Superintendent Christina Kishimoto doesn’t want the public to know that she parks in a special reserved parking space in the GPS parking lot, which is marked by a sign “Reserved for Superintendent.” That’s because the public might know when she is at work (and when she’s not). What is this, megalomania? Does her staff make an “Elvis has left the building” announcement when she leaves? Sheeesh.
Inquiring minds wanted to know if 7-0 Kishimoto’s newly reserved parking space took the place of a handicapped parking space. This *special* parking space is closest to the steps leading to the main doors of the GPS White Palace. Short answer: no. There are still reserved parking spaces for handicapped visitors, but they’re not as close to the main door. We didn’t see any indication that Queen Christina’s new parking space was anything other than just a regular space that 7-0 Kishimoto happened to covet. It looks like the *special* parking space previous superintendents used wasn’t good enough for Her Newness.
We agree with folks who don’t appreciate spending public money on a “Reserved for Superintendent” sign while school principals have been asking (over and over) for donations of reams of paper for their campuses. Remember when Good Old Charlie Santa Cruz was a candidate for a seat on the Governing Board, he asked his supporters to show their enthusiasm for him by contributing a ream of paper to the school of their choice? #IChooseGPS indeed. The Reserved for Superintendent parking space is just a silly distraction from the main event, though. You can see that we took a photo of the sign. Oooooh, that set off 7-0 Kishimoto! She’s mad at us. What she did about that madness is even sillier.
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto called the police to complain about us taking a picture in the parking lot. Yeppers, she called the School Resource Officer for Mesquite High School to launch her complaint. We can tell you, we were just flat-out scared to death to have a police officer call Westie. You see, Westie had hugged a friend in the parking lot that day, and it was possible this call from the police was about a charge of assault and battery for hugging. That police officer had a different mission, though. He wanted to know why we were taking pictures. So we told him the same thing we posted here. He wrote a report.
That should have been the end of the story, but this is when it got really interesting. As usual with Gilbert Public Schools, you can try to think of the stupidest thing the Good Old Boys might do, but they’ll amaze you every time with their ability to do something far more stupid than you could ever imagine.*
Christina Kishimoto flounced up to Gilbert Municipal Court and filed a civil lawsuit against the Westies. It seems that the nice police officer told her how to file for an injunction against harassment when he took her complaint about us taking pictures in a public parking lot. It was just amazing how 7-0 Kishimoto was merely mad at us when she called the police officer up to her private
lair office and demanded that he find out why we were taking pictures. By the time she got herself up to the courthouse, she was in fear for her life, or something like that. An elderly couple with a camera must be terrifying, right? [face palm] Sheeeesh.
By the time 7-0 Kishimoto filed for a Petition for an Injunction against Harassment, her story was a whole lot different from what the nice police officer reported about their encounter. Suddenly, Good Old Christina Kishimoto had to come up with a “series” of harassing events in order to get an injunction against that terrifying elderly couple. Well, actually, she couldn’t get an injunction against both Westies, so she made up a bunch of stuff about TWestie, someone she has never in her life met. Probably has never even seen him. [The same is true about DWestie, but her name got crossed off Kishimoto’s petition.] TWestie had no opportunity to contest her allegations because he was not notified of the hearing or of Kishimoto’s petition. Does that sound fair?
Then the problems snowballed for Superintendent Kishimoto, who had decided to represent herself rather than consult the many lawyers she keeps at her beck and call on the public dime. First of all, the power to sue is specifically reserved to the GPS Governing Board, not to the Superintendent. Inquiring minds want to know: did the Governing Board know that Queen Christina was in that courtroom during school hours? It sure looks like Good Old 7-0 Kishimoto didn’t want the board to know about her excellent adventure. Others ask if the highest paid superintendent in Arizona took personal leave to go romping down to the courthouse. That’s doubtful, since the superintendent can sell back any and all of her leave for full price, which happens to be something like $1,000.00 per day. But we digress.
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto took an oath under penalty of perjury when she signed her petition, swearing her evidence was true to the best of her knowledge and that she requested an injunction “as allowed by law.” She also swore that the testimony she was going to give was “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Then she swore out loud that the contents of her petition were true and accurate to the best of her knowledge. How do we know these things about the secret little hearing Christina Kishimoto finagled? We asked for a copy of the audio recording of the 13 minute hearing. As always, Westie loves to share.
Her Newness introduced herself as the “Superintendent of Schools.” Oooh, it must have burned when the judge didn’t know who she was, how *special* she was, or even what school district she was from. Queen Christina just barreled forth with all kinds of sworn testimony about how scared she was of the guy whose act of harassment was this: “The Green’s [sic] were in my office bldg at 140 S Gilbert reviewing public records.” OMG! Call the cops! [Oh wait, she did that already.]
We’ll post more about Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s sworn testimony in a court of law and why it’s important that the citizens of The Town of Gilbert, Arizona know that if you p*ss her off, she will come after you. You know you’ll be laughing your heads off. It will be a little *light* reading for Spring Break.
“Get up-close with Dave as he examines UFO thrillseekers and Elvis- worshippers, plays lead guitar with a horrifying rock band that includes Stephen King, and swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth . . . so God help you!”
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has been brazenly violating Open Meeting Laws and Arizona Public Records Laws since she took the helm of a school district that had been run by clown car group of administrators. Now Good Old 7-0 Kishimoto has gone where those others feared to tread.
On January 13, 2015, we reviewed the “minutes” of the December 2, 2014 work study session, consisting of 4 cassette tapes described by GPS as having been “recorded using outdated equipment.” When we made a formal request using the GPS Public Records online form on December 9, 2014, it was already past the statutory requirement that minutes be available to the public. Gilbert Public Schools and Superintendent Christina Kishimoto had already hung their hats on the false premise, “it’s not a public meeting because no legal action will be taken.” In addition to state law, there’s also GPS policy that’s being violated. Here’s what the Community Relations staff emailed to us:
Please let me reiterate that there are no formal minutes from the 12/02/14 Work Study. There are Board member responses to the Budget Process and Dr Kishimoto’s SOP’s. In regards to Policy BEDG, this Work Study in question does not apply to GPS Policy BEDG.
In other words, 7-0 Kishimoto has taken the dicta of her hero to heart:
“I’m the commander, see. I don’t need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the
President Superintendent. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”
Here’s what GPS Policy BEDG says: “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.” We saw that 7-0 Kishimoto took all the credit when the February 10, 2015 work study session was Livestreamed, but thanks anyway to whoever made that happen.
We helpfully listened to the entire work study session and recorded it so we could share it with our beloved Birdies. The links will appear at the bottom of this post; they’re painful to listen to, we warn you. It seems that GPS either can’t or won’t save audio and video recordings in a way that you can listen or watch and not suffer through unreasonable and irresponsible *technical difficulties.* Then, of course, there are the self-inflicted *technical difficulties* of just turning off microphones and/or cameras, or creating a gap in the record for an undetermined period of time. Sheeeeeesh.
We extracted three audio clips that should scare anyone who believes in transparency in government. The work study recordings reveal why GPS makes it difficult for the public to discover what board members discuss with the superintendent. This explains a lot about why Gilbert Public Schools went back to the Stone Ages in terms of open government — and why it took so long for us to get our hands on this information.
For example, 7-0 Kishimoto discussed having the board commit to allocating $1.5 Million to $2 Million each year in the future for curriculum when board members determine their budget framework for the next school year. Did you know that priority is now set in stone for at least three budget cycles? Once again, we feel outraged on behalf of the loyal GPS employees who believed that salary increases would be the first priority for this new bought-and-paid-for board. Click to listen.
Of course, there’s more: with these clowns, there’s always more. We shall now unveil 7-0 Kishimoto’s *process* for marketing Gilbert Public Schools. Superintendent Kishimoto said she is developing a marketing proposal to go to the board in January [it’s already a day late and a dollar short in mid-February, but who’s counting?]. Kishimoto stated that the marketing plan was being developed “at no cost” by “silent partners who are working with me right now, who are experts.” Kishimoto also said, “We have engaged some of these folks. We are putting a plan together…so the board will be able to see where the funds are going.” Click to listen.
It’s alarming to hear that initiatives for spending potentially millions of dollars are being developed in secret by “no cost silent partners.” Their conflicts of interest could be enormous. Are these silent partners consultants who are already “engaged” being paid with public funds? What’s happening behind closed doors?
Hey, wait a minute! Could this be the reason that The Arizona Republic started publishing puff pieces about how *civilized* GPS board meetings have become under the *leadership* of Lily Tram? Could it be that The Republic stands to gain big bucks from 7-0 Kishimoto’s new marketing plan that has yet to be presented to the governing board? Could it be that people from The Republic (or really close colleagues) are part of the group of “silent partners” who are developing a spending plan for all this marketing money? Could these “silent partners” have put the horse before the cart (in a sneaky way to force the community’s hand) by allocating marketing dollars to Friends of Kishimoto before the target audiences have even been identified? What are the odds that any of these new marketing materials will be error-free and professional, given what now passes for communications from GPS?
Let’s take a look at what is on Lily Tram’s mind these days when it comes to plans for Gilbert Public Schools. We know that the GPS website teaches that the board sometimes gives direction to the administration during work study sessions, so here we have Good Old Lily Tram setting the table for closing GPS schools. Parents, taxpayers and community members should receive notice that board members are discussing closing schools; the process and considerations are set out in A.R.S. §15-341A33. Instead, we have a work study session that wasn’t intended to have minutes available to the public. Click to listen.
If you thought the Good Old Boys and their “Gilbert Way” of doing business were bad, you ain’t seen nuthin yet: discussing closing schools, outlining budget framework for future school years and developing potentially multi-million dollar spending plans with “silent partners” while evading public scrutiny. All this news, coming on top of the board’s decisions (following the superintendent’s recommendations) to buy Google Chromebooks for all 7th graders, buy new school busses, and spend $1.3 Million for administrative software tells you what’s coming down the pike. All the remaining money in this year’s budget will be spent on the new board’s *priorities* rather than essential elements for educating students.
When the money is gone, they’ll do the usual wailing and rending of garments proclaiming GPS can’t survive without another tax override. They’ll chide the horrible citizens who don’t trust the GPS administration and governing board with more, more and more millions of dollars. They’ll make budget cuts designed to inflict maximum pain on families of GPS students, hoping to intimidate voters to pass the *essential* override. We’ve all seen all this before.
Educrats and their enablers. They’ve made the pie higher:
As promised, you can listen to *almost* the whole meeting at the following links (gaps courtesy of whoever recorded the meeting and/or provided tape copies of the original tapes for us to review):
It looks like GPS Superintendent Christina “7-0″ Kishimoto thinks the public ought to pay $$$ to talk to Ole 7-0 herself, board members and “leaders” in the district. Really. Your tax dollars aren’t enough–if you want to talk to Her Newness, she wants more, more and more of YOUR money! (Maybe you’ll get breakfast, if you’re deemed sufficiently *worthy.* GPS has been running up some mighty big catering bills lately!) As originally posted in the East Valley Tribune:
Gilbert Public Schools hosting town hall Posted: Friday, February 6, 2015 8:15 am
Gilbert Public Schools will host a town hall meeting from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Feb. 17. The meeting will feature governing board members, as well as leaders of Gilbert Public Schools, discussing current issues in education. Member admission to the event is $20, while nonmember admission is $35. [The photo of 7-0 was “Courtesy of Hartford Schools.” Really.]
That article caused people to question what new level of effontery was Gilbert Public Schools trying to achieve. Pay to
play “discuss current issues in education” with public servants who are paid far too much for a bunch of second-string players administrators? Sheeesh! As the day went on, there were claims that the event was REALLY a Gilbert Chamber of Commerce thingy. So you’re supposed to believe it is just hunky-dory to pay money to talk to the people who run GPS while they are being paid with your tax dollars. Of course, you’re supposed to forget that the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce decided to support their pet school board candidates, Jill Humpherys and Charlie Santa Cruz, as soon as they filed their candidacy papers.
[Notice how the Chamber of Commerce thought there were only four candidates in the school board election; we all know there were five candidates. Oooopsie. So much for credibility, Gilbert business critters!]
When we heard that 7-0 was claiming this was actually a Gilbert Chamber of Commerce event, we checked the Chamber’s website. Wouldn’t you know, there was no event scheduled for February 17th. Then, a claim was made that this so-called Town Hall was really a Chamber of Commerce event under the banner of the “Good Government” series. [Saying “Gilbert Public Schools” and “Good Government” in the same breath? Come on! <sarcasm>] Click the image at right to see that there were no “Good Government” events scheduled in February 2015. The East Valley Tribune tried again at 5:19 PM, but didn’t make things any better for 7-0 Kishimoto (new text in color):
The Gilbert Chamber of Commerce will host a town hall meeting for the Gilbert Public Schools district from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Feb. 17. The meeting will feature governing board members, as well as leaders of Gilbert Public Schools, discussing current issues in education. Member admission to the event is $20, while non-member admission is $35. [EVT now has a picture of 7-0 Kishimoto “Courtesy of Gilbert Public Schools.”]
Apparently, even the new article wasn’t good enough for 7-0 Kishimoto. Here’s what got posted on the GPS website, where they couldn’t even be bothered to tell you what “Chamber” is the real host of the pay-to-play event [chamber pot, perhaps?]:
See, there it is again: “Good Government” event … isn’t it fortunate that we saved the image showing otherwise? With the difference between the GPS comment, the Chamber of Commerce website and the image we posted above, some people might begin to think that the Superintendent known as 7-0 Kishimoto is a bit challenged when it comes to stating things truthfully!
Why would GPS allow anyone to charge money to talk to GPS public servants on GPS property? This looks really strange and it smells to high heaven. Maybe it’s legal, if GPS charges the Chamber of Commerce for using GPS property, which will be like pulling teeth to determine whether payment actually was received (remember the candidate debates at Gilbert High School?). Maybe it’s not legal – it seems that 7-0 Kishimoto would have asked the board to formally approve this activity if it were on the up-and-up. After all, the board formally approves all kinds of activities at board meetings, so it’s not like this would be difficult. But by golly, there are no official minutes with approval for this event. Wonder why?
It would be a terrible thing for the top educator in the school district to be caught making things up, wouldn’t it? Especially with the emphasis GPS has always placed on the Six Pillars of Character, as shown by those posters displayed in GPS classrooms:
Trustworthiness: Be honest • Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal • Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do • Have the courage to do the right thing • Build a good reputation • Be loyal — stand by your family, friends, and country
Respect: Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule • Be tolerant and accepting of differences • Use good manners, not bad language • Be considerate of the feelings of others • Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone • Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements
Responsibility: Do what you are supposed to do • Plan ahead • Persevere: keep on trying! • Always do your best • Use self-control • Be self-disciplined • Think before you act — consider the consequences • Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes • Set a good example for others
Fairness: Play by the rules • Take turns and share • Be open-minded; listen to others • Don’t take advantage of others • Don’t blame others carelessly • Treat all people fairly
Caring: Be kind • Be compassionate and show you care • Express gratitude • Forgive others • Help people in need
Citizenship: Do your share to make your school and community better • Cooperate • Get involved in community affairs • Stay informed; vote • Be a good neighbor • Obey laws and rules • Respect authority • Protect the environment • Volunteer
All public servants shall carry out the public’s business in a manner that benefits the public interest and the common good. They shall uphold the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Arizona. They shall impartially carry out all Federal, State, and County laws and ordinances in an effort to foster respect for all levels of government. They shall not exceed their authority, breach the law, act dishonestly, nor directly or indirectly request others to do so. They shall observe the highest standards of ethical behavior and discharge faithfully their duties and responsibilities, regardless of personal considerations, and shall avoid circumstances that create an appearance of impropriety. They shall protect the County’s assets and its reputation through professional and personal conduct that is above reproach. This means treating co-workers and all members of the public with respect, courtesy, fairness, honesty, and integrity. [emphasis added]
Arizona Constitution, Article 9, Section 7:
Neither the State, nor any county, city, town, municipality, or other subdivision of the State shall ever give or loan its credit in the aid of, or make any donation or grant, by subsidy or otherwise, to any individual, association, or corporation, or become a subscriber to, or a shareholder in, any company or corporation, or become a joint owner with any person, company, or corporation, except as to such ownerships as may accrue to the State by operation or provision of law. [emphasis added]
It’s just so gosh darn HARD to keep up appearances!
Arizona school districts are moving into employment contract season, which is also the time when high-level administrative employees and coaches announce they are leaving, generally for greener pastures. For employees in Gilbert Public Schools, just about any pasture is greener these days. BTW, teachers don’t have to declare whether they are returning to GPS (that will be in May), but their resumes are brightly burnished and they are ready for interviews!
First up, let’s look at Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s three year contract. It’s a doozy, full of everything Good Old Dave Allison had, plus a whole lot more. We hear that Good Old 7-0 Kishimoto is teaching her Arizona superintendent *peers* how to get the same gold-plated deal for themselves. We can’t wait to hear from all those educrats that it’s all for the kids. [sarcasm and ridicule]
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s Compensation Package:
~ Base Pay: $200,000.00 each year.
~ Automatic raise each year: 2% (that’s $4,000.00 each year)
~ Expense Allowance: $5,000.00 per year.
~ Automobile Entitlement: $6,600.00, to be paid at $550.00 per month.
~ Professional Growth: Capped at $3,000.00 per year.
~ Civic Responsibility Expense: $3,000.00 per year.
~ Tax Sheltered Annuity: $10,000.00 on July 1st and on January 1st of each year.
~ $500,000.00 Basic term life insurance policy.
~ Disability insurance: within 30 days of disability, covering 75% of salary.
~ Moving Expense: $15,000.00 to be paid no later than August 1, 2014.
~ Administrative Benefits (which she can cash in for full value, unlike low-level GPS employees):
~ No less than 24 vacation days, exclusive of legal holidays.
~ 16 days for illness benefits and leaves.
~ 10 days of personal leave.
~ Healthcare for herself and her family.
~ All other benefits provided to twelve month administrative employees.
Evaluations: Having been humiliated by the Hartford Board of Education’s one and only evaluation of her performance as superintendent, it’s no wonder that 7-0 Kishimoto put it into her contract that her evaluations and assessments shall be done in executive session.
Performance Pay: Criteria to be determined by October 1, 2014. We all know that the superintendent and the board waited until January 2015 to even discuss the goals and criteria for 7-0 Kishimoto’s $10,000.00 performance-based compensation. It looks like she waited ’til the board was stacked with *friendlies,* including her pet bought-and-paid-for members. The performance pay payout is August 1st of each year.
Getting fired: Having been humiliated in Hartford, once again it’s no surprise that 7-0 Kishimoto made sure her contract spells out the convoluted path a board must take to
fire her discharge her for cause.
Our gal Christina gets the same magnificent indemnification clause that GOB Dave Allison had. There must be some reason that school district superintendents want to have district-paid lawyers representing them for
fleecing the public getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar or other such shenanigans.
There’s no way Christina Kishimoto will ever measure up to Camille Casteel, Superintendent of Chandler Unified School District. Dr. Casteel is getting a high school named for her while she’s still superintendent – that says it all about the level of respect she has earned. Here’s the Chandler board’s proclamation. It’s powerful and inspiring, if you are an educator. Notice that Dr. Casteel began as a first grade teacher, and she’s really proud of it. Another stellar superintendent in Florida is an old classmate of DWestie. See, a community doesn’t have to settle for substandard.
There’s a reason GPS teachers have fled to Chandler USD in droves. Even the students noticed last year; nothing has changed for the better this year:
Teachers are finding more and more reasons to leave their schools, specifically Gilbert Public Schools (GPS), to find a more comfortable place here in the Chandler Unified School District (CUSD). Due to problems such as finances, workload, and safety in their school system, educators are willing to pack up their belongings and land a job at Perry in order to continue a secure and more professional career in their desired line of work.
With little communication and uncertainty all-around, teachers and higher-ups might continue to clash and there will undoubtedly be more resignations and retirements (more than average) throughout all of Gilbert Public Schools for the upcoming months to come.
We made a public records request for the contracts of the other top dogs in GPS, way back on December 9, 2014: Alexander Nardone, Jeffrey Gadd, Suzanne Zentner, Linda McKeever* and Brian Jaeger. Yeah, we still don’t have them two months later. It’s not like it’s hard for GPS to find five contracts; it’s probably that GPS doesn’t want anyone to know how generous the top dog paychecks are. Since it’s almost time to renegotiate the contracts for the top dogs, the most recent pots of gold are of great interest to the loyal GPS employees who are waiting for the largess they thought had been promised by the new bought-and-paid-for board members and the GEA president who rallied state-wide troops to elect them. We wonder if the screaming meemies will get all worked up over a *mass exodus* this year.
Oh, you didn’t know that most assistant superintendent level contracts are negotiated annually? All over Arizona, they come up with all kinds of goodies, from free health insurance to car allowances to *Pay for Additional Work* to goodness knows what else. That’s while the board *considers* a salary increase for loyal employees in the range of 1% to 2%, usually. Then there’s the Higley board that gives Superintendent Denise Birdwell big old pension spiking humongous raises every year for being … famously mean. At least, that’s what we hear from our birdies.
[Keyboard: Hang in there, Higley employees, Birdwell is almost gone.]
There’s some news for all you loyal employees are waiting to hear how you will fare on the new Stepless Salary Schedule. We know you’re all crossing your fingers that there will be money in the actual budget for those increases this time. Her Wellness, Suzanne Zentner, will be making presentations about the Stepless Salary Schedule along with Moneybags Jeff Gadd. What a lot of chutzpah to “share the details” BEFORE the board approves a new salary schedule! Yeah, if GEA has blessed this, it shall be done…
RE: Stepless Salary Schedule Presentations and Question/Answer Forums
In an ongoing effort to share the details of the proposed stepless salary schedule transition, you are invited to attend any of the meetings noted below.
Certified Staff: Thursday, 2/19 from 4-5pm @ Mesquite High School Lecture Hall
Thursday, 3/5 from 4:30-5:30pm @ Highland High School Lecture Hall
Support Staff: Tuesday, 3/3 from 4-5pm @ Greenfield Jr High School Library
Wednesday, 3/18 from 4-5pm @ Mesquite Jr High School Auditorium
Notice you have to attend these meetings on your own time if you want to know what’s going on about your pay. That’s on top of all the endless meetings you have to attend as part of your job. In other industries, employers have figured out how to communicate over webinars so that any and all employees can get the same message at a time convenient to their unique work schedule. What a concept!
More of the same old stuff: our buddies in Hartford say that 7-0 Kishimoto’s strong point has never been communication, and it’s becoming more evident every day that communication is not 7-0 Kishimoto’s strong point in Gilbert, either. Birdies are chirping that these presentations about the new GPS Strategic Operating Plan have been *tailored* for various audiences to try to get more buy-in. Heck, 7-0 Kishimoto makes sure there are raffles and giveaways to pump up audience numbers when she graces the community with her presence. Sheeeesh. SOS:
There is no question that Kishimoto’s skill set is missing strong communication ability. She definitely needs work on informing the board and answering members’ questions.
Maybe it’s like doing the limbo: how low can she go?
* Big Fat Asterisk: Did Linda McKeever get a big fat raise when she got promoted to Curriculum Commissar at the last board meeting?
[Keyboard: Duh…why bother asking?]
Gilbert Public Schools has a brand new Governing Board in place, and they’re off to the races in terms of just how much money Dr. Christina Kishimoto can convince them to spend on chasing rainbows and unicorns before the public brings out the torches and pitchforks.
The answer might become clear at the January 2015 regular board meeting, where suddenly there’s money for Chromebooks for all 7th graders, shiny new school busses, performance pay for the superintendent and more. New and enhanced Tech Services salaries are moving over to the same fund as teachers and support staff … more people, same pie. No one begrudges the raises the Tech Services people are getting (for the most part) but HOW and WHEN these raises have come about is sounding pretty much like cloak and dagger dealing in smoke-filled back rooms. This is all on top of the $1.3 Million software deal that didn’t go out for bids a couple of months ago.
Wasn’t that a big show of chutzpah for 7-0 Kishimoto to have announcements sent out over the Infinite Campus system to parents, before Governing Board approval, announcing the great big new and fabulous technology plan that puts
a chicken in every pot a Google Chromebook in the hands of every 7th grader? That’s how to spend a couple of million dollars to zero out the expiring Technology Override before the new governor’s decree of “stop spending money except in the classroom” takes effect for Arizona’s public schools! As for the voting public and taxpayers, too bad you didn’t know this was THE TOP PRIORITY for those scarce GPS resources until just now.
Hey teachers and GEA acolytes: do you feel you’ve been tossed out with the bath water? Down in Tucson, the TEA made sure that staff salary raises were the first order of business after the Tucson board got their bought-and-paid-for board members in voting mode. It sure helped that a new superintendent in Tucson *discovered* that the $17 Million deficit was an illusion. Nevertheless, lots of schools were shut and all kinds of painful, draconian measures were taken to cut spending until the *gap* was closed.
Suddenly, just before the 2014 election, Tucson was sitting pretty with a $20 Million surplus:
The district had a $14 million surplus that has in fact grown to $20 million. TUSD officials are saying the money will be used to help increase teacher salaries and lower class sizes. It was just last month that a former deputy superintendent projected the district would have a deficit of $15 million; that was based on cuts in federal funding and a loss of between 900 and 2,200 students, a projection the Superintendent called a worst case scenario.
Here’s some of the buzz in the community about the fabulous new Google Chromebooks and what a magnificent move it will be to approve what 7-0 Kishimoto has already set in motion: <channeling sarcasm and ridicule>
It says on the agenda they are moving technology employees salaries over to the rest of the employees salary budget in order to make room in the technology budget to buy these Chromebooks. That means that although it may be true that the money in that category can only buy technology, it can also pay the salaries of the technology services staff so that they aren’t competing now for the same fund teachers are paid from. This is just sophisticated manipulation of money. You’ve got to hand it to her, it’s clever.
I’m not sure Dr K has the district’s best interests mind. The plans aren’t plans, they’re ideas. We need a budget, not to be chasing rainbows. She’s not stellar in replying to parents and we have more questions than answers…The communication is shoddy at best, sketchy and underhanded at worst. No one really seems to be able to give any solid answers. We need to repair the existing damage before we try to implement these grandiose plans.
Oppose. Looks “fancy” – but at what cost? The ongoing cost to maintain and monitor this technology will be a burden on staff & budgets. Many 7th graders can’t remember their PE clothes, but we are giving them high-end notebooks? Misplaced priorities. As a parent and professional educator, I see this as a major misstep.
I don’t feel that this is a good use of resources. We would be better served to start updating the 9 year old Macs that we already have, even if we can’t replace all of them. Chromebooks are basically disposable laptops, and the cost to update our ability to run this many devices at once is far more expensive than the cost of the books themselves. We have a little bit over override money left in the budget, we can use it more wisely than this.
I am hearing a lot of concerns from parents and district employees about this proposal that is going before the board tonight. Among other things, many people believe that Google Chromebooks are a quick fix and are pretty much just glorified web browsers with security as an issue since Google data mines user accounts. I realize there is some urgency to provide technology for the new state testing program, but they could increase the bandwidth and still delay the Chromebook decision until it has been more carefully considered.
Yes, parents AND educators are concerned that their beloved 7th graders are going to be exploited, subjected to data-mining and other nefarious dastardly deeds, and parents won’t be able to do a thing about it. You’re right to be concerned! However, Google will require signed parent consent for allowing GPS students under the age of 13 to use Google education apps. That will be a logistical nightmare to administer, by any measure. Teachers won’t mind having their feet held to the fire for yet another unfunded mandate and unpaid extra duty, will they? <Dripping sarcasm>
As for the shiny new school busses, don’t worry about a thing. <more sarcasm> Here’s what’s on the agenda: “approval of the utilization of Mohave Contract #13N-ASH-0925 awarded to Auto Safety House (GPS Reference RFP #15-39) for the purchase of three replacement, 84 passenger Thomas School Buses and 2 replacement Special Needs Busses.” Once again, it appears GPS didn’t take the time to go out for bids, so they’re just going to use the smoke-and-mirrors technique AGAIN and sleaze on by with their Mohave buddies. Things are getting pretty stinky in the Great White Temple of Doom. That’s even BEFORE we start connecting the dots involved in the Chromebook purchases!
Maybe folks in Gilbert, Arizona don’t know the history of 7-0 Kishimoto and her sketchy budget deals in her last job in Hartford. Here’s something to remember when 7-0 Kishimoto tells the GPS Governing Board that she doesn’t see a need to go out for bids: The City of Hartford and the Hartford school district *lost* $670,000 in insurance premiums to fraud. The FBI moved in to investigate and the matter went before a Grand Jury:
In an internal memorandum dated Sept. 24, Hartford Schools’ CFO wrote that the City Treasurer’s office “moved” a fiduciary liability policy from one broker to Hybrid about February 2012 “without the need to ‘compete.’” Mayor Pedro Segarra, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and school board Chairman Matthew Poland forwarded the memo to the city’s internal audit commission on Oct. 2.
City officials called for criminal investigations. Notice that *citizen reports* paved the way for uncovering the fraud that occurred under 7-0 Kishimoto’s watch:
“There have been citizen reports and concerns about incomplete or fraudulent information, and steering of contracts among special insider interests,” he wrote. “This council has been unable to receive clear answers in these areas, which involve its administration and finance department, treasurer, and board of education. … Therefore, we now with some urgency ask for your involvement and investigation into these matters.”
We have an uneasy feeling that 7-0 Kishimoto’s history might repeat itself with these big-ticket, multi-million dollar procurement initiatives that are not deemed worthy of “going out for bids” when the Good Old Boys can simply piggyback on each others’ stinky deals. History is already repeating itself with GPS top dogs hiding the ball from the board until they can say, “You have to approve it NOW!” We’ll see if this new board will go along to get along and rubber stamp 7-0 Kishimoto’s grandiose plans. The tone-deafness is incredible.
Our birdies will recognize that this is another post that pretty much wrote itself. Thanks for all the chirps! Have some chocolate.
Here’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.
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>
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.
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.
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!
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.]
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?
* 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.
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.
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.
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 measure. Jason 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 policy. Gilbert 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 disease. GPS 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.