JiLL HUMPHERYS* has spent two years campaigning to be reelected to the GPS Governing Board. Jill Humpherys cries because two years in a row, Gilbert taxpayers refused to approve a tax override for GPS. She laments at every opportunity that the board didn’t go to the taxpayers for a third time in three years … taking even more dollars out of the classroom.
The real story about Jill Humpherys’s time on the GPS board is that she doesn’t follow district policies. The photos within this blog post show Jill Humpherys on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at Gilbert High School, soliciting signatures for her petitions to become a candidate for a seat on the GPS Governing Board. It was neither the first time, nor was it the only time that Jill Humpherys was observed conducting political activities on Gilbert Public Schools property.
GPS Policy KF includes, “Posting of political signs and other electioneering activities will not be permitted on school property at any time including Election Day at school sites used as polling places.” Soliciting petition signatures in order to get your name on the ballot is an electioneering activity, which is defined as working “for the success of a particular candidate, party, ticket, etc., in an election.” GPS Policy KF was adopted in 2000, revised in 2012. It’s not new.
|Jill Humpherys personally solicited signatures from persons who were at Gilbert High School for other reasons. Were they teachers, students, staff, parents, volunteers? They could be any of these people who were at a GPS campus when a sitting member of the Governing Board solicited their support in her bid for re-election. What’s important is that Jill was “electioneering,” which is never permitted on school property, and in doing so, Jill Humpherys violated district policies. Let’s connect the dots to show Jill’s prohibited electioneering disrupted the district function, which is educating students.
GPS Policy KFA states, “A person may also interfere with or disrupt the District function by committing any of the following:
Knowing violation of a District rule and regulation. Proof that an alleged violator has a reasonable opportunity to become aware of such rules and regulations shall be sufficient proof that the violation was done knowingly.
Any conduct constituting an infraction of any federal, state or city law, or policy or regulation of the Board.”
It doesn’t look like Jill Humpherys can find a safe harbor by claiming she didn’t know the law or GPS policy. Such a claim would ring especially hollow given that this is the second time Jill Humpherys has run for this seat on the GPS board. In addition, GPS policies site Arizona statutes as authority for the existence of a policy. In the case of KFA, statutes include A.R.S. 13-2905; A.R.S. 13-2911; A.R.S. 13-3102; A.R.S. 15-341; A.R.S. 15-507.
The regulation that accompanies KFA is KFA-R, which makes clear that GPS intends to enforce KFA, at least where students are concerned: “If a District student violates Policy KFA, the appropriate student conduct/discipline policies will be implemented.” There’s no wiggle room for students who disrupt a campus. Do you really believe it’s different for a school board member who violates district policy? Keep in mind that GPS Policy KFA is not limited to employees or students. Policy KFA deals with “community use” of GPS resources.
As a member of the GPS Governing Board, Jill Humpherys is required to obey district policies. Heck, Jill Humpherys is involved in writing those policies. Back in February-March 2014, Jill Humpherys was all excited about changing the GPS Board Ethics policy. That policy didn’t get changed then, but there was a lot of controversy over the circumstances at the time. So, no, Jill Humpherys can’t say she didn’t know she was violating GPS policy by electioneering at Gilbert High School on March 18, 2014.
It’s interesting that KFA-R includes a suggested procedure when a person “contravenes Policy KFA.” The suggestions envision that the site administrator (the principal of the school) knows that there is a person who is neither a student nor staff on the campus.
Oh gee, lookie here: there’s a GPS policy about ALL visitors: KI-R. “Visitors to Schools. All visitors to any school must report to the school office upon arrival.” What do you think the chances are that Jill Humpherys sought and was granted permission to electioneer on district property? It’s not likely that Good Old Jack Keegan, who paid a fine for violating election law in 2013, told her, “Sure, go ahead, solicit signatures at Gilbert High School.”
The fact that Jill Humpherys, a board member who publicly violates district policy, sits in judgment of students and employees who might be accused of violating district policy is truly alarming. Board members can expel a student, causing lifelong harm to a child. Board members can fire an employee, causing incredible career damage and financial suffering to the family of an accused employee. The old saying about Caesar’s wife is particularly appropriate in this situation:
There were many rumors involving Caesar’s wife … so Caesar divorced her on the grounds that “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.” Basically, Caesar divorced her because, even if the rumors were false, Caesar couldn’t be associated with someone who was involved in rumors. It was all about the politics.
Policy CH, Policy Implementation explains WHY the board adopts policies for the district. “The policies adopted by the Board and the administrative regulations developed to implement policy are designed to promote an effective and efficient school system. All employees and students shall comply with board policies and administrative regulations.” Don’t forget Policy BCA, Board Member Ethics: “Avoid being placed in a position of conflict of interest, and refrain from using their Board position for personal or partisan gain.”
We’ve posted before about how Jill Humpherys disobeyed former interim superintendent Jack Keegan’s directive to quit politicking and campaigning during board meetings. He issued that directive in writing to all the board members in August 2013. Here we are more than a year later, and Jill Humpherys is still at it. It appears that she thinks no one knows that what she is doing is wrong. One of Jill Humpherys’s supporters opined a few days before Jill was electioneering at Gilbert High School:
Maureen Ringenoldus: I think when anyone (including FB page moderators and school board members) find themselves or are exposed for resorting to dishonesty that should be a red flag that something is seriously flawed in their agenda. ·March 15 at 7:36am
Jill Humpherys has been exposed for violating GPS policies in her zeal to be elected and re-elected. We call that *dishonesty.*
Big Fat Asterisk: If you have seen Jill’s campaign signs, you know the funny “JiLL” comes from the signs. Some folks have asked if “Humpherys” is misspelled.
|GPS Board Member Jill Humpherys electioneering at Gilbert High School *** *** *** *** *** A picture is worth a thousand words.|
Why did 12 Million dollars get scrubbed from the GPS budget? We can’t find any explanation, but we found evidence on the GPS website. Auditors find gross financial mistakes, then $12 Million just vanishes. Poof! This is why taxpayers don’t trust the GPS superintendency with their money.
Compare the two title slides below, both purporting to be the 2014-2015 Proposed Budget; the slides are the same. We had saved on August 18, 2014 the PowerPoint slides that accompanied the GPS admins’ official presentation of the budget to the Governing Board on June 10, 2014. Those are the images on the left hand side. The title bar clearly shows Adobe Reader in the browser.
The image on the right is currently online at the GPS website. It’s the slide as on the right. There is nothing to indicate the data in the presentation has been changed.
On the pdf document on the left below, there is $313,967,843 in various funds for the 2014-2015 school year. The image on the right is currently online at gilbertschools.net, showing a budget of $301,682,909. The percentages in the circle graph have changed, too. Whoever changed the FY 2014-2015 Proposed Budget helpfully noted on the bottom of the graph slide that it was changed on 9/11/14.
You have to ask, why would anyone in GPS change a presentation from a June public hearing? Is this the GPS response after citizens have been pointing out that GPS had MORE MONEY this year than last year? Just make the money disappear and say nothing about it? Funny thing, we showed the original budget graph slide on a Westie post just a couple of weeks ago.
The official Proposed Budget presentation online is now different, and it’s not easy to find. We know that it has been a tradition in GPS to *create documentation* later to use as evidence they wish they had in real time, but changing a document the GPS superintendency presented to the public and to the Governing Board at a public hearing? What on earth? If changes to the official GPS budget were required for unforeseen circumstances, why not be upfront about it and inform the Governing Board and the public? And explain why it happened? Was someone embarrassed? Were the original figures wrong? This stealth maneuver smells bad, especially since it deals with public money.
On June 10, 2014, the GPS Governing Board convened a Public Hearing pursuant to A.R.S. 15-905. The hearing was required by law. The video of the beginning of the budget presentation is at the bottom of this post. Following GPS tradition, the GPS superintendency (Jim Rice) told the board in essence: “This is the budget. You have to vote on it now. There’s no time for you to ask questions or seek alternatives.”
While we were looking for the $12 Million that vanished, we found how the GPS superintendency derailed the Zero Based Budget process and did what they were going to do anyway. See slide #14, Budget Development Process, Step Three. The Zero Based Budget presentations had not occurred in April and May 2014 as Teddy Dumlao had promised in October 2013, so the board and the public were never informed about what would be funded and what would be cut. It’s pretty obvious that one of the things the GOBs fully intended to do was cut Accelerated Reader out of the GPS budget. That would never have happened if the board and the public knew about the real budget that was being shoved down their throats.
No, the Good Old Boys were miffed that the board made them go through the motions of the ZBB process, so they wasted a lot of time pretending to implement a Zero Based Budget, and just cut the process off when they decided what they were going to do anyway. There were many, many citizens who gave up their time over several months to participate in this ZBB process. They knew that their efforts were totally disrespected and disregarded when the 2014-2015 school year started WITHOUT the recommendations they had so carefully made, WITHOUT the consensus they had so carefully developed.
Did anyone else notice that although Dr. K was asked on August 5, 2014 to make a presentation to the board about who made the decision to cut Accelerated Reader, Dr. K has been silent on that point? When the decision was made, and why only two members of the board (Lily Tram and Jill Humpherys) knew that AR would be cut, are equally important questions that should be answered before the public, which includes the PTSO members who have been scrambling to raise funds to restore AR in elementary schools. It appears that Dr. Christina Kishimoto has embraced the mushroom farm environment for the duration of her superintendency. It appears the new boss is the same as the old boss when it comes to the GPS budget.
Let’s look at the state of your taxes in support of Gilbert Public Schools, where 12 million dollars just evaporated. Homeowners saw their equity in their homes vanish during the Great Recession, but their taxes did not drop correspondingly. Gilbert taxpayers recently received their new tax bills, and they’re not pretty. Property taxes in Maricopa County for 2014 are 5.4 percent higher than last year, according to the County Treasurer:
Schools get the biggest share of Arizona property tax revenue, about 56 percent of the average homeowner’s bill. During the housing crash, property values fell more than 52 percent in Maricopa County, but property taxes dropped an average of only 15 percent between 2008 and 2013 as government entities raised tax rates to make up for other budget shortfalls.
On top of the *taxation vexation,* there are the constant demands from school districts for parents to give more, more and more money to schools. It looks like GPS fell in line with other school districts in their demands for copy paper, glue sticks and hand sanitizer. It also looks like superintendents are taught to use the same playbook all across the nation, making parents pay more, more and more while bemoaning the cuts the superintendents are *forced* to make because their budgets are always inadequate.
The National Retail Federation said that families will spend an average of $101.18 for school supplies alone, a 12 percent increase from last year. When clothes, shoes and electronics are included, the tab runs to $669.28 for an average family with kids in kindergarten through high school, its data showed… Ashley Dammen, an Arizona Department of Education spokeswoman, said the state provides funds to each district for classroom resources but it has “no requirement for schools to provide teachers with supplies.” The state leaves it to the districts to decide “how they spend those funds,” she said.
[Parent] Carly Tatroe said she was not surprised by having to spend $125 on school supplies last year for her then-eighth-grade daughter, Brielle. But she was “shocked” to see the same Higley Unified School District that asked for the supplies turn around and give every student in her Brielle’s class an iPad for classroom use. “I found it ironic that they had iPads, but no copy paper,” said Tatroe, who said last year’s list included a request for 200 staples from every student.
Here’s a worse case: high school teachers are loading homework on Infinite Campus and students have to print it themselves to turn it in for academic credit. One of our birdies asked a student, “What about kids who don’t have internet or printers?” The response: “They only have to pay a dime a page to print in the library.” If that is not a slap in the face to taxpayers, we don’t know what is.
Oh, gee, lookie here: GPS has been spending a FORTUNE on paper, while the superintendency claimed poverty and stuck parents with demands for copy paper. Now we find GPS posted Vouchers 5031-5039, which include an entry for UNISOURCE WORLDWIDE INC. GPS just bought $51,403.57 worth of paper from that vendor. Don’t you feel stupid for buying copy paper at Staples for your kid’s classroom just before GPS bought all this paper?
The remnants of the Good Old Boys are obviously still entrenched in GPS. It’s going to take some time to get all this out in public, but we’re up to the challenge! There’s a lot more to come. Chirp, chirp!
Big Fat Asterisk Up Front: Hat tip to “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” We wonder about some of the mistakes that were spotlighted in the 2012-2013 Audit Report, especially after we read the Gilbert Public Schools’ responses to the write-ups.
We’ve been looking at how Gilbert Public Schools is spending public money. We’re finding more of the same old, same old along with shenanigans that led to the remnants of the Good Old Boys having to explain to auditors why they did what they did. Of course, the auditors were old pals of GPS, Heinfeld, Meech & Company. We found GPS payments of $7,490.00 and $2,246.18 to Heinfeld, Meech … plus $35.00 invoiced as “Jill Humpherys.”
We knew we were on to something when it became difficult to get a complete copy of the audit and GPS responses from the GOBs still entrenched in GPS. A friend asked for a copy, and received only a “draft” of the report without any GPS responses. It was worth the effort, though, to persist in making FOIA requests until we liberated a complete copy. As always, we’ll share.
The audit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013 showed serious discrepancies in many areas. We’ll list them below. It’s important to keep in mind that GPS was misplacing hundreds of thousands of dollars in various accounts: $680,000; $343,434; and $714,714 for a total of $1,738,148, or almost TWO MILLION DOLLARS. That should be a wake-up call for anyone.
GPS replied to the auditor’s findings. In regard to the misplaced money identified above, GPS said “it was the bank’s fault,” and GPS had to make up the difference in a prior fiscal year. But GPS said they adjusted the errors and they’re sure current procedures will fix it all. See how easy that was? In a second finding, there was a recording of $414,687 that wasn’t received by year end (ooopsie!), along with failure to record the total amount of cash received in Classroom Site and Instructional Improvement funds. Plus, the General Fund had $7,678 missing in action (meaning, an unreconciled difference).
GPS also explained why cash accounts were not reconciled: “For several months we were behind in cash reconciliations due to a lack of resources.” The excuse: the person who was supposed to do those reconciliations left just before the audit. If “just before” wasn’t very long, why are reconciliations such a mess? GPS says they “restructured the process and methodology to allow a coordination of several resources to aid in this effort and stay up to date.” Clear as mud. Especially when GPS said the missing cash was in the months of posting still being caught up. Which brings up how long was “just before” once again. Bottom line: they still hadn’t cleared up where the cash was. Maybe they still haven’t cleared it all up, but the report has been issued, so let’s move on, folks.
The GPS Annual Financial Report on file with ADE showed big-figure discrepancies. “Actual revenues and expenditures were underreported on the AFR for the Other Federal Projects Fund and did not agree with the District’s accounting records by $198,712 and $213,556.” The GPS response: “We don’t have an automated system to catch this but the process has been modified.” Which means they still can’t those track revenues and expenditures.
Other responses to cash handling discrepancies and control of expenditures “will be addressed in training.” So will the numerous discrepancies in student attendance records.
So why don’t you all shut up and go home?
There are problems in bidding and awarding contracts. There are problems with the payroll system. There are problems with documentation and other required files.
Here’s a goodie: GPS didn’t have a “written formal disaster recovery plan for technology.” Don’t worry about that; Tech Services “has implemented an email system” to fix the problem. We all know that Good Old Dave destroyed files and deleted email records, but somehow the Heinfeld, Meech audit gave GPS a clean report on Records Management , giving a “Yes” answer to the question about maintaining and disposing of records according to state guidelines. It pays to have a pal doing the audit, right? Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.
Some write-ups appear below. If you click on the link to the audit, the GPS responses are there (for impatient folks). We’ll explore GPS responses and what all this means (and we’ll connect the dots) in future posts. Keep on chirping, birdies! We couldn’t do all this without you. [Have some chocolate.]
DISCREPANCIES (everything shown below comes directly from the audit report)
Compliance Questionnaire: Accounting Records.
3. Were accounting records maintained in accordance with the USFR Chart of Accounts? Finding: NO.
8. Were the District’s records of cash balances reconciled to the County Treasurer’s records at least monthly, by either the CSS or the District? Finding: NO.
9. Were any differences that resulted from reconciliations with the CSS or County Treasurer’s records researched and resolved in a timely manner? Finding: NO.
Cash and Revenues:
11. Was cash received deposited intact daily, when significant, or at least weekly? Finding: NO.
14. Were validated treasurer’s receipts or revenue posting reports for all deposits with the County Treasurer reconciled to the District’s accounting records and to copies of deposit transmittals or treasurer’s receipts? Finding: NO.
7. a. 5) Stamp sealed bids or proposals with the time and date upon receipt and store bids or proposals unopened until the time and date set for opening? Finding: NO.
7. b. For purchases made through competitive sealed bidding, did the District award contracts to the lowest responsible and responsive bidder whose bid conformed, in all material respects, to the requirements and evaluations criteria set forth in the IFB? Finding: NO.
13. b. Did the District retain the Governing Board’s written determination that there was only one source for required materials, service or construction items purchased though sole source procurement? Finding: NO.
3. Did the District establish a delayed payroll system so that employees were paid only the compensation they have earned? Finding: NO.
4. d. Did the District ensure that at no point during the year was an employee paid for more than actual hours worked to date? Finding: NO.
5. Did individual personnel files include appropriate supporting documentation, as listed on SUFR pages VI-H-2 through 4? Finding: NO.
5. Did actual revenues and expenditures as reported on the AFR agree with the District’s accounting records? Finding: NO.
10. Did the District have a formal disaster recovery plan, and was it periodically tested to identify and remedy any deficiencies? Finding: NO.
Student Attendance Reporting:
4. Based upon review of (3) students’ attendance records in kindergarten programs, if the instructional time for the year was between 356 and 692 hours, were students not in attendance for at least three-quarters of the day counted as being absent or, if the instructional time for the year was 692 hours or more, were students not in attendance at least one-half of the day counted as being absent? Finding: NO.
6. Based upon review of (15) students’ attendance at elementary and junior high schools in which attendance was based on half days, were students in attendance for less than one-half the day counted as being absent for one full day; were students in attendance for at least one-half day, but less than three-quarters of a day, counted as being absent for one-half day; and were students in attendance for at least three-quarters of a day counted in attendance for a day? Finding: NO.
8. Based upon review of (7) high school students’ attendance records whose attendance was reported in terms of absences, for all absence days reported in a 1 month period, did the District report absences in accordance with the method(s) provided in AD’s School Finance Procedures Manual? Finding: NO.
10. Based upon review of (7) high school students’ attendance records, did the District prorate the membership of the students enrolled in less than four subjects as provided in ADE’s School Finance Procedures Manual? Finding: NO.
11. b. For school districts — Based on the review of (7) students’ attendance records for all absence days reported in a 1 month period, did the District calculate absences in accordance with the method(s) provided in AD’s School Finance Procedures Manual based on the number of District classes the student was enrolled in and attended (excluding JTED program classes)? Finding: NO.
13. c. Were all students who participated in an AOI Program residents of this state? Finding: NO.
14. Based upon review of (7) students’ attendance records (all grades) for students withdrawn for having ten consecutive unexcused absence, was the student only counted in membership through the last day of actual attendance or excused absence? Finding: NO.
16. We the withdrawal dates entered into the District’s computerized attendance system within 5 working days after the actual day of withdrawal and was documentation maintained to support the date of data entry? Finding: NO.
Our previous post introduced the new GPS Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Gadd. We ended with his history of failure with the Dysart School District bond issue, which spectacularly crashed and burned. We promised more, and here it is.
Jeff Gadd had an ugly track record before he was at Dysart: he was assistant superintendent for business services in Isaac School District in 2011, a job in which he gained national attention for bone-headedness. The Isaac district planned to shutter schools and lay off employees because of money problems. Jeff Gadd rose to the fiscal challenges, it seems, but in a way that should cause GPS parents to cringe in fear for the future and their children.
Jeff Gadd worked to allow Superintendent Carlos Bejarano to retire June 30 and return to his same job – with the same compensation and perks – the next day. The retirement agreement came at a time when the district planned to close Lela Alston Elementary and Carl T. Smith Middle schools, eliminate roughly 75 positions including 20 teachers, and ask remaining employees to take unpaid furlough days because of declining enrollment and less state aid when the new school year started on July 1. Bejarano did not take a reduction in pay; in fact, the district covered health-insurance costs for him and his dependents.
It appears that Jeff Gadd was the proud papa of a double-dip sweet deal for the superintendent:
The district also paid nearly $6,700 to Educational Services Inc., a third-party contractor for whom Bejarano technically would work. Working for a third-party contractor allowed Bejarano to stay on the job yet remain in compliance with a state law requiring ASRS members to wait a year after retiring before returning to work to collect full benefits. “Obviously, his salary and number of years of experience is exceedingly high, so he will have a nice retirement,” Gadd said. “The numbers get fairly large, but superintendents across the state have done this. They all wind up in this ballpark.”
Told you it was a bone-headed, tone-deaf move. This stupidity was akin to SmartSchoolsPlus-style joyriding on the gravy train … on steroids. Jeff Gadd’s tone-deaf public comments were what garnered national attention, including from The New York Times:
“It’s faux retirement,” said Byron Schlomach, an expert on pensions at the Goldwater Institute, a conservative-leaning public policy group, who is critical of the practice. “There have always been people who have come out of retirement to help out, but it’s much more systemic now. People are figuring out, ‘Hey, there’s a way to take advantage of the system.’” That he will receive the same salary and benefits of about $150,000 a year, along with a pension of about $100,000, has angered many local residents because Mr. Bejarano’s own financial restructuring comes as the struggling school district he oversees is planning to lay off staff members and close two schools.
The district’s financial state is particularly dire now. The school closings are part of an austerity budget plan the district is proposing to prepare for an expected slash in education money from the state. Aggravating the problem is declining enrollment caused by families moving out of Phoenix because of the economic crisis as well as the state’s aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration. The idea that the superintendent will be earning significantly more than before just as employees are being furloughed and laid off and students are reshuffled to more distant schools has infuriated some in the community.
Jeff Gadd is just what Gilbert Public Schools needs as the public face of finances at this time. <gag> Jeff Gadd is already talking about a bond issue and tax increases after the election in November 2014. Surely you have noticed that Christina Kishimoto pals around with candidate for school board Jill Humpherys, whose constant lament is that there won’t be an override for GPS on the ballot. Dr. K’s signal is loud and clear: she needs Jill Humpherys to carry through with her plans for GPS (not that Dr. K has told anyone what those plans are, other than sweeping generalities, but we digress). Here’s the tell: Jill Humpherys and Dr. Kishimoto don’t want you to notice the fact that there’s more money for 2014-2015 than there was last year. Look to the right and you’ll see the number $313,967,843.
There’s more … of course. Christina Kishimoto made all kinds of promises in the meeting on August 26, 2014 that Good Old Jeff Gadd was just a temporary hire and he will step aside when she finds a permanent CFO. Of course, we all want to know why Dr. K hasn’t found her CFO soul mate yet, seeing as how she has known the position would be vacated since the day she was hired. Good Old Clyde Dangerfield announced his retirement a full year in advance, so there was no surprise about this position needing to be filled. It’s a bit strange that Dr. K suddenly abandoned the *consultancy* framework for Jeff Gadd’s employment. Even stranger that there seem to be a bunch of *conditions* associated with his contract (see the video excerpt below).
One would assume that filling the top financial slot in a school district that is in dire financial straits would have been a pressing concern. Alas, it seems that Dr. K had much more pressing concerns, such as her
coronation convocation and all the expenses associated with that extravaganza. We’ll keep trying to figure out the whole event cost, but it’s not easy. For all the touting of “transparency” in financial areas, it’s like pulling teeth to get actual numbers that you can trust.
We have the feeling there’s a lot more to the events of the first two months of Christina Kishimoto’s reign over Gilbert Public Schools than what meets the eye. Keep on chirping, birdies!
After Dr. Christina Kishimoto didn’t get her first pick confirmed as GPS Chief Financial Officer, she must have decided to get even. There’s a new CFO now, a dude who bounces around school districts in the valley-wide jobs program for school district top dogs. Your tax dollars are paying for this perpetual employment program.
Meet Jeff Gadd, whose most recent job appears to have been with the Arizona Association of School Business Officials as AASBO Director of Educational Programs. Must be a cushy job without many demands – Jeff Gadd was teaching AASBO classes at the same time he has been acting as a financial consultant to GPS over the past many months. Did you know that AASBO is another one of those “associations” made up of full-time employees of valley school districts, and that AASBO collects *dues* paid by those districts?
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE: AASBO operates under the leadership of an Executive Director with the guidance of a volunteer 13-member Board of Directors that is elected by the members. All members of the Board of Directors, with the exception of the Vendor Representative, are employed full-time by local school districts or governmental agencies that serve school systems in Arizona.
Jeff Gadd’s part-time consulting gig has been lucrative, too, paying $6,937.50 in May and $9,250.00 in June. We’ll find other payments soon, if GPS responds to our FOIA requests. We have a feeling that Jeff Gadd might have been bumping up against the $50,000 limit which requires superintendents to seek board approval for expenditures, but we digress.
Recall that Jeff Gadd was introduced by former interim superintendent Jim Rice as “his friend” who was helping out with budget stuff. Jeff Gadd made a couple of presentations with PowerPoint slides that were supposed to persuade GPS board members to vote for putting yet another override on the ballot in 2014. We all know how successful Jeff Gadd was in performing that task, since the board voted it down.
Recall that GPS had a highly-paid Assistant Superintendent for Business Services, Clyde Dangerfield, Esquire, at the same time they were paying Jeff Gadd to consult about finances. Good Old Clyde Dangerfield had done PowerPoint presentations for overrides in the past, but shoot, it’s a perpetual employment program for Good Old Boys across the valley, so what’s one more *consultant* in the environment that has been created in GPS during the past year? Clyde had persuaded governing boards to put overrides on the ballot, but he couldn’t find the end zone, so Clyde’s last two override measures were defeated by voters in 2012 and 2013.
Lookie where Jeff Gadd was in 2013: he was the Business Director of the Dysart School District; we saw that he left in December 2013. Probably with his tail between his legs, since voters rejected his $86.8 MILLION bond issue. Yeppers, Good Old Jeff Gadd was in charge of money-saving strategies in the Dysart district:
Dysart Unified School District voters will be asked to approve an $86.8 million bond that will help pay for a new school, as well as technology, school maintenance, security improvements and new school buses. Voters will decide the bond’s fate in a Nov. 5 mail election. The money would help bring a new school to a few rapidly growing neighborhoods and pay for needed upgrades. Some parents oppose the measure, and voters rejected a school funding proposal in 2009.
Be afraid, GPS parents, be very afraid of Jeff Gadd’s track record and what he will do in GPS:
Other money-saving strategies include turning four schools into district-sponsored charter schools, closing an elementary school this past May and asking the county to increase property taxes. The district will receive an additional $650,000 for charter-school funding this year, and property taxes will increase 19 cents per $100 of assessed value, said Business Manager Jeff Gadd… When Superintendent Gail Pletnick recommended the board close Desert Moon Elementary, she estimated the district would save about $1.3 million in staff costs.
Charter school funding was the same thing failed CFO candidate Kevin Heggarty from the Higley School District managed, along with a compressed natural gas station. Here’s the kicker: because of the charter school initiative, the Higley district took a total budget hit of approximately $2.2 million this year. Yeppers, GPS really dodged a bullet by not approving Kevin Heggarty as CFO. Now you understand what we meant by Kishimoto “getting even.” Here’s what was reported about Dysart losing the bond issue:
District administrators are prepared to redraw boundaries or to bus students to schools with lower enrollments… “We called for a boundary committee a few weeks ago,” Dean said. “Now, instead of drawing boundaries for a new school, we will look at shifting students to account for current overcrowding and new growth we know is coming in one to two years.”
On top of Her Newness’s tone-deaf leadership of the past two months, now GPS gets a CFO who specializes in financial failure, closing schools, raising taxes and turning public schools into charter schools. Do you have any doubt what Christina Kishimoto has in mind for Gilbert Public Schools now?
Just wait til we reveal more of Jeff Gadd’s history of financial failure and associated bone-headed moves as a school district top dog … next post. You know it will be a doozie!
Here’s a shout-out to Dr. Christina Kishimoto, Superintendent of Gilbert Public Schools who actually did something that’s long been needed: she called the cops when she found evidence of wrongdoing. We’ve posted many, many times about wrongdoing and how it usually was covered up by GPS Good Old Boys, but Dr. K stuck to her guns and acted immediately, it appears.
UPDATE: After three weeks on administrative leave, Coach Rutt has returned to teaching and coaching duties. There are some happy folks at Gilbert High School.
Dr. K didn’t need to go to the Governing Board and listen to a couple of members make excuses for GOBs caught in the act. No sirreee! We’re still scratching our heads about how Jill Humpherys didn’t want the police investigating other possible criminal activities in GPS earlier this year. It’s interesting that the two GPS referrals to the Gilbert Police Department from way back then are still pending … or we just haven’t heard about any resolutions to the situations.
Here’s how the situation Dr. K reported to the police played out in the local press:
With less than two weeks before Gilbert’s first football game, coach Tim Rutt has been placed on paid administrative leave, according to Alex Nardone, chief of staff for the Gilbert Public Schools. Gilbert High Principal Christopher Stroud directed all questions on the matter to Nardone, who would not say what caused the district to look into Rutt and keep him away from the football team at this time.
Did anyone notice that Nardone and Stroud won’t say anything to the press or the public? It really is the right thing to do when an employee is put on admin leave. Innocent until proven guilty, right? Well, this is Gilbert Public Schools, one hundred years of tradition unhampered by progress (TM) so don’t hold your breath. We’ve learned they’ll keep going until they hog tie any soul unfortunate enough to be caught in the GOB crosshairs.
Back to the subject at hand, someone was talking to the press, even though it wasn’t Nardone or Stroud. Lookee here at what a bright journalist turned up:
Gilbert Police Department spokesperson Jesse Sanger said the investigation, which is in its initial stages, is based on allegations that Rutt had misappropriated items donated by one of the school’s booster clubs. He said the approximate value of the items is $2,000. Sanger said he was not sure whether charges could come from the investigation, but said any charge would most likely be related to misdemeanor theft.
After a long silence, we now have a further update from the Gilbert Police Department:
The Gilbert Police Department has cleared Gilbert High School football head coach Tim Rutt of allegations of theft made against him last week. In an email, Gilbert Police spokesperson Jesse Sanger said detectives reviewed allegations that Rutt misappropriated items valued at $2,000 and determined a crime was not committed.
There’s a big HOWEVER in this message:
District Chief of Staff Alex Nardone said in an email Rutt will remain on paid administrative leave until Gilbert Public Schools completes its investigation into the allegations. He said the district does not have a specific date for an end to the investigation, meaning Rutt could miss the Tigers’ season opener against Mesquite High School on Thursday. “We will proceed in a timely manner and ensure that the process is thorough,” Nardone said.
So even though we were heartened that Dr. K and her sidekick Dr. Nardone called the police when they believed it was appropriate, we’re perplexed that being cleared by the police isn’t good enough. It’s ominous that the New Powers That Be aren’t saying why or what they’re still investigating. The pity is, it’s the kids who are most affected by all this … especially the kids on the football teams. We’re sorry, Gilbert High School Tigers football team. You’ve been through a lot with various adults during your high school experience.
Sounds like this won’t be over until some lawyers have a chance to
make a pile of money at taxpayer expense conduct a thorough and impartial review. We all know the GPS history with those independent investigators who always manage to come up with exactly what the GOBs have already figured out they were going to do anyway.
We suspect this is not the last we’ll be hearing about *theft,* *misappropriation* or other financial misconduct associated with all that money floating around in GPS athletic offices. There’s lots of cash lying on desks in school admin offices, too. What will it take to gain control of all that cash? It’s not like the public’s distrust of the GPS money management history has resulted in lasting consequences, right? Oh yeah, public distrust was the biggest reason two overrides have been shot down by voters.
Hold on to your wallets, folks. Depending on the upcoming election, your taxes will be increased to give more money to GPS. Whether you like it or not. The GPS governing board did just that in 2012, remember?
The Gilbert Public Schools governing board adopted the $305.87 million budget for the 2012-13 school year Tuesday night with a 3-1 vote amid criticism from some residents that taxes should not be increased and administrators should do more to cut spending that doesn’t affect the classroom. …The tax increases did not sit well with some residents and board member Staci Burk, who voted against the budget because of them.
Some of these same residents are especially critical because the board is asking voters to decide in November whether to re-authorize the $17.6 million maintenance and operations override. Although the continuation of the override would not raise taxes, a defeat would lower taxes beginning in the 2013-14 school year as the override is phased out.
Yeppers. Just like that. Snap, and your taxes get raised. You don’t get a vote in that. Depending on which candidates are elected, you could see higher taxes in mid-January 2015.
The absurdity of Gilbert Public Schools having PTAs (PTSOs, PTROs, and other similar designations included) fund curriculum software that the district cut in order to add more administrative positions has really upset a huge segment of the Gilbert Community: parents whose pockets are being picked in ways large and small for their children’s public education.
Some of the examples of pocket-picking include large lists of supplies parents were expected to bring to the classroom on Meet the Teacher night, just before school began. Some of those supply lists included 30-40 glue sticks per student in elementary classrooms. You see, parents are supposed to send in supplies for the whole class, not just their own child. The logic of the supply lists, though, can be nuts: what will individual teachers do if 20 sets of parents contribute 30 glue sticks each? One classroom needs 600 glue sticks? Won’t the glue sticks dry out before the kids get around to
eating using them? What is the connection between glue sticks and curriculum? Who is supervising these demands? You would expect the new Executive Directors of Elementary and Secondary Principals to bring some continuity and consistency into the GPS educational realm, but it doesn’t appear to be happening.
It has long been said that GPS superintendents have been more interested in running jobs-creation programs than in educating students, and the decision to cut the Accelerated Reader program fits right into that line of criticism. The tone-deaf decision to cut AR and inflict other painful cuts on the classroom in order to hire more support staffers and administrators has become a rallying cry for those who believe all decisions must be made for the benefit of students instead of creating more, more and more administrative jobs and perks. We’d applaud loudly any decision to pay bus drivers more, though! Plenty of support staffers barely make a living wage; many can’t afford the basic health care benefits for themselves and their families, but GPS has a hundred years of tradition unhampered by progress, and no one should expect any income equity from the Powers That Be. But we digress.
Returning to Tech Services and the Zero Based Budget cuts that eliminated Accelerated Reader from elementary campuses, we see that there are already new offerings from techies whose positions are now robustly funded. Does anyone remember that private Employee Bulletin Board that Tech Services created so employees could sell stuff to each other and advertise their private businesses and services? Yeah, the techies are at it again, using district resources for unfathomable purposes. The sad thing is that AR was cut to make this possible.
Technology Services is excited to announce a pilot program for Google Apps for Education! Google Apps for Education is a free service from Google that includes a full suite of cloud-hosted file sharing and productivity tools. The pilot program will allow us to evaluate Google Apps in order to determine its appropriateness for the district as a whole. See the pilot program summary for more information.
Even though there are so many demands on the time of teachers and support staff, techies will make those GPS employees play with their new techie toys, now that the GOB remnants got the Renaissance Learning software defunded. (Someone ought to remind techies that putting records “in the cloud” is highly problematic for school districts.) Techies are all excited about being pilots and such, and they’re inviting principals and teachers to play in their sandbox. Sad thing is, it doesn’t appear that anyone ever asked elementary classroom teachers about Renaissance Learning and Accelerated Reader before the ZBB committee defunded one of the most valuable classroom software packages in favor of playing with new techie toys. Since the Google training will be part of MLP “My Learning Plan” for GPS employees, Good Old Tooty Andrew Szczepaniak must have been *in* on the plan. BTW, Andrew’s toys, MLP and OASYS, got funded to the tune of $46,860.00 at the same time AR was cut.
Techies’ New Toys:
What it is:
- The Google Apps for Education pilot will give administrators, teachers and students the opportunity to use and evaluate Google’s suite of online tools for education.
- The pilot is free to schools, but must be administered locally (each pilot school will administer its own accounts).
- The pilot will run through the end of the first semester, at which point an evaluation will be made as to its appropriateness for GPS.
- The pilot will be limited to two high schools, two junior high schools and four elementary schools (see below for instructions for requesting to be a pilot school).
What you get:
- 30GB of online file storage for every user
- An online suite of tools for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, forms, calendar and websites
- Anywhere-accessible sharable file storage and backup
- Access to staff and teacher training (via MLP)
- A designated person on your campus who will be your Google admin and single point of contact for Tech Services
- Agreement to make at least six staff members from the school available for a one hour training session on Google Apps for Education (to be available on MLP)
- Understanding that this is a pilot and not everything will work perfectly
- You must continue to use Groupwise as your primary email and calendaring system
So parents and parent organizations are left to pick up the pieces of GPS core curriculum resources because the GOBs got away with the Same Old StuffBS again. You would think that someone (Kool-Aid Jack Keegan or “Perception is Reality” Jim Rice might have warned Dr. Christina Kishimoto that GPS fundraising, a subject we know is near and dear to Her Newness’s heart, was built around Accelerated Reader, at least on elementary campuses. Oh snap: those two $200,000.00 men didn’t hang around long enough to recognize that! Double snap: with the leadership void in the Curriculum Department, no one felt any responsibility anyway!
[More later on the "consultants" who are being paid big, BIG bucks for whatever it is they're doing. The "Perception is Reality" dude is really cashing in on his *long-standing* ties to GPS. /sarcasm]
The end result: GPS has a multi-tier curriculum structure that means students are not supported on the same level across the district. Those schools designated Title 1 get a curriculum package that includes some of the Renaissance Learning software, but not all of it. Those schools that are NOT Title 1 don’t have the same curriculum package. If their parent organizations are rich enough, they can pay to restore Accelerated Reader for their students. If their parent organization can’t afford that expense, too bad. We have long decried income inequity for GPS employees. Now we’re seeing curriculum inequities for students. Who dreamed up this bit of stupidity? Oh yeah … ZBB. <sarcasm>
Just before school started for the 2014-2015 school year, people learned about some strange new policies and procedures filtered down to “site level” from the Big White Temple of Doom, work home of the new Gilbert Public Schools superintendent and her highly-paid new executive level staff members and consultants. “Site level” means the campuses, the front line of education, where countless employees were working for free to get schools ready for the first day of school, as they do every year.
We’ll detail more of these strange emanations from the Temple of Doom, but today, let’s focus on “Who
shot cut AR?“ Accelerated Reader is a program that has been used in Gilbert Public Schools for quite some time, and it has worked well. In fact, elementary curriculum has been built around the software programs from Renaissance Learning, the parent company that distributes Accelerated Reader, STAR Reading and STAR Math, to name a few of the valuable programs. In the days just before school started, people found out that AR had been defunded in Gilbert Public Schools.
Here’s what Her Newness, the Superintendent known as Dr. Christina Kishimoto, had to say on August 5, 2014 (man, this email is viral on the Internet!):
I received an important curriculum question from Julie Smith and I want to be sure that the entire board is aware of my response. The question was whether schools were cutting funding to the Accelerated Reader program. My response is as follows:
Accelerated Reader was a centrally funded program. It was cut from the technology budget as part of ZBB - it is a technology-based program. The district paid more than $287,000 each year for the schools to have access to the Star Early Literacy assessment, STAR Reading assessment, STAR Math assessment, Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Math, and Math Facts in a Flash (on some campuses).
Star Early Literacy assessment was kept in the technology budget since it is used district-wide as a data point used to determine which students receive reading interventions K-3.
During 2014-15, Title I funds are going to be used to purchase Star Reading and Star Math for Title I schools only since those schools use it to determine rank order for Title I services. The Arizona Dept of Education approved the use of Title I funds for this purchase. In order to keep supplanting from becoming an issue, schools may not use M&O funds to purchase Star Reading/Math.
My understanding is that the Accelerated Reader program will be purchased by most schools through the help of PTO or donations funds. This raises questions about our core function and mission, i.e. teaching and learning, and our responsibility to fund our curriculum work. I want to be sure that we are never relying on PTOs to fund our core work. At this time, it looks like we have determined that this is not a part of an all-district curriculum, only an intervention curriculum for Title I supports.
Additionally, a school-based, technology-based curriculum purchase has an impact on centralized technology funds. For example, we need to pay a data-integration fee for schools that want to pay for their own program.
This question today only reinforces for me the need for a multi-year curriculum plan that defines our core curriculum and the projected costs over the next three years.
Please let me know if you have further questions.
It’s pretty obvious that Her Newness doesn’t know much about how AR got cut, so she threw out some educrat vocabulary to confuse the
unwashed masses: supplanting! core function and mission! data-integration fee! Notice how Dr. Kishimoto side-steps naming the person responsible for making these cuts. Notice the amount that was cut: $287,000.00. That will be important in connecting the dots.
When Her Newness was asked about defunding AR at the August 12, 2014 board meeting, Jill Humpherys and Lily Tram jumped in to reiterate that the Zero Based Budget was responsible for this outcome. Have some fun watching Her Newness’s facial expressions. You can hear Jill and Lily clamor for the limelight with a claim that THEY knew they were cutting AR when they approved the Zero Based Budget. Scroll down for more about Who Cut AR? after the video.
Regarding ZBB, you can read the summary that Teddy Dumlao briefed to the superintendent and the Governing Board. First, recall that this presentation was yet another GOB specialty of information provided at the last minute, along with a demand that the board approve it NOW or else dire consequences would result. Second, recall that ZBB was enacted by remnants of the Good Old Boys, led by Kool-Aid Jack Keegan, none of whom had any interest in the resulting budget, except that it looks like they sure were having fun leaving ticking time bombs to explode long after they left.
The last content slide itemizes where ZBB cuts were made. In retrospect, we see that the last item was defunding Accelerated Reader, but using a different vocabulary: TS-Office, $2,961,876 total budget, $289,161 cut from the budget, 10% cut, item: Elementary Reading Software & Remediation Software. The overarching question: why?
Technology Services was where Renaissance (aka AR) was funded. This software was removed at level 1. However, according to the FY 15 ZBB Summary results, compiled by Teddy Dumlao and put onto the GPS website, Technology Services was funded at level 6 out of 7 levels. Confusingly, funding at Level 1 states, “Moratorium on new software and services added to technology environment.” Were programs cut or was there just a moratorium on NEW software and services? We shall see that the confusion appears to have been intentional.
As the funding levels increased, the big question has to be: “Why was Renaissance not put back in to be funded?” Here comes the big reveal: at level 6 we “Add Data/IS. Add Network tech. Add A/V Tech.” Bottom line: funding at the classroom level was cut in favor of support positions that increase administrative costs across the board in GPS.
What we see is another big fat middle finger salute from departing GOBs and their pals, something that will be felt next year when admin costs will be shown to have increased significantly. The GOBs always bragged about low administrative costs, so it looks like they took revenge in a way that makes it appear the Governing Board prioritized administration over funds to the classroom. Slick! <that’s super sarcastic, you know>
Perhaps the Interim Superintendents saw a way to help their buddy, Her Newness. Here’s what it looks like: the board raised administrative costs across the board, but Her Newness will be given that new (high) level of admin costs and she can bring them down in a hurry. Yeppers, her Chief of Staff slot was vaunted as a one-year only slot, so BOOM! she cuts more than $100,000.00 after her first year without batting an eye. Cute trick! <more sarcasm>
Connecting the dots to who was on the Technology Services ZBB committee, we can see how this worked, and motives come into focus.
• Jim Pacek
• Brian Yee
• Deb Lynch
• Diane Drazinski
• Christina Kimble
• Brenda Heyen
• Rogene Strickland
Hey, lookie here! Cutting AR was pretty easy with this committee! Jim Pacek was the Director of Tech Services who had already
been given his walking papers resigned; he went back to teaching in the cute little manner that Nicole Richardson thought she could pull off (resign and get rehired, then convince the new HR honcho that it was not customary to tell the board about the cushy new salary at which the resignee was rehired). No skin off Jim Pacek’s nose, since he’s a science teacher now. Here’s Brian Yee, convicted criminal who is principal of a junior high school. Sure, he would agree to cut AR, no skin off his nose. Deb Lynch is an almost-new principal of Canyon Rim Elementary School; no skin off her nose since her school (a Title 1 school) would be funded anyway! OMG, the first staff representative is Diane Drazinski, a high school teacher who is president of the Gilbert Education Association. We have no doubt she would “stick it to the board” with great enthusiasm. Christina Kimble is a junior high math teacher. Brenda Heyen works in Human Resources. Rogene Strickland is an admin assistant to a principal.
These are the *experts* who cut AR and added a new employee to Tech Services. Reading the ZBB notebooks is clear as mud, but here’s what they did: they cut AR in the very first go-round, and as they decided what to include in different funding levels, they NEVER reconsidered AR. Here’s a goodie that tells you how their minds worked: SchoolWires and A+ were re-funded at level 4 ($119,968 ) and SmartSchoolsPlus was restored at level 5. (Why was SmartShoolsPlus funded by Technology Services?) If you look closely at the numbers, Renaissance appears to be included in Services and Supplies at Level 7.
Notice how the spreadsheet very conveniently superimposes text to cover the Services and Supplies columns for all but Level 7. Notice how they mess around with Capital & Property, which happens to have almost the same dollar figure as AR in Dr. Kishimoto’s email: $289,161 at Level 7 vs. $287,000. Isn’t that special?
What did Dr. Kishimoto really know about defunding AR? Stay tuned, we’re not through with this!
We’re intrigued with the *gifts* of public money that Gilbert Public Schools gave to more than 100 individual vendors who have the same name as GPS administrators. The deeper we look, the murkier the waters. BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): someone’s been caught with their hands in the public cookie jar. Let’s connect the dots and see who that might be.
We posted about the *gifts* and named the names previously. In the grand scheme of things, $350.00 is a big deal when it gets multiplied by 100, and suddenly we’re talking about $35,000.00. That’s not to say that just about any GPS employee is more deserving than high-paid administrators of this *gift* at the end of the fiscal year (which case is easy to make) or that there is a wide chasm of income inequity in GPS (darn tootin!). There’s quite a history of GPS GOBs rewarding their pals on the public dime, but we digress.
We believe GPS should have used that $35,000.00 to give bus drivers a raise: drivers often are the first and last GPS employees a student sees every day. Add in the fact that GPS is facing a shortage of bus drivers, making the first days of school chaotic (again, happens every year). We’ll explore what line items could have been funded in a later post – we’ll look for line items that directly impact the classroom. In the meantime, the decision to give *gifts* to administrators shows what priorities really are in the Great White Temple of Doom. For now, let’s focus on the legality and past practices and what we caught the Good Old Boys doing in the 2014 Great Giveaway of Tax Dollars.
We had recently learned about GPS GOBs using the vendor system to skirt the law and district policy, which gives us a whole lot of dots to connect in regard to the Great Giveaway. Just last spring, some of the GOBs in the Great White Temple of Doom wanted to support some kind of student activity that would require hiring lifeguards. Their first instinct was to dip into petty cash funds at the schools involved to pay said lifeguards. Petty cash funds are not allowed in GPS, but that technicality only slowed down this process. Next, the GOBs decided to make the lifeguards *vendors* and pay them that way. Ooopsie! The GOBs ran into more problems. When you read the attached email thread, start at the bottom and work your way up to keep the chronology straight.
First query to Business Services about making the lifeguards vendors:
We’d like to use these people as lifeguards for an upcoming jr high student council event. Can you please let me know if there’s anything else they need to submit, and would it be possible to let me know when they become vendors so we can do requisitions?
No, no, no, says BS: a couple of problems exist. To be paid hourly, they have to go through HR and submit forms for Pay for Additional Work. But they’re not *employees.* BTW, the district doesn’t have a bid for lifeguard services. Oh, lookie here … the new *vendors* were children of employees! What a nice way to give a kid an allowance without dipping into Dad’s wallet!
I received the vendor registrations forms for ****, ****, & ****, along with the conflict of interest forms to use their services as lifeguards. However per Crystal since they would be paid hourly they would need to go through HR to put in for PAWs instead. If we are looking to pay them as individual vendors through the PO process it would create a conflict since they are children of employees and we would have to procure their services through a sealed bid. Currently we do not have a bid for lifeguard services.
So they wanted to use petty cash, but someone wasn’t playing well with others (perhaps because schools are not allowed to keep petty cash hanging around?):
Everyone except **** could come up with petty cash, right? How about we all pitch in an extra $6 for a total of $36, then ****’s part will be covered, the kids will get paid, and life will remain simple.
Okay, sure, they could just pass the hat and pay cash. What could go wrong?
If we go this route, please remember, you must have minutes showing that a StuCo meeting was held to approve paying for the lifeguards utilizing StuCo funds. Each school must also prepare a receipt/invoice of some type to show the payment was given/received to lifeguards.
Something did go wrong. Someone pulled the plug on this scheme:
We are not permitted to pay the lifeguards cash for working the event, so we are back to square one.
We were interested in what was going on when we saw the word *vendor* as we reviewed records. You never know what you’ll find! In this case, it’s clear that GOBs were accustomed to skirting laws and policies and such to achieve their goals. That’s why we knew we had the goods on the GOB scheme to give gifts of $35,000.00 in public money to select GPS administrators rather than spend that money on students.
It turns out that giving *gifts* of public funds in violation of the Arizona Constitution is not the only problem the GOBs have in this case (and probably many other cases). Arizona has strict conflict of interest laws governing government employees as well as elected officials. If you want to give the GOBs another get out of jail free pass (Hey Jill, Hi Lily) because “we all make mistakes,” the Attorney General and lots of judges will jump on you like a duck on a June bug. Anyway, the GOBs knew all about these laws and prohibitions, but they were so accustomed to having their way, they just blundered along and fell into trouble.
Let’s look at district policy GBEEA, Business Relations:
No employee shall supply any equipment, material, supplies or services to the District unless the District has issued an award of contract as a result of public competitive bidding, regardless of funding source or dollar amount involved.
This policy reflects state law, which is really, really strict about conflicts of interest for a government employee, which is something the Arizona Attorney General really, really cares about:
Arizona’s conflict of interest laws serve to prevent self dealing by public officials. Maucher v. City of Eloy, 145 Ariz. 335, 338, 701 P.2d 593, 596 (App. 1985). Should a public officer or employee wish to supply goods or services to his or her agency, the contract must be awarded pursuant to public competitive bidding. A.R.S. § 38-503(C) requires school districts to follow public competitive bidding procedures for all procurements between school districts and their employees, however, regardless of the dollar amount involved and regardless of the source of the funds. Arizona’s conflict of interest statutes are broadly construed in favor of the public, and the Legislature has provided substantial civil and criminal penalties for failure to comply with the statutory mandates.
It’s pretty easy for any citizen to determine if what GPS GOBs have done in this cute little giveaway is legitimate:
Every political subdivision and public agency subject to A.R.S. §§ 38-501 to -511 must “maintain for public inspection in a special file all documents necessary to memorialize all disclosures of substantial interest made known pursuant to this article.” A.R.S. § 38-509. Any public officer or employee who has a conflict of interest in any agency decision or in the award of a contract must provide written disclosure of that interest in the agency’s special conflict of interest file.
A reasonable person could conclude there is no way this situation was an innocent giveaway of public funds. We doubt these individual administrators asked for $350.00 from the public purse. Did you know there’s a district policy about fringe benefits? Yeppers, the policy requires board approval DURING THE BUDGET PROCESS. Oh snap, there goes another defense the GOBs wish they could use!
However, it’s important to note that the giveaway of public funds was an intentional act that occurred at the end of the fiscal year, which should have raised red flags of fraud. Snap, GPS doesn’t have an Internal Auditor any more (you know, the employee who is supposed to keep GPS honest). Isn’t it nice that there *just happened to be* funds available for this GOB giveaway? So what can a reasonable person do? As it turns out, there’s a law for that, too!
Private Citizen Suits. Any person who is affected by a public agency’s decision made in violation of the conflict of interest laws may sue to have the contract or decision declared null and void. A.R.S. § 38-506(B). The court may award costs and attorney’s fees to the prevailing party. A.R.S. § 38-506(C). Persons claiming that a public officer, employee, or board member had a pecuniary interest in making a decision against them may also file suit in state or federal court alleging a violation of their civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Isn’t it nice that the Arizona Attorney General’s office has been so busy lately with investigations into improper use of funds in the Chandler school district? They also cleared up an Open Meeting Law Complaints against the Gilbert board. It’s really convenient for us average citizens that the AG’s office is a place where everybody knows your name!
Cheers, and keep chirping!
Like bloodhounds, we’re hot on the scent of financial shenanigans in Gilbert Public Schools, which includes giving gifts of taxpayer money to individual *vendors* who have the same names as GPS administrators. We found a few more line items in unratified financial reports that appear to be gifts to and from GPS Good Old Boys that are tucked into the budget. As the Griswolds’ Cousin Eddie said, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.”
This subject is more important than ever, seeing as how Her Newness the Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has presided over the defunding the critically-acclaimed Accelerated Reader program and a host of other software programs from Renaissance Learning that were integral to GPS being an A rated district. More, much more on that subject another day. Today, we’re looking at GPS expenditures that appear questionable to reasonable people.
On the same voucher report as the 100+ gifts of $350.00 to GPS administrators, we found a sweet payment of the National Association for Elementary School Principals dues in the name of Robyn Conrad-Hansen in the amount of $225.00. Good Old Robyn also got the $350.00 gift, as shown on the same report. The question a reasonable person would ask is, “Why would GPS pay an individual’s dues to a professional association?” Teachers pay some pretty hefty dues and fees for their own professional memberships, such as the International Reading Association and other professional organizations that do good work.
Teachers don’t make nearly as much money as their Administrators do. Heck, few administrators make as much money as Robyn Conrad-Hansen makes! At present, Good Old Robyn is riding high on the SmartSchoolsPlus gravy train, double-dipping into the Arizona State Retirement System. When last we checked, Good Old Robyn Conrad-Hansen was pulling down $97,180.18 in salary; her SmartSchoolsPlus salary is $77,744.14, or $329.42 per day for 236 days, with the standard 30 days paid time off. Plus ASRS retirement pay! All that for being Principal of Playa del Rey Elementary School, with 633 students. So why is Dr. Robyn Conrad Hansen getting a gift of taxpayer funds to pay for her membership in a professional organization? Oh yeah, she’s the President-Elect of the group.
Here’s another organization that GPS pays for membership: Arizona School Administrators Association. What does this group do? As far as we can tell, they give out awards to each other and send out press releases. Truly. Expect to see Dr. Karen Coleman, principal of Boulder Creek Elementary School lauded soon … she’s the president of the elementary division of ASA this year. Maybe that’s why GPS paid $375.00 for that membership! Wonder why there’s a line item on the same budget report for $295.00 to ASA/AZ School Administrators? Was it the cost of nominating someone for one of the group’s awards? That would be a good question to answer, considering how tight the GPS budget is now. Just ask the support staff, those loyal employees who barely make a living wage, how far $375.00 goes. Or $295.00, for that matter. We also would ask why the National Association of Secondary School Principals received $85.00 from GPS, if someone would ever answer.
Other expenditures that look like *gifts* to individuals (and are not offered to all GPS employees, just a chosen few) include reimbursing favorite employees $350.00 for getting or renewing their social work licenses. We saw that payment for a multiple folks. If you’re really good, or at least well-connected, you can receive that social work license reimbursement PLUS the $350.00 gift that the other GPS administrators received. Right, Bruce Harvey? (Sorry we missed your name on the first gift list.) We also saw a $99.00 renewal for ISTE for “Jennifer.” We figured out it was for an International Society for Technology in Education membership. Is this a case of Gotta Pay to Play?
Why is it that selected employees, especially those who are being paid much more than a teacher’s salary, are given *gifts* of membership in professional organizations and are reimbursed for their professional license expenses? Teachers have to pay out of pocket to get or renew their teaching licenses. Teachers have to pay every time they get a special endorsement or become Highly Qualified, as well. One thing we found that we absolutely won’t criticize is that certain support staff are reimbursed for attaining a Commercial Drivers License at a giant cost of $35.00 each. GPS gets an attaboy award from Westie for that … but we figure it was not done willingly by the GOBs. Yeah, those same GOBs try to make people pay for bus driver training if they leave the district. It seems that other districts figured something out long ago, and they recruit graduates of GPS bus driver training with higher salaries than the GOBs are willing to pay people other than themselves.
Some employees apply for reimbursement of their travel expenses, and they do so according to district policy. We saw lots of reimbursements for minor expenses such as $26.34, $17.80 and $22.51. We’re familiar with IRS tax guidance that says you generally cannot deduct the cost of going from your home to your place of work. Imagine our surprise to see that Good Old Dr. Jim Rice, former interim superintendent, was reimbursed for mileage from his home to work in the amount of $255.30! The top dogs have some really fancy perks that just don’t seem fair or equitable in the big scheme of things, especially for a district that is nickel-and-diming parents, students, teachers and staff to death. Would it surprise you to know that we found *Sandra Udall* received that administrator gift of $350.00 on TWO different voucher reports? Nice!
[Keyboard: For you unbelievers, the voucher numbers are 4218-4226 and 4229-4232. No way a real Internal Auditor would have missed that slick maneuver!]
Hey, lookie here: board member Jill Humpherys appeared on a list for $200.00 to the AZ School Board Association, that organization that GPS formally cut ties with! Good Old Jill also received $15.00 worth of *printed materials* from AZSBA! We might be on to something here … AZSBA is a fancy-dancy sponsor of the Arizona School Administrators Association. Seeing as how AZSBA gets its money from taxpayers via the school districts’ membership payments, why are they turning around and giving another *professional association* some of that money? Surely AZSBA and those other organizations wouldn’t also turn around and give taxpayer money to lobbyists and legislators and folks like that, would they?
[Keyboard: Of course, word on the street is they used to do exactly that, but now it's illegal. That's probably as big a deterrent as Arizona Procurement Laws are to GOBs who determine which other GOBs get *gifts* from GPS, wouldn't you say?]
We’ll close with the $1,209.57 that GPS paid Joe’s Real BBQ for “Luncheon food for back to school” on the 5002-5005 voucher report. Just to keep this all in perspective, GPS GOBs, who have been poor-mouthing to principals, teachers and parents about how desperately they need donations of a ream of paper from each student, spent $22,357.29 with Costco this summer for 8,400 reams of white copy paper [vouchers 4218-4226.]
There’s more, you know. Stay tuned. Chirp, chirp!