Let’s Kill the GPS Lawyers Perpetual Employment Program

Shane McCord now is the newly appointed superintendent of Gilbert Public Schools. The previous Reign of Shane cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees for lawsuits and investigations leading to settlements with litigants and agencies of the federal government. Now that the Loose Zipper Brigade is ready to repopulate the White Castle, maybe GPS would be better off making sex addiction treatment available on request. It would be cheaper than repeating the sordid past. The legacy of the old Loose Zipper Brigade is the kids whose futures were forever harmed as villainous public officers *allegedly* indulged in debauchery on the public dime. Sigh, everything old is new again.

GPS could easily overcome its reputation as the district of last resort by adopting William Shakespeare’s suggestion, Let’s kill all the lawyers.*  Those blood-sucking vampire lawyers created an environment dedicated to the GPS Lawyers Perpetual Employment Program that consumes hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars while helping the GPS administration and governing board evade inconvenient laws.

The idea for this drastic proposal was the GPS response to an email Westie sent to the governing board about violations of the Arizona Open Meeting Law that occurred on July 25, 2017.  Instead of answering directly, the board got their pet lawyers involved. The result was laughable, in addition to being wholly unsatisfactory and needlessly expensive.  Keep in mind, the smart response [which Westie was naive enough to believe would be forthcoming] would have been a simple email saying, “Oops, we thought we were doing right, but we understand how it might appear we violated OML. We’ll try harder in the future. Thanks for the heads up; we appreciate that you didn’t file a formal complaint.” How hard would that have been?

First, Westie’s comment about an OML violation, a question about how the board will fix the situation and evidence that the GPS board knows how to do things the right way:

While watching the board meeting last night, I saw what I believe is yet another egregious OML violation with item 7.01: the board voted to suspend district policies in order to approve documents required to effect a settlement agreement with the US Dept of Ed Office for Civil Rights, Case No. 08-16-1322. The action to suspend a policy was not noticed at all on the agenda for the meeting, although discussion included that the suspension had to be a separate vote in order to reach approval for the non-discrimination documents required for the settlement agreement. The OCR settlement agreement may not be legitimate as a result of an OML violation. What will you do to remedy the situation?

It appears the board knows how to comply with OML when compliance is desired. At the June 27, 2017 business meeting, there was an agenda item to suspend district policy, followed by a vote on the suspension, but no vote as to approving a new calendar, which was not on the agenda: “8.07 – Discussion and possible action to temporarily suspend Governing Board Policy IC’s requirement that the school calendars be approved by July annually.” This demonstrated awareness of correct procedure makes the July 25th OML violation all the more disturbing.

You can’t make up things as stupid as what the lawyer tried to sell from a position as twisted as a pretzel. Following a long diatribe and references to a board policy BGB, that wasn’t mentioned in the agenda but was obviously was pulled from some lawyerly nether regions, the lawyer pretending to be Sheila Rogers claimed there was an emergency, which was never mentioned in the meeting agenda. The lawyer conspicuously avoided comment about the board’s knowledge of correct procedure at the previous month’s meeting:

The Administration respectfully disagree with your assertion that the Governing Board violated the open meeting law. First, while Board Member Carr asked for explicit Board action to approve the suspension of Policy BGB as it pertained to two readings, the Board did not  need such a motion at all, because the Policy itself permits the Board to amend Policies in a single meeting in a Board-declared emergency (which this was).

Westie pointed out a second possible OML violation during the same meeting:

Also on July 25th, item 7.02 was noticed as “presentation, discussion and consideration,” there was a motion and a vote to take action. The subject was relatively inconsequential, but the process of voting on an agenda item that was not noticed for action appears to have been another violation of OML.

The lawyer’s response was to throw some spaghetti against the wall to see if any would stick and get the board out of this self-created mess:

However, item 7.02 is listed under the portion of the Agenda entitled, “Action Items (Items for Consideration, Discussion, Direction and Possible Approval)”. We respectfully disagree that the public would not have notice that the Board might choose to act of item 7.02.

One of the reasons Westie brought this meeting to the attention of the board president was because it was an embarrassment. The attorney ignored this part of Westie’s email. Really, what  could you say in response? Of course, what the board president could do is cut off Silly Jilly Humpherys’ microphone immediately after her usual prologue, “I appreciate all the hard work…”

Continuing on July 25th, the discussion about item 7.03, start times and format for board meetings, came across as chaotic and unprofessional. You need a clear motion and a second of that motion, which was sorely lacking in the meandering discussion and confusion about how the board will function. Jill and Charlie have had extensive OML training, which included this subject matter, as part of a different settlement agreement. That was with the AZ Attorney General, and the training was accompanied by six months of monitoring. The irony of Jill Humpherys commenting favorably on how efficient other boards function (without Jill’s trademarked stream-of-consciousness commentary on just about everything) was on full display.

The day after the board meeting, OML violations continued to contribute to the GPS Lawyers Perpetual Employment Program, in spite of recent extensive training and monitoring by the AZ Attorney General:

OML violations continued today: photos on various Facebook pages show a quorum of board members attended new teacher training. I haven’t found anywhere that a public notice was posted online. The requirement to post notice online was another part of the OML training Charlie and Jill attended. How many flagrant OML violations will this board accumulate? It gets expensive in the long run as an essential tactic for the GPS Lawyers Perpetual Employment Strategy.

The lawyer claimed the meeting “was not, in the District’s view, a “meeting” of the Governing Board.” Did you notice that Westie never claimed it was a meeting? More spaghetti.

That said, we understand that having a quorum of the Board present at gatherings, even if they are not “meetings” within the definition of Arizona’s open meeting laws, could create a perception of a violation of the OML.

No $#!t, Sherlock, that was Westie’s point. The lawyer went on to explain how GPS will do “Courtesy” postings, which is what the OML training had stressed was the correct procedure. Sheeeeesh. Westie had one more point to make:

Finally, it was open and obvious that the additional compensation for Suzanne Zentner was buried in the consent agenda without a price tag or terms associated with this largess. You all can do better on transparency. Your hold on the public trust is tenuous, and that doesn’t bode well for the success of a new superintendent you will select, or for reversing the plummeting student enrollment trend that has cost, and continues to cost, the district millions of dollars.

The lawyer decided to throw the boiling water out of the spaghetti pot at Westie and say the board didn’t violate OML on that issue. However, Westie didn’t say this action violated OML, but criticized the board with, “You all can do better on transparency.” The lawyer letter cost the district thousands of dollars, and THIS was the best they could come up with. Sheeeesh.

The lawyer added something Westie had never noticed:

In addition, if any member of the public had a question regarding the details pertaining to this Agenda item, he/she could have requested additional information. As is expressly stated at the end of the Agenda, “Additional information regarding this agenda can be obtained from the Governing Board Coordinator’s office 24 hours in advance of the board meeting.”

What GPS did when Westie took that advice is the subject of the next post. You know you can hardly wait.

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Big Fat Asterisk: 
Don’t take it literally. The quote is from William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2.  Westie knows and loves a few wonderful lawyers, but has no use for those miscreants who have made it their life’s work to gorge themselves on public funds from school districts under the guise of *legal advice* that’s neither wanted nor warranted. GPS spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on such schemes.

New GPS Superintendent Hiring Process: The Road Ahead is Perilous!

The four finalists for Gilbert Public Schools superintendent are Dr. Anna Battle, Dr. Steve Chestnut, Dr. Shannon Goodsell and Mr. Shane McCord. When you review the online histories of these folks, you’ll absolutely vote for Westie to bring common sense into managing this public school district. You’ll also smack your head wondering why in the world GPS paid tens of thousands of dollars to their search consultant Steve Highlen of Arizona School Board Association. Really, you can’t make up something more ridiculous than this. Never fear, Westie has connected the dots and discovered the nefarious plan that appears to have been set in motion.

Looking at the finalists, it’s obvious that there are some cute games and gamesmanship going on in this selection process. In other words, the GPS governing board really wants to *Bring Shane Home* and rehire former GPS assistant superintendent Shane McCord, the personal friend of a quorum of the board. Occam’s Razor helps us unravel a dastardly plan: the simplest answer to how these particular candidates came to be finalists and the setting in which Shane McCord will suddenly become the only viable candidate. It looks like the GPS governing board and ASBA forgot about Murphy’s Law, and plans are already unraveling.

Dr. Anna Battle, currently at Tempe Union district, has a life story that fulfills the list of desired characteristics in the GPS Superintendent Position Description:* school district administrative experience, an earned doctorate degree, classroom teaching experience and school site administrator [principal] experience, among other desirable skills and a proven track record. As is often the case, the only woman finalist, and in this case a Black woman finalist, is required to have extensive skills and achievements, where males need only show *potential.* Yes, that does sound like Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In.  There’s more.

When you look at how Dr. Battle’s qualifications are ten times more than the three male candidates, you start to understand the game. Dr. Battle also was a finalist for superintendent of Tempe Union district. The GPS folks must have believed Dr. Battle would get that position, and then there would be only three inadequate   male  finalists remaining for the GPS position. They must have thought Shane McCord would rise to the top of the list in comparison to the other two losers. Obviously, they thought wrong. Dr. Battle was not selected for Tempe Union superintendent by a contentious 3-2 vote, so she’s still in the running for GPS superintendent.

Looking at the histories of the three male finalists shows what a quandary this situation has become for the individual GPS board members, who must follow the law and their duties to the citizens and taxpayers who elected them. Or not. This is GPS, after all.

Dr. Steve Chestnut of Maricopa School District has the distinction of turning six district schools into charter schools, according to his resume. That’s the kind of *school design* GPS families rejected under Christina Kishimoto. His contract with Maricopa runs through June 2018, after having been renewed in 2016. After Dr. Chestnut applied for, but was not selected for the position of Deer Valley superintendent in May 2017, he apparently assured the Maricopa district he was staying on board. Now that something more appealing is available, like the GPS position, it appears that Dr. Chestnut changed his mind. That’s not the biggest problem about Dr. Chestnut’s candidacy, though.

An audit report from 2015 by the Arizona Auditor General shows that Dr. Chestnut’s tenure in Maricopa was fraught with fraud, waste and abuse situations ominously similar to those in GPS:

Further, the District needs to strengthen controls over its purchasing practices, cash handling, and fuel purchases. Finally, the District taxed for and spent $1.3 million for activities that it classified as desegregation activities, but it could not demonstrate that the monies addressed its violation because it did not have any documentation related to the desegregation case, and district officials could not explain the purpose or goals of its desegregation spending.

Dr. Shannon Goodsell is a Youtube star [see the video below]  who received a letter of reprimand for his bullying behavior, such as when he was caught on tape screaming at a special needs studentDr. Goodsell’s contract was not extended by the Casa Grande governing board, which in June 2017 was looking for a new superintendent while Dr. Goodsell was *on a trip to China for the district.* Sheeeeesh. This baggage is just what GPS needs.

Mr. Shane McCord is the only of the four finalists who does not have an earned doctorate. He gained ignominy within GPS before he resigned in 2014 to go to Mesa school district to cool his jets, shortly after a Gilbert Police Department investigation ended; the county attorney declined to prosecute the civil matter of  this GPS Top Dog taking multiple annual $2,000.00 stipends. [The governing board did not proceed to court on that matter.] McCord claimed he was studying the relationship between regular attendance and student achievement. Well, duhhhh…. Actually, Shane McCord submitted the same project paperwork at least a couple of years during which he collected his so-called doctoral stipends. Dave Allison was his boss-buddy who sometimes didn’t even bother signing the paperwork to certify that McCord actually performed any work for those stipends. Allison claimed he could have paid McCord $50,000.00 as a contract addendum; he claimed that McCord was not being paid enough money. Allison and McCord were touchy when asked why specific Top Dogs got such financial windfalls while teachers and support staff had their salaries frozen. 

Shane McCord was an *esteemed* member of the Good Old Boy regime in GPS that caused years of damage to the districtEffects are still being felt: GPS lost another 400 students this year, according to the 40 day ADM. The reign of Shane also led to the dominance of the Loose Zipper Brigade that must be salivating to get back into power. Take a look at Dave Allison’s deposition; he described the infamous GPS Gut Check promotion process on pages 26-27. On page 158-159, which discusses a *swingers club* in GPS … on page 160, there’s also reference to a GPS *breakfast club.* [Was this the origin of the Loose Zipper Brigade?] Be sure to check out page 207 where Allison directed McCord to give GPS principal Brian Yee a formal Letter of Direction; McCord refused to do as his superintend ordered. Just what GPS needs now: a superintendent whose lack of integrity has been proven over and over. Here’s Shane McCord stating he violated GPS policy only when following the direction of former superintendent Dave Allison:

Gilbert Public Schools grew a bunch of Mini-Me principals during the Reign of Shane McCord, according to data provided by GPS. You don’t have to believe Westie,  you can believe McCord’s own words in a deposition he gave under oath. Relevant to the position to which McCord hopes to ascend, you really must read the parts about his Gut Check hiring process (pages 33, 44-45, 52-53 are a sampling). On page 60, McCord names some of the Good Old Boys who participated in this scheme and on 69-70, the Reign of Shane is described. The GPS administration was not just dirty, but also creepy, discriminatory and retaliatory. Shane McCord believes that retaliation is something you would hope wouldn’t happen. That’s just what GPS needs … again. 

Just in case the GPS governing board decides to hire McCord, you other superintendent candidates and every GPS employee should know you can contact Westie any time … these depositions are just the tip of an iceberg of evidence that GPS wishes would go away, and it’s still relevant. 

Getting back to the governing board’s Herculean efforts to clean things up and *Bring Shane Home,* it’s very interesting that the most recent lawsuit against GPS for discriminatory hiring practices and retaliation ended abruptly. Apparently, the current GPS governing board wanted that case shut down, and fast. Otherwise, why in the world would there be a $26,550.62 payment to the attorney in that lawsuit listed in the July 2017 GPS voucher report? That’s a lot of money … GPS must have been pretty desperate and The Trust must have been pretty p!ssed at the GPS to demand that the district pay so much money out of pocket. Usually, The Trust pays to make a federal lawsuit go away. Add to that, the plaintiff in the lawsuit resigned suddenly on July 31, 2017, according to the August business meeting agenda. 

In this case, Shane McCord’s illegal hiring practices were enshrined in the public record, according to PACER:

31. According to the “gut check” method that McCord and Allison followed, after the candidates’ interviews were scored, McCord would then rank the top three candidates based purely on the “gut check” method, and not based on the questions scores.

32. Using this “gut check” criteria, all applicants—with a single exception— chosen for a principal’s position since at least 2008 (when McCord was appointed assistant superintendent and placed in charge of hiring principals for the district) have been males.

34. other words, ninety percent (90%) of all principals chosen since McCord—using his “gut check” criteria—has been in charge of hiring GPS’s principals have been male.

35. In sum, McCord, simply hired whomever he wanted to hire, irrespective of how the candidates performed in the interview process or their level of qualification.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Especially in Gilbert Public Schools. There will be another executive session to interview the finalists at 9:30 AM on Tuesday morning. This bodes ill: before the interviews, the board will change the GPS policy on nondiscrimination. We’re sure it’s an *emergency,* right? Here’s what Shane McCord thinks about EEOC discrimination charges:

The GPS governing board will convene a dog & pony show  community forum on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 at 6:00 pm at Campo Verde High School. They expect to name the new superintendent shortly after that.

They could still vote for Westie to be superintendent! 

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Big Fat Asterisk: You’re exactly on target if you thought the two and a half pages of glowing district and community profiles were nausea-inducing and inappropriate for the GPS superintendent position description. We could be charitable, though, and recognize that perhaps the GPS governing board was laying down a marker for any self-congratulatory plaudits a new superintendent might try to claim as personal accomplishments. After all, Christina Kishimoto pretty much claimed that after she invented sliced bread, she sat down and thought up the entire GPS district. From scratch. Everything that was good about GPS many years ago, she claimed as her own personal achievements in the resume Christina Kishimoto circulated as she searched for a new job while keeping the GPS governing board in the dark.

Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Search: Predetermined Outcome?

There’s been a lot of talk about how *transparent* the search for a new Gilbert Public Schools superintendent will be, and even Westie bought into that daydream. Unfortunately, the assertion of *transparency* has been undermined by a foolish GPS Top Dog running her mouth in public places. One of Westie’s birdies ran into Interim superintendent and resident slime bucket Suzanne Zentner at a local supermarket, where in regard to the GPS superintendent search, Zentner stated, “They know who it will be.” The surreal element is, the birdie who heard Suzanne Zentner speaking also relayed, “She doesn’t know who I am.” Who talks like this in public? This sounds like the way things have always been in GPS. Where is Diogenes when GPS needs an honest man? Or woman? Or Westie?

The first question that comes to mind is, “Does Arizona School Boards Association, the entity that is managing the superintendent search on behalf of the GPS governing board, know that this process is a sham?” Is ASBA part of a corrupt covert plot to reinstate the Loose Zipper Brigade in GPS? If Suzanne Zentner’s statement, “They know who it will be” is true, the GPS Good Old Boys must be salivating as they pretend to go through the motions of a legitimate hiring process, using ASBA as their cut-out. You can bet the remnants of the Loose Zipper Brigade aren’t too proud to slip in through the GPS back door. Westie’s birdies also have chirped that Suzanne Zentner threw her hat into the ring, despite earlier assurances that she would return to her Chief Talent Officer duties after a new GPS superintendent was hired. Maybe Suzanne Zentner is worried that her big pay raise as interim superintendent won’t be permanent. It would be hard to give up all that free money!

Worse, if Suzanne Zentner’s statement,  “They know who it will be” is true, the fact that this statement was made before the GPS governing board interviews superintendent candidates on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 is more than troubling. A massive fraud could be perpetrated by the district on the citizens and taxpayers of Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona in the form of a five-figure fee paid to ASBA to conduct a duplicitous superintendent search. GPS labored long and hard to create the current environment in which the public finds it all too easy to believe that another manifestation of fraud, waste and abuse of public funds is in the making.

Steve Highlen of Arizona School Board Association is assisting the school district in the hiring process. Anyone notice that ASBA wants to supplant Christina Kishimoto’s pal Julian Trevino as the designated expensive GPS governing board trainer dude? Steve Highlen on behalf of ASBA offers this service after helping select a new superintendent: “We offer your board a follow-up workshop to help build teamwork and develop the leadership team communication process.” We’re sure it’s for another four to five figure fee.

One lesson Westie has learned is to always follow the money when GPS does much of anything. Just keep on paying, GPS … the thousands of taxpayer dollars that flow to ASBA from GPS coffers each year could be a whole lot more! Apparently Steve Highlen’s job is to maximize that throughput of tax dollars. However, he doesn’t want ASBA to be saddled with the debacle of how Christina Kishimoto was hired back in 2014: “The private nonprofit organization Highlen represents did not have a role in hiring Kishimoto.

At first glance, the hiring process ASBA is managing for GPS appears to be what you would expect: 

As per the job advertisement, the candidate should ideally have, among other qualifications, administration experience in a suburban public-school district, earned a doctorate, classroom teaching experience, knowledge of the law of GPS, a background in budget and finance, experience working with state and federal government agencies, strong communication skills and excellent interpersonal skills and model high standards of integrity. The selected candidate, who will oversee 40 schools with a total enrollment of nearly 35,000 students, will earn a salary ranging from $180,000-$210,000. A negotiable benefits package and a start date will be finalized along with the contract.

A danger to the public purse, of course, is that *negotiable benefits package.* Christina Kishimoto was paid $10,000.00 on her first day of work in 2014 for just showing up, in addition to a $15,000.00 payment for moving expense that is prohibited by A.R.S. § 35-196.01. Kishimoto also pocketed an inappropriate payment of $9,321.95 that was recharacterized as “per diem pay for contractual work” before her contract began. You can bet a new GPS  superintendent will review all the goodies lavished on Kishimoto and demand even more as part of  a lucrative *negotiable benefits package.*

Westie knows it won’t surprise you to learn that Hawaii’s contract with Christina Kishimoto is 11 pages long, compared to a contract of just four pages under her predecessor. Kishimoto’s new contract allows for *incentive packages of an unspecified amount* and provides for a *reserved parking spot… What do you want to bet that Christina Kishimoto tried to get a clause in her contract that she can’t be fired, like she did with her GPS 2017-2019 contract?

As for the remaining elements of the GPS superintendent search, the governing board promises to involve the community:

The community will “have an opportunity to submit questions that the finalists would respond to and it gives the board an opportunity to see how they respond and how they interact with the community,” Highlen said. “That’s part of the total interview and search process.”

The question is, will the GPS governing board pay attention to what *the community* says at a truly open forum? Will they call on Westie when hands are raised? [Of course not.] What you can expect is that the governing board will trot out the same self-styled *community leaders* who formed an advisory committee that met on August 9, 2017.  What the governing board wants to avoid is a repeat of this sentiment in public:

When asked to state the most significant challenges faced by the district, survey takers frequently cited retaining quality teachers, declining student enrollment, lowering class size, the budget and insufficient marketing of the district’s high points. One respondent bemoaned the lack of “soul.” Another had just one word: “idiots.”

So if ASBA is participating in a sham *hiring process* and the GPS governing board already knows *who it will be,* it’s BOHICA time for taxpayers … again. 

On the other hand, you can vote for Westie for GPS superintendent! Let’s bring back common sense in managing this large, affluent suburban school district. Common sense has been lacking for quite a while and in its absence, some pretty stupid administrative decisions have caused a steep decline in student population.

Vote for Westie!

Westie for Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent!

As the GPS Governing Board searches for a new superintendent for the beleaguered school district, Westie steps up to the challenge.  Having read and ruminated on the 8,000 comments made by folks on the official survey, Westie knows how to repair the ruined relationships that led to thousands of student losses over the past few years. Equally as challenging will be restoring trust with GPS employees, especially for those who watched helplessly as GPS Top Dogs graced their favorite sycophants with *sweetheart* promotions and secret bonuses. Someone needs to bring ethics and accountability to this third-of-a-BILLION-dollars a year public entity. That someone is Westie!

Here’s a platform outlining how to clean up what has become a toxic organization, which Westie promises to implement as superintendent of Gilbert Public Schools:

The Top Priority is the Front Line of Education: The mission of the school district is EDUCATING STUDENTS. The top priority, and the rationale for every decision will be how an action contributes to the classroom, the central focus of the district. GPS employees on the front line of education are the teachers and staffers who interact with students. All others play a supporting role, especially those who now view themselves as GPS Top Dogs. Principals will regard teachers and staff in direct contract with students as “The Team I Support,” and provide the support they need. The days of top-down management are over for GPS.

Restore Public Trust through Accountability: GPS will hire an independent Inspector General who will report to the GPS Governing Board, with the mission of detecting and deterring misconduct, fraud, waste and abuse … any abuse of the public trust. The Inspector General will have the power to compel any GPS employee to truthfully and fully answer direct questions relating to matters under investigation, from whatever source complaints or allegations may originate. GPS will no longer hide behind “We don’t accept anonymous complaints.” The Inspector General will act expeditiously and purposefully to provide the board and the public with facts and findings based on unbiased and complete investigation, with recommendations for promoting effectiveness and efficiency in GPS programs.

Comply with All State and Federal Laws: GPS will comply with the letter and the spirit of the law in every way. GPS will no longer reflexively hire a pet lawyer to twist common sense into a pretzel of pretext and pretense in order to mislead the public about administration, management or compliance. For example, there is no question about what approval level Arizona law requires for employee travel: it is a discretionary power reserved to the Governing Board by A.R.S 15-342, para 5 and can be approved only by an official vote, which must occur in a public meeting. Higley School District exemplifies best practices in compliance and travel management; see the Board packet for their August 2, 2017 meeting.

Respect Public Funds: Taxpayers provide public funds for EDUCATING STUDENTS, not for filling the bellies of the governing board, the superintendency or top level administrators. Regardless of the source of the money that flows into the district, every dollar is public money, and it must be conserved for the public purpose for which the district is charged: educating students. Not for catered meals at regular meetings of GPS Top Dogs. Not for staff lunches, whether catered or held at restaurants, that are really just parties on the public dime. Westie will treat every dollar GPS receives as a precious public resource. No more fraud, waste and abuse.

Equity and Equality for ALL Students: Every student will have access to the same educational opportunities as every other student in the district. No more allocating additional dollars for students at select schools. No more starving a school targeted for closing, only to spend millions of dollars rehabbing that campus for a favored academy. No more overfilled classrooms on one side of town while enrollment at a lesser-favored school declines. No more prematurely pushing ELL students out of programs. No more vengeance against Special Education students in order to encourage their parents to take *those losers* out of the district.

Transparent Information, Promptly Available to the Public:

  1. All agendas, minutes and supporting or background information provided to the board will be provided to the public at the same time by posting on the GPS website, which will be redesigned so that a single click allows access to these public records. Citizens will no longer have to click through multiple counter-intuitive menus or navigate to an independent and obtuse website like BoardDocs to to find this public information. A good example is the Higley District website’s Governing Board page.
  2. Complete and serviceable videos of all board meetings will be available on the district website in real time. Videos of all committee meetings with board representation, including *Committee of the Whole* meetings and *Board Retreats* will be included online. No more excuses for technical difficulties: GPS will make real-time back up video recordings and ensure that there are online archives of all such meetings.
  3. Requests for public information will be fulfilled PROMPTLY, as the law requires. The new standard for fulfilling requests will be no more than one week. Requests not fulfilled in one week will be reported to he inspector general, who will determine if there is a reasonable explanation for the delay and escalate responsibility for fulfillment as appropriate. The status of requests for public records will be a monthly agenda item for board meetings.

Competent Administrative Management: All employees will be paid fully for all their work, and they will be paid on time. What a breath of fresh air that will be!

  1. All overtime will be recompensed in the very next pay period. No longer will GPS employees be denied overtime pay because a payroll clerk is on vacation.
  2. Every employee paycheck will show details related to the employee’s complete compensation and deductions, as required by federal law. Anomalies and/or mistakes will be corrected within 24 hours.
  3. GPS employees will no longer be required to *volunteer* their time or jeopardize their employment. Teachers will be paid for all the days they work and will not be expected to work outside of their contractual obligations to *collaborate* or set up classrooms.
  4. All GPS employee contracts will be straightforward with adequate and appropriate salaries and transparent contract addenda describing specific pay for specific additional work. No more secret stipends to give Top Dogs new perks under the table.

The bucks stops here. When Westie is superintendent, there will be no blaming lower-level employees for mistakes or mismanagement. No more witch smelling to cover up incompetent software implementation. No more gifts of public funds. No more hidden bonuses for district staffers who enable incompetency (or worse, sweetheart subordinates). Westie will hire the right people for district positions, first focusing on putting competency into positions within payroll, communications and technology.

Actually, the quickest and easiest strategy for success in GPS is NOT to do what disgraced former superintendent Christina Kishimoto did. There, that’ll fix it!

Westie for GPS Superintendent!

GPS Goes Transparent on the Superintendent Search. Bravo!

Giving credit where credit is due, Westie applauds the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board for making public the results of the superintendent survey. Bravo! This survey is vastly different from the usual Office of Talent Management BS, because it doesn’t require log-in to participate … meaning the district retaliation squad was not able to identify who wrote what on the survey. Here’s another round of applause because the board allowed the public to read what folks wrote on the survey, as opposed to the usual percentages for how many votes each option on the survey received as the sum total of the results. Board members, you’ve made real progress in transparency. Wasn’t that easy?

Thousands of people participated in  the survey, even in the middle of the summer, which indicates how deeply citizens of Gilbert care about education and their public school district. Most of the 8,000+ comments were thoughtful and revealed common threads. ASBA and the GPS Governing Board were impressed, but even this level of citizen involvement is dwarfed by the amount of traffic this blog receives each and every month. A few commenters wanted to be sure the search committee knows about Westie’s blog, so they linked to it. Superintendent candidates should study Westie’s blog to round out the big picture of what really happens in GPS. Hint, hint.

Many of the comments on the survey appeared to be from Westie’s beloved birdies. BTW, if Westie had posted earlier about how the board rewarded folks in OTM, who famously have taken care of themselves first or how the GPS payroll people have screwed employees for the past year and a half while collecting five-figure bonuses denied to teachers, some of the superintendent survey comments might have been even more pointed.

VALUING TEACHERS was at the forefront of many suggestions, as in PAY TEACHERS MORE!!! There was no love lost on former superintendent Christina Kishimoto, and there were many comments about the damage she did to the district during her three year reign. There were negative comments about the GPS governing board, too.

The board would hear more of this sort of commentary if people had an avenue to give genuine feedback to GPS. Otherwise, people take their issues with GPS to Westie, and you all know what happens then. Hey, GPS, you really, really need an Inspector General who works for the board. Your Internal Auditor who works for the superintendent cannot act as an independent examiner of fraud unpleasant issues. Now, back to the survey results.

There were many laudatory comments about Chandler Unified School District and statements that teachers leave GPS to go to Chandler. One comment would have GPS clone Camille Casteel as superintendent, with good reason: Chandler had 280 teacher positions to fill for this school year, with 1,500 applicants for those slots. Chandler is excelling; GPS is not. No amount of happy talk from the GPS interim superintendent can change the fact that GPS is the District of Last Resort.TM

With the current GPS board members speaking nostalgically about *bringing back* former GPS employees, citizens have reason to be concerned, especially from a legal point of view. Do they want to bring back the folks in the superintendency who filed a lawsuit against a parent of a SpEd student because she would not sit down and shut up as she was told? Or the folks who destroyed a server and it’s contents, leading to a criminal investigation? How about the superintendency folks who were subjects of a theft, embezzlement, felony investigation by the Gilbert Police Department for handing out unauthorized bonuses … very much like the five-figure bonuses Christina Kishimoto gave out.

There were repeated suggestions to bring back Shane McCord, a former assistant superintendent from the days when the Loose Zipper Brigade was in the saddle in GPS, so to speak. Westie knows that the enthusiasm for Shane McCord could have been affected by the *vote early and vote often* option inherent in the survey mechanism, sort of like bots inflating social media commentary. So the raw number of votes for bringing back Shane McCord does not correlate to that same number of people making the suggestion. Best guess: ten or less respondents named Shane McCord as the ideal GPS superintendent.

What will happen if GPS does hire Shane McCord for this position? Answer: Westie’s job as GPS Education Watchdog will be a whole lot easier! Public records already on file could fill this blog for a long, long time to come. GPS really doesn’t have any idea of what public records have been produced that have been passed along to Westie; in fact, GPS doesn’t know what public records have been directly handed over to Westie. If you ask Keyboard, she’ll say that Westie has a mind like a steel trap for the minutiae of the history of GPS. [blush] We call it connecting the dots, and we’re happy to share the results with citizens of Gilbert, Arizona.

How about good old Wally Delecki, who just headlined the 2017 GPS convocation? His contribution to the sordid history of the GPS Devil Dogs was [ahem] rather remarkable:

Walter Delecki, the superintendent of schools, said that he has heard “rumors” of white supremacists in Gilbert schools, but he dismissed the notion that Devil Dogs are racists, noting that many of their victims are not members of minority groups. “White supremacists don’t beat up white people, to my knowledge,” he said.

Former superintendent Dave Allison once signed a consent agreement with the Office for Civil Rights, apparently without telling the board. He also brushed off religious and racial profiling of a 13 year old GPS student at Mesquite Junior High School that brought the U.S. Department of Justice into monitoring GPS for five years:

Good Old Dave Allison pooh-poohed the idea, saying he just didn’t believe it.  It was a bunch of politics, sensationalized by the press. Dave’s denials didn’t hold water, and GPS was monitored for a long, long time, turning in regular reports about disciplinary actions in the schools that went into great detail about each report … assistant superintendents all say it wasn’t their job and they don’t know much of anything.

Keep in mind that Hamilton principal Ken James is a GPS alumnus from the days of the Loose Zipper Brigade. GPS deserves some of the credit for his decision to NOT report allegations of sexual assault against students at Hamilton High School … as required by law. That’s just the kind of lawless behavior that GPS was so proud of in years past.

Sure, bring back the same former GPS Top Dogs who set the district on the path it’s on now … losing thousands of students, alienating those students’ families, p*ssing off employees and all their allies, family members and friends. You’ll make Westie’s job as GPS Education Watchdog really, really easy.

GPS Lawyers’ Perpetual Employment Program and Fake Public Records

The Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board received legal advice in an executive session on August 8, 2017 about appealing the million dollar repayment the State of Arizona demanded after the district miscounted student enrollment. In addition, GPS recently settled two legal actions in which the district did not prevail: one to settle a lawsuit alleging discrimination and retaliation against an employee and another to settle a Special Education case with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. GPS has been down both paths of employee and SpEd student discrimination in the past, and you would think the district would figure out how to stop violating the Law of the Land, but no, this is part of the GPS program for perpetual employment [and enrichment] of their lawyers.

Gilbert Public Schools thinks high-priced GPS lawyer Jennifer N. MacLennan can force Arizona Department of Education (ADE) into retroactively applying a law that isn’t on the books yet. GPS owes ADE nearly ONE MILLION DOLLARS for falsifying miscalculating data over three years, a fact which GPS does not dispute. But GPS doesn’t want to pay the money back to ADE. Other Arizona school districts played by the ADE rules.

As Reed Carr explained on social media, GPS is hoping to churn up some sympathy:

What is most frustrating is that this audit came as a direct result of a GPS inquiry asking ADE to define how they were applying the instructional hour requirement. After an internal review that identified a potential risk, GPS asked ADE for its help to ensure compliance. ADE refused to meet with the district and instead initiated this audit.

Question: did anyone tell the GPS Governing Board that former Superintendent Christina Kishimoto told a Hawaii reporter that SHE VOLUNTEERED for the audit that the district now wants to appeal? This could change everything. [Click here if you don’t see the video below]

Westie already covered the background of the ADM Audit, meaning the official report to the Arizona Department of Education as to the number of students enrolled in GPS each year. It hasn’t helped the district at all that Christina Kishimoto regularly blasted the governor and state legislators and ADE because they wouldn’t give her all the money she wanted. Long-term governing board member Jill Humpherys says far worse about the governor and state legislators. But sure, go ahead and pay the lawyer who already acknowledged the law that GPS wants to apply wasn’t in effect when the ADM swindle occurred. Sheeeeesh.

It’s instructive to look at how the Lawyers’ Perpetual Employment racket has operated in just the past few years in ways that lined those legal pockets with hundreds of thousands of dollars. It starts with pre-paid legal services in which selected lawyers tell district officials what to do in any number of situations because those district officials can’t manage their way out of a paper bag. Actually, this is a situation where public records show that GPS manufactures evidence to support whatever it is that the superintendent or board wants to support at any given time.

For example, this February 2015 memo about the subject matter of the legal advice during the first semester of 2015 contradicts information that would be given to the board three months later. The report shows pre-paid legal fees pretty much doubled each year between 2011 and 2014. GPS spent a lot of money trying to evade their responsibilities for Special Education and for producing public records. GPS also spent a lot of money asking what the legally permissible minimum was in various situations. We know from GPS history that the lawyers came up with some really *crafty* suggestions. We also know that GPS manufactures public records* when the whim strikes.

Pre-Paid Legal
7/1/11-6/30/12 $63,792.12
7/1/12-6/30/13 $115,401.73
7/1/13-6/30/14 $217,724.99

Look at the same legal costs presented by former superintendent Christina Kishimoto three months later, at the May 26, 2015 board meeting. Hint: the numbers are not anything like those reported above.

Pre-Paid Legal Premium History (premium amount based on prior usage)
2011-12 $74,240.00
2012-13 $71,000.00
2013-14 $89,235.00
2014-15 $127,532.00*
2015-16 $129,441.00

*2014-15 Pre-Paid Legal Coverage was not renewed.  GPS paid hourly rates for legal services 7/1/14-4/30/15 (three quarters) in the amount of $99,476.88.

From the Jun 28, 2016 board meeting:

The District has received the property, liability & casualty insurance premium and pre-paid legal services quote from the Arizona School Risk Retention Trust, Inc. for the 2016-17 fiscal year.  The premium for 2016-17 will be $1,700,732 which includes $147,513 for pre-paid legal services.  This is an increase of $70,908 or 4.35%.

A legal fees memo dated February 10, 2017 gives still different numbers for services of GPS lawyers. Frankly, the numbers below don’t make sense and don’t match the amounts reported above, but this is GPS: give the Rubber Stamp Board any kind of BS and they approved whatever was desired.

2012-2013 Usage $209,129.32 Premium $89,235
2013-2014 Usage  $55,654.30  Premium $31,883**
2014-2015 Usage $146,422.27  Premium $147,513.00
2015-2016 Usage $178,905.16  Premium $129,441.00

** Pre-paid legal was only in effect 4/1-7/1/15.

Fast forward one year to Jun 27, 2017, when GPS experienced a huge rate increase because of how much district officials consulted attorneys the previous year. 

The overall premium increase for 2017-2018 for coverage remaining with The Trust (without pre-paid legal) is 6.96%.  The premium for pre-paid legal increased from $147,513 to $196,734 or 33.37%.  The pre-paid legal premium increase is attributed to plan usage during the 2016-2017 fiscal year.  Aggregate annual limit is $300,000.00.

Back to the Lawyers’ Perpetual Employment Program: you would think that GPS might have learned not to bite the hand that feeds them. However, GPS has a history of making enemies at the ADE and among other school districts by suing over a good deal for enhancing teacher pay that was known as Career Ladder:

The Arizona Career Ladder Program is a performance-based compensation plan that provides incentives to teachers in districts around the state who choose to make career advancements without leaving the classroom or the profession. Twenty-eight of the state’s 200-plus districts participate in the Career Ladder Program. Approximately 31% of the state’s 865,000 students attend schools in Career Ladder districts; approximately 40% of the state’s 43,000 teachers are employed in Career Ladder districts; approximately 70% of eligible teachers participate in the Career Ladder Program.

GPS failed to jump on the bandwagon as the state-wide program began. With the record of success of Career Ladder, GPS said they wanted in on the good deal. ADE told GPS to take a hike. GPS sued, and the whole career ladder program crashed and burned. Other Arizona school districts fumed at the loss of revenue for their teachers that was a direct result of GPS duplicity and stupidity.

A legal victory has ignited a backlash against Gilbert Public Schools … John Wright, president of the state’s largest teachers’ union, said the lawsuit and now the ruling “have disastrous implications” for teachers in Career Ladder districts, including Gilbert’s neighbors, Mesa Public Schools and Chandler Unified School District.

“You have thousands of teachers in these 28 districts including at Mesa Public Schools who are earning performance-based pay, just as the private sector has been calling for,” said Wright, of the Arizona Education Association. “They’ve been earning this for 20 years. It looks as if that pay is no longer going to be available to them.”

With this background, it’s apparent GPS has about a snowball’s chance in hell of prevailing on the sympathies of ADE and the other school districts that played by the rules. But citizens won’t know what the high-priced lawyer actually told the board to do. Or how much it will cost. But you know it will hit taxpayers in the wallet.

This is the GPS Lawyers’ Perpetual Employment Program. Candidates for GPS superintendent would be smart to look into these things about GPS history. It’s the tip of the district’s iceberg of corruption, fraud, waste and abuse of public funds. Sure, it’s all for the kids. [sarcasm]

******************
Big Fat Asterisk: We’ve been pointing out how GPS makes sh*t up just for the fun of it, like the legal costs memo above and the widely disparate costs in the memo and board minutes (which are very important public records). Here’s a recent example of how GPS continues to make sh*t up: an obviously fake *employment contract* for Christina Kishimoto that was included in a GPS public records production in July 2017. Why, GPS???  (The real contracts are here  and here.)

Five-Figure Bonuses for Incompetent GPS District Staffers

Hey, teachers, are you feeling all that awesomeness from the convocation that was supposed to inspire you to achieve greatness for Gilbert Public Schools? Welcome to the real world of GPS where the Office of Talent Management takes care of their own first. The incompetent folks in the GPS Business Office, those who haven’t been able to pay GPS employees properly for the past year and a half since the *new* payroll system was implemented, have been doing very well for themselves, financially speaking. 

It’s going to be a long, dry spell before all GPS employees start seeing their paychecks this year since the GPS payroll geniuses already *forgot* one payroll run. Those same payroll geniuses haven’t been able to figure out pay, tax withholding or any of the tasks associated with running payroll for thousands of employees, but my, oh my, how they have been rewarded with bonuses and stipends and other disgusting schemes to enrich a few White Castle employees favored by GPS Tops Dogs!

The two GPS Top Dogs in the Business Office who screwed things up so spectacularly were Lynne Easton, Business Services Coordinator (who is long gone now), and Lindie Evans, Payroll Supervisor (who is still incompetent). Let’s take a look at public records showing how these two GPS staffers were richly rewarded for their incompetence at a time when teachers and support staffers were being told they could have tiny little percentages of raises because that’s all that GPS could afford. Silly Jilly Humpherys was especially smarmy and smug about how the district was broke when it came to matters of paying teachers and support staff on the front lines of education … at GPS schools.

Here’s how this disgusting *enrichment* scheme proliferated in the bowels of the GPS White Castle. According to her salary documents, Lynne Easton was hired on April 21, 2015, as a Coordinator of Business Services at a salary of $75,842.00. [Certified employees don’t make nearly that much as teachers, but neither do most of the certified folks in the academic divisions at the district office.] Unlike you teachers who are required to *volunteer* before your contract term begins, Lynne Easton was paid $320.01 per day to work five days before her contract began, for a benefit of $1,600.05.

Oh lookie here: Lynne Easton’s pals in the White Castle even paid her BEFORE she worked those days! As the documents show, even though one of the dates she was supposed to work was June 26, 2015, her special pay arrangement was “satisfactorily completed” on June 22, 2015. Support staff, remember this when GPS Top Dogs tell you your paycheck has to be delayed because you might accidentally be paid for a day you didn’t work … seriously, that’s their reason.  BTW, when Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner was hired, GPS also paid her $2,637.13 to work 5 days before her official start date.  Keep that in mind, teachers: some GPS employees are more equal than others, and GPS has never been that into you!

But the big middle finger to all you certified and classified GPS employees who rated bonuses in the 0-1.06% range is this: Lynne Easton got a $12,500.00 bonus for “Visions implementation” when she resigned from GPS after less than a year. She also received vacation days payout, approved by Christina Kishimoto, and you can bet it was for full pay. In their continuing determination to deny producing public records to Westie, the GPS Powers That Be *forgot* to include the email correspondence that was affixed to some of the pay documents … perhaps because those emails are powerful evidence of wrongdoing, such as Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner’s email chain that proved GPS Top Dogs got under the table raises while other employees got the wahmbulance tear-jerker explanation that the district was broke.

Lindie Evans, the person who can’t manage payroll for GPS employees, collected a cool $12,500.00 bonus for screwing up GPS payroll in such spectacular fashion that employees still don’t know if they were paid for all the hours they worked during the 2016-2017 school year. Not only did her incompetence lead to the GPS Great Wage Theft Caper, she managed to make mileage reimbursements for traveling teachers a part of their salary, complete with withholding taxes on those measly mileage checks! She also supervised a GPS payroll *system failure* that screwed up income taxes on top of the other many failures to pay employees properly. Lindie Evans is still on the job, and if you GPS employees ask for details about your pay, she’ll create an Excel spreadsheet and try to baffle you with bull$h*t, because even though the IRS REQUIRES an employer to furnish those details WITH EVERY PAYCHECK, Lindie Evans and GPS can’t do that. She’ll probably get a $20,000.00 bonus this year.

Teachers, how much out-of-pocket money did you spend getting your classroom ready for students? We know it’s a lot … hundreds of dollars or more each year. Wouldn’t you rather have some of that money for your classroom rather than having the district pay for *refreshments* at just about every meeting GPS Top Dogs attend each year? It’s ridiculous that the Food Service division, which is supposed to provide student meals, has been suborned into feeding GPS board members, the district superintendency and campus administrators when they get together for regular meetings. Actually, that in-house catering service might be better than having those meetings catered by various local restaurants, and even holding *official* meetings in those restaurants. But that was not the use voters intended for their tax dollars. It’s not an appropriate expenditure of ANY public funds, but it continues and has become an extravagant embarrassment.

Teachers, how many days did you *volunteer* to work for free in setting up that classroom? We know that if you don’t *volunteer,* you set yourself up to be deemed by GPS administrators as not enthusiastic enough for GPS. In fact, when Jason Martin, the current GPS Executive Director of Elementary Education, was a principal, he stated that two weeks was about right for his teachers to *volunteer* before their contracts began. Otherwise, he said, their colleagues wouldn’t trust them. What a *collaborative* environment! [gag]

In spite of the happy words coming out of the 2017 GPS convocation, GPS has difficulties getting enough teachers. BTW, when GPS hires long-term subs instead of filling teacher positions, the subs  don’t volunteer for weeks, especially not at their lousy rate of pay. Just showing up on a school day is *volunteering* enough for them!

As of July 24, Gilbert Public Schools had 43 vacancies for certified teacher positions and had 2,067 teacher positions total. GPS spokeswoman Irene Mahoney-Paige said 193 teachers left at the end of last school year for retirement or other reasons. Again, special education, math and science positions have been the most difficult to fill. Mahoney-Paige said the district will also utilize long-term substitutes to fill vacancies until a certified teacher becomes available.

Along the same lines of reasoning, Interim Superintendent Suzanne Zentner bragged about having about 50 National Board Certified Teachers in the district. She’s apparently unaware that there used to be more than double that number of NBCTs before GPS became a District of Last Resort. These Top Dogs are unmoored from reality, or at least, they pretend to be when they’re explaining why GPS has lost ten per cent of the student population in recent years. [Hint: it’s not their fault. They seem to really believe that. Sheeeesh.]

GPS employees: are you tired of all the winning yet? Are you slip-sliding away with all the awesome sauce ladled over you … to distract from the fact that you most likely will have great difficulties getting paid all that you are owed for even a portion of the work that you do?

Maybe Westie should run for GPS Superintendent again. 

We’re workin’ our jobs, collect our pay,
Believe we’re gliding down the highway, when in fact we’re slip sliding away.

The Same GPS Top Dogs Collect Under the Table Bonuses, Year After Year

Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year, GPS employees! While most of you were not under contract during summer months (we know better than to call it a vacation), there were some GPS Top Dogs making out like bandits. Parents will feel their wallets lightened considerably with increased school lunch costs and student fees while a few denizens of the GPS White Castle line their pockets with taxpayer money, sometimes with the Governing Board’s blessing. Following is a road map for how to profit from the public purse while crying that there’s just not enough money in a public school district. 

Our last post showed how two certain favored GPS Top Dogs were surreptitiously enriched  by being paid the same salary for significantly fewer days of work.  Lo and behold: in their 2015-2016 contracts, other GPS Top Dogs were given the same pay for ten fewer days of work! GPS not only produced various public records in the form of stipend approvals, they gave Westie incontrovertible evidence — public records — that this was done *behind closed doors, under the table, in a smoke-filled room.*

Good old money bag man Teddy Dumlao, who received this secret bonus himself, emailed Suzanne Zentner, then GPS Chief Talent Officer, to authenticate that Christina Kishimoto had authorized this unlawful gift of public money.  He asked, “Would you please confirm if the intent is to keep the contract salary amount for the year the same with less days or are the salary contract amounts supposed to be reduced along with the days?”

Complicit Chief Talent Officer Suzanne Zentner confirmed that Christina Kishimoto issued this edict in a cabinet meeting. Read the April 20, 2015 email chain for yourself: “As discussed in Cabinet, these contract lengths are to be modified in length, not salary.” Now Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner is the darling of the current GPS Governing Board … you have to wonder if the board members know about her evil enabling history.

Note that Teddy Dumlao himself received this secret bonus. So did Susan Cadena, Shawn McIntosh, Missy Udall, Derek Skutnik, Ward Heinemann, Irene Mahoney-Paige, Jon Castelhano, Debbie McCarron and Jason Martin. You can be sure that Marcie Taylor profited, too. Don’t forget that at the same time, Teddy Dumlao was receiving thousands more dollars as a *special* bonus for tuition to get the college degree he didn’t have before being hired at GPS a decade or more ago.

What else was significant about these under the table bonuses? Aha … the GPS governing board had granted all GPS employees a raise of 1.6% for 2015-2016. On top of that, Kishimoto saw to it that folks in her *line of sight management* received extra bonuses, some of which were slipped into consent agenda items. As Westie reported back in June 2015:

The reason for the pay raises, which apparently caught the board by surprise, as Superintendent Christina 7-0 Kishimoto explained, was because these employees were doing more work. So they needed to be paid more. “How dare you question me?” was unspoken, but given the ferocity of the brushback, it was not necessary to say those words out loud.

GPS was at it again in July 2015, with an item on the consent agenda to amend Top Dog employment contracts. Christina Kishimoto claimed it was an administrative error that her nearest and dearest assistant district overlords were denied an $800.00 payment for an annual physical … while other GPS employees couldn’t afford (or were not even eligible for) health care coverage. Yep, the Top Dogs basically got their deductibles covered each year and had GPS cover their annual payments for healthcare.

GPS gave under-the-table bonuses again in 2016: this time GPS Top Dogs were gifted “Travel Stipends” of $3,000.00. This replaced the ordeal of Top Dogs having to submit their mileage records for reimbursement, which is what the IRS requires for tax-free reimbursements of employee travel. The background was that GPS had been illegally giving unreported gifts of $350.00 checks at the end of the school year to 100 administrators. See Westie’s Fraud, Waste and Abuse Report #9.

For the 2016-2017 school year, Christina Kishimoto awarded a whole group of district office sycophants the same $3,000.00 bonus that formerly had been restricted to the superintendent and *chief* officers. The newly enriched employees included Barbara Newman, Marcie Taylor, Jason Martin, Jon Castelhano, Missy Udall and Shawn McIntosh. Isn’t it interesting that the same method Christina Kishimoto used for gifting money to the dude with whom she had an *alleged* unprofessional relationship is being used to publicly reward GPS Top Dogs for being just so magnificently awesome?

The current GPS governing board stupidly forgot that *optics* matter when it comes to dispensing public funds to folks who have nefariously endeared themselves to you while most GPS employees are off contract. With GPS Executive Directors Missy Udall and Shawn MacIntosh already profiting from the *more pay for ten less days* shenanigan described above, the GPS board decided to pay them to give up their summer vacation time … at that grossly inflated daily rate of pay and full buy-back. Other GPS employees are limited to a small percentage of their daily rate of pay when and if they are allowed to sell back vacation days.

Current board member comments included how wonderful Missy Udall and Shawn McIntosh were to step up to the extra work that would be required because this same board let former superintendent Christina Kishimoto tootle off to Hawaii on a lark. Now, that new boss Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner would be stepping up to be the temporary superintendent and these magnificent Executive Directors would have to do extra work. Their payoff: more than $10,800.00. It wasn’t the first time Missy Udall profited from the largess of an interim superintendent. [There just isn’t a bucket deep enough to catch all the dripping sarcasm here.]

Keyboard: These folks might be really, really *special* … but they just look like crooks.
Westie: Some of the same *special* employees have been lining their pockets under at least five GPS superintendents and interim superintendents. It won’t stop until there are GPS board members who have the integrity to say, “No more!”  Sheeesh.

It gets worse: a short time later, the board voted to buy out some of Suzanne Zentner’s vacation days so she could be the pretend superintendent for a while. Seriously, governing board president Sheila Rogers said flat-out that this move was to give Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner some more money. Unsaid was that Arizona law prohibits gifts of public funds to anyone, let alone a public officer who is already highly paid.  But Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner will have to work on weekends for a while…. [Yes, we know this level of sarcasm is triggering your gag reflex. Sorry.]

Hey GPS teachers: the handsome reward for Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner, who is now your superintendent and boss, was bestowed at the same meeting where the same board members approved your totally inadequate 1.06% payment. This occurred on June 27, 2017, with unanimous votes for the following agenda items:

8.02 Discussion and potential approval of Dr. Suzanne Zentner as internal GPS District administrator to serve as Interim Superintendent.
8.03 Approval of unused vacation days for Dr. Suzanne Zentner
8.05 Approval of allocation of monies provided pursuant to Session Laws 2017, Chapter 305, Section 33 granting a 1.06% increase in pay for eligible teachers in accordance with the appropriation restrictions and the guidance issued by the Auditor General’s office.

Slimebucket Suzanne Zentner gets big bucks and *eligible* GPS teachers might see enough extra change in their paychecks to afford a cup of Starbucks coffee. Sorry, GPS support staff, you get nothing in this deal. That’s the way it has always been in GPS.

That wasn’t enough for the GPS Governing Board … they are so in love with their slimebucket, they approved another raise for Suzanne Zentner at the July 25, 2017 business meeting. But, as full of transparency as they proclaim themselves to be, they conveniently didn’t include the price tag for their largess in the agenda. And they buried this pay raise in the consent agenda so they wouldn’t have to vote on it in the open, where the public might catch on to their secret bonuses and pay raises for their favorite employees.

What do you suppose the chances are that this board will diminish Suzanne Zentner’s paycheck when a new superintendent takes over? Yeah, not much of a chance, is there?

Sweetheart Paydays for Christina Kishimoto’s Favored Employees

GPS taxpayers have been asking for almost two years about the big bonus that former superintendent Christina Kishimoto allegedly gave to her subordinate who *allegedly* engaged in an inappropriate relationship with her. Westie has been on the hunt, too, but GPS has been bound and determined to NOT give out any information about taxpayer money Christina Kishimoto may have given to Steve Smith, the former GPS former Director of Technology, under the table. The stock reply after GPS turned over evidence of paydays for other GPS employees while adamantly refusing to produce public records for Steve Smith’s sweet(heart) paydays: “All legally disclosable documents within the scope of your request have been provided to you.”* 

With birdies chirping about wedding bells for Christina Kishimoto and Steve Smith in advance of her move to Hawaii, Westie decided to look at how much taxpayer money may have been used to buy Christina Kishimoto a new husband after she kicked her disabled husband to the curb in 2015. We figured the so-called bonuses that were lavished on Steve Smith between the time of Christina Kishimoto’s divorce in July 2015 and Sleazy Steve’s hurried departure from GPS in January 2016 would fill the bill. As always, Westie loves to share.

From the public records that GPS produced in July 2017, Westie connected the dots to figure that Steve Smith’s *alleged* inappropriate relationship with Christina Kishimoto appears to have netted him something like $20,000.00. That’s just traceable income, which most likely was not reported to the IRS tax man. That’s not counting the lavish trips that Sleazy Steve took with  at the same time, same place as Christina Kishimoto, all at taxpayer expense.

Westie had previously connected the dots to a collusion of silence in GPS: Sleazy Steve Smith received a hefty bonus in the form of unapproved promotions and a reduction in the number of days he was required to work for his salary. In other words, the 10-day reduction in his contract days boosted the amount of money that GPS paid him per day. That daily rate of pay becomes important for GPS Top Dogs in various fraudulent schemes that increase the amount of money they take home each year. Elevating an employee’s title to *Executive* also could make that Chosen One eligible for many more days of paid vacation, which GPS Top Dogs regularly cash in for full daily rates, something that lowly teachers and even lowlier support staffers are not allowed to do. It’s all in their Top Dog contracts.

The case of Sleazy Steve Smith’s raises have been discussed in detail in previous Westie posts:

His quasi-board-approved contracts were for “Director of Technology,” but his title was elevated and so was his pay, apparently without board approval. Ditto for former Executive Director of Curriculum, Beth Nickel, who was similarly elevated, according to the same 2015-2016 GPS organizational chart. … Public records available online confirmed that Steve Smith was hired on June 10, 2014 as Director of Technology. The board approved a reorganization of Technology Services on January 27, 2015; Smith’s position remained Director of Technology. Smith’s online resume at LinkedIn, however, indicates he had been Executive Director of Technology since June 2014 when he was hired as a “cabinet member.” The Governing Board did not approve that cabinet position or that title for Smith, according to minutes of board meetings online.

Did you notice that cute difference between Sleazy Steve’s *official* title on his contracts and what he put in his LinkedIn resume? Recall that GPS denied that Jeremy Betts’ LinkedIn resume reflected what was in his personnel file … when it appeared that the hanky-panky about his sweet consulting deal for doing the same thing he did as a GPS employee would become an issue for Westie’s watchdog reports. Even though GPS refuses to produce Sleazy Steve’s pay records, Westie was able to acquire copies of his contracts a long time ago; that’s most likely because Westie wasn’t the only citizen filing FOIA requests for those documents.

By examining Beth Nickel’s pay records, we are able to connect the dots to see how Sleazy Steve Smith’s sweetheart raises and bonuses slid through a corrupt payroll machine. Nickel held the position of Director of Curriculum; she briefly acted as Chief Academic Officer when Kishimoto’s first pick for that slot was rejected by the board on May 27, 2014. Here’s a nugget of GPS history: when Sleazy Steve applied for a job with GPS in the summer of 2014, the position he sought was classroom teacher. His job before joining GPS: classroom teacher. Apparently he was elevated to the Director of Technology job as soon as Christina Kishimoto laid eyes on him  interviewed him, at a salary of $95,598.00.

Nickel received a *differential* raise to $75,144.00 in August 2014, limited to the 2014-2015 school year. But lookie what else happened: on January 26, 2015, she was awarded ANOTHER pay increase, this one retroactive to earlier in the month, approved by Christina Kishimoto. Beth was paid $18,262.66 MORE that school year, for some purpose. In August 2015, Nickel’s salary as *Director of Curriculum* became $92,820.00 for 237 days of work. The dots connect to show that Nickel’s promotions and raises, with the same ersatz title of *Executive Director* on the GPS organizational chart as Sleazy Steve Smith, line up with details about Sleazy Steve’s bonus arrangement described in the infamous *anonymous letter* that roiled the district when Kishimoto’s *alleged* inappropriate relationship became public knowledge.

Beth Nickel was the apparent *beard* hiding Christina Kishimoto’s gifts of public funds to Sleazy Steve Smith. Nickel’s brief financial windfall was cancelled shortly after the gig was up in January 2016 on the Kishimoto-Smith *alleged* inappropriate relationship. In February 2016, Nickel was demoted to a coordinator position and her salary was diminished by more than $14,000.00.

No wonder GPS won’t produce Sleazy Steve’s pay records! Unfortunately, the new board, which Westie hoped would bring a breath of fresh air into the district, has become complicit in the cover-up by refusing to produce requested public records as Arizona law requires. Sad.

You know there are more dots that are connected to these GPS abuses of public funds and public trust … stay tuned!

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*Big Fat Asterisk: 

Any hope that the newest GPS board president, Sheila Rogers, would usher in an era of transparency have been dashed. She was fully aware that GPS refused to produce Steve Smith’s W-2 forms for 2015 and then again for 2016, thanks to Westie’s usual procedure of keeping the board president informed of public records requests by email. That procedure has been necessary because GPS has *lost* Westie’s requests and racked up quite a large score in refusing to produce public records for various and nefarious reasons. What’s a member of the public going to do, sue the district for those records? Alas, that didn’t do much to bring sunshine into GPS administration, because the interim superintendent decided to continue fighting a losing battle by throwing up roadblocks to public access of public records before he scurried away in ignominy much like Christina Kishimoto did from Hartford, CT and Gilbert, AZ.

GPS Fraud, Waste & Abuse Report #13: Student Enrollment Fraud

This FW&A Report connects the dots between the million dollar ADE repayment demands and rampant consultant fraud that proliferated in GPS during Christina Kishimoto’s tenure.  There’s been a major turnover in the GPS administration since Kishimoto scurried to Hawaii before this news hit, but in the vacancies left by Kishimoto’s miscreants, GPS continues to promote the same folks who participated in various schemes that reek of fraud. The new GPS governing board members who promised change for the better are perpetuating Einstein’s definition of insanity … doing the same thing, hiring  and promoting the same people who caused problems in the first place, and expecting different results. Keep shoveling and maybe you’ll find that pony!

The scandal currently enveloping the GPS administration is a result of inaccurate enrollment data reported to the state. ADE uses that data to distribute state tax dollars to Arizona school districts because AZ public funds follow the student. You would expect that GPS could properly report student enrollment, but then you also would expect that GPS could pay employees on time and in full. GPS has been unable to do much of anything correctly in the business offices.

Christina Kishimoto’s disdain for following the law was on full display in the fiasco that’s behind the ADE million dollar repayment demand. Her top dogs fell into line and helped with this 2014-2016 atrocity that’s just now coming to light. It’s no wonder the CFO is one of the top dog administrators who left the district at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

We already knew that Kishimoto hired *consultants* to do the jobs of regular employees.  It appears the guy whose official job was to report student attendance to ADE as a high-ranking employee in the GPS White Castle also was generously paid as a consultant to cook the books for GPS. Jeremy Betts, whose consulting company is SERS Consulting, apparently was collecting fees for his company’s services during fiscal year 2015-2016 that appear to be the same work that Betts did in return for his GPS salary. More fraud: GPS was at the same time violating crystal-clear Arizona laws and state procurement rules for school districts.

Recently, GPS actually answered Westie’s emailed question shown below (amazing, right?) with the following statement:

Westie: I requested information about all employees designated as coordinators. I note that Jeremy Betts, whose position description online is “SAIS Technology Coordinator,” was not included in the W-2s or in the contracts that were produced. Please produce the information for Jeremy Betts, whose online resume shows that he was employed by GPS through August 2016.

GPS response: Jeremy Betts’ online resume is incorrect, he does not have a 2015-2016 contract. All other legally disclosable documents within the scope of your request have been provided to you.

In February 2016, Jeremy Betts’ LinkedIn profile states he worked for GPS from 2011 until August 2016. The GPS website today shows Jeremy Betts is still the district’s SAIS Technology Coordinator Business Data Analyst:

GPS website, July 12, 2017

In fact, you can call Jeremy Betts’ phone number today and get his voicemail!
 


 

Betts’ LinkedIn profile states SERS Consulting provides “Consulting services for school districts covering enrollment reporting, state compliance standards, financial data analysis, and staff training.” Betts’ GPS job appears to be the same thing, according to the district website.

Here’s where the disgusting odor of fraud emanates.  It appears that immediately after Betts registered his company on May 20, 2015, Betts scored a lucrative consulting contract with GPS for the fiscal year July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016, totaling $24,600.00 [it could be more $$$$, but this is the amount Westie documented]:

Acquiring *consulting services* from a full time GPS employee would put Kishimoto and her minions afoul of some strict state laws.  A.R.S. 38-503(C) prohibits public employees from providing their employers with any equipment, material, supplies, or services unless provided under an award or contract let after public competitive bidding. AZ Attorney General guidance states that districts must follow the School District Procurement Rules, regardless of the expenditure amount, when purchasing goods or services from employees: “Following the guidelines for oral or written quotations is not sufficient to comply with the requirements of A.R.S. 38-503(C).”  

It gets worse: the IRS has issued clear guidance about employing independent contractors, whether they’re called consultants or another name, but GPS regularly flouts such rules.

A big red flag for the IRS is when employers pay consultants on a regular basis, such as bi-weekly or monthly, instead of when a consulting project is completed. [Ahem. Take a look at the regular payments under a *blanket purchase order* to SERS Consulting in the vouchers image above.]

Another is paying departing employees as consultants shortly after they leave; those payments have the appearance of being improper parting gifts or rewards. GPS hits all those marks, and more, in what appears to be a pattern and practice of funneling public money to selected recipients.

Lookie who pops up as the recipient of possibly fraudulent GPS consultant payments: Jeff Gadd, the newly named CFO for GPS for the 2017-2018 school year! [Another example of Einstein’s definition of insanity: hiring the same people again and again. Sheeeesh.] Jeff Gadd transferred from being a vendor, or consultant, depending on which GPS report you use, to a lucrative six-figure executive job as the GPS Chief Financial Officer for a one year term on September 2, 2014. Since CFO Thomas Wohlleber’s term began on July 1, 2015, it appears that Betts’s company’s consulting contract was awarded during Gadd’s days at the CFO helm. Dots connected! More insanity, more fraud, more fleecing the taxpayers?

In addition to the fact that fraudulent schemes appear to proliferate in GPS, with some of the same people turning up time and again in running the schemes, there’s a matter of fiduciary responsibility now that the currently serving members of the GPS governing board know about these schemes. Provisions of A.R.S.§35-211 should be applicable in this situation, requiring public employees return any unauthorized payments plus legal interest:

A.R.S.§35-211 When any person who is obligated to approve, audit, allow or pay claims or demands upon the state, approves, audits, allows or pays, or consents to, or connives at, approving, auditing, allowing or paying a claim or demand against the state not authorized by law, such person, and the person in whose favor the claim or demand was made, shall be liable for any funds procured in such manner, plus twenty per cent of such amount and legal interest upon the amount paid from date of payment.

It sure looks like the public is being fleeced while the people entrusted to administer the operation of the school district profit. Elected officials have allowed these conditions to manifest, multiply and mutate into a flagrant scheme of self-enrichment for a favored few public officers and employees. That cannot be tolerated in a public organization whose responsibility is to educate students.

Running off to Hawaii won’t save Christina Kishimoto from the long arm of Arizona law. As for the cloud over Kishimoto’s new job in Hawaii, there’s no umbrella big enough to shield her from what comes next.

You know there’s more to this story. Westie’s next FW&A report will detail another GPS employee’s lucrative consulting contract, illegitimate travel reimbursements and a full year’s pay for a job that appears to have been non-existent. All these gifts of taxpayer money constituted a big, fat wet kiss from Kishimoto to one of her BFFs. Sheeeeeesh.

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The Fine Print: Westie’s Fraud, Waste & Abuse Reports chronicle deliberate misuse of authority and public funds, abuse of authority, gifts of public funds and intentional violations of Arizona statutes and administrative rules by Gilbert Public Schools top-level administrators at the behest of superintendent Christina Kishimoto. These  reports come directly from public records, many of which GPS slow-walked and stonewalled in attempts to keep perfidies hidden. Everything in the FW&A Reports has already been reported to state and federal elected officials and enforcement agencies.


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