The Dress Rehearsal for the GPS 2014 Great Giveaway of Tax Dollars

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!

GPS Good Old Boys Give Each Other LOTS of *Gifts* of Taxpayer $$$

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!

Good Old Boys Designate GPS Admins as “Vendors” in Cash Giveaway

bigbucksEXPOSED: the bitter dregs of the Good Old Boys made cash gifts to 100 selected GPS administrators in the amount of $350.00 each at the end of June, 2014. It appears that the GOBs intended to go out with a bang, and this bang cost $35,000.00 of taxpayers’ money with absolutely no benefit for students. We’re still trying to figure out who authorized this cute little trick just a month before the new school year was to begin. All we’ve found so far is a circular firing squad.

Let’s connect the dots: we found that the Good Old Boys gave away that cash just before the new superintendent, Dr. Christina Kishimoto, ascended to her new perch. Recall that interim superintendent Jim Rice boasted that he was collaborating closely with Her Newness before she arrived. Also recall that there have been disagreements among previous superintendents and board members about the superintendent’s power to spend and how much could be spent without the board’s approval. It’s significant that the so-called board ratification of this $35,000.00 expenditure occurred (or did not occur) on Kishimoto’s watch.

Here’s what the GOBs did: they made 100 full-time GPS administrative employees *VENDORS* and gave them each $350.00. The GOBs just gave that money away, with no reason shown on the line items. The green bar report (the densely packed Excel spreadsheet showing expenditures that the financial lackeys provide for the board clerk to review) show 100 individual payments of $350.00 to individually-named admins. There might be more; some of the line items were wrapped into other payments/reimbursements to administrators. We could have missed some payments to lucky administrators. Those we found are named at the bottom of this post.

Before anyone says, “But the Governing Board authorized those expenditures,” we have some more revelations about this shenanigan. The web page where GPS Business Services links to these Excel spreadsheets (and touts their transparency) attempts to provide cover for some of the nefarious stunts needed to pull off this gift of public funds to 100 selected GPS employees. The spreadsheet for the data is titled, “Paid through June 25, 2014 for ratification on July 8, 2014. Vouchers 4218-4226.xlsx, 330.80 KB.   (Last Modified on July 9, 2014.) You can see the spreadsheet for yourself by clicking the link.

What’s important is that the GPS Governing Board DID NOT RATIFY those expenses in the July 8, 2014 board meeting. As far as we can tell, even if GPS intended for the board to approve expenditures, that approval was not on the agenda and it was not mentioned in the minutes of that meeting. Business as usual for the GOBs, right? There’s more, you know.

Even if the Governing Board had approved the expenditures as the spreadsheet link would have you believe, the spreadsheet was altered AFTER the July 8, 2014 meeting. Even if, and it’s a big IF, the Governing Board was given the Excel spreadsheet for the express purpose of approving GPS expenditures, there is no way to know what information they were given, once the spreadsheet was changed AFTER the board meeting. It’s annotated right there on the Business Services web page, and it’s also shown on the document properties for the spreadsheet.

Would it surprise anyone to learn that GPS GOBs tampered with evidence? We can’t think of any other way to explain why data was changed after the date it was supposedly presented to an elected board for approval. Wouldn’t you think that this data was a public record that was required to be archived along with the minutes of the board meeting? Isn’t it interesting that the shenanigan occurred AFTER Dr. Kishimoto’s ascendency to the superintendency?

We’ll explore in another post how that $35,000.00 could have been used for line item expenditures for students that have been cut from the GPS budget.  In the meantime, take a look at the evidence for yourself. We linked to the green bar report from the GPS website. (We will share a fully functional Excel spreadsheet, if the one online should *disappear.*) The spreadsheet opens with the bottom part of the file showing on screen; use the side elevator bar to go to the top of the spreadsheet. To see the information we found, click on the tab, “Enable Editing” in the yellow bar at the top of your screen.  You can’t review all the data without that click.

Click on the very first entry to “plus up” the information: 001 GENERAL MAINT & OPERATION.  You can scroll down the list as presented, or you can sort on Column B to show various lines in ascending or descending amounts. The amount you’re interested in is $350.00 and thereabouts. If you don’t sort on Column B, scroll down the entries in Column A to line 38, “Domonic Salce” (that name is spelled wrong, but he was the only Salce dude on the GPS payroll). He’s listed first for no particular reason that we can divine. Notice that there’s nothing more than a name visible, with the amount $350.00. The fun and games start when you click on Line 38, Column A (or wherever Dominic Salce’s name appears).

When you select the line and hover over it, you see the legend “(VENDOR)” — which unlocks the scheme to enrich 100 GPS employees, apparently in violation of Constitution of the State of Arizona.  [See Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) Const. Art. IX, §7—Prohibits gifts of public monies, including donations or loans of public money to private individuals or organizations.]  Showing this was no mere “mistake,” we helpfully downloaded an AZ Auditor General Fraud Alert on this very subject, which shows that AZ public school districts had been warned just last year to keep their fingers out of the public cookie jar. As the Fraud Alert says, the last time two school districts got caught, there were Grand Juries and indictments; maybe that can happen here. GPS seems to be keeping the Gilbert Police Department pretty busy these days!

The Arizona Procurement Code and GPS policies govern who, what, how, when, etc. about contracting, which is overseen by Budget and Procurement Coordinator, Crystal Korpan. Of course, without an Internal Auditor looking over the books, what were the chances that anyone would ever notice $35,000.00 in gifts to public employees VENDORS?  The scheme to make a gift of $350.00 to 100 different administrators in GPS might have been caught sooner if the Internal Auditor position still existed. Recall that the Internal Auditor position was abolished to “save money” when Good Old Clyde Dangerfield and Jeff Filloon promoted Crystal Korpan from Purchasing Manager to Budget and Procurement Coordinator, gaining a sweet bump in her paycheck along the way. The position Crystal Korpan held previously, Purchasing Manager, also was abolished. Recall that during the Special Board Meeting on August 5, 2014, Dr. Christina Kishimoto volunteered information about two positions in Business Services being combined to “save money” by filling the Purchasing Manager position again. The fact is, the person selected for the job had already been working before the board was presented with the Consent Agenda. It’s always something, smoke and mirrors, with the Good Old Boys. Either the new superintendent is with them completely, or they pulled the wool over her eyes … again.

There is a District Policy about Vendor Relations, at  DJG-E. The policy, or “exhibit” or whatever it is, is straightforward about a purchase order being a contract for goods or services:

7. Offer, Acceptance and Modification
This purchase order constitutes an offer made by Gilbert Public Schools (Buyer) to Vendor (Seller) to enter into the purchase agreement herein described. Seller’s acceptance shall be indicated by the prompt shipment of goods described, or the prompt performance of services or work described. Buyer reserves the right to revoke or modify this offer. None of the terms and conditions contained in this purchase order may be added to, modified, superseded or otherwise altered except by written authorization of the Purchasing Department. If the goods or services described in this order are the subject of a contract awarded by the Buyer through competitive bidding, or are the subject of a separate contract for services entered into by an authorized representative of the district, then such contracts, together with this purchase order, form the contract and they are as fully a part of the contract as if hereto attached or repeated.

Of course, if the $350.00 per person was a reimbursement to a GPS employee, a different policy would have been in effect. That does not seem to be the case here, but the relevant District policy shows that GPS knew about the prohibition of gifts or donations to individuals:

DKC EXPENSE AUTHORIZATION
In compliance with Article 9, Section 7 of the Arizona State Constitution which precludes gifts or donations of public funds to individuals, associations or corporations the Governing Board recognizes there are certain purchases that meet a public purpose and the public value of such is not far exceeded by the amount being paid. The superintendent shall develop regulations authorizing such Board recognized expenditures.

EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT

District employees who incur expenses in carrying out their authorized duties shall be reimbursed by the District upon submission of allowable supporting receipts, provided that prior authorization has been granted by the Superintendent.

District employees who must travel in conjunction with their jobs shall be eligible for reimbursement for the total allowable amount per mile per Arizona Revised Statutes.

Reimbursement amounts shall not exceed the maximums established pursuant to A.R.S. 38-624.

Here’s a law making this kind of shenanigan a Class 4 Felony:

A. R. S. §35-301. Duties and liabilities of custodian of public monies; violations; classification

A public officer or other person, including justices of the peace and constables, charged with the receipt, safekeeping, transfer or disbursement of public money is guilty of a class 4 felony who:

1. Without authority of law, appropriates it, or any portion thereof, to his own use, or to the use of another.
2. Knowingly loans it, or any portion thereof.
3. Knowingly fails to keep it in his possession until disbursed or paid out by authority of law.
4. Without authority of law knowingly deposits it, or any portion thereof, in a bank, or with a banker or other person, except on special deposit for safekeeping.
5. Knowingly keeps a false account, or makes a false entry or erasure in an account of, or relating to it.
6. Alters, falsifies, conceals, destroys or obliterates such an account with an intent to defraud or deceive.
7. Knowingly refuses or omits to pay over, on demand, public monies in his hands, upon presentation of a draft, order or warrant drawn upon such monies by competent authority.
8. Knowingly omits or refuses to transfer the money when a transfer is required by law.
9. Knowingly transfers the money when not authorized or directed by law.
10. Knowingly omits or refuses to pay over to an officer or person authorized by law to receive it, any money received by him when a duty is imposed by law to pay over the money.

You know we have more. Until our next post, chirp, chirp!

****************************************************************

 Below: The 100 select GPS admins who received $350.00 as *vendors.* The names in red show employees who had submitted resignations before these payments were made; their resignations, in general, were effective June 30, 2014. Jim Pacek’s name has an asterisk because he had resigned and then was approved by the board to go back to being a classroom teacher prior to receiving this sweetheart deal.

ADAM STROCK
AMY GINGELL
AMY MULLIKEN
ANDREA EMERICK
ANDREW SZCZEPANIAK
ARICK BASQUES
BETH NICKEL
BILL ROTH
BRAD PAES
BRADLEY SHEPSTEAD
BRANDIE HARRIS
BRIAN JAEGER
BRIAN YEE
CARL NAISANT
CAROLINE CHILTON
CHAD FITZGERALD
CHARLES PETTIT
CHRISTOPHER BIRGEN
CHRISTOPHER STROUD
COLIN KELLY
CRYSTAL KORPAN
DALE LUNT
DAN COOMBS
DAN HOOD
DANIEL HAASCH
DANIEL JOHNSON
DARRELL STANGLE
DEBBIE MCCARRON
DEBRA LYNCH
DOMONIC SALCE
DOROTHY A MIDDAUGH
DOUG DALEY
ELIZA BRUNNER
ELIZABETH BAKER
ELIZABETH MCCOY
FRANCES J GROSSENBACHER
GEANE FLOURNOY
HEATHER SCHLEMMER
JACK BLANCHARD
JAMES FISHER
JAMES LAVIN
JANE HECKER
JARED RYAN
JASON GRANTHAM
JASON MARTIN
JAY MORRIS
JEAN WOODS
JENNIFER CORRY
JENNIFER GREENE
JENNIFER MERRILL
JENNIFER MURPHY
JIM PACEK*
JOAN HENRY
JODI WARNER
JODIE DEAN
JOHN MAAS
JOYCE MEYER
JULENE ROBBINS
KAREN COLEMAN
KATHRYN MCPHERSON
KELLY HAHN
KEN FETTER
KEVIN RAINEY
KRISTIN ANDERSON
KSHAMA ROSALES
LANCE SMITH
LEONARDO DUMLAO
LINDSAY BINGHAM
LORIE A MILLER
LUCAS BLACKBURN
MARCIE TAYLOR
MARIA PORRAS-GONZALES
MARY TRAFFICANTE
MATTHEW BENNETT
MELINDA MURPHY
MICHAEL DAVIS
MICHAEL HALLOCK
MICHAEL HANSEN
MICHELLE MURPHY
PATRICK MILLER
RAY MERCADO
RENEE REGOLI
ROD HUSTON
RON IZZETT
SAM VALLES
SANDRA UDALL
SARA WORD
SCOTT LYMER
SHARON BOOMER
SHAWN MCINTOSH
SHAWN VARNER
SHIRLEE M BROOKS
STAN PETERSON
STEVE MCDOWELL
SUSAN CADENA
SUSAN KREITZER
TERRY MAURER
TIMOTHY MOSES
VICKI HESTER
VICKI JONES

GPS Perfects the Art of Missing Opportunities to Succeed

It’s back to school time for teachers of Gilbert Public Schools. Students will show up on August 6, 2014. From all indications, the new boss is the same as the old boss.

Some say that Dr. Kishimoto’s priorities are worrisome as she takes the helm of the superintendency. A big gala called the First Annual Convocation dominated the first contract day for teachers. It was pretty much a zeppelin. Of all the things that should concern the new superintendent and the incumbent of the newly-minted position of Chief of Staff in getting a district ready for the first day of school, this was a puzzle.

[Keyboard: We applaud Cheryl Redfield, the star of the show. Bravo, Cheryl Redfield, NBCT and former Teaching Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education, who speaks and writes with such eloquence!]
[Westie: Cheryl Redfield embodies all that is great about people who are educators, first, last and foremost.]

We’re quite aware of all the time and effort required to put together such a gala event, and we wonder who had that much time on their hands. But the kicker was, while PTSOs are already starting to beg for donations for classrooms, the GPS district spent time and money on giving employees lemonade and cookies. WORSE: some GPS district employees wore corsages purchased for the occasion. What century are they in? How many school supplies could have been purchased with the money spent on the lavish convocation (presented twice)?

[We're trying our best to keep Keyboard from ranting about how many glue sticks are being demanded for each elementary student. But parents, if you're buying pencils, Ticonderoga is really best. Your child's teacher will really appreciate them. 96 for about $15.00 at Costco.]

The state released school grades based on AIMS scores, but there’s nothing on the GPS district website.  No one from GPS was quoted on any of the mainstream media articles that we have found. The district’s Facebook page hasn’t been updated since April. In the absence of public relations strategies, and with the district Community Relations office almost empty, citizens are not hearing much in terms of news, good or otherwise, about Gilbert Public Schools. School websites are seriously out of date, which is a totally clueless management decision, given the accessibility of so many *vendors* who can provide much needed services (more on this subject soon).

[Our hat's off to whichever GPS employee finally figured out how to clean up the GPS Wikipedia page. The cleanup attempts that angered the Wiki Gods were hilarious! Glad that's done.]

Here’s a link to the GPS schools and their AIMS scores. In the drop-down box for district, select Gilbert Unified, and you’ll get the individual scores. The azcentral article is below the fill-in form. We’re thrilled that Gilbert Junior High School made such a huge leap in their scores. Go Tigers! GPS was in the top-scoring schools in the state, tied for #10, with the overall score of 149. How are the forces of darkness going to spin that grade? Sure, GPS is disintegrating because of the Governing Board’s focus on putting money in the classroom <snark>.

Two interim superintendents did their best, or so it seemed, to make sure GPS was performing at a low level before the new superintendent arrived. That’s a classic maneuver, especially given the close collaboration between the Interims and the Newly Ascended Superintendent to lower expectations in order to make *gains* under Her Newness seem bigger. We’re seeing the results with the classic senior administrative strategy of making parents feel the pain of budget decisions (i.e., demands for 40 glue sticks per child for elementary schools). We all remember how, during the Allison Ascendency, employees were given temporary salary increases contingent on a tax override being approved in 2012 (it wasn’t). Employees lost their raises (which had been called stipends).

We’ll be compiling some nice historical data of how current members of the board actually voted on budget issues after the 2012 and the 2013 overrides failed. Keep this in mind: the remnants of the Good Old Boy regime are desperate to “Take Back Our Board” so they can raise your taxes like they did in 2012. That’s what you get for not giving the GOBs their overrides in 2012 and 2013. Just like before, the GOBs will raise taxes because they have the authority when they control the Governing Board. They can’t help themselves, or so they would like for you to believe.

From our perspective, what the GOB remnants really can’t stop doing is rewarding their Masters, the dudes who try to stay out of the spotlight (with good reason). Those folks haven’t been receiving quite so much largess in the past two years because a conservative board majority turned off the money spigot. Or at least, turned it to the lowest level possible. Frankly, board members don’t have as much power over GPS spending as most people think. The board approves a budget, but it’s the administration that does the spending. We’re seeing that those GOB admins (and they’re still around, some in the guise of new hires) have a dozen ways to skin the cat of spending BEFORE the board knows what they’re doing.

In spite of all the wailing from the peanut galleries of Good Old Boy acolytes, the majority of the Governing Board has been consistent and committed to their campaign promises, especially in dealing with fiscal concerns. We know you all will be paying close attention in the run-up to the November election, and we’ll do our best to keep providing authentic and informative information so you can tell what’s really going on in GPS. Heaven knows, the people who are being paid big bucks are not filling the void of public relations right now.

Let’s talk about some of the void of information and why GOBs like it just that way. The vacancies in GPS are many, but the executive strategy in filling key positions is mind-blowing. Facing vacancies in key positions across the district, Dr. Christina Kishimoto dipped down to fill new administrator slots she created: Executive Director of Elementary Education and Executive Director of Secondary Education. It’s a mystery to us why Dr. Kishimoto is filling slots that the Chief Academic Officer will supervise, especially considering that it took Dr. Kishimoto two tries to hire an Executive Director of Elementary Education.

It’s tough when you don’t know much about the district of which you are the new leader. It’s even tougher when you rely on Good Old Boys and their allies as you navigate the minefields left by departing GOBs who stayed far too long in their positions. Why in the world is the Newly Ascended Superintendent leaning on *consultants* who don’t know their asterisks from their elbows about Gilbert Public Schools? They must be sweet talking guys to paint a public portrait of the new leadership of GPS as a little girl riding a tricycle.

Dr. Kishimoto still doesn’t have a Chief Financial Officer, having failed to gain the Governing Board’s approval for an East Valley GOB she first picked. There are many important vacancies in Business Services empire, some of which are worrying GPS employees, who fear their pay checks won’t be complete. We’re hearing all kinds of chirps about failing to follow procurement policies and similar stunts. We’re on the case, birdies! Keep chirping and we’ll continue connecting the dots. For example, we’re still watching to see if the Purchasing Manager position gets filled after being eliminated not so long ago in a *sweetheart* deal arranged by Clyde Dangerfield and Jeff Filloon.

So many chirps, so little time! We love you, birdies!

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?”


What Gilbert Public Schools Doesn't Want You to Know
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