The One Where Westie Lets Others Write the Post

Keyboard, being a three year old, gave the Westies a Christmas list that’s a mile long. Whew! So we can go shopping, we’ll let Silly Jilly Humpherys write this post about all the choices that the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board is facing with regard to expanding Gilbert Classical Academy. It’s absolutely astounding to think that Silly Jilly could a keep a straight face as she wrote some of these statements in an email to parents. Westie just loves using public records as source documents!

First, Silly Jilly Humpherys talks about the huge number of students who drop out as GCA Spartans each year:

There are many parents who choose GCA as a junior high option and then move their child to a comprehensive high school. I don’t know why they choose to do this; I have talked with quite a few parents who do. It may be that they want the rigor of a classical education during the junior high years, but then they want the options that a comprehensive high school offers. Also, it is much more challenging to take all AP and Honors courses as a junior and senior than it is as a freshman and sophomore. I do not begrudge a student the opportunity to try a more rigorous schedule and then may be find that they would do better with only a few AP or Honors classes.

Then Silly Jilly strings together a bunch of sentences that seem to be nothing more than a stream of consciousness (BTW, we added the numbers, they were not in the original email):

(1) The challenge of GCA is a difficult choice. (2) The district has had declining enrollment for several years. (3) Continued decline means a lower budget and hard decisions about cutting our budget. (4) We want to offer competitive pay to our teachers and staff to retain top quality people. (5) That means that we must look at closing schools, cutting programs, and other reductions. (6) Because of legislation passed last year, we may have to cut again. (7) My hope is that the legislature will reverse those cuts, but we have to prepare one budget that takes that legislation into consideration.

Then, out of the clear blue,  Silly Jilly turns to attracting more students to offset declining enrollment:

(1) One way to be able to keep schools open and keep programs is to entice more students to our schools. (2) GCA does have a waiting list, so that is one way to increase enrollment. (3) An increase in enrollment benefits not only GCA students, but all students. (4) Additional funds allow us to continue the wonderful programs and academics we have had in our district, and that benefits all students.

If you aren’t confused yet, you will be when Silly Jilly starts talking about the juxtaposition of budget cuts and the tax override and bond issue that GPS won in November 2015. Silly Jilly blames it all on the legislature … again:

(1) I know that the possibility of cuts may be difficult to comprehend, since we just won an override and bond election and had the inflation funding settlement. (2) Last year the legislature passed two pieces of legislation that cut the funds for JTED (career and technical education) and moved districts to present year funding. (3) That, plus the decline in enrollment, will have a significant impact on our budget, if the laws are not changed.

GPS acolytes LOVE to blame any reduction in district funds on the Legislature, and they generally won’t discuss declining enrollment or their own mismanagement of the funds. Here’s what GCA advocates had to say about their new good fortune as the top spending priorities in Gilbert Public Schools after the override and bond were approved:

GCA didn’t think there was a possibility of a new location til it became #1 on the list of board goals for this year.* Probably because of that widely publicized goal, GCA had 200 apply for 7th grade and accepted 120, so 80 on the waiting list. There’s a small wait for 8th grade. Good news for those rejected applicants: once you’re on the waiting list, you don’t need to re-apply the next year, you’re good til 9th grade. BUT, you must take ALP or honors classes at whichever school you attend to stay in “good standing” to be considered when there is an opening.

So much for the rumor that GCA doesn’t have prerequisites. Another rumor that’s going around is that GCA has a wait list, and you’re expected to extrapolate that the wait list will solve GPS’s declining enrollment problems.  Here’s what one GCA supporter asked:

I don’t understand how one school can be the priority of the school board. That one school is not only going to impact the school it closes to take over but many of the school boundaries as well. And is the bond money that we thought was going to improve our district as a whole going to be put into this one school?

Let’s put this whole issue into perspective (as another GCA supporter wrote):

Isn’t college where we’re told most GCA students are going? And in fact, a bulk of last year’s graduates from GCA ended up at Grand Canyon University, a private Christian university in Phoenix? So GPS is spending all of this money on GCA, a school that can only house graduating classes of 40ish, so many of them can go to GCU? Wow, big achievement there!

Gilbert Public Schools – funneling resources (that’s TAX MONEY) into a school that benefits 1% of the total student population of the district. What does this tell parents of the 99% of students about GPS priorities? What about the elementary classrooms that are far too large for genuine student learning? What about students at other GPS high schools who are crammed so tightly into classrooms that at least one student is assigned to sit at the teacher’s desk because no more student desks will fit into the classroom? What about all of the resources for regular kids that have been cut in every grade? Don’t get us started about what parents have to pay for extracurricular activities nowadays…

You know we’ll be talking more about this issue. After all, it’s the Number One Goal for the GPS Governing Board in January 2016!

*Big Fat Asterisk: The linked Westie post shows the slide at the GPS Board Retreat in August 2015, long before the election. When you see the list of priorities, you’ll understand why GPS felt so strongly about keeping this board discussion secret that they figured violating Open Meeting Law was a small price to pay so that GPS employees would continue to play the role of useful idiots and get the override and bond passed:

Governing Board Goals 2015-2016
1. Find a place for GCA (project goal)

2. Policy Revision and Alignment with Theory of Action
3. Salary Schedule
4. Demographic Study
5. Data Dashboard for MPE [that’s Managed Performance Empowerment]

So there you have it: the GPS Governing Board’s top priorities depend on who you’re talking to and when. 

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