he gave the board something else: the generic contract presented to the board was the financing document from Kansas State Bank of Manhattan.  There is so much here that doesn’t pass the smell test.

Gadd’s refusal to provide documentation of the original bid just highlights the fact that until recently, GPS’s own purchasing coordinator, Crystal Korpan, was president of the MES Governing Board:

Being the MES board president put Crystal in a position where she could solicit a GPS purchase from MES and then sit on the MES board to approve the purchase without a formal bid. GPS really does have a problem with understanding what a smell test is, don’t you think? Consider this: MES makes a profit as the middle man. That money is not accountable to anyone because it is not subject to open records law.

Good Old Jeff Gadd DID NOT provide the Mohave contracts; only the contract numbers were on the agenda. Gadd said the information would be provided in 2 weeks at the next meeting, which meant, “You gotta pass this and we’ll get you the info later.”

Then two weeks later, the Mohave contract numbers were on the agenda again: Mohave contract 13-R-BFG-0127 with Baystone Government Finance. But the actual contract itself was NOT provided. Instead there was a vendor contract – a smidgen better than the meeting before – but the underlying Mohave contract was still missing in action. One of our birdies who was at the meeting chirped, “Two meetings ago, I heard them talking behind the podium they said that they would only need a sign off from the superintendent and one other board member.” It seems this was all just a formality.

Now factor into this equation that Mohave Educational Services Cooperative had been sued by the Arizona Attorney General for violating the State Procurement Code. Mohave Educational Services Cooperative admitted to that crime in a Court document known as a consent decree. Here’s what the Arizona Auditor General wrote after auditing MESC for three and a half years:

MESC has not followed procurement statutes and rules — Although MESC issues numerous contracts proclaimed to be based on procurement practices that adhere to the Arizona Procurement Code and the Arizona State Board of Education Procurement Rules, we found that MESC consistently failed to follow many of these rules. Specifically, MESC inappropriately used the more subjective request for proposal procurement process; did not properly evaluate vendor responses to those proposals; failed to make determinations of whether prices were fair and reasonable; and improperly awarded contracts to multiple vendors for the same products.

Dollars to donuts there was never an RFP and there was direct contact with the vendor to get the requirements identified so the vendor (voila!) was the best source. And yes, this all feels like the last time GPS bought million dollar software. As a previous GPS Superintendent was forced to explain:

CrossPointe was the student information system prior to our current system, Infinite Campus. The District did sue CrossPointe, but did not win the suit. Basically the lawsuit resulted in a draw because CrossPointe countersued the District.

Even with an RFP process back then, GPS screwed it up in ways that normal people could not have been predicted, ignoring their own staff recommendations and getting rid of an *inconvenient* professional staffer. We haven’t forgotten that the GPS superintendency sprung this lawsuit on a brand-new board back in January 2011. “Trust me” was the mantra back then.

Let’s connect the dots to show this is typical of how GPS Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has operated in the past. In Hartford, in her last year as superintendent, Good Old 7-0 Kishimoto accepted a bid from a charter school to take over one of the public schools. That did not go over very well with the public or with the Hartford board, as reported at the time:

Since the charter school makes claims to be “public,” the question was asked by a board member if any of this plan had gone out to bid through an RFP process. Kishimoto said that “initially” they looked at twenty designs, but did not put the project out to bid in “this round” because “it’s a replication model.” In other words, because Hartford has already accepted one Achievement First school, there is no recognized need from the Superintendent for this bidding process to be followed.

“Trust me” was Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s mantra while she was in Hartford, CT. “No recognized need,” indeed! We’re already hearing those words from HRH 7-0 Kishimoto in Gilbert. We’re also seeing the same thing reported in Hartford during her tenure there:

In the end, the vote was predictable; some Hartford residents have suggested that this entire discussion was staged and that the decision was made long before the Board sat down before the public last week.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  GPS: expect excess.

Gilbert Police Department Investigation Report: Theft – Embezzlement – Felony

We know you’ve all been waiting for the final disposition regarding police reports filed by members of the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board in 2014.

Read the complete police report about “Theft – Embezzlement – Felony” concerning two former Assistant Superintendents of Gilbert Public Schools, Shane McCord and Jeff Filloon.  The police report notes that GPD obtained a court order for employee records in this matter.

Both of these top-level Good Old Boys had contracts with an unusual provision for $2,000.00 to be paid for a special project that had “value to student learning or employee betterment.”  It appears that both top dogs took Steve Miller’s song to heart: “Take the money and run.”

We posted about the situation back in December 2013:

Assistant Superintendents have a really great deal for themselves in Gilbert Public Schools. They’re paid far too much for what they do, and their perks are truly gross when you realize that taxpayers are funding their profligate ways. The jerks who have broken the system continue to profit and party, while some support staff barely make a living wage (and we know some don’t make even that). BOTTOM LINE: Taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth from these folks.

The police report includes descriptions of Red Flags of Fraud. We had already posted online the Pay for Additional Work forms signed by Shane McCord and Jeff Filloon and approved by none other than the good old top GOB, Dave Allison.  As the police report shows, McCord submitted an old project he had done years before as part of his doctorate classes, and Filloon submitted an Exit Interview Report that was done by GPS Human Resources.

The key phrase to remember is “Pay for Additional Work.” Why is that important now? Because there are two line items in the 2015-2016 Budget Calendar for Gilbert Public Schools:

Stipends (Addition to contracts)  $1,143,532
Additional Assignments (Hourly) $   563,962

You, dear citizen, and members of the GPS Governing Board apparently are supposed to trust that those stipends and additional payments will go to employees who actually perform valuable work for the district. More of the same old stuff?  Yeah, and we’ve got a bridge to sell you.

Getting back to the police report, it includes Exhibit 11, which consists of 4 pages of confidentiality agreements, described as: “Each of these pages contains the various signatures of McCord and Filloon.” The police report shows that the signatures on the Pay for Additional Work forms “do not match the purported signatures of McCord and Filloon on the confidentiality agreements.” We’ve seen in the past that GPS had a problem with forgeries and it appears that the GOBs were at it again.

Another interesting entry is Exhibit 15: Transcript of the sworn deposition of David Allison regarding “A pattern and practice of systemic concealing routine GPS records in order to avoid producing those reports in response to public records requests made by citizens.” We’ve posted about that, too.

Notably, there were no administrative evaluations for Jeff Filloon from 2005 through 2012.  Those evaluations must be only for lesser beings, not the dude who was being groomed to be the top Human Resources honcho. Be sure to look at the rocket career of Shane McCord in the police report … he taught for two years, but seems to have a performance appraisal for only 2012-2013, the same year Jeff Filloon was evaluated.  Also notice that both poor, underpaid top dogs were given $3,384.00 for special projects during the school year 2013-2014. [Gag]

As for Dave Allison, he started with GPS in 1993 as an assistant superintendent and ascended to being top dog in 2008. Allison had a whole bunch of Employee Action Requests, but the police report redacted what they were about. Any chances Good Old Dave was collecting extra pay under this same scheme?

Good Old Dave (GOD?) and his civil lawsuit defense attorney Elizabeth Gilbert of the law firm Jones, Skelton & Hochuli were interviewed in the police station in April 2014. We had posted about Good Old Dave’s special contract provision and his get out of jail free card — looks like Dave knew what he was doing when he negotiated indemnity!

Dave also is indemnified against CRIMINAL CHARGES! He can have his own independent legal counsel when he and the board are co-defendants. Basically, Dave had and still has a blank check for misconduct as superintendent. No wonder he destroyed his files before he left! Anything he did, including covering his tracks, would not only be forgiven, he would be defended with taxpayers’ money. We all know how lawyers paid by risk trusts in Arizona can feather their own nests if and when a school board enables that kind of behavior.

Here are more astounding details from the police report that you can’t make up (as Dave Barry so famously says):

Mr. Allison told me … Shane and Jeff in terms of assistant superintendents like in other school districts (Chandler, Mesa, Higley) were pretty underpaid. That’s some one the cultures of the Gilbert School District … Jeff had come to me a year earlier and said, ‘is there something we can do for these guys? cause there working on their doctorate degree, their doctor of education and working full time for the district. Kinda burning a candle at both ends.’ Mr. Allison advised Jeff, he understood however, they took it upon themselves to work on their doctorate. Mr. Allison went on to say if there was something they were dong in their extra time that’s going to value the district, in otherwords part of their research doing for their doctorate degree is going to help the district he would include a stipend to their income in their contract for the school year. This was approved by the School Board under line “H” in the contract for Jeff Filloon and Shane McCord and is renewed on a yearly basis.  [sic]

…I asked Mr. Allison if it was okay that they were working on the same special project from the previous year and he stated it was because it takes several years to complete the doctorate. It is also normal to pay for the special project during the payperiod not upon completion of project.  [sic]

It gets worse, as things usually do in Gilbert Public Schools.  In May 2014, Shane McCord was interviewed again, and he basically said he didn’t do anything wrong:

Shane also pointed out that his contract that was signed by the Gilbert School Board authorized $2,000 stipends per year (line H of the contract). He also pointed out that it was not a requirement to have the form signed nor provide proof of work completed.

There you have it, GPS employees: the top dogs not only got raises disguised as stipends while your pay was frozen for five years, they didn’t have to prove they did the work they were supposed to do. Good Old Jeff Filloon also raised the specter of mass layoffs of employees by rewriting the RIF policy in April 2014, while the police were investigating his behavior and *special* payday deals. 

You know where this is going, don’t you?

Based upon the above information, it was determined Jeffrey Filloon, Shane McCord and Dave Allison committed no criminal act regarding this investigation. The merits of the contract approved by the Gilbert Public School Board were met based on this investigation. It was also determined there were no forged signatures based on the information gathered during the course of this investigation. This case will be cleared UNFOUNDED.

Well, with THAT kind of investigation, it’s no surprise that the final comment includes “MCAO DECLINED TO PROSECUTE.” Public policy be damned! The case came back from the Maricopa County Attorney’s office in September 2014, and the Gilbert Police Department decided:

After a review of this report, it was deemed that this case was a “Civil Matter-Not Criminal”

No charges will be filed on Jeffrey Filloon and Shane McCord.

We’ll take this *exoneration* for what it is: no criminal charges but certainly not a determination of innocence. Sure Jeff Filloon and Shane McCord didn’t take the taxpayers for a ride. [sarcasm]

What are the chances that Jeff Filloon in the Chandler School District and Shane McCord in the Mesa School District are doing the same old stuff?  Sure, they’re upstanding citizens and trustworthy stewards of the public purse. [dripping sarcasm]

Evidence is piling up about misuse of public funds and other wrongdoing by Gilbert Public Schools top dogs, regardless of whether it’s criminal conduct. The wheels of justice grind slowly, but we’ll be patient. We’ll continue to tie up loose ends as the year comes to an end. Chirp, chirp!

Gilbert Public Schools Overspent by $15.3 Million; Hid It from the Public

bigbucksWe recently asked if Gilbert Public Schools lost $12 Million.  Our birdies caught the finance dudes changing the online budget slides for the current year.   They were caught red-handed, but there’s more to the story, which is business as usual in GPS. Now the GOBs have admitted to overspending by 15.3 MILLION DOLLARS; they also confessed to hiding that from the Governing Board and from the public since 2010.

Our birdies have shown they can be bird dogs and blood hounds when they’re tracing public money.  Gilbert Public Schools spent more than $15 Million they didn’t have, and they admit they hid this deficit from the public and got caught when someone changed the budget documents online to hide some losses. If our birdies hadn’t caught this sleazy trick, do you think the GPS GOBs would have confessed to the missing $15.3 Million? We don’t either.

Here it is, clipped from the *official minutes* of the special meeting on October 14, 2014: GPS started the current budget year with a $15.3 Million DEFICIT. Watch Jeff Gadd explain that $15.3 Million is missing from the Maintenance and Operations fund, the largest cash fund GPS has.

When board member Julie Smith asked a direct question about whether the deficit was ever disclosed to the public, finance dude Teddy Dumlao tap danced and said fund summaries are on the GPS *web page.* Dude! We already caught you guys CHANGING the fund summaries online! Teddy Dumlao says, “It wasn’t a concern until it affected the tax rate.” Sheeesh.

Gadd and Dumlao whined that it was all the fault of the county because the county didn’t collect as much in taxes as the school district was spending. Not our fault, they proclaim. We were doing just fine on spending the money that was in the budget that the governing board approved … because we recommended they approve what we were going to spend anyway. Business as usual in Gilbert Public Schools. <yawn>

Board member Daryl Colvin wove the loose ends into a tapestry, showing that no one had done anything about the $15.3 Million deficit. He asked the GOBs if that was a fair characterization, and they agreed. Colvin explained that his constituents brought to his attention that their tax bills increased between about 10% to 50%. As Colvin said, there was no regulatory agency explaining what happened; the tax increases just appeared. Once again, GOB Gadd tried to spin it by talking about how even if the tax rate didn’t go up, the taxes could go up if the property value increased. Gadd should learn when to stop digging himself into a hole, don’t you think? Dumlao had already confessed that it “affected the tax rate” – see above. <facepalm>

Two weeks after GPS admitted to losing more than $15 Million, Moody’s dropped the district’s bond rating … again:

Moody’s Investors Service has lowered its rating on $149.6 Million in outstanding general-obligation bonds issued by Gilbert Public Schools because of the district’s financial challenges. The bonds are secured by property taxes. Moody’s said in its statement that Gilbert schools’ biggest liabilities are limited fund balances relative to similar school districts and ongoing reliance on short-term borrowing to manage cash flow.

Notice that GPS bonds are secured by citizens’ property taxes. One of the reasons this special board meeting was held was because citizens were complaining loudly about increases in property taxes that were showing up in their tax bills. Good Old Jeff Gadd was spinning as best he could to confuse the public and the board about where the $15 Million went, and why GPS superintendents had kept it secret from the Governing Board and public. After all, the GPS bond rating had dropped earlier in 2014, and we connected some dots back then to the huge salaries being paid to top admins.

Now we’re seeing the direct link between GPS budgetary secrecy and property taxes. No matter how many times GOBs try to tell you it’s because your house is worth more money and THAT’S why your taxes are going up, we all know the truth. But will GOBs tell the truth? No, it seems to be a congenital failing of people who choose superintendence as their life’s work. Perhaps it’s because with all the big bucks they’re paid, they truly don’t understand that the *little people* they so despise actually live within their own budgets.

When the superintendency blows through $15.3 Million with no accountability for five years, it’s easy to understand why those GOBs think they are Masters of the Universe. They really, really want to join the *big boys* of the finance world, complete with a specialized jargon that makes their jobs seem *wizardly* and therefore too cool for taxpayers to  comprehend. Yeah, we all know where THEIR heads have been, now that the truth comes out about those years of budgetary excess.

Suddenly, it makes sense that the friendly GPS auditor was complaining about $7,687 in cash going missing last year. It’s just *too bad* that friendly auditor didn’t notice the $15.3 Million deficit their buddies had been hiding for a few years. Here’s why GPS’s friendly auditor was concerned about a few thousand bucks:

Instances of financial fraud are commonly associated with weaknesses in the tone at the top. Poor tone at the top may include instances of the following: a disparagement of internal controls, an overemphasis on other objectives such as fund balances or achievement of certain projects at the expense of ethics, a belief that compliance with the letter of the law is sufficient for appropriate ethical behavior, accommodations of some stakeholders but not others, blaming higher-ups or colleagues for unethical practices and conflicts of interest.

Why would the GPS finance dudes and top superintendent dudette suddenly come clean about this missing $15 Million? We’re sure it’s because they now want to get in front of the bad press that ultimately will explode when GPS once again demands a tax override and new bonds. Maybe they’re banking on this issue becoming *old news* now that election season is over.

District chief financial officer Jeff Gadd said the rating, from to A3 to from A1, is still a good one and should not interfere with future bond sales.

Aha! As we posted back when Jeff Gadd became the biggest loser ever to become Chief Financial Officer for Gilbert Public Schools

Jeff Gadd is already talking about a bond issue and tax increases after the election in November 2014. Surely you have noticed that Christina Kishimoto pals around with candidate for school board Jill Humpherys, whose constant lament is that there won’t be an override for GPS on the ballot.  Dr. K’s signal is loud and clear: she needs Jill Humpherys to carry through with her plans for GPS (not that Dr. K has told anyone what those plans are, other than sweeping generalities, but we digress).

Under the leadership of Her Newness, “7-0 Kishimoto,” the GOBs’ answer to the $15.3 Million deficit is spending more than a million dollars on new finance and human resources software. Boy, oh boy, do we have some well-connected dots to share with you about THAT! Coming soon …

How Gilbert Public Schools Holds Wrongdoers Accountable (Or Not)

One of the great things about being Westie Connect is that we can travel the globe knowing that birdies are keeping tabs on the remnants of the Good Old Boys in Gilbert Public Schools. Thank you, birdies! We’ve got your back on your latest chirps. It shouldn’t take too long to see results.

It appears that the GOBs have been back in business since the new superintendent’s arrival … business as usual. This is going to keep us busy for quite a while revealing some of the new shenanigans, but we’re up to the challenge. If what’s past is prologue, we’ll be busier than ever when the new board is seated in January 2015.

A Westie fan asked us to follow up on the incident in which Coach Rutt was investigated by the Gilbert Police Department. We found that East Valley Tribune reporter Eric Mungenast already had taken up the challenge:

An investigation by the Gilbert Public Schools district into allegations against Gilbert High School football coach Tim Rutt indicates Rutt violated both district and Arizona Interscholastic Association regulations.

Rutt received a written reprimand from district Superintendent Christina Kishimoto after his son was paid by a member of the team’s coaching staff and for his own misuse of funds provided by the Tiger Touchdown Club.

A parent donated $2,000 for Rutt to purchase new furniture for his office. He instead ordered the furniture for his home and moved his old personal furniture into the office.  The Gilbert Police Department investigated the charge and determined Rutt did not commit a crime.

We had given Superintendent Christina Kishimoto a shout-out for her initial actions to investigate the reports about Coach Rutt’s conduct. We were bitterly disappointed in what she did as a follow-on: she wrote a sternly worded letter to Coach Rutt and put it into his *permanent file:*

Rutt admitted during an interview with the district he purchased the new furniture for his home and donated the old furniture to the school. Although he said he had approval by the booster club’s president to do so, Kishimoto said the act was a violation of district policy because neither district administration nor the governing board approved it.

“This action calls into question your ethics as a professional educator along with your common sense,” she added.

There’s more: apparently, Coach Rutt had some sweet little deals going on at Gilbert High School, the kind of deals we’ve been trying to bring to the attention of the GPS Powers That Be for the past two years. As intrepid reporter Mungenast writes, GPS substantiated the kind of shenanigans that have been the subject of many reports that previously were ignored:

Two additional charges against Rutt substantiated by the district concerned payment for Rutt’s son Tyler, who serves as an assistant coach for the team, and both violated Arizona Interscholastic Association and district policies. According to district documents, Tyler Rutt received almost $2,000 from another assistant coach as payment for working with the team. District policy does not allow for family members of head coaches to work for a team.

Similarly, the documents state both Tim and Tyler Rutt, Jared Baker and Gregory Cole received $400 from the booster club — a fifth coach, Justin Evans, received $750 — at Rutt’s request in 2013. An email from Rutt to former treasurer Jen Baragar stated the payments were for attending a clinic.

Both instances violated an AIA statute that prohibits coaches from receiving payment from any other source outside of the school district.

The investigation also found Rutt commingled three bank accounts — one personal, one for his business, Elite Sports LLC, and one belonging to the booster club — and bid for a bicycle at a booster event and did not pay for it.

It appears that Superintendent Christina Kishimoto finally discovered what we have been reporting is a feature, not a bug, in GPS financial accounting controls:

“The fact the ability to obtain information in this case was so challenging only confirms the fact monies were not handled in the professional way we expect from our employees,” Kishimoto wrote.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto took some really, really serious actions to hold this popular role model accountable for his transgressions. After all, it happened during the middle of football season [sarcasm].

… the district directed Rutt to return the furniture purchased with the booster funds to the football office or reimburse the booster club $2,000; to stop handling any funds related to the booster club; to ensure employees or volunteers are paid through district funding; and to review policies.

Maybe this superintendent will gain enough confidence to hold people accountable for their actions one of these days. Cough, cough. Yes, that’s also a sarcastic comment: the silly response to someone sending emails to all GPS employees through the district’s computer system proves the point:

“The tech services department has now changed the configuration on the e-mail server, and it is no longer possible for someone outside the district to send e-mail to group distribution lists,” Kishimoto said in an statement.

“Our e-mail system was not ‘hacked’ and there are no security issues.”

Silly Rabbit, tricks are for kids. If we know ways for the public to send emails to all GPS employees using the GPS server (and we do, of course), you know the bad guys know them, too.

BTW, the idea of not allowing certain GPS employees like Coach Rutt to handle funds, all of which are public funds when money is entrusted to GPS for any purpose, is a smart move. It might be even smarter to be proactive in the case of convicted criminal Brian Yee at his campus, especially now that GPS is aware that Good Old Brian Yee has filed for bankruptcy. As we’ve said before, there is a LOT of unregulated cash floating around the admin offices of each and every GPS campus.  We believe in helping honest people stay honest through effective financial controls. In the case of a self-confessed embezzler, GPS might do well to keep a close eye on Greenfield Junior High School’s finances.

[Keyboard: Sigh. Like anyone at GPS ever listens to Westie…]

How’s the New Superintendent Doing? Not Very Well.

New GPS Superintendent Christina Kishimoto wrote to board members on May 27, 2014, highlighting key reasons for past failures of overrides for Gilbert Public Schools. We’ll take a look at her list and see what Dr. K has done about the deficiencies she described before taking the helm of GPS.

1. A general perception by some community members that our school finance approach does not prioritize classroom needs;

2. The lack of quality information from the district about what constitutes appropriate centralized services that are in support of schools, i.e. administration, transportation, special education and so forth;

3. The lack of quality reporting by the district around the unmet infrastructure needs of the school system and the long-term impact these will have if these needs are not addressed;

4. The absence of a strong marketing and communications approach by the district where we control our message;

5. The lack of community understanding of the impact of frozen, uncompetitive teacher salaries on our overall district capacity and classroom instruction capacity to meet student needs; and

6. The coordination of a well-organized opposition approach.

As we all know, Christina’s powers of persuasion were ineffectual in trying to convince a board that’s tuned into public discourse that GSP *needs* more money. Christina and her two training wheels  Interim Superintendent Jim Rice and Financial Consultant Jeff Gadd failed to convince the Governing Board that it was the right time to send a third override request to cranky voters who don’t trust the  GPS superintendency to be faithful stewards of the public purse. It looks like GPS leadership is stuck on tricycles for the foreseeable future.

We asked for public records related to a 90-day entry plan that Dr. K referenced in a different document. GPS responded (original in red): “The District has made numerous searches and no documents were located, therefore, the District is not in possession of any document that is responsive to this request.”

Nevertheless, when we arrived at the Great White Temple of Doom to review public records, Dr. K’s 90 day plan was there! Go ahead, see if you can translate all the edu-speak. Our first impression wasn’t very good. Although the document claims to have been submitted to the governing board *by* Christina herself, the text is written in third-person, indicating someone else wrote it.

[Our guess is the highly paid public relations consultant. We’ll share the invoices and checks paid to this consultant/contractor in a future post.]

The author of the document, who apparently didn’t get the memo that it was supposed to be ghost-written, flunked apostrophes. See paragraph 5d on page 6.  The writer apparently doesn’t know her asterisk from a hole in the ground: the asterisk at the end of the document appeared out of nowhere, but we’ll save you the search for meaning. The asterisk refers to text on page 4, paragraphs 5 and 6.  Dr. K doesn’t want  any *unstructured* dialogue with anyone below the level of principal! Exception: Dr. K will “meet with the Teacher Association president” without structure. We’re guessing everyone will wear closed-toe shoes for these meetings. But we digress.

Let’s look at each area of Gilbert Public Schools that Dr. K highlighted as deficient in the letter referenced above:

“General perception that our school finance approach does not prioritize classroom needs.” We’ll grade that as FAIL. Christina’s coronation showed us exactly where her priorities are, and they’re not in the classroom.

“Lack of quality information from the district about what constitutes appropriate centralized services.” We’ll grade that as FAIL, too. Accelerated Reader, one of the favorite educational programs used in elementary classrooms, was cut on her watch.  Dr. K expects PTAs to step up and fund AR if they want it in their schools. There are more administrators making more money while classrooms lack paper and other essential supplies, like soap for restrooms.

“Lack of quality reporting by the district around the unmet infrastructure needs of the school system.” As far as we can see, there is no reporting of much of anything by the district. The *consultants* who updated the website at great expense didn’t understand what was needed, did they? FAIL.

“Absence of a strong marketing and communications approach by the district where we control our message.” Leaving the Community Relations department flailing for so long certainly merits a big fat FAIL. A highly paid and mostly invisible *consultant* counted her money all the way to the bank. “Control of the GPS message” was abdicated long ago. FAIL.

We did notice that someone finally managed to change the Wikipedia article about GPS. It took a long time, didn’t it? Wiki gods don’t like aggressive editing.

“Lack of community understanding of the impact of frozen, uncompetitive teacher salaries.” This is flat-out wrong. Most of the community understands very well that GPS teachers are underpaid. GPS hasn’t been able to convince the community that hiring more, more and more highly paid administrators will set the GPS ship right. The environment in which new hires are paid more than loyal employees is a long-standing embarrassment. Allowing this situation to fester merits one more big fat FAIL. BTW, frozen salaries were a superintendent initiative more than five years ago. The community didn’t have a voice in that. FAIL.

“Coordination of a well-organized opposition.” You betcha! The opposition organized over a period of time in which tone-deaf, bone-headed decisions emanated from rubber-stamp boards and incompetent administrators. Then there was the overall stench of corruption at the top. Add the impression that Good Old Boys were rewarding each other and their pals with public dollars while they partied on the public dime. We’ll grade this SATISFACTORY … because Dr. K’s leadership thus far keeps the opposition organized. It’s not that she is doing a good job at something over which she has no control. Obviously, if Dr. K was doing what needs to be done, the opposition would be fading away and withering on the vine with their services no longer needed.

What in the world was Dr. K doing during the time when she went “on vacation” in Hartford in March 2014 and when she took over GPS at a salary of almost $1,000.00 per day? She dawdled about recruiting  top lieutenants, leaving key positions long unfilled. After her first choice was rejected, Dr. K filled the CFO position with the dude who taught Arizona Good Old Boys how to play GOB financial games with public money, rewarding his superintendents along the way.  Dr. K sure seems to think everything in GPS is hers: her board, her leadership team, her plans that she hasn’t shared with the public.

We don’t see a lot of success from Her Newness. That’s part of a pattern she has practiced to perfection. First Hartford, where the news was negative about her interpersonal relations and communication skills. She got handed her walking papers on a 7-0 vote against renewing her contract.

Kishimoto had not been a K-12 teacher, principal or superintendent. She had little administrative background and had no feel for the politics of the job. What seemed to frustrate board members was what they viewed as a missing sense of urgency on Ms. Kishimoto’s part. Board members said they pushed Ms. Kishimoto for credible plans to improve all schools, to no avail. A section of a ceiling collapsed in a classroom, sending a student and a teaching intern to the hospital with minor injuries. This could have been a lot more serious, and board members feel Ms. Kishimoto has not been as attentive to the condition of the buildings as they’d like.

Her boss was blunt about her performance that led to the 7-0 vote to send Christina packing:

Superintendent Kishimoto is dedicated to educational reform on behalf of Hartford students; however, achievement levels remain unsatisfactory despite the significant amount of resources invested. In response, the Superintendent has stated that improvements in academic achievement will take 20 years. That is unacceptable. Hartford students deserve a leader who strengthens and accelerates the quality of their education at a faster pace.

We shall bestow a new name on Her Newness: 7-0 Kishimoto. From the video below: “Respect is a two-way street.” Remember, you could have had Westie for superintendent.


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