How Gilbert Public Schools Holds Wrongdoers Accountable (Or Not)

One of the great things about being Westie Connect is that we can travel the globe knowing that birdies are keeping tabs on the remnants of the Good Old Boys in Gilbert Public Schools. Thank you, birdies! We’ve got your back on your latest chirps. It shouldn’t take too long to see results.

It appears that the GOBs have been back in business since the new superintendent’s arrival … business as usual. This is going to keep us busy for quite a while revealing some of the new shenanigans, but we’re up to the challenge. If what’s past is prologue, we’ll be busier than ever when the new board is seated in January 2015.

A Westie fan asked us to follow up on the incident in which Coach Rutt was investigated by the Gilbert Police Department. We found that East Valley Tribune reporter Eric Mungenast already had taken up the challenge:

An investigation by the Gilbert Public Schools district into allegations against Gilbert High School football coach Tim Rutt indicates Rutt violated both district and Arizona Interscholastic Association regulations.

Rutt received a written reprimand from district Superintendent Christina Kishimoto after his son was paid by a member of the team’s coaching staff and for his own misuse of funds provided by the Tiger Touchdown Club.

A parent donated $2,000 for Rutt to purchase new furniture for his office. He instead ordered the furniture for his home and moved his old personal furniture into the office.  The Gilbert Police Department investigated the charge and determined Rutt did not commit a crime.

We had given Superintendent Christina Kishimoto a shout-out for her initial actions to investigate the reports about Coach Rutt’s conduct. We were bitterly disappointed in what she did as a follow-on: she wrote a sternly worded letter to Coach Rutt and put it into his *permanent file:*

Rutt admitted during an interview with the district he purchased the new furniture for his home and donated the old furniture to the school. Although he said he had approval by the booster club’s president to do so, Kishimoto said the act was a violation of district policy because neither district administration nor the governing board approved it.

“This action calls into question your ethics as a professional educator along with your common sense,” she added.

There’s more: apparently, Coach Rutt had some sweet little deals going on at Gilbert High School, the kind of deals we’ve been trying to bring to the attention of the GPS Powers That Be for the past two years. As intrepid reporter Mungenast writes, GPS substantiated the kind of shenanigans that have been the subject of many reports that previously were ignored:

Two additional charges against Rutt substantiated by the district concerned payment for Rutt’s son Tyler, who serves as an assistant coach for the team, and both violated Arizona Interscholastic Association and district policies. According to district documents, Tyler Rutt received almost $2,000 from another assistant coach as payment for working with the team. District policy does not allow for family members of head coaches to work for a team.

Similarly, the documents state both Tim and Tyler Rutt, Jared Baker and Gregory Cole received $400 from the booster club — a fifth coach, Justin Evans, received $750 — at Rutt’s request in 2013. An email from Rutt to former treasurer Jen Baragar stated the payments were for attending a clinic.

Both instances violated an AIA statute that prohibits coaches from receiving payment from any other source outside of the school district.

The investigation also found Rutt commingled three bank accounts — one personal, one for his business, Elite Sports LLC, and one belonging to the booster club — and bid for a bicycle at a booster event and did not pay for it.

It appears that Superintendent Christina Kishimoto finally discovered what we have been reporting is a feature, not a bug, in GPS financial accounting controls:

“The fact the ability to obtain information in this case was so challenging only confirms the fact monies were not handled in the professional way we expect from our employees,” Kishimoto wrote.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto took some really, really serious actions to hold this popular role model accountable for his transgressions. After all, it happened during the middle of football season [sarcasm].

… the district directed Rutt to return the furniture purchased with the booster funds to the football office or reimburse the booster club $2,000; to stop handling any funds related to the booster club; to ensure employees or volunteers are paid through district funding; and to review policies.

Maybe this superintendent will gain enough confidence to hold people accountable for their actions one of these days. Cough, cough. Yes, that’s also a sarcastic comment: the silly response to someone sending emails to all GPS employees through the district’s computer system proves the point:

“The tech services department has now changed the configuration on the e-mail server, and it is no longer possible for someone outside the district to send e-mail to group distribution lists,” Kishimoto said in an statement.

“Our e-mail system was not ‘hacked’ and there are no security issues.”

Silly Rabbit, tricks are for kids. If we know ways for the public to send emails to all GPS employees using the GPS server (and we do, of course), you know the bad guys know them, too.

BTW, the idea of not allowing certain GPS employees like Coach Rutt to handle funds, all of which are public funds when money is entrusted to GPS for any purpose, is a smart move. It might be even smarter to be proactive in the case of convicted criminal Brian Yee at his campus, especially now that GPS is aware that Good Old Brian Yee has filed for bankruptcy. As we’ve said before, there is a LOT of unregulated cash floating around the admin offices of each and every GPS campus.  We believe in helping honest people stay honest through effective financial controls. In the case of a self-confessed embezzler, GPS might do well to keep a close eye on Greenfield Junior High School’s finances.

[Keyboard: Sigh. Like anyone at GPS ever listens to Westie…]

How’s the New Superintendent Doing? Not Very Well.

New GPS Superintendent Christina Kishimoto wrote to board members on May 27, 2014, highlighting key reasons for past failures of overrides for Gilbert Public Schools. We’ll take a look at her list and see what Dr. K has done about the deficiencies she described before taking the helm of GPS.

1. A general perception by some community members that our school finance approach does not prioritize classroom needs;

2. The lack of quality information from the district about what constitutes appropriate centralized services that are in support of schools, i.e. administration, transportation, special education and so forth;

3. The lack of quality reporting by the district around the unmet infrastructure needs of the school system and the long-term impact these will have if these needs are not addressed;

4. The absence of a strong marketing and communications approach by the district where we control our message;

5. The lack of community understanding of the impact of frozen, uncompetitive teacher salaries on our overall district capacity and classroom instruction capacity to meet student needs; and

6. The coordination of a well-organized opposition approach.

As we all know, Christina’s powers of persuasion were ineffectual in trying to convince a board that’s tuned into public discourse that GSP *needs* more money. Christina and her two training wheels  Interim Superintendent Jim Rice and Financial Consultant Jeff Gadd failed to convince the Governing Board that it was the right time to send a third override request to cranky voters who don’t trust the  GPS superintendency to be faithful stewards of the public purse. It looks like GPS leadership is stuck on tricycles for the foreseeable future.

We asked for public records related to a 90-day entry plan that Dr. K referenced in a different document. GPS responded (original in red): “The District has made numerous searches and no documents were located, therefore, the District is not in possession of any document that is responsive to this request.”

Nevertheless, when we arrived at the Great White Temple of Doom to review public records, Dr. K’s 90 day plan was there! Go ahead, see if you can translate all the edu-speak. Our first impression wasn’t very good. Although the document claims to have been submitted to the governing board *by* Christina herself, the text is written in third-person, indicating someone else wrote it.

[Our guess is the highly paid public relations consultant. We’ll share the invoices and checks paid to this consultant/contractor in a future post.]

The author of the document, who apparently didn’t get the memo that it was supposed to be ghost-written, flunked apostrophes. See paragraph 5d on page 6.  The writer apparently doesn’t know her asterisk from a hole in the ground: the asterisk at the end of the document appeared out of nowhere, but we’ll save you the search for meaning. The asterisk refers to text on page 4, paragraphs 5 and 6.  Dr. K doesn’t want  any *unstructured* dialogue with anyone below the level of principal! Exception: Dr. K will “meet with the Teacher Association president” without structure. We’re guessing everyone will wear closed-toe shoes for these meetings. But we digress.

Let’s look at each area of Gilbert Public Schools that Dr. K highlighted as deficient in the letter referenced above:

“General perception that our school finance approach does not prioritize classroom needs.” We’ll grade that as FAIL. Christina’s coronation showed us exactly where her priorities are, and they’re not in the classroom.

“Lack of quality information from the district about what constitutes appropriate centralized services.” We’ll grade that as FAIL, too. Accelerated Reader, one of the favorite educational programs used in elementary classrooms, was cut on her watch.  Dr. K expects PTAs to step up and fund AR if they want it in their schools. There are more administrators making more money while classrooms lack paper and other essential supplies, like soap for restrooms.

“Lack of quality reporting by the district around the unmet infrastructure needs of the school system.” As far as we can see, there is no reporting of much of anything by the district. The *consultants* who updated the website at great expense didn’t understand what was needed, did they? FAIL.

“Absence of a strong marketing and communications approach by the district where we control our message.” Leaving the Community Relations department flailing for so long certainly merits a big fat FAIL. A highly paid and mostly invisible *consultant* counted her money all the way to the bank. “Control of the GPS message” was abdicated long ago. FAIL.

We did notice that someone finally managed to change the Wikipedia article about GPS. It took a long time, didn’t it? Wiki gods don’t like aggressive editing.

“Lack of community understanding of the impact of frozen, uncompetitive teacher salaries.” This is flat-out wrong. Most of the community understands very well that GPS teachers are underpaid. GPS hasn’t been able to convince the community that hiring more, more and more highly paid administrators will set the GPS ship right. The environment in which new hires are paid more than loyal employees is a long-standing embarrassment. Allowing this situation to fester merits one more big fat FAIL. BTW, frozen salaries were a superintendent initiative more than five years ago. The community didn’t have a voice in that. FAIL.

“Coordination of a well-organized opposition.” You betcha! The opposition organized over a period of time in which tone-deaf, bone-headed decisions emanated from rubber-stamp boards and incompetent administrators. Then there was the overall stench of corruption at the top. Add the impression that Good Old Boys were rewarding each other and their pals with public dollars while they partied on the public dime. We’ll grade this SATISFACTORY … because Dr. K’s leadership thus far keeps the opposition organized. It’s not that she is doing a good job at something over which she has no control. Obviously, if Dr. K was doing what needs to be done, the opposition would be fading away and withering on the vine with their services no longer needed.

What in the world was Dr. K doing during the time when she went “on vacation” in Hartford in March 2014 and when she took over GPS at a salary of almost $1,000.00 per day? She dawdled about recruiting  top lieutenants, leaving key positions long unfilled. After her first choice was rejected, Dr. K filled the CFO position with the dude who taught Arizona Good Old Boys how to play GOB financial games with public money, rewarding his superintendents along the way.  Dr. K sure seems to think everything in GPS is hers: her board, her leadership team, her plans that she hasn’t shared with the public.

We don’t see a lot of success from Her Newness. That’s part of a pattern she has practiced to perfection. First Hartford, where the news was negative about her interpersonal relations and communication skills. She got handed her walking papers on a 7-0 vote against renewing her contract.

Kishimoto had not been a K-12 teacher, principal or superintendent. She had little administrative background and had no feel for the politics of the job. What seemed to frustrate board members was what they viewed as a missing sense of urgency on Ms. Kishimoto’s part. Board members said they pushed Ms. Kishimoto for credible plans to improve all schools, to no avail. A section of a ceiling collapsed in a classroom, sending a student and a teaching intern to the hospital with minor injuries. This could have been a lot more serious, and board members feel Ms. Kishimoto has not been as attentive to the condition of the buildings as they’d like.

Her boss was blunt about her performance that led to the 7-0 vote to send Christina packing:

Superintendent Kishimoto is dedicated to educational reform on behalf of Hartford students; however, achievement levels remain unsatisfactory despite the significant amount of resources invested. In response, the Superintendent has stated that improvements in academic achievement will take 20 years. That is unacceptable. Hartford students deserve a leader who strengthens and accelerates the quality of their education at a faster pace.

We shall bestow a new name on Her Newness: 7-0 Moto. From the video below: “Respect is a two-way street.” Remember, you could have had Westie for superintendent.

Preventing Fraud by Shining the FOIA Spotlight

We’ve posted about how hard it is to get information out of Gilbert Public Schools, especially since the managerial mindset is that Freedom Of Information Act requests cost the district money by forcing GPS to respond to those requests. It looks like Christina Kishimoto wants to restart up the old mushroom treatment.

Liberating a copy of the complete audit from last year was worth the FOIA effort. As we read the GPS responses to the glaring discrepancies the audit found, we recalled how the Good Old Boys used to work overtime to keep this kind of information out of public view. They spent a lot of money doing that, as well.

We told you about how GPS “lost” in court again … and paid a price for it. We guess that the GPS GOBs don’t think twice about dropping $125,000 plus to litigate a losing proposition, but we know that Gilbert citizens resent such huge sums of money being funneled away from educating students.

A couple of members of the GPS governing board and the wannabes that want to “take back” the board seats they lost are now complaining about the high cost of fulfilling requests for public records. One wannabe who couldn’t get elected after he had a seat handed to him is now in full battle mode about the costs involved.  But we digress.

Remember when Good Old Clyde Dangerfield got rid of the Internal Auditor so he could promote Crystal Korpan? Those chickens are coming home to roost. Let’s start with the GPS wahhh-mbulance responses to discrepancies that appear on page 26 of the 2012-2013 Audit:

For several months we were behind in cash reconciliations due to a lack of resources. Additionally the person solely responsible for reconciliations left the District a few weeks prior to the audit. We have since restructured the process and methodology to allow a coordination of several resources to aid in this effort and stay up to date. Regarding the equalization posting, we had a few discussions with the county office to determine when the revenues should be posted since we were well into the encumbrance period. The payments were not received in the old fiscal year as they should have been, and since we were still behind on reconciliation the correction was not made. The $7,678 is related to items waiting to be cleared from several months of posting that are still being caught up.

Recall that GPS’s *lack of resources* was a self-inflicted wound. GPS really played that small violin anyway, blaming all kinds of problems on the one employee who left a few weeks prior to the audit. What’s important in all this hand-wringing and misdirection is that the *tone at the top* is one that could have indicated financial fraud. Even when audits are conducted. Let’s look at what GPS’s friendly auditor, Heinfeld Meech & Co has to say about circumstances eerily similar to what’s been going on in GPS in recent years among the top dogs in the superintendency:

Instances of financial fraud are commonly associated with weaknesses in the tone at the top. Poor tone at the top may include instances of the following: a disparagement of internal controls, an overemphasis on other objectives such as fund balances or achievement of certain projects at the expense of ethics, a belief that compliance with the letter of the law is sufficient for appropriate ethical behavior, accommodations of some stakeholders but not others, blaming higher-ups or colleagues for unethical practices and conflicts of interest. …

The bottom line is ensuring our decisions are based on the best interest of the district and the students and community served. Conflicts of interest can get in the way of conducting ourselves in this manner. Competing interests can include outside financial relationships, the desire for professional advancement and the desire to do favors for family and friends. If conducting operations in the best interest of the district and the students and community served is not enough motivation for ensuring a strong tone at the top, how about preventing fraud and the loss of the district’s resources?

There’s still a Wild West attitude and plenty of fast-and-loose capers with public dollars that seek to evade oversight. Sometimes the truth can get in the way of professionalism in GPS, such as when Dr. K recreated the Purchasing Manager position and left the Internal Auditor position in Business Services vacant. What could go wrong, especially since GPS gets audited by Heinfeld, Meech & Co regularly?

External audits are implemented by a large number of organizations, but they are among the least effective controls in combating occupational fraud. Such audits were the primary detection method in just 3% of the fraud cases reported to us, compared to the 7% of cases that were detected by accident. Further, although the use of independent financial statement audits was associated with reduced median losses and durations of fraud schemes, these reductions were among the smallest of all of the anti-fraud controls analyzed in our study. Consequently, while independent audits serve a vital role in organizational governance, our data indicates that they should not be relied upon as organizations’ primary anti-fraud mechanism.

…Most occupational fraudsters exhibit certain behavioral traits that can be warning signs of their crimes, such as living beyond their means or having unusually close associations with vendors or customers. In 92% of the cases we reviewed, at least one common behavioral red flag was identified before the fraud was detected.

We don’t for a moment think that most GPS employees are bad people, but the chirps we heard about *training* sessions dealing with handling cash have become alarming. Some of these training sessions seem to be focused on how to get around the rules. We also hear about making employees sign statements that they won’t do bad things any more, now that they’re *trained* as the audit responses promised. Unfortunately, some of those same folks are passing along knowledge about how to get around payroll roadblocks. There’s a lot that will be coming to light in coming months.

We’ll close with Heinfeld, Meech & Co’s discussion of how good people find themselves involved in fraud:

Terms like micromanaging, lack of trust, red tape, and jumping through hoops are used to describe work processes or environments which seem to have an undue amount of oversight over routine activities. While these extra steps may be perceived as inconvenient to employees, they are put in place to protect the organization itself as well each individual within the organization.

GPS has a long way to go, it seems. Celebrating convicted criminal Brian Yee shows tone-deafness continues, especially considering allegations against Coach Rutt.

Survey Says … Some People Have More Money than Brains

Amateurs in politics make truly funny missteps and mistakes. Here’s one that will gain national attention for tone-deaf bone-headedness that is the specialty of some of the leaders and wanna-be leaders of Gilbert Public Schools.

It’s no secret that some of the candidates for the two GPS Governing Board seats are particularly well-funded and have a lot of friends. What do you think would happen if some of those *friends* decided a poll would reveal the true state of the political scene in Gilbert, Arizona? Non-stop hilarity! [Waving hi to Blake Sacha and Jennifer Halvorson and their friends who donated.]

The folks behind Rebuild Our Gilbert Board filed a Pre-Primary Election Report  that included donations and expenditures related to Public Policy Polling and a poll that purported to reveal the REAL political climate in Gilbert. Take a look at page 4 of the report, where you’ll see a $2,500.00 donation by C. Dean Debnam, CEO of Workplace Options, on June 7, 2014.

C. Dean Debnam also is president of Public Policy Polling. What a coincidence! If you look at page 6 of the report, you see that Rebuild Our Board paid exactly $2,500.00 to Public Policy Polling a week before the PPP president donated to this Political Action Committee. Isn’t that convenient?

It was a bit more than *convenient,* as Good Old Boy Charlie Santa Cruz, candidate for one of those board seats explained. Notice his explanation mucked up the dates even more. We may be on to something here:

Public Policy Poll Astounding and Revealing: The respondents to a poll that was conducted on May 21st and 22nd provide us with an assessment of how members of our community evaluate the performance of the GPS Governing Board.

There also was a press release from the PAC confirming the dates of the poll:

“It’s very unusual to see disapproval numbers this high in a local election,” says Jim Williams, issue polling specialist at Public Policy Polling, a firm that has conducted public policy surveys since 2001. Smith is referring to a recent telephone poll his company conducted May 21-22, 2014.

Hilarity ensues with the hackneyed summary and analysis of the results of the poll:

The 16-question poll included 343 Gilbert residents; fifty-three percent of the respondents disapproved of the governing board’s performance. Though less than half have children attending Gilbert Public Schools, they demonstrated a solid awareness of school district issues. An overwhelming majority (97 percent) indicated they are certain to vote in the November election.

Friends of Charles Santa Cruz are not revealing any background of the poll, like what the 16 questions were and how the 343 Gilbert residents were selected in the first place. No sirree! You’re supposed to *trust* that they’re reporting, summarizing and analyzing everything accurately. It might be because national media outlets have severely criticized PPP for being untrustworthy in those areas in the past:

PPP doesn’t follow many of the industry’s best practices, like calling voters’ cell phones; the firm only calls landlines. It discards hundreds of respondents in an unusual process known as “random deletion.” And because PPP’s interviewers rely on lists of registered voters—rather than random digit dialing—and simply ask non-voters to hang up the phone, the firm can’t use census numbers to weight their sample, as many other pollsters do.

PPP is a nationally-known name in political circles. Why is this powerhouse North Carolina firm interested in a school board race in Gilbert, Arizona? Why would the president of PPP donate exactly $2,500.00, the exact cost of the poll the PAC commissioned? Why was the poll conducted in May, 2014 – but the convenient donation did not occur until a week after the PAC paid for the poll? It’s a mystery!

PPP has released polls on many races where Debnam has contributed to one of the candidates or relevant party committees, most notably those 2008 races involving Kay Hagan. The donations were not disclosed when the polls were released… Many pollsters work for partisan clients, and Debnam and his staff are free to donate to any candidates they like. But not disclosing that one candidate is a recent client is problematic.

Maybe something isn’t quite right with this poll beyond the secrecy of methodology and analysis:

Public Policy Polling is avowedly pro-Democratic; it also prizes its reputation for reliability. Can it continue to juggle these two balls?

It doesn’t appear that PPP’s poll is going to carry any weight in Gilbert, Arizona. Part of the idea was to establish a narrative that 97% of the electorate is mad as hell at the GPS board and they’re going to take it back on election day. Someone had better tell the poll workers! Until the PAC and PPP release the actual questions, the raw data, and their calculations on the estimates, we’ll continue to laugh. So will the fired up conservative voters in GPS boundaries.

This poll that cost $2,500.00 says 97% “indicated they are certain to vote” is so ridiculous that we can’t believe the PAC even published that number. Here’s more idiocy: the PAC’s claim that the poll was *donated* in the first place. That nonsense probably would interest folks who keep Arizona elections clean … or at least, they try to keep them clean.

The survey was donated to the Unite for Education campaign of Rebuild Our Gilbert Board, a non-profit political action committee that is supporting the candidacy of incumbent Jill Humpherys, a board member in her second year and Dr. J. Charles Santa Cruz, a retired educator and administrator who spent 31 years at GPS. Two seats are up for election in the November 4, 2014 general election.

Take Back our Gilbert Board, and give it to candidates who will trust the experts and rubberstamp every expenditure and demand for more, more and more tax dollars. It’s for the kids! [Gag. You all know this is sarcasm, right?]

$2,500.00? Sheeesh.

Zero Based Budget: Intentional Misdirection and Chaos

While teachers and parents are struggling to live within their means and the 2014-2015 budget for Gilbert Public Schools, some of the recent revelations about the budget and expenditures certainly raise eyebrows and provoke questions about GPS priorities.

We’ve heard that some schools lack soap in the restrooms. Teachers have been bringing bars of soap for restrooms [least expensive fix], in addition to asking parents for many bottles of hand sanitizer for the classroom. Where are all these parent-contributions of supplies stored in classrooms jam-packed with bigger classes this year? What in the world is going on in GPS?

Don’t forget about all the reams of paper that have been demanded from parents. Some candidates for school board seats endorsed the demands for reams of paper … like it’s a good thing. What a way to run a school district! We noticed that although Christina Kishimoto was asked to report to the board with more information about Accelerated Reader being cut from the budget, the topic wasn’t broached at the next board meeting. Delay, delay, ignore, ignore. Everything old is new again in Gilbert Public Schools. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

There’s a certain segment of the community that says all the money woes are the fault of the board, and they really, really hope busy parents will believe this meme. Folks who understand the operations of a school district know the board approves a budget and the superintendent decides how the money will be spent.

In the case of the vaunted Zero Based Budget, what actually happened was the superintendent gathered recommendations from various committees, and then made changes to suit her preferences for spending this year. We haven’t found where any of the recent superintendents or their minions reported to the board exactly how the GPS operating budget would be spent, although that was supposed to be step 3 in the ZBB process. The complaints about the budget are increasing; community members who worked through the process are none too pleased that committee recommendations were ignored in many cases. Remember, the dudes who led the ZBB process had no skin in the game … none of them are employed in GPS, and few other staffers remain. Yeah, we know they’re smirking.

Here’s a MAJOR complaint: the budget summary shows 98 administrators,  an increase from 75 administrators last year, for a total increase of 23 administrators. Thank you, birdies!


The board approved the overall budget, but apparently, final recommendations and essential details were never communicated … to the board or to the community. Some of the famous “ZBB binders” to which the nattering nabobs of negativism refer are online. However, whoever posted the notebooks doesn’t know if they’re the most recent versions from the ZBB committees. Who knows what the board was given to approve at the last possible moment.

If you comb through the binders and other documents, you find some asterisks showing that the superintendent changed some allocations. It’s smoke and mirrors time again! The ZBB binders show that Administrative Services was recommended to be funded at Level 3, but there’s one of those asterisks beside the number, which jumped to Level 8  and $484,334.00. This was 102% of the previous funding, including $5,000.00 for professional development, $5,000.00 for student travel, $10,000.00 increase in Services and Supplies (for a total of $121,878.00) and $19,000.00 for rentals. The only thing that’s really clear about all this is that Admin Services got a bigger budget than before.

On the other hand, Safety and Security was recommended to be funded at Level 5, but there’s an asterisk there. Sure enough, funding was cut to Level 2, 85% of the previous budget, which cut Night Security and Dispatch, Campus Security and Crossing Guards, along with cutting stipends, pay for additional work and services and supplies. What could possibly go wrong?

Vandalism at Gilbert High School is what went wrong … in a hurry. With night security cut, it didn’t take long. Estimates for repairs to GHS range from manageable to extraordinary, according to our birdies. Penny-wise and pound-foolish, right? What could possibly go wrong with cutting crossing guards, Dr. K?

Here’s how the smoke and mirrors works in determining the amount of dollars spent *in the classroom* as opposed to administrative costs.   Most people think the administrative services include the administrators, but that’s just not true. The superintendents, directors, coordinators, principals of all descriptions are considered *in the classroom* expenses, according to the linked document. Positions listed as 2100 and 2200 are considered *classroom.* Administrative positions are support staff. Most lay people (non-educrats) would consider most of employees under student support services as administration. In GPS, where’s there’s smoke, there’s a mirror nearby, we’ve discovered.

Remember during the run-up to the vote on the override in 2013 that statements were made (and continue to be asserted to this day) that GPS has a low administration percentage? Presentations included statements that “all of district offices” were included in the dollar amount and eliminating “all” positions would not add up to the amount necessary to recoup lost money.

Check out the linked presentation at the 29:45 mark to learn about Administrative Costs according to the Auditor General’s report.  Funny how the presentation blurs the lines between instruction and what most people would consider to be administration. $18 Million. Higher paid administrators $2.4 Million at the district level. $5.1 Million at school level. Bottom line: $9.9 Million for all administrators. Administrative services as a whole are $18 Million. GPS spent $496.00 per student on administration. You’re supposed to *trust* these numbers <snort>.

With so much hocus-pocus going on, it’s hard to figure out what the real budget numbers are. That’s one reason the Governing Board mandated Zero-Based Budgeting for the 2014-2015 school year. What actually happened was NOT ZBB. Are you surprised?

Zero-based budgeting requires the budget request be re-evaluated thoroughly, starting from the zero-base. This process is independent of whether the total budget or specific line items are increasing or decreasing.

Zero-based budgeting starts from a “zero base” and every function within an organization is analyzed for its needs and costs. Budgets are then built around what is needed for the upcoming period, regardless of whether the budget is higher or lower than the previous one.

ZBB allows top-level strategic goals to be implemented into the budgeting process by tying them to specific functional areas of the organization, where costs can be first grouped, then measured against previous results and current expectations.

The superintendents and staff hated the idea of ZBB and implemented something quite different. They wasted a lot of time creating those ZBB binders, which created levels based on historical expenditures. We haven’t found where anyone identified total resources and essential functions and married them for efficiency.  Some of the people assigned to the committees were carefully selected to arrive at exactly what the superintendents wanted in the first place.

[Waving hi to Susan Keuter, who helped give Admin Services more money and to Diane Drazinski, who helped cut AR.]

Even with all the groundwork, things didn’t go exactly according to plan. That’s why the asterisks and adjustments were needed. That’s probably why the final ZBB binders are missing in action. Smoke and Mirrors. Again.

What Christina’s Coronation and Back to School Extravaganzas Cost

bigbucksCertain Gilbert Public Schools board members and officials are decrying budget cuts, even though there was $313,967,843 in the budget this year. Let’s look at some real numbers that the Powers That Be would prefer you didn’t see, probably because these numbers don’t fit their narrative of doom, gloom and austere budgets.

The $9,475.85 itemized expenses at the bottom of this post for food and non-food items appears to have been spent for Christina Kishimoto’s coronation festivities and Back-to-School lunches for unnamed employees. Don’t mention the man hour cost of having all teachers and Great White Temple of Doom admins attend the two coronations; they have to do what they’re told to do. Let them eat cake! Choreograph the dance! Boutonnieres and flowers! It’s for the kids!

Gilbert Public Schools really, really wants you to give more, more and more money for education. Somehow, we don’t think board member Jill Humpherys, who is campaigning for re-election, expected voters to find the numbers we show you today. Unfortunately for Jill, those expenses prove it’s not all about the kids. It never was. Whether this scheme is legal or not is above our pay grades; it’s certainly tone-deaf and bone-headed, especially just before an election.

GPS expenditures in August 2014 tell the public a lot about new Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s priorities and her lavish spending. Beyond the fact that Accelerated Reader has been cut and parents are inundated with demands to supply classrooms with necessities that GPS ought to be funding, we see Dr. K has fallen in love with a loophole that let her fund her coronation  academic convocation when teachers returned for the new school year. This loophole has been around for a couple of years, but we’ve not seen anything like what happened this year.

About the loophole: GPS was told the district could not pay for meals and refreshments out of public money, so GPS admins put a cute little phrase in employee contracts that says the district can provide food to employees if it wants to. Never mind that employees would prefer to be paid professional wages, GPS in paternalistic wisdom decided to do otherwise. Now we’re seeing the results of this cute little trick, and it’s not centered on students, or learning or the business of education.

The expenditures below come from one Green Bar Report, Vouchers 5008-5020, which the superintendent or her staff sent to the Governing Board for ratification. That means, “Board, you need to approve these payments, because we already spent the money.” That’s business as usual in GPS, keeping the board in the dark until it’s absolutely an emergency to approve something, and don’t ask any questions because there’s no time.

When you open the Excel file, click “Enable Content” and then plus up the individual lines. Many of the expenditures we’re talking about appear under Line 515 CIVIC CENTER.

We’ve heard GPS admins say they can do anything they want with civic center funds, but the truth is, all that money is public money and it can be spent only for public purposes, according to state law. To protect taxpayers, Arizona law strictly regulates the receipt, custody, control and expenditure of “public money,” which is defined by A.R.S. § 35-302: “The phrase “public money” as used in this article includes bonds and evidence of indebtedness, and money belonging to, received or held by, state, county, district, city or town officers in their official capacity.” Obviously, bread and circuses are *public purposes* now in GPS.

From Christina’s letter: “Our Academic Convocation will serve as a celebration of teaching excellence and an appreciation of our teaching staff as we begin the new school year. “ Do these expenditures fit the bill for *public purposes* or someone’s ego? Wouldn’t it be better to pay for classroom items that are desperately needed under austere budget conditions, like soap and paper? Sheesh.

Whatever the source, there’s no denying that public money funded refreshments and flowers for Dr. K’s coronation and “Back to School Lunches” for teachers and other employees. BTW: we thought it was really cheap to give a tip of what appears to be only $16.14 to Jason’s Deli for a $660.51 expenditure.  Don’t forget the $1,209.57 that GPS paid Joe’s Real BBQ for “Luncheon food for back to school” on the 5002-5005 voucher report.

JASONS DELI                   $935.49
BASHAS’ INC                   $335.84
ROSE GARDEN FLORAL           $226.38
SAMS CLUB                     $356.78
JASONS DELI                   $660.51
TIP*1EA $16.14
COSTCO WHOLESALE #1028 $360.66
BPO-FOOD*1Bkt $340.67
NON FOOD:*1Bkt $19.99
BPO-FOOD WATER & SODA*1Bkt $190.50
SAMS CLUB $816.91
BPO-FOOD*1Bkt $93.20
NON FOOD:*1Bkt $52.41
BASHAS’ INC $729.22
BPO-FOOD*1Bkt $19.94
NON FOOD:*1Bkt $120.50
BPO-FOOD:*1Bkt $209.17
SUBWAY $800.00
SERRANO’S $800.39


Here’s another coronation expense: GPS Productions. PROGRAMS FOR AM & PM EVENTS *1200EA  $246.00.  All that paper and ink that didn’t make it to classrooms <snort>. The choreographer for the event cost $300.00.

We had a feeling those weren’t the only costs for Christina’s coronation and Back-to-School extravaganzas … more below from vouchers 5021-5030:


DESERT BLOOM FLORAL           $327.06
BPO-36 BUTONNIERES*1Bkt $327.06
TAYLOR BROWN                 $400.00


It appears that those highly-paid district administrators at the White Temple of Doom don’t have to buy copy paper, like teachers do for their classrooms (unless parents contribute reams of paper). Remember, we told you that GPS spent $22,357.29 at Costco in July 2014 for 8,400 reams of white copy paper [vouchers 4218-4226.] Here’s another purchase in August:


COSTCO WHOLESALE             $22,535.16
COPY PAPER WHITE 8.5X11*8400RMS $22,357.29


One final note about this tone-deaf superintendency: birdies tell us that for the first time in memory, NO ONE from the administration attended the Transportation Kick-off Celebration. Did any admins bother to tell board members about that event?

Fall Break, October 2014

Enjoy Fall Break! When you return next week, everything will be as you left it.

[Keyboard: I want to go to Disneyland! Stomping the ground. *Terrible Two* temper tantrum]

Charlie Santa Cruz, Double-Dipper Candidate for Gilbert School Board

J. Charles Santa Cruz has been collecting money from Gilbert Public Schools for a long, long time. Now that he has retired a couple of times, he’s rolling in dough, much of it contributed by taxpayers, most of whom don’t earn nearly as much as Charlie collects in retirement. Charlie is campaigning on returning to the old ways in GPS … the good old days when the Good Old Boys controlled the public purse.

Charlie is one of those Good Old Boys who ran GPS for so long. He retired from GPS for a second time in 2012, following five years of double-dipping into the ASRS pension system:

Santa Cruz first retired six years ago when he started working for Smart Schools Plus, a phased retirement plan, and contracted to continue working in the district. He was then hired on this past year through a regular contract, he said.

When Charlie Santa Cruz started working in Gilbert, there were only about 10,000 people in the town, which now records about 220,000 residents. That’s right, Charlie Santa Cruz came to GPS 31 years ago when the district had five schools. Charlie was an assistant principal at Gilbert High, then principal of Gilbert Junior High for 10 years. He returned to Gilbert High as principal in 1992. Charlie gained national attention for GPS in 2011 when he banned GHS cheerleaders from wearing pink tee shirts in a fund-raising effort:

Gilbert breast-cancer T-shirt dispute splits community. The cheerleaders were told this month by Principal J. Charles Santa Cruz that the “Feel for lumps – save your bumps” slogan on the back of the shirts was inappropriate. The 56 freshmen, junior-varsity and varsity cheerleaders had planned to wear the shirts during home football games in October while collecting money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. About a dozen varsity cheerleaders who are selling the $15 shirts through the e-mail have already received orders for 584 shirts. They’ve collected more than $5,600 for breast-cancer research.

Charlie’s political action committee wrote a letter to the editor decrying the decision to not ask the community for an override in 2014 … for a third time in three years. They’re really hoping their scenario of doom and gloom comes true, so Charlie can ride in on his white horse and SAVE Gilbert Public Schools from the community that won’t trust administrators with any additional tax dollars. In spite of GPS being rated and A district, in spite of the fact that the budget has been balanced on the backs of teachers and support staff while administrators (like Charlie) laughed all the way to the bank, these folks want to control the board and the district again:

We will not be able to provide our students with the world class education they deserve. We will not attract, recruit, or retain the best educators and support staff in the business.

These folks supporting Charlie also believe “Mr. Gadd, a consultant, presented the governing board with a viable option to our financial difficulties.” Our loyal viewers know that Jeff Gadd’s track record in school finance is not good at all, click here and here. Good Old Boys from all across the Valley stick together, it seems. Charlie really, really wants to bring back the good old days when the Good Old Boys were in control. But we digress.

Let’s look at how Charlie has lived his life as a paragon of virtue and at the same time, profited mightily from the former generosity of taxpaying public. We’ve posted many times about how GPS GOBs double-dip, which is really, really bad for everyone in the district (but the double-dippers). The SmartSchoolsPlus gravy train uses district resources to solicit employees to become “contractors” in their same job by signing on with a favorite vendor, who becomes a middleman in a scheme designed to line some pockets as it bilks public coffers. Good Old Clyde Dangerfield once defended GPS employees’ “right” to double dip.

Why is this bad for the district? Smart Schools Plus destroys opportunities for advancement for younger workers. You know, the younger workers who are generally at a lower level on the pay scale (blowing up the “saving money” claim). It puts taxpayer money directly into the pockets of “former educators.” It stagnates employment opportunities within a community. It creates dissention between those who are milking the system and those who are paying for it. It sheds an unflattering light on the top level administrators who are personally profiting at the same time they are claiming that schools are underfunded. What it mostly does is perpetuate the Good Old Boys club.

Back in 2010, the Arizona Republic did a major expose of pension costs in the state. Here’s what the report said about double-dipping educators:

Retired teachers are returning to classrooms across Maricopa County, some making $100,000 a year by collecting a pension and a paycheck at the same time, while retired administrators are doing the same thing and making more than $200,000. Welcome to what is commonly known as double-dipping, education style. There are more than 900 educators benefiting from the practice, and by law they stop contributing to the retirement-system trust the minute they retire. By law, their employer also stops contributions to the trust on their behalf.

As they continue to work, they are preventing new employees from getting those jobs – employees who, along with their employer, would be contributing to the pension system. That means the burden of keeping the pension system financially healthy is shifted to other teachers and ASRS members, such as local and state government workers, whose contributions to their pension trust continue to go up.

You know it’s bad when the President of the Arizona Education Association condemns this practice:

Andrew Morrill, president of the 31,000-member Arizona Education Association, agrees. “We can’t afford to do this,” Morrill said. “You are putting greater pressure on the retirement system, and it will drive up contributions.”

Before the howls start about how double-dipping saves money for GPS, look at what else Andrew Morrill had to say:

While school districts and the contractors say the districts are saving money because retired teachers are returning for reduced pay, Morrill said it would be less costly to hire a first-year teacher with benefits. And, Morrill said, that first-year teacher would be contributing to the retirement system.

Bottom line: The Arizona Republic found that double-dipping by more than 900 educators in Maricopa County is costing ASRS at least $8.6 million in lost contributions this year (2010).

To bring this subject full-circle, we show below what GPS recently paid to SmartSchoolsPlus and for whom those payments were made. We deduce that these are monthly payments to *the vendor* for these employees, based on the annual contracts we’ve seen for some of the administrators named below. Apparently, this money then gets passed along to the *contract employee.* In addition, SmartSchoolsPlus is paid a set fee of about $5,000.00 annually for each person riding the gravy train.

The GPS policy about “phased retirement” was changed in 2013. See Policy GPR. This will gradually limit SmartSchoolsPlus gravy train riders to one year only in 2017. What could possibly go wrong? When retirees come off SmartSchoolsPlus, they’ll just reapply for the same old jobs … just like Good Old Charlie did.  There’s always a pot of gold awaiting for GOBs in GPS.

Vouchers 4218-4226   SMARTSCHOOLSPLUS INC $53,958.05
DENNIS BUSHONG*1681.77EA $1,681.77
STEVE ERWIN*1681.77EA $1,681.77
BARBARA HARRIS*1681.77EA $1,681.77
DONNA LEMORROCCO*2002.28EA $2,002.28
PAMELA MACK*1702.91EA $1,702.91
KIM STOWERS*1681.77EA $1,681.77
MARK CISTERNA*7989.69EA $7,989.69
REYES GONZALES*2345.81EA $2,345.81
JUDITH KUHLMAN*1681.77EA $1,681.77
LANA MOORE*6934.73EA $6,934.73
LAURA MILLER*2302.33EA $2,302.33
MARCEDES SCHULER*1681.77EA $1,681.77
LAURA SOPELAND*1681.77EA $1,681.77
ROBYN CONRAD*7799.41EA $7,799.41
DEBBIE SINGLETON*6317.22EA $6,317.22
DALE CONWAY*5680.04EA $5,680.04
CHERLY COX*-888.76EA ($888.76)
Vouchers 4229-4232   SMARTSCHOOLSPLUS INC $3,049.81
DENNIS BUSHONG*2706.24EA $2,706.24
PAMELA MACK*343.57EA $343.57

So now you know plenty about Charlie Santa Cruz, candidate for Gilbert School Board. His plans for THIS retirement included,“continue working as an adjunct professor teaching educational leadership with Northern Arizona University. He said he also would be available for educational consulting.”

Wait til we show you what GPS pays their consultants. Coming soon! 

Happy Birthday: Westie Connect is Two Years Old!

September 25, 2014: We’re celebrating Westie’s Second Birthday!

As always, we are truly grateful to our audience for hanging in and hanging out with us. Together, we can try to restore some of the luster that those misguided Peter Principle admins running Gilbert Public Schools so thoughtlessly squandered in recent years. The children whose lives and educations have been adversely affected by misdeeds and mismanagement at the top levels of GPS deserve everything we can do to set a better course and make things right for their benefit. Those kids never will get back the years of their lives that were lost because GPS miscreants betrayed the public trust. We’ll continue to try to seal that pit of evil machinations and self-serving manipulations in an effort to make things better for students, parents, employees, taxpayers and all stakeholders of Gilbert Public Schools.

Significantly, the corruption and mismanagement were never intended to produce any benefit for students. We still hope for accountability and we know we will greatly enjoy watching GOBs eat their just desserts (stuffed crow with a little humble pie, perhaps).

The clean sweep for which we advocated came to pass, but we all must be ever vigilant … the new boss is much the same as the old boss, it appears. We saw that opportunistic adults were using GPS as a cookie jar for themselves and their friends, and we’re seeing much the same now. We’ll have to keep that light shining on wrongdoing.

Sharing information among people who have so many different talents allows the public to do some really cool things. In this past year, several lawsuits have settled; all of them went against GPS. Not all is well and good in GPS, not yet. Who knew that we would find evidence that Brian Yee is a convicted criminal? The fact that he’s still employed by GPS shows that GOB influence remains. It’s very concerning that in spite of GPS losing badly in the lawsuit over access to public records, we’re hearing rumblings about GPS shutting the gate again. Fortunately, birdies, we know what to do.

Losing the 2012 and 2013 overrides was a high price for Gilbert students to pay because citizens lost confidence in GPS leadership. Instead of healing, there is a pitched political battle showing how wide the chasm is between the old guard that wants to “Take Back Our Board” and the conservative board members and candidates who want to complete the transformation from the secrecy and self-serving behavior so blatantly displayed in the past. If critics thought their mud-slinging would deter us, just wait ’til they experience Keyboard’s Terrible Twos!

We love our Birdies! Have some birthday cake. (It wasn’t bought with public money.)

Who Would Re-elect JiLL HUMPHERYS to the Gilbert School Board?

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 soliciting signatures
for her re-election campaign
at Gilbert High School, March 18, 2014.

GPS Board Member Jill Humpherys electioneering at Gilbert High School *** *** *** *** *** A picture is worth a thousand words.

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