The Real Story About Nicole Richardson’s GPS Job (or lack thereof)

We’re hearing lots of wailing and recriminations from the remnants of the Good Old Boys who ran Gilbert Public Schools like a fiefdom: “Rehire Nicole Richardson to be a ceramics teacher!” There must be a tremendous demand for high school ceramics classes in GPS <snark>.

Even Town of Gilbert Mayor John Lewis got into the act, telling the GPS Governing Board how wonderful Nicole is and how much his kids loved being in her classes.  “It’s not fair!” the GOBs cry. Actually, they’re trying to gain traction by comparing Nicole Richardson to the teachers who were reinstated after GPS settled lawsuits, essentially admitting to wrongdoing by those selfsame GOBs.

You know Westie has the goods on this situation. In this case, it appears Nicole Richardson was a wrongdoer. Plus, Nicole made serious allegations about other employees that cannot be ignored. If Nicole Richardson is directing the attack dogs who are making a public spectacle of her situation, maybe she could call them off. Maybe some of this true, but embarrassing information then would disappear from the Internet universe.

Let’s examine some facts together. Nicole Richardson was hired as an elementary art teacher by GPS in 1995. In 2008, she was hired to work in Community Relations to do video and web graphics. It’s apparent that Nicole was in great standing with the GOBs, because she was paid an awful lot of money to be an artist rather than a GPS teacher.

In a funny twist of fate, it was a bumbling move by the GOBs in Human Resources that drew attention to Nicole’s name on the consent agenda. Truly, the head dude of the Loose Zipper Brigade and his sidekick seem to have sold a bill of goods to the new HR boss dudette Chief Talent Officer: past procedure dictated not putting salaries on the consent agenda for rehired employees. Those GOBs were surprised when board members not only noticed that attempted slick trick, they demanded to know what rehired employees were being paid.

We all know that new hires make more money than the loyal employees with equivalent experience and education who stayed with GPS during the Great Recession. Wouldn’t it be a triumph to have GOBs and their posses *resign* and get themselves rehired at the new hire rate of pay? We’re probably on to something there. Dollars to donuts the GOBs are still hiding Good Old Nicole’s proposed new salary. Hey Dr. Zentner: You’d be wise to remember the Reagan policy, “Trust, but verify!”  These GOB remants and Loose Zipper folks probably will be up to nefarious doings any time your head is turned. They’re plotting a big comeback: “Take back our board!” is their rallying cry. You’re welcome, Dr. Z.

Now the GOBs are urging Nicole Richardson to sue the Governing Board for … something. Not long ago, those selfsame GOBs loudly expressed their disgust for people who sued GPS; the noise got louder each time GPS lost or settled in favor of the plaintiffs. Some of the GOBs have turned into attack dogs going against GPS parents, just because they can, which makes this post necessary. Facts are prickly things when they don’t support GOB theories. Westie to the rescue!

First off, Good Old Nicole got herself into trouble by publicly displaying her disdain for duly elected board members that she and her fellow GOBs don’t like. It was just silly junior-high-school kind of behavior; Nicole wasn’t the only GPS employee engaging in that silliness during board meetings. However, this attracted public attention to Nicole, and not in a good way. Good Old Nicole engaged in social media discussions about GPS matters, also not in a good way. We helpfully link to a post showing that Nicole leaked information to GEA about goings-on in the White Temple of Doom during a contentious time.

Good Old Nicole broke the law and district policy in her zeal to get an override passed during the 2013 election. We’ve written about that before. Good Old Jack Keegan, quitter and Kool-Aid drinker extraordinaire, gave Nicole a pass, as we figured back in October 2013.  Turns out we didn’t know the half of it back then. While Nicole openly bragged about what she had done, community leaders on the override committee were not amused and the president of the board called out Nicole’s wrongdoing to Interim Superintendent Jack Keegan:

Community leader email:

OverrideCommitteeEmail

Report to Good Old Jack:

RichardsonOverrideArt

 Here’s how the GOBs *fixed it* for Nicole:

DontUseFileEmail

It appears that Good Old Nicole got a pass on using district resources to affect the outcome of an election because Good Old Jack was in more hot water than she was.  A board member filed a complaint against Jack Keegan for using district resources to affect the outcome of an election. The Maricopa County Attorney upheld the complaint and entered into a settlement agreement with Jack Keegan.  Good Old Jack paid a fine to settle the matter.  Here’s how the GOBs *fixed it* according to GPS policy for Kool-Aid Jack: he *paid* $10 for the use of the office.

Nicole seemed to become more brazen after she pulled off that shenanigan. Actually, she was doing plenty in the Community Relations office, and the HR minions knew all about it, courtesy of the employees who worked with Nicole. It started off with the former Director of Community Relations demanding that a staffer falsify documents … in “the Green case.” Turns out, another staffer heard that, and realized her career was over because the director knew she overheard it. Seriously. Within two weeks, Good Old Nicole inserted herself into the situation by assuming supervisory duties over the overhearing employee. How’s that for convoluted?

Good Old Nicole employed tactics and strategy that the GOBs had perfected during the Allison Ascendancy: Progressive Documentation. First off, Good Old Nicole claimed she had complaints from parents about the overhearing employee’s work. Then, Nicole informed that employee’s supervisor (who was Nicole’s supervisor as well) about the complaints.  As you can guess, problems abounded. The overhearing employee had been doing just fine until Nicole inserted herself into the situation.

Channeling Henry II setting up Thomas Beckett’s murder (“Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”), Good Old Nicole decided to rid her boss of the overhearing employee. Problems arose immediately, because Nicole wanted to fire the employee, believing that since the employee was fairly new, a quick and dirty failure of probation would dispose of the problem. Wrong. The real supervisor failed to give the probationary employee an evaluation, in spite of three warnings from HR. So then Nicole tried to intimidate the overhearing employee into extending probation. The conversation went like this, according to an affidavit we obtained:

Nicole Richardson called me in her office and attempted to force me to sign documents that would have put me on extended probation for 30 days. The action was for one alleged performance issue, which was never discussed with me prior to this date. I asked Ms. Richardson what would happen at the end of the 30 days and she stated that I would be let go from the District. Ms. Richardson cried and told me that she was sorry, that she really liked me and she knew that she had not brought any issues to my attention. However, my probationary period with Gilbert Public Schools was limited to 60 days from my hire date and this extension of my probation was clearly long after that time frame had expired and against District policy.

The overhearing employee had written to HR previously (we obtained the documentation through FOIA requests):

In her own words, Ms. Richardson admits that she failed to employ any of the non-disciplinary actions including consultations, counseling, letters of direction or memorandums containing instructions or directives for future conduct, or even a letter of reprimand, but moved directly to an attempt to extend an unwarranted probation in an attempt to terminate my employment. All this without speaking to me at all.

This is the same “zero to sixty in three seconds flat” procedure that two rogue principals cooked up to force an employee to resign as an English Language Learner teacher. Nicole took those lessons to heart, it seems, and then went for the checkered flag. First, she imitated the “annual evaluation in the middle of the year” gambit that had been used by HR in the past.  Good Old Nicole and her GOB pals would not give the employee any proof of complaints, even though they *justified* the adverse employment actions on those so-called complaints.  From the overhearing employee:

When talking with Ms. Richardson about the measurement of the objectives in her office on August 19, 2013, she stated that she did not know how to do my job and therefore she could not make these goals with me. She was crying in her office and said that she never wanted to be my supervisor. She angrily yelled, “We were going to put you on probation and then fire you, but you went and did research!” I have this conversation recorded…

Wouldn’t you know it: the overhearing employee told the HR minions and her supervisors that she had recorded these conversations, but two different *investigators* did not interview the overhearing employee. Two investigations were conducted without listening to the recordings. The recordings still exist. Nicole admitted she told the overhearing employee that she would be fired in the end, but as GOBs are wont to do, Nicole claimed it was for the overhearing employee’s own good.

The overhearing employee was very explicit about why CR demons wanted to fire her: she overheard an incriminating directive to another CR employee to falsify public records. Karma came to call when that directive involved the Greens, who were embroiled in litigation at the very time all this happened. Karma’s hand is evident in the fact that apparently Good Old Nicole did not know that the employee who had been directed to falsify public records had been reporting, in writing, to HR. That documentation was very detailed, and it paralleled what the overhearing employee reported (the overhearing employee knew about those reports to HR, but apparently did not know not how extensive the reports were).

After the Governing Board was informed of the circus in CR,  GOBs went into their usual practice of circling the wagons to protect an administrator or two or three. They hired an *independent investigator* lawyer in an apparent effort to make it all go away. Funny thing, we received a “Service Request Listing” of prepaid legal services used by GPS from 7/1/2012 to 6/30, 2014, after we asked specifically for legal fees paid to Susan Segal, Georgia Staton and Elizabeth Gilbert. We see a lot of fees to Susan Segal on the list, but none for Georgia Staton or Elizabeth Gilbert. The significance of this will become apparent as Good Old Jack Keegan’s efforts to protect Nicole Richardson unfold.

Good Old Nicole vented on Facebook about a confidential attorney-client report into the matters in Community RelationsNicole became the subject of a formal complaint that she had revealed protected attorney-client information online. The complaint included screenshots of Nicole’s Facebook posts as well as the blog to which Nicole objected, plus the district policies and state laws involved.

Ms. Richardson posted to facebook (publicly) contents of an attorney-client privileged report which parents complained they do not have access to. Also threatened parents with civil lawsuit potential. Note disclosure of confidential info under ARS 38-504(B) carries specific statutory consequences.

In addition to telling the Facebook world about the confidential report, Good Old Nicole threatened GPS parents, telling them:

[The parent] should be familiar with the laws governing libel and how seriously one should investigate claims before printing them … I am certain the administrators of this page would not want any part of proliferating untruths and further placing the author in financial jeopardy.

Nicole added more:

Printing something that isn’t true is libel, just sayin’ … BTW, the external investigation says it isn’t true. Just wanting to clarify the rumors and gossip.

You know what happened: Westie saw those posts on Facebook and immediately filed a FOIA request for the investigation report and the investigator’s complete file. We received them on March 17, 2014; we received supplemental documents on March 25, 2014.

Kool-Aid Jack must have been in a quandary, because he knew HE had given that report to his minion Nicole.  “Why did he do that?” you ask. The answer: because he could do anything he wanted to do as superintendent. However, when he was cornered, he circled wagons around himself. Good Old Jack put Nicole on admin leave when he received the complaint. What else could he do? He had already resigned as Interim Superintendent and was serving out his 30-day notice. Kool-Aid Jack decided to do his own *investigation* of the complaint about Nicole’s Facebook posts and waiver of the report’s attorney-client privilege protection. Poor old guy, he was so full of Kool-Aid, he didn’t see the inherent conflict in what he decided to do to protect himself and Nicole!

Bottom line, Good Old Jack decided HE was the lawyer’s client for the confidential report, and HE could release it to anyone. Georgia Staton told him so, he claimed. Kool-Aid Jack wrote a memo to accompany the paper rescinding Nicole’s administrative leave. Here’s what he said:

I consulted with Ms. Georgia Staton, our attorney, through whose firm Don Conrad was hired to conduct an investigation of the allegations made by ****. Mr. Conrad reviewed and submitted a report detailing the results of his review of ****’s charges and allegations. After reviewing Mr. Conrad’s report, I submitted a copy of the full report, including attachments, to the Human Resources department for filing with the **** file. In addition, I permitted Ms. Richardson to review the report based upon her request and I consulted with Ms. Staton. I was advised that I, as superintendent, was the person who authorized the investigation and hired Ms. Staton’s firm. Because as superintendent I was the client, Ms. Staton advised me that I had the authority to release the report. The client was not the School Board because it was important that the investigation be separate from the board in case after the investigation the board needed to hold a due process hearing on one or more individuals identified in the report…

As to the compliant [sic] stating that Ms. Richardson threatened parents with a potential lawsuit, I do not find what she stated on the web as threatening a lawsuit. She did mention that there are laws governing liable [sic] and that people can be held accountable for liable [sic], when printing something that is not true. I do not find those statements as necessarily a threat of a suit.

Based on this review I am rescinding Ms. Richardson’s suspension. However, she is to receive a letter stating that she did not follow my order not to respond to this posting.

Kool-Aid Jack’s memo mentioned problems with Don Conrad’s investigation, and indicated that Don Conrad would continue the investigation when he returned from being out of the country. Keegan also wrote that the investigation report might be changed. Here’s a big problem with this whole story: the prepaid legal services do not include Georgia Staton, her law firm, or attorney Don Conrad. The Arizona Bar Association doesn’t have an address for Don Conrad; his phone number is listed, but no law firm is shown. Georgia Staton’s law firm, Jones, Skelton and Hochuli, doesn’t list Don Conrad as one of their lawyers. Who is that mysterious investigator?

Here’s a bigger question: why would Kool-Aid Jack hire the law firm of the very attorney who was smack-dab in the middle of litigation with the Greens to investigate allegations of a GPS employee that included an illegal directive to falsify public records that were at issue in the litigation? The Conrad investigation does not appear on the prepaid legal services list. The employee’s allegations were made on November 15, 2013. The Conrad report is dated February 4, 2014. Connect the dots: Georgia Staton and Jill Humpherys were mediating on February 5, 2014. The mediation ended with settlements in favor of the plaintiffs in both cases and ultimately led to reinstating the two teachers. Funny, there was no mention of falsified public records, which we assume were submitted to the court. Georgia Staton continued litigating the settlement agreement for weeks after the mediation. Now we know why Georgia Staton wanted settlement agreement clauses like:

Plaintiffs expressly waive and assume the risk of any and all claims for damages which exist as of this date, but of which the Plaintiffs do not know or suspect to exist, whether through ignorance, oversight, error, negligence, or otherwise, and which, if known, would materially affect Plaintiffs’ decision to enter into this Settlement Agreement. Plaintiffs further agree that they have accepted payment of the sum specified herein as a complete compromise of matters involving disputed issues of law and fact. Plaintiffs assume the risk that the facts or law may be other than they believe.

That stuff didn’t make it into the settlement agreements. Whew!

Kool-Aid Jack rescinded Nicole Richardson’s suspension on March 6, 2014. His last day of superintending was March 7, 2014.  Good Old Jeff Filloon closed out the investigation with a letter that conflated Don Conrad’s investigation with the complaint against Nicole Richardson.

The board was told that Nicole Richardson was resigning. Therefore, there was no reason to continue Don Conrad’s investigation. From the timing, it appears that Good Old Nicole resigned to avoid discipline, specifically, having the Keegan letter describing her insubordination placed in her file. Nicole’s resignation was accepted by the board on May 27, 2014. HR placed Nicole’s name as a rehire on the consent agenda on July 8, 2014. The board removed Nicole’s name from the consent agenda.

Proving that Karma has a sense of humor, the Greens received a letter from Interim Superintendent Jim Rice on March 24, 2014:

This letter is regarding your request for the following records:

     *   Investigation reports, memos, notes or other documents related to attorney Donald Conrad’s work for Gilbert Public Schools in 2013-2014

The information you have requested is still confidential and not available for pubic review at this time.

Note that we had already reviewed and scanned the “confidential and not available for pubic review” documents in GPS offices a full week earlier. The day after Rice sent this silly letter, we received supplemental FOIA documents.

There you have it: the GPS Clown Car is still careening down the road to ruin. Interim Superintendent Jim Rice, who followed Kool-Aid Jack Keegan, advised new GPS Superintendent Christina Kishimoto that all the allegations and investigations were done, and Nicole Richardson was eligible for rehire.  Considering the Rice dude has been working in GPS since March 8, 2014 (or thereabouts), he surely must have had all the corporate knowledge he needed about this fiasco <snark>.

GPS is still a comprehensively mismanaged district, complete with omnishambles. New Chief Talent Officer Zentner got a taste of what GOB minions can do when her lieutenants Shawn McIntosh and Missy Udall led Dr. Zentner down a garden path that ended in a dressing down for concealing information from the board. That was not nice.

Remember: you could have had Westie for Superintendent!

Knowledge is Good!

Sometimes we wonder how counter-culture gets mainstreamed into American society. One of our favorite examples comes from an old favorite movie, National Lampoon’s Animal House.

The movie is famous for many things, but probably not what Gilbert Public Schools thinks. Gross-out comedy? Check. Frat boy partying? Check. Academic inspiration? No way.

The motto of Faber College: “Knowledge is Good.” National Lampoon’s Animal House is set in 1962 on the campus of Faber College in Faber, PA. In the first scene, the camera focuses on a statue of Emil Faber, the fictional founder of fictional Faber College. On the pedestal is the inscription “Knowledge Is Good.” The phrase is so mainstream now, it’s the motto of Greenfield Elementary School! We think that’s a really good, fun thing!

Strange! How many of today’s elementary kids do you think have watched Animal House, especially in a conservative community like Gilbert, Arizona? Even stranger is how kids take up words that find their way into the mainstream. How many elementary kids do you think know the word they toss around so casually, “frickin,” has unsavory history? (We’re not going to link that one – Keyboard is too innocent.) One of our favorites is a kid who tattled that someone “had used the S-word.” The S-word was “shut up.” Naughty!

As commentary on society, National Lampoon’s Animal House rocks! In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film culturally significant and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. It was low-budget, but it has become one of the most profitable films of all times. Some of the actors became legendary stars, including one of our favorites, Donald Sutherland.

In 2012, Universal Pictures Stage Productions announced it was developing a stage musical version of Animal House with Barenaked Ladies writing the score. We got all excited about that, especially with the great success of the theme song for The Big Bang Theory, also by Barenaked Ladies. Then we discovered the Barenaked Ladies were off the project. Sigh.

Wikipedia shares the genesis of Animal House:

Animal House was the first film produced by National Lampoon, the most popular humor magazine on college campuses in the mid-1970s. The periodical specialized in humor, and satirized politics and popular culture. Many of the magazine’s writers were recent college graduates, hence their appeal to students all over the country. In 1974, Dave Mobley was impressed with the magazine and wrote a short story about Mu Omega Beta (the MOB) of Union College. The MOB was started in 1966 as an anti fraternity. The college was a religious school that didn’t allow drinking or partying. Mu Omega Beta would supply the party house and the booze. Each MOB member would be given a secret name, known only to its members. The purpose was to know who ordered what on the “beer list.” If list got into the wrong hands, no one would be identified to the school. The MOB was known for pranks, wild parties and other crazy behavior. Freshmen women were warned to stay away from the MOB, which made them seek out Mu Omega Beta members. The story was received by National Lampoon; they loved the story of the MOB and set their writers loose on the idea.

Animal House Trivia:

Other fun college comedies:

Sydney White: Amanda Bynes plays Snow White meets Animal House.  Sydney White helps the 99% take back their college from the Greeks, who run everything and take all the money.  Amanda is charming in this movie.  We’re rooting for her in real life, too.  Mental health is good.
The House Bunny: Anna Faris plays a cast-out Playmate who becomes house mother to a sorority of misfits.
Legally Blonde: Reese Witherspoon plays Elle Woods, a blonde with a heart of gold–and a mind like a steel trap. This is Keyboard’s favorite; Legally Blonde 2 is a lesser film.
Pitch Perfect: College comedy with singing.
Community: A funny TV series about misfits at a community college.

ASRRT, The Trust: Flushing Tax Dollars Down the Toilet

$280,000.00. That’s what The GPS Governing Board President said it cost for the Arizona Schools Risk Retention Trust (ASRRT) to litigate an employment lawsuit that settled in favor of the employee. That money came from taxpayers. Taxpayers gave the money to Gilbert Public Schools. GPS turned around and gave the money to ASRRT, The Trust. Don’t think for a minute that was the complete cost of the lawsuit; that $280,000.00 was just the price for defending GPS.

That money is gone, and it did absolutely nothing to educate students. There seems to be no accounting for how the taxpayers’ money is spent once ASRRT, The Trust, gets their hands on it. Citizens can’t find out who, what, when, where, how and why the money was funneled directly into the pockets of a select group of attorneys. We tried, but the GPS response to our FOIA request was pretty much, “%&@ this!” We’re still trying to find that information; Westie is persistent.

$280,000 down the toilet of litigation that never should have been necessary. The Good Old Boys of GPS ran the district like a fiefdom, illegally discriminating against employees and retaliating against employees who reported illegal conduct. GOBs could do that, secure in the knowledge that ASRRT, The Trust, would defend them to the bitter end. [There's much, much more after the video. Scroll down.]

Actually, it’s a feature, not a bug: from our viewpoint, ASRRT, The Trust, intends for each and every potential claim against GPS to come to a very bitter end for everyone except the lawyers hired to defend GOBs. GPS employees broke both legs of a special-needs student? Scorched earth litigation! That case went to the law firm of Holm, Wright, Hyde and Hays.  A jury awarded $215,612 in medical and compensatory damages to the child. The law firm continued litigating against her parents until the judge told them to knock it off. Holm, Wright, Hyde and Hays was paid handsomely, even for the litigation they continued after they lost the trial. Sheeesh.

We heard that it cost a million dollars for the Safford v. Redding case that Holm, Wright, Hyde and Hays took to the US Supreme Court, fighting for the right of ugly old white men school district administrators to strip search teenage girls. Thank goodness, Good Old Matthew W. Wright lost that one, but you’d never know it from the write-up on his website: “Wright ultimately won immunity for his clients, one of many appellate successes.” Actually, Good Old Matthew W. Wright assured the justices that ruling in his favor would even allow school districts to do cavity searches on students. Justice Stevens, joined by Justice Ginsburg, felt that unconstitutionality of the search was obvious: “This is, in essence, a case in which clearly established law meets clearly outrageous conduct.” Another day, another dollar  another few thousand dollars for the lawyers who were paid with taxpayer funds.

ASRRT, The Trust litigates against students who have been injured at school. Really! One high school student, who was brutally attacked a week after Good Old Dave Allison recommended the Governing Board adopt charges against a National Board Certified Teacher, had his life forever changed, and not in a good way. The lawsuit claims the student is permanently scarred, diminished and disabled. It further claims his horrific injuries limit his ability to work, organize thoughts, process information — yep, this kid’s injuries required neurological treatment, multiple major surgeries and he requires continuing medical care. Worse, the lawsuit states the attacker was a student known by administrators to be dangerous, violent and a bully. The 17-year-old victim wanted to serve in the US Armed Forces. Now he can’t.

Holm, Wright, Hyde and Hays is defending GPS in this lawsuit. You would think that ASRRT, The Trust, would attempt to settle the case and save the student and his family from the trauma of scorched-earth litigation, but you would be wrong. No matter that most likely, it would cost less to settle for the full amount requested in the Notice of Claim than the scorched-earth litigation will cost. What’s a few hundred thousand taxpayer dollars if it’s going to lawyer pals of the dudes who run ASRRT, The Trust? Trial is set for the end of October 2014 according to the current court calendar.

The President of the GPS Governing Board indicated in a public meeting that ASRRT, The Trust’s litigation strategy isn’t what their school board clients want. Popular opinion seems to be that The Trust has been a cudgel to be used against GPS students, parents and employees. It seems that requests for services for special needs students have been especially despised and litigated by ASRRT, The Trust. If crochety GPS admins don’t want to give SpEd students the services they need, no matter how sensible a case the parent presents, ASRRT, The Trust can bring on litigation against the parent. Former interim superintendent Jack Keegan explained to the public about a case that  lasted just long enough to pay attorney Denise Lowell-Britt a few thousand dollars. It so riled up this parent, she decided to run for a seat on the Governing Board. Thank goodness, she won:

What the District did was to offer Ms. Burk the opportunity to take her visually impaired son outside the school District. The District offered to pay for placement and for Ms. Burk to live outside the school District as long as she signed an agreement that her son would not be enrolled back in Gilbert Public Schools for that year, unless she died. There was no lawsuit related to that. Ms. Burk instead enrolled her child at Desert Ridge High School. At one point, Ms. Burk asked for an independent evaluation of her child. The District turned that independent evaluation down and filed a due process claim against Ms. Burk. The District withdrew the claim and ended up paying for a more expensive independent evaluation than what was requested, plus the District paid her attorney fees because the District was wrong in its action. To state it clearly one last time, Ms. Burk never sued the Gilbert Public Schools.

Can any civilized person accept the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance of making that offer: we’ll pay you to move out of GPS boundaries and take your kid with you, and he can’t come back to GPS unless you die. Truly disgusting. Good Old Dave Allison did that, probably doing what his lawyer advised him to do. No wonder citizens of the Town of Gilbert oppose using ASRRT, The Trust, as a cudgel.

Here’s another inexplicable legal battle: even though GPS already had a judgment against the district for illegal discrimination based on race and national origin, ASRRT, The Trust duked it out against the victim of that discrimination.  We figure the lawyers, Georgia Staton and Elizabeth Gilbert of the Jones, Skelton & Hochuli law firm must have big fat hairy litigation budgets from ASRRT, The Trust. Our clue was that the lawyers litigated settlement terms for weeks after agreement was reached in mediation.

It seems to us non-lawyers that “Let’s fight over what we already agreed on!” offers a chance to increase billable hours at the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute. Maybe it’s impossible for lawyers to resist leaving a few dollars of litigation budgets on the table after ASRRT, The Trust, offered it up. We found an intriguing example: what happened when Adam H. Victor, an energy industry executive, hired the law firm DLA Piper. It became a messy case, but one of the attorneys wrote an email to another attorney in the law firm stating that they were “churning” excessive legal fees as a means of retaliating against this client who questioned his bills about their legal fees:

“Now Vince has random people working full time on random research projects in standard ‘churn that bill, baby!’ mode,” Mr. Thomson wrote. “That bill shall know no limits.” A DLA Piper spokesman said the firm did not comment on pending litigation. Legal ethics scholars said that it was highly unusual to find documentary evidence of possible churning — the creation of unnecessary work to drive up a client’s bill.

Speaking of “Churn that bill, baby,” we’re not the only people who have noticed this perverse incentive:

a dirty secret in the legal industry – there is an inherent incentive driving attorney compensation – often referred to as the billable hour – that drives up the cost of litigation defense. In other words, the very law firms that represent the companies “victimized” by the cost of litigation are often a significant contributor to the increased litigation costs… the very attorneys representing those most affected by these problems are often the chief contributors or, at least, complacent co-conspirators.

GOBs and ASRRT, The Trust: BFFs. It’s no wonder that citizens, taxpayers, employees and students are tired of it. Thank goodness GPS did not renew their pre-paid legal plan for next year. Saving money by using Trust lawyers who cut their rates has cost GPS a fortune! Enjoy the cartoon below: legalmath

Reinstated! A Vote for Truth, Justice and the American Way

The GPS Governing Board voted to reinstate Gladis Mopecha as continuing teacher in Gilbert Public Schools. This is good news for everyone in Gilbert Public Schools. We appreciate that so many people in Gilbert stood by Gladis and Sarah as they struggled for justice for themselves and other GPS employees.

Reinstating Gladis and Sarah is a smart move that spotlights enormous change in GPS management philosophy.  We’ll take a moment to spotlight outstanding credentials and accomplishments Gladis and Sarah bring to their chosen profession. Gladis specializes in helping English Language Learners master a new language. Sarah had the English Language Learners class for the third grade at Meridian. The combined efforts of Gladis and Sarah worked magic in the classroom, which was especially visible in students’ reading achievement. Credentials say much about their dedication to being the best teachers they can be … see for yourself:  

Gladis:

* Student Teacher of the Year Award, ASU Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
* M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, ESL emphasis, ASU.  3.96 GPA
* B.A. in Elementary Education with ESL endorsement, ASU.  Graduated magna cum laude with a 3.74 GPA
* Licentiate of the College of Preceptors, College of Preceptors, London (equivalent to a U.S. Bachelor’s degree)
* Speaks seven languages
* 20 years of teaching experience

Sarah:

* National Board Certified Teacher
* M.Ed. in Elementary Education, University of Nevada, Reno.  3.96 GPA.
* B.S. in Marketing, University of Nevada, Reno.  Graduated with high distinction; 3.79 GPA.
* 8 years of teaching experience

In addition to brainpower, these ladies bring heart.  They love their students, and the kids know it. The photo at the top of this post was taken in G3, Sarah’s third grade classroom at Meridian.  Sarah’s students made a class book to thank Gladis for a great year.  Sarah is holding the box of chocolates she gave Gladis.  The chocolates are called “Merci”—French for “thank you.”  It was apropos because French is one of the seven languages Gladis speaks. [Sorry, kids in the G3 Accelerated Reader Hall of Fame. We removed your names in the photo to protect your privacy. We all know who you are! Rock on!]

We’re glad the public face of GPS reflects new attitudes. Moving forward to reverse injustice at new Superintendent Kishimoto’s first official board meeting was good Karma.

Out with the old ways and in with the new, and new leadership at the superintendent level is a great start. The board’s hard work behind the scenes is paying off for the community in big ways. Although differences of opinion remain in terms of how to best achieve GPS goals, citizens are speaking out to support employees and showing appreciation for teachers and support staff who toil ceaselessly to help students learn, grow and thrive. It’s turning into a win-win scenario for all.

This situation shows why we all must be vigilant about how GPS uses tax dollars and other funds amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. GPS continues to be sued for the same old misconduct and wrongdoing, and the lawyers paid by ASRRT, The Trust laugh all the way to the bank. Here, The Trust paid out hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to settle lawsuits brought by teachers who had been wronged by GPS administrators … just for sport, it seemed. Those administrators are no longer GPS employees. How fitting.

Both teachers settled their lawsuits expecting to be reinstated. The white teacher was reinstated immediately after the settlement was finalized. The black teacher was told to wait until she could be investigated some more, even though there was no complaint and the allegations were made by people who were mandatory reporters … of course, they had reported exactly NOTHING. We don’t think the East Valley NAACP and Cameroonians in Arizona were amused, but what does ASRRT, The Trust, care about the reputation and public perception of Gilbert Public Schools? Nada, zip, zilch. It’s not The Trust’s problem.

You would think these lawyers paid by ASRRT, The Trust, would give up, since none of their interminable investigations turned up any wrongdoing by either teacher. Nope, GPS and ASRRT, The Trust, just threw incredible amounts of $*@(%*  against both teachers, ably assisted from the dais by board members Jill Humpherys and Lily Tram, who were just totally OUTRAGED that GPS would reinstate the teachers who had been so terribly wronged by past GPS GOB administrators.

Those two board members were armed with pages of allegations that they read into the record, allegations that they knew were never proven. Even when warned that continuing to throw out unproven charges could result in name clearing hearings for accused employees at further expense to the district, Jill said in essence, “So what?” and continued ranting. Man, those Roman circuses and spectacles at the Coliseum taught two board members how to play to a crowd. How the crowd loved that red meat! How the two board members basked in their adulation!

Lily tossed out allegations that NOT rehiring a different employee who had resigned would be age discrimination. Why not call it sex discrimination, too, Lily? Why not invite the EEOC to waltz in and audit GPS hiring practices while you’re at it? Throwing out public comments about that former employee’s medical status was ill advised, to say the least. The GPS ice is getting thinner, but it isn’t from global warming. It’s from foot-in-mouth disease: open mouth, insert foot. That carries huge liability for an elected official in a public meeting, but Lily Tram doesn’t worry. Lily Tram knows The Trust will defend her just like The Trust is defending convicted criminal Brian Yee.

How posterity will regard those performances is another matter. Everyone knows how easy it is to fling untrue allegations from the safety of a board meeting where members enjoy legislative immunity. GPS employees know that they can be accused of anything, any time, and the persons making those allegations will never be held accountable for their malicious words and actions.

Somehow, we think Karma might have special plans for two board members, former GPS administrators and superintendents and the attorneys who enabled evil diatribes and attacks against Gladis and Sarah. We love Karma!

Will GPS Finally End Race Discrimination? Find Out on Tuesday.

Citizens, agencies and organizations are closely watching Gilbert Public Schools because of egregious civil rights violations against teachers and students. It’s fitting that this next board meeting will feature the first invocation in 14 years, offered by Mayor John Lewis, Town of Gilbert.

We gave GPS Governing Board members evidence on which to base an employment decision and begin to make amends for wrongdoing perpetrated by members of the Good Old Boy network. Here’s our communication to the board along with evidence we submitted for consideration:

We saw that reinstating Gladis Mopecha is on the agenda for the July 8, 2014 board meeting. To combat innuendo and damage caused when GPS represented disputed facts as true in the past, we provide you with evidence so you can now make an informed decision to restore Gladis Mopecha’s teaching career.

When speaking on civil rights, both President Kennedy and Dr. King quoted Dante, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” Please cast aside any temptation to be neutral or delegate your duty to decide. Please take this opportunity to make amends for the past, instead of perpetuating proven wrongdoing by past GPS administrators. You can showcase GPS’s commitment to equal opportunity and right grievous wrongs that have been inflicted on an accomplished, dedicated educator. Please do the right thing now, before another school year begins with the district’s reputation under a cloud of discriminatory employment practices.

We know from the mediation session we attended that GPS lawyers made allegations about Gladis Mopecha; we know those lawyers also stated that they and The Trust took no position on her reinstatement.  Now, it seems that anonymous allegations are being raised again. Please remember that those allegations are said to have originated with people who are, by law, mandatory reporters of abuse should a certificated teacher abuse a student. No reports were ever filed against Gladis Mopecha. No investigations ensued.

We attached three affidavits from people who have first-hand knowledge: a parent, a teacher colleague, and an administrator. The affidavits state that the not-so-secret allegations are lies and they all affirm that Gladis Mopecha is a good teacher. In balancing anonymous allegations versus sworn affidavits from people who take a risk in supporting Gladis Mopecha, the scales must favor reinstatement. Basing an adverse personnel action on flimsy anonymous accusations would be immoral. Taking any action based on anonymous complaints flies in the face of GPS Policy BHD.

There have been allegations that Gladis Mopecha was not a good teacher, but her GPS supervisors say otherwise in their evaluations of her performance and effectiveness. So did auditors from the Arizona Department of Education. We attach a summary of those comments with corresponding Bates numbers of documents GPS submitted to a federal court. If you would like to have complete copies, we’ll gladly and quickly oblige. We also attached letters of recommendation from GPS and schools where Gladis Mopecha worked; those were also submitted by GPS to the court. There can be no doubt as to the authenticity of these documents from GPS files.

A judge considered the district’s defense and found that two GPS principals and the Associate Superintendent of Human Resources subjected Gladis Mopecha to illegal discrimination and harassment based on her race and national origin (decision attached).  Gilbert Public Schools violated Title VII, Section 703 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for unlawful employment practices. GPS knew about this judicial finding in April 2011; lawsuits could have been averted, but previous GPS superintendents chose to do nothing to remediate the damage rogue employees had already caused.

The people responsible for this wrongdoing are no longer GPS employees; we urge you to disavow their misconduct and start to make amends by reinstating Gladis Mopecha now. Anything less would be further discrimination that puts a spotlight on continuing unequal treatment: you reinstated the white woman who faced equally outrageous allegations that also were never proven. The fact that The Trust settled both lawsuits speaks volumes about the futility of defending those GPS attempts to destroy the careers of two dedicated teachers. Predictions of doom from the dais before Sarah Green was reinstated were totally off-target; Sarah’s evaluation is attached, and you know the results of her intervention and remediation with students at Gilbert Junior High School. Next year should be even better.

Brian Yee confessed to being a convicted criminal, yet he was hired as a teacher, then he was promoted to principal. Lily Tram stated from the dais in 2013 in voting to give Brian Yee another contract, “We all make mistakes.” Gladis Mopecha made the “mistake” of having black skin and speaking English with an accent from her native country, Cameroon. How can you rationalize the dichotomy between how GPS regards Brian Yee and how GPS regards Gladis Mopecha?

Please make your decision on evidence, not anonymous allegations and destructive innuendo.
/signed/

We posted this communication online so that citizens, agencies and organizations monitoring this case have the same information you have.

We’ll share the the vote tabulation.

The Bullets GPS Dodged (Metaphorically Speaking)

Since we said goodbye to all those failed GPS administrators, we should keep in mind that the alertness of three board members prevented bringing new GOBs to GPS. New superintendent Christina Kishimoto wanted proven Good Old Boys from Scottsdale and Higley school districts to step into key positions in her new administration. The GPS Governing Board refused. Whew!

Kishimoto’s relationship with the Hartford board wasn’t any more promising in the beginning than her relationship with the GPS board that rejected her personnel picks. An editorial in the Hartford Courant nailed the “war between Board of Education members and Superintendent Christina Kishimoto” in 2012:

There is no question that her skill set is missing strong communication ability, however. She definitely needs work on informing the board and answering members’ questions. It isn’t a good sign that her office is referring calls from journalists to her attorney. However, in a letter e-mailed Wednesday to Mr. Poland, the superintendent pledged to take steps immediately to improve communications, including advising board members monthly of coming contracts and arranging one-on-one meetings with board members. That’s a start.

Showing that she must not have learned her lesson about communicating with the Hartford district she just left, Kishimoto nominated Dr. Jeffrey Thomas to be Chief Talent Officer and Kevin Hegarty to be Chief Financial Officer. The GPS board was not amused and rejected her proposal for both of those GOBs from outside GPS. Kishimoto must have expected a rubber stamp board. Fortunately, she encountered three board members who stood up to her bone-headed move.

Moving forward, I will work with my board to understand this vote and to ensure that the candidates that I put forward to them next are vetted using a different process,” Kishimoto said. “Ultimately, the board and I need to be comfortable with all senior level appointments.”

My board??? Adding to that telling turn of a phrase, Kishimoto admits she doesn’t understand why the board members voted the way they did. Yeppers, this new superintendent has a long way to go in improving communications. She also has a long way to go in understanding that elected officials are her boss, not the other way around. Being “comfortable” with all senior level appointments? Hey, lady, the board approves your proposals … or not.

Here’s some of the backstory about why Dr. Jeffrey Thomas would never be acceptable to this board:

Smith said she voted against hiring Thomas because he doesn’t have a degree in human resources, which she said could cause legal problems for the district. Smith said she also had “a lot of concerns” about Thomas’ former position from 1996 to 2005 working for the Arizona Education Association, a teachers union.

Sure enough, Dr. Jeffrey Thomas’ LinkedIn profile shows his almost ten year stint in “community organizing” as an employee of the Arizona Education Association. Considering that AEA leadership has been vocal and active in organizing protests and demonstrations against three members of the GPS Governing Board, that was an indescribably stupid move in terms of board-superintendent relations and communications. Gilbert Education Association organized a flash mob and other distractions from educational endeavors, and the board passed a new policy that unleashed Karma on the GEA. So Dr. Kishimoto wants a 10 year veteran of the it’s-not-a-union gang? Tone deaf or worse!

Thomas had recently pulled a sneaky public relations stunt in Scottsdale district where he was a member of the superintendency:

Several top administrative jobs are being eliminated as the Scottsdale Unified School District works toward closing a budget gap of more than $4 million. Fourteen positions will be cut to save a total of $850,000 for 2014-15. In a surprise, Jeff Thomas, the associate superintendent, told the district on April 8 that he would resign in December.

Members of the community called out Thomas’ shell game.  Read the comments at the linked article. If you’re logged in to Facebook, visit Respect Our Scottsdale Students for a perspective untainted by GOBs.

Fourteen Jobs Cut? Nonsense – this is “District Speak” at its most offensive and destructive level.

Jeff Thomas resigned? SUSD officials have no idea how they will ever get along with out him? They won’t have to worry – or try too hard. He gets rehired in today’s Board Meeting in a new job at the District. Read the Agenda for new Contracts issued to Staff. There he is – same guy – new title.

The others supposedly cut? Andi Fourlis? New Title – not gone. Six of the poor victims of the cuts? Don’t worry about them. They didn’t exist. Their positions were vacant when they were supposedly cut.

Under Jeffrey Thomas’s *leadership* in HR, the Scottsdale district had tried to get teachers to give up money that voters demanded they receive or face job losses and pay cuts. Again, the comments are quite revealing about the mentality of the Scottsdale superintendency:

After discovering that it would receive the extra Prop. 301 money, the district decided to ask teachers to vote on the give-back proposal. Jeff Thomas, associate superintendent for the district, said that approval also would have eliminated a proposed 1 percent pay cut.

Kevin Hegarty has a similar track record of GOBness in the Higley School District. Seriously, this dude brought a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Fueling Station to a tiny little school district. Because he could. In fact, they slipped this little gem into the school board consent agenda so it would be kept very, very quiet.  Showing how bone-headed this move really was, Higley doesn’t have any CNG vehicles!  Apparently Kevin Hegarty likes to exploit financial loopholes, such as the $750,000 grant for the CNG fueling station. He led Higley into a *district charter school* loophole that ended up costing Higley $730,000 in charter money.  Result: Higley district took a total budget hit of approximately $2.2 million this year. Sounds like just the kind of Chief Financial Officer for Dr. Kishimoto, right? Sheeeesh.

The GPS Governing Board dodged a bullet or two under the Kishimoto Superintendency already! New Superintendent Kishimoto was paid handsomely for whatever she did on day one of her administration. We hope she answers this question every day for the next three years: “Did I truly earn the money that taxpayers paid me today?”  Also, “Would that money have been better spent directly on student learning?”  Here’s hoping that GPS can get past the old GOB superintendency mantra: “How can we reward our pocketbooks or our buddies with all that free money that’s floating around?”

Clean Sweep of GPS Superintendents – Don’t Let the Door Hit Ya!

At last! It’s June 30, 2014 and it’s the last day for the bitter dregs of the Gilbert Public Schools Good Old Boys to inhabit the big white Temple of Doom and receive big bucks from taxpayers for doing so.

There has been a clean sweep of the old GOB superintendency, and tomorrow will begin the Kishimoto administration. Let’s take a look at some dots that are just begging to be connected before a door is damaged by hitting these folks in the butt.

First, a roll call of the departees:

Dave Allison, a superintendent who blithely shredded public records and ordered a computer server destroyed in the midst of a lawsuit he presided over as plaintiff. Allison destroyed GPS’s ability to present evidence in the federal lawsuit. That stunt cost GPS TWO MILLION DOLLARS at the time that teachers and support staff saw their salaries frozen. That’s just one of Dave’s accomplishments while he reigned over GPS, but the investigations are not finished, so we might find more! The Allison Superintendency, the gift that keeps on giving to the Rabid Fringe.

Clyde Dangerfield, assistant superintendent of B.S. (yep, business services) and chief enabler of GOBs and their evil ways and the GPS dystopia that hopefully will come to an end. You can watch his arrogance and contempt for National Board Certification and NBCTs in GPS on display; in case you’re wondering, that’s a demonstration of lizard brain taking over and pulling off the veneer of civilization in that video.

Shane McCord, a self-professed “non-techie” who landed a job in Mesa Public Schools the day after he announced his resignation from GPS (to be effective many months later, of course). His new job? Executive Director of Innovation and Strategic Projects. Cozy spot for a dude who is going to be spending plenty of time explaining to lawyers and law enforcement why he did the things he did in GPS. We’ll pass the popcorn at the appropriate time.

Jeff Filloon took a bit of a step down from Assistant Superintendent at GPS to Director of Human Resources in Chandler School District. He and his sidekick McCord still haven’t explained why they submitted bogus documentation about work they didn’t do in return for THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS in stipends that their buddy Allison slipped under their doors.

Barb VeNard was double-dipping on a SmartSchoolsPlus contract, so she just flat out quit one day, using her *generous* time off provision to cover the 30 day notice she was required to give GPS. It seems that Good Old Barb the GOB didn’t want to be around to answer questions about the server that was destroyed in her Technology Services department. Those nagging questions about how the technology override funds were spent and how Requests for Proposals and other elements of the GPS bidding process were rigged  manipulated  ended up benefiting some of Barb’s favorite vendors and *family friends.*

Nikki Blanchard retired before this mass exodus, but she has been coming out of retirement to answer questions in lawsuits against GPS in which she was a named defendant and/or witness.  We heard lots of chirping about how she set up her staff for pay raises when no one else in GPS was getting raises … except for certain GOB pals and members of the Loose Zipper Brigade, perhaps. It’s really great to be Queen of HR and Payroll! Apparently, Nikki trained Jeff very well. [gag]

Jack Keegan came in pretending to be a white knight coming to the aid of a dysfunctional superintendency, but the bloom was off that rose in a short time.  Good Old Jack had plenty of problems with understanding certain laws, such as producing public records and using GPS resources to affect the outcome of an election. Yessiree, Jack had his favorites on the staff and his favorite lawyers at his beck and call and dinner table. Funny thing, after Good Old Nicole skated and didn’t get in trouble for using district resources to campaign for a (failed) override, Jack had to rescue her again when more monkey business came to light — there’s quite a story behind the fracas in Community Relations and the dots that connect to a massive staff departure. We haven’t told everything we know … yet.

Of the three principals who were named defendants in civil rights lawsuits, Vicki Hester and Debbie Singleton high tailed it out of GPS shortly after the lawsuits settled in favor of the teachers who had experienced discrimination and/or retaliation.  We expect they were kept on the payroll while ASRRT, The Trust was defending them because anything less might have been taken as an admission of wrongdoing. It appears GOB Jason Martin apparently pulled a Huppenthal, commenting about himself online in the Arizona Republic with details that only he could know. That and more came out in Jason Martin’s deposition. Maybe he just doesn’t understand the definition of sock puppet.  GPS probably just gave him a pass rather than deal with something related to his suitability to *lead* a campus.

Whatever holds Jason Martin and Brian Yee have over GPS, they must be doozies. It’s astounding that being convicted of a crime is no barrier to being a principal in the district.  Hmm, we mustn’t forget that The Trust is defending a lawsuit in which Brian Yee is a named defendant, so that might be giving him a certain sense of job security for a while. He should have bought a squirrel when he had the chance.

While it probably would have been humiliating for a principal to know that junior high school students were laughing about the principal and dean being boyfriend and girlfriend over at Highland Junior High School,  that was just one of the revelations in the 11 anonymous letters to the board. We expect other revelations in those letters to bite Brian Yee as the truth comes out about other loose zippers in GPS.

Bet Brian Yee didn’t expect his criminal past to become public knowledge …  how will he be able to hold up his head before students and staff now?

Dude, why didn’t you get out while you had the chance? Those public records are just going to keep adding fuel to your pants that are on fire … in more ways than one.

Who are those Anonymous Educators? They’re Sockpuppets!

It’s going to be a hot summer at the big white GPS Temple of Doom, in more ways than one.  We predict record-breaking three digit temperatures, along with continuing bad news for Good Old Boys (old and new) trickling out. It could be a gusher of bad news, given the tip of the iceberg that we’re seeing and hearing about from our beloved birdies.

Let’s start this post with John Huppenthal, who is in the news big-time these days:

John Huppenthal, the state’s top K-12 education leader, continues to draw fire for anonymous blog postings, drawing accusations of inappropriately using state computers as fellow educators and political opponents questioned his judgment.  Huppenthal’s posts, made under the pseudonyms Falcon9 and Thucydides, generated controversy last week after he acknowledged he had written them. …”John Huppenthal’s use of Department of Education computers on work time to troll the Internet and leave sock-puppet comments here is a misuse of state equipment and resources,” a June 18 post on the site states.

You would think that the top educator in Arizona would at least get historical facts right in his rants, but that’s not the case:

The revelation last week that John Huppenthal, Arizona’s superintendent of public education, was anonymously posting controversial messages on at least two of Arizona’s most popular political blogs has touched off a debate over misuse of government computers and the ethics of hiding his identity.

“We now know that (Franklin D. Roosevelt) was almost completely responsible for the great depression,” Huppenthal apparently posted under the pseudonym Falcon9 in a 2013 rant on the liberal Blog for Arizona.

“Only in liberal mythology did FDR ‘save’ the nation. … Worse yet, Roosevelt’s disastrous economic policies drug (sic) down the whole world and directly led to the rise of a no-name hack named Adolph (sic) Hitler who was going nowhere until Germany’s economy went into the tank.”

It has been fun learning about how Huppenthal’s posts were tracked to Department of Education computers, according to an opinion column by Laurie Roberts:  

The longtime Republican public official was outed earlier this month by Democrat blogger Bob Lord who wrote on left-wing Blog for Arizona that the state’s top educator has been posting for several years under the names Thucydides, Socrates and Falcon9. Lord told me he got curious about the poster’s identity, especially after tracing some of the posts to IP addresses at the Department of Education. Then he found a post by Thucydides on an education website — one in which Huppenthal signed his name.

We connect the dots between John Huppenthal’s follies and Gilbert Public Schools in a way you might not expect. Kevin DeMenna is a former lobbyist for GPS. From Laurie Roberts’ column:

“In Arizona, there is no greater champion of Common Core than John Huppenthal,” lobbyist Kevin DeMenna told me.

Come along and have some more fun with connecting the dots with Westie! Let’s take a look at incoming GPS Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto. No, we haven’t found anonymous posts that she did from school district computers, but we found that she knew about someone who was posting and tweeting from the principal’s office in a Hartford school!

Over the past few months close to 150 comments have been posted by an individual or individuals associated with Steve Perry.  Many of these comments have been posted during school hours. [Steve Perry is the principal of Hartford's Capital Preparatory Magnet School.]

The person or persons commenting have used pseudonyms like Reality Ed, Hartfordtruth, just saying, Wait? what…, reality, uhart, Really, to tell the truth, really concerned, concerned, 2 days?, dogs?, FOI, Just saying and other fake names.

Seriously, the dots are as closely connected to Huppenthal’s antics as two coats of paint. One tweet sounds really ominous:

A tweet sent Wednesday by Steve Perry, the principal of Capital  Preparatory Magnet School, has caused a backlash and prompted the local teachers’ union to ask the district and school board to investigate.

“The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.” — Dr. Steve Perry (@DrStevePerry) November 20, 2013

Perry’s message was posted after the city board of education  declined late Tuesday to move forward with a controversial plan to turn over management of SAND Elementary School to Capital Preparatory Schools Inc., a nonprofit company run by Perry.

When confronted with evidence and a complaint from the Hartford teachers’ union, Good Old Christina did … nothing, or so it appears.

Even a cursory review of the facts reveals that Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry is violating Hartford Board of Education policies, and potentially state laws, due to his chronic absenteeism, his inappropriate use of social media and the fact that he spends an inordinate amount of his work day promoting his profitable public speaking business.

…So according to the Internal Revenue Service, Steve Perry is using a Hartford Board of Education school as the address for one of his private corporations.

Since Steve Perry is openly running a private business out of a public school, the first question for the Hartford Board of Education and Superintendent Christina Kishimoto is whether Perry properly notified them that he was running his private company out of their facility and whether Kishimoto and the Board signed off on those activities.

The second question for the Hartford Board of Education and Superintendent Kishimoto is whether or not the work associated with Perry’s private company interferes “with the proper discharge” of his assigned duties.

And the third question is whether the Hartford Board of Education is being properly compensated by Perry since the policy clearly states, “If an outside activity occurs during compensated work time and the superintendent permits the employee to participate, any compensation given the employee shall be remitted to the district.”

Sounds just like the way GPS top dogs reacted, with heads in the sand, doing nothing about wrongdoing on the administrator level. The GPS GOBs made it an art form of reacting to things like bullying, race discrimination, allowing EVIT to abuse Special Education students,  a Highland High School teacher raping a student and Good Old Brian Yee’s criminal record with intentional indifference. It’s sounding like “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

The question now isn’t whether Steve Perry is running a private company out of a public school, the question, yet again, is whether anyone in authority will step forward to ensure that Steve Perry and his fellow operatives are forced to follow the laws, rules and policies that everyone else must follow.

Gilbert citizens and taxpayers might want to pay attention, though, to the closely connected dots of turning over a public school to a private corporation. Especially a private corporation run out of a district school. Especially a private corporation owned by a school district employee. Don’t want to get fooled again!

Did Gilbert Public Schools Know about Brian Yee’s Criminal Past?

Another shoe has dropped on Principal of Greenfield Junior High School Brian Yee. This time, it seems to be a boot filled with cement.

We have long wondered why Gilbert Public Schools top administrators were so protective of Brian Yee. We were perplexed when he violated a long-standing best practice in Human Resources operations by calling in members of the public to protest what should have been a private employment action. Why so many people heeded his pleas and started a Facebook page called “SAVE Mr. Yee” is just flat-out incomprehensible, especially now that we know his history.

You probably thought this post would be about Brian Yee’s sexcapades with the Loose Zipper Brigade. Fooled ya! This post is about past criminal conduct that could have, and should have stopped Brian Yee’s career in education before it began. We know there’s a certain segment of the population of Gilbert that is madly in love with Good Old Boy Brian Yee, and we’re expecting lots of howls about our use of the words *criminal conduct.*

As usual, Westie’s got the goods. In this case, we have Brian Yee’s own letter explaining his criminal conduct:

Letter of Explanation On November 11, 1995 I was convicted of embezzlement for less than $100.00 in Janesville, Wisconsin. This is my only conviction on my record, it occurred in April of 1995 at a bank in Wisconsin. I took a total of $1,595.00 from the bank, where I worked as a teller. I was questioned about the theft over the summer which I did confess to and which led to my conviction. I was able to plea bargain to the offense, which led to it being reduced to a misdemeanor. I was put on probation for a total of two years, which was completed in January 1998. [there's more on the linked letter]

There’s a little bit of a loophole that Brian Yee probably hoped to use to his benefit. That is, he was not convicted of crimes against children. You can see it here, in his certification that he had no criminal record. However, there’s a requirement in state law that certified teachers must have a fingerprint card. Gilbert Public Schools requires employees to have fingerprint cards. To get a fingerprint card, you have to disclose your criminal history, and the loophole about crimes against children isn’t in the statutes about fingerprint cards. Funny thing, the fingerprint clearance laws specify THEFT as a reason to deny clearance in the list of “one or more of the following offenses” in the linked statutes:

A.R.S. 41-1758.03 Fingerprint clearance cards; issuance; immunity
A. On receiving the state and federal criminal history record of a person, the division shall compare the record with the list of criminal offenses that preclude the person from receiving a fingerprint clearance card. If the person’s criminal history record does not contain any of the offenses listed in subsections B and C of this section, the division shall issue the person a fingerprint clearance card. [emphasis added on all of these quoted statutes]

C. A person who is awaiting trial on or who has been convicted of committing or attempting, soliciting, facilitating or conspiring to commit one or more of the following offenses in this state or the same or similar offenses in another state or jurisdiction is precluded from receiving a fingerprint clearance card, except that the person may petition the board of fingerprinting for a good cause exception pursuant to section 41-619.55

A.R.S. 41-1758.07 Level I fingerprint clearance cards; definitions
C. A person who is awaiting trial on or who has been convicted of committing or attempting, soliciting, facilitating or conspiring to commit one or more of the following offenses in this state or the same or similar offenses in another state or jurisdiction is precluded from receiving a level I fingerprint clearance card, except that the person may petition the board of fingerprinting for a good cause exception pursuant to section 41-619.55

Maybe Brian Yee decided that “theft” and “embezzlement” are different crimes. That won’t work, because Brian Yee used the word “theft” to describe his crime in his letter of explanation. In addition, here’s what we found that’s contrary to that *convenient* interpretation that embezzlement isn’t theft:

“Embezzlement” is a kind of property theft.  It occurs when a defendant, who was entrusted to manage or monitor  someone else’s money or property, steals all or part of that money or property  for the defendant’s own personal gain. The key is that the defendant had legal access to another’s money or property, but not legal ownership of it.  Taking the money or property for the defendant’s own gain is stealing; when combined with the fact that this stealing was also a violation of a special position of trust, you have the unique crime of embezzlement.

Based on  our experiences with GPS and its go-to lawyers who are paid by ASRRT,  The Trust, we believe it  is likely that Brian Yee didn’t really write that letter of explanation until recently. We find it intriguing that shortly after Brian Yee confessed to his criminal record in a legal proceeding, the *miraculous* undated letter appeared. Initially, Brian Yee’s personnel files that were produced by GPS didn’t include any letter of explanation. In fact, the first personnel files GPS produced about Brian Yee also omitted the page where he copped to having a criminal record; even then, he checked that he had never been dismissed, asked to resign or had a contract non-renewed. So exactly how was he convicted of a crime, if none of those things happened?  Something is not kosher here. That confessional letter just happens to open cans of worms for Good Old Brian Yee and for the GPS top administrators who hired him and those who protected him when employees and parents complained while he was principal of Highland Junior High School.

Arizona statutes about fingerprint cards have a provision for requesting a good cause hearing if you’re not eligible for clearance … like, because you were convicted of a crime. You would think that there would be a record of that hearing and a notation on Brian Yee’s record that he was issued fingerprint clearance on a good cause exception. If that were the case, Gilbert Public Schools surely would have those records on file to protect the GPS administrators who hired Brian Yee in spite of his criminal record back in May and June of 2001. If that were the case, surely there would be public records informing the Governing Board of the special circumstances in hiring a convicted criminal as a GPS teacher. Of course, if Brian Yee didn’t disclose his criminal history to GPS before he was hired (in other words, if his letter of explanation is a recent fabrication), there won’t be any records of a hearing, or good cause for issuing a fingerprint card anyway, or anything else. Actually, wouldn’t Brian Yee have had to disclose his criminal conviction when he applied for positions as a principal? Wouldn’t he have had to disclose his criminal conviction again when his fingerprint clearance expired? There are lots of things that should be on file that GPS could disclose to show that everything about Brian Yee’s employment is on the up-and-up, wouldn’t you think?

Seeing as how GPS now wants the public to believe that the district knew all about Brian Yee’s criminal past, wouldn’t you expect that there would be a GPS file containing evidence of what Brian Yee actually was convicted of doing? Would the district just take Brian Yee’s word that he plea bargained a felony down to a misdemeanor? Especially before hiring him as a teacher? Wouldn’t the law and GPS consider the position of teacher to be a position of public trust?

Inquiring minds want to know exactly what crime Brian Yee confessed to, plea bargained and was convicted. It’s not idle speculation, it’s very important to the integrity of the teacher hiring process and state laws that are supposed to assure convicted criminals are not entrusted with a community’s precious, vulnerable children. The crime that Brian Yee actually committed is important; no one hiring a teacher should be able to turn a blind eye to a criminal conviction, but it appears GPS did exactly that … unless Brian Yee didn’t actually disclose his criminal conviction back in 2001. It’s not like GPS has a history of manufacturing evidence after the fact, or forging documents for a legal proceeding, or anything like that, is it? <gag>

Lastly, there’s the nagging little problem about those anonymous letters to the board and newspaper about Brian Yee’s principalship at Highland Junior High School. One of those letters includes information that cash was not handled properly in the administrative office at HJHS. We’ve had many birdies chirp about situations involving cash at the school while Brian Yee was principal. We posted about that almost a year ago:

It turns out that people who were interviewed by attorney Matthew W. Wright at Highland Junior High School told him that there was a lot of money just lying around on desks in the front office. Apparently, the attitude of former Superintendent Dave Allison and his cohorts was, “Move along. There’s nothing to see here,” so he transferred Brian Yee to Greenfield Junior High School

There’s a LOT of money floating around GPS in PTSO accounts, tax credit accounts, grants given directly to schools, field trip accounts, student council activities and such. Who knows how GPS uses grants given to the district, often with no strings attached?  There’s some really big money floating around athletic departments at the end of the school year for summer sports clinics – that money goes directly into bank accounts of GPS employees who run those clinics. It sure looks like no one is watching that money!

Wouldn’t you think that GPS should have been protecting ALL the money it receives? Especially since 2014 marked the third year that a superintendent wanted to beg taxpayers for a multi-million dollar tax override? Well, that’s just not the “Gilbert way.” In fact, an audit report from January 2014 spells it out on page 9:

The District’s internal controls over financial reporting at the financial statement level were not adequate to ensure that a misstatement would be prevented and/or detected. When cash reconciliations are not prepared in a timely manner, the District is not be [sic] able to effectively manage it finances. Errors in revenues, expenditures, or other accounts may not be caught by the District and corrected timely. Adjustments were required to properly state the District’s cash balances at year end.

The audit report shows almost $2 Million dollars was handled incorrectly. That’s a problem. The audit didn’t cover the massive amounts of cash that pour into each and every school administrative office in GPS. As far as we can determine, for the past few years, people at the GPS big white Temple of Doom have done nothing about reports that cash and resources were not handled correctly at several campuses or that there was an *issue* with GPS credit card usage and shenanigans in transportation offices. When it comes to Highland Junior High School under Brian Yee’s principalship and now Greenfield Junior High School, with reports of mishandling cash. missing money, or any number of financial irregularities, now the administration is faced with the fact that Brian Yee has a criminal record for financial impropriety, whether you call it embezzlement, theft or whatever.

Doing nothing about those reports, rumors, and evidence of financial improprieties at Highland and Greenfield Junior High Schools is turning a blind eye to whistleblowing. Somehow, we think Karma won’t be amused this time. Maybe one of those government agencies with three-letter acronyms (GPD, FBI and IRS to name a few) won’t be amused either.

Zip It, Disobedient Jill Humpherys!

We have a new member of the Gilbert Public Schools Hall of Shame – Board member Jill Humpherys, who is campaigning to retain her seat on the board in the November 2014 election. [Applause.] 

Arizona has a lot of little things called laws that regulate conduct of candidates and their surrogates at election time. We aren’t going to catalog those here (bet you just sighed with relief!) but we will discuss ethics and proper conduct of elected officials in their official capacities. This kind of discussion arises naturally when a public official holds herself out as a paragon of virtue.

Those who would confer sainthood on Jill Humpherys for her service on the GPS governing board might be surprised to learn that their shining star is a very disobedient board member. We all know that there’s a lot of demand for obedience by the Powers That Be in Gilbert Public Schools. Yeppers, it’s really hard to balance the portrait of St. Jill, who plays to a crowd at each board meeting, with the reality that former interim superintendent said to stop a specific behavior during board meetings back in August 2013.

St. Jill just couldn’t stop herself from her naughty, disobedient ways that were garnering such approval from her masters and acolytes. Perhaps disobedience as a board member is simply alluring to someone who really, terribly, desperately wants to stay on the GPS board.* It must be difficult to resolve the tension between your upbringing that stresses obedience to authority and the countervailing demands that are conditions of adoration from your puppet masters. We also suspect it’s harder to actually think on your feet (or from your seat on the dais) than it is to read from educrat dogma, but that’s digressing again.

Lest ye disbelieve, we assure you that there’s documentary evidence to back us up. Here is Jack Keegan’s famous Friday memo to the board, politely telling St. Jill to knock it off:

Board Agenda Report
This board agenda you will notice that the section marked board activity report has been changed to board committee report. The purpose of these types of reports from board members is to focus on anything that the rest of the board needs to know about your committee assignments. While it is nice to inform people about visiting schools it is not something the general public is really looking for. If you attend a conference it is during this part of the report to say what you learned, but keep it specific to what was learned not that it was just a wonderful conference. Otherwise, that gives the impression that people just go to these for enjoyment. I’m not trying to discourage people from going to the conference, quite the opposite; I think it’s very important for the board to attend conferences because you will learn a lot about what other districts are doing as well as some of the legal constraints that all school districts are under. I would just keep the discussion, specifically to the points of what was picked up at the conference just the high priority items if there were. And don’t feel that if you go to one that you also feel you have to report on it. [emphasis added] [punctuation marks, or lack thereof, are in the original memo]

We have to admit that the June 10, 2014 board meeting was difficult. There was a faction of the community that really, really wants to be taken seriously as the voice of citizens, but they lack awareness of the echo chamber they inhabit. These folks are intolerant of any beliefs but their own, and they sort of want to provoke a knock-down, drag-out fight, but they’ve been dissuaded by their own ineffectualness thus far. They don’t understand that their rights of free speech have limits, especially when their silly antics disrupt an educational institution. [Oh gee, we just brought state laws into the conversation again. Sorry.]

During the June 10th board meeting, we endured St. Jill’s explanation of why she didn’t become a teacher (it was hard work), so she became a full-time mother for decades. The audience also was subjected to St. Jill’s thinly veiled threat about *Mother Bears* arising to oppose decisions the GPS Governing Board might make … if the Mother Bears don’t like the votes. Sheeesh. None of this was relevant to the business of governing GPS, but this is what St. Jill does.

A real doozy occurred during a discussion about an agenda item for the board president to set the agenda for board meetings (which is the norm for school boards across the nation, but GPS changed the policy a couple of years ago  to bolster Dave Allison’s power).  St. Jill started yelling as she read a manifesto about the board’s role (go ahead, it starts at o3:43:15). St. Jill had points of order called on her, but she would not stop reading aloud. She raised her voice again at 03:46:00 when the board president questioned the relevance of what St. Jill was reading. Skip down to 03:53:00 to watch board member Julie Smith school St. Jill in board member responsibilities. Funny, Julie Smith was saying pretty much what Jack Keegan had told board members in his memo.

If you really want some fun, watch as St. Jill goes off about her visits to all 40 schools since she has been serving on the board (it’s at 04:03:00). Board member Julie Smith brought up the inappropriateness and potential Open Meeting Law violations that accrue from St. Jill’s politicking at each board meeting. St. Jill said she couldn’t give any committee reports because she isn’t on any committees. [Great way to take up your share of the burden of governance, St. Jill!] Jill told the board president she checked with Dr. Rice about her antics on the dais (conveniently forgetting the directive from Dr. Keegan?). Actually, this all sounds like a pre-teen kid who goes to Dad for permission after Mom told her she couldn’t do something.

When you watch St. Jill in action, remember that you could have had Westie as Interim Superintendent. What would be the chances of St. Jill’s disobedience in that situation? Right! Zip, zilch, nada. Westie zips zippers high and tight! [We award Leroy Jethro Gibbs the Oscar for best "high and tight" in show business.]

The video excerpt is available at the bottom of this post.

*****************
Big Fat Asterisk: Why staying on the board is so important might be unfathomable to regular folks. It’s unpaid, unappreciated and unfulfilling if you expect to be lauded for your efforts. We do, however, understand the logic of running for an elected position in order to make a difference in the world. That’s cool. Maybe there are reasons we don’t understand; maybe the allure of enriching fellow travelers with taxpayer money is enticing beyond normalcy.


What Gilbert Public Schools Doesn't Want You to Know
WestieConnect
- a blog by the creators of WesternConnections.com