Gilbert Classical Academy: taking away from some and giving “that” to others

Gilbert Junior High School parent Mickey Andrie’s speech from the public comment period at the January 8, 2013 governing board meeting:

Thank you madam President and fellow School Board members for allowing me to speak tonight. I come before you tonight to speak about the School Board’s recent decision to consider the recommendation of the Transition Committee.

This issue of closing Gilbert Junior High has never been about money. The choice to close Gilbert Junior High was not about cost savings. This is only about taking away from some and giving “that” to others. The students at GCA are good students. The students at GJHS are good students. Both are deserving of a quality education in an environment that doesn’t include over-crowding.

This should never have been “us versus them”. The school board made it that way. The committee was fractured at the beginning, and still fractured at the end. I believe politics are at play. This is a classic example of eminent domain from a school district to its communities. They’re taking from us because they want to, without recourse to those families affected. And what do they tell us, the families who have made a life in/around Gilbert Junior High… “Just deal with it.”

As a result, the recommendation the committee came to was NOT in the best interest of Gilbert Public Schools. It’s actually not even in the best interest of Gilbert Classical Academy. What GCA needs, what they deserve, is a location specifically designed to meet their unique needs, to promote the community, to promote the School District… all in one.

The Gilbert School Board broke at least two state laws when forcing through this vote (possibly more):

• ARS 15-341 (A)(33)
• ARS 15-341 (G)

With the timed speaking limitation, I will only speak to one of the laws broken: It is in relation to the School Facilities Board (which is under the Legislative Branch of our State Government).

The School Board broke ARS 15-341 (G) when they approved the motion to close Gilbert Junior High (thus leaving the school location empty). There was no reference to GCA moving into that location in that motion. This law states a Governing Board must request in advance, and receive, “prior” written approval from the School Facilities Board before any actions are taken by the School District to reduce per-pupil square footage or grade reconfiguration. The School Board took action when they approved the motion to close Gilbert Junior High.

I spoke with the Public Information Office for the School Facilities Board. No such prior approval had been given. Furthermore, this prior written approval had never even been requested. The School District can word it however they would like. They broke the law.

So, what’s the punishment for breaking this law? In all actuality, probably not much. Nothing right away at least. The long-term implications could be enormous. The potential impact could be zero future funding dollars from the State for the next Junior High School building.

Who here can say that Gilbert will never, ever, expand, again. Forever is a long, long time. Gilbert is not built out. Our community still has land that has yet to be developed. We are coming out of a recession that is the worst in 70+ years. We will bounce back. Our community will thrive again.

If the School Board continues with the closure of Gilbert Junior High, the few remaining junior highs will be either “right AT” capacity, or OVER capacity. Out of boundary requests may need to be denied. This means lower revenue for the district. Each junior high will not increase their support staff to handle this structure change. Up to 300 additional students. Zero additional Nurses. Zero additional Counselors. Zero additional cafeteria staff. School over-crowding. Less funding as a result of this school closure.

What is your response to the teacher(s) who chose to work in our school system in a Title 1 school? That is a 5-year commitment.

What is the district’s plan for Least Restrictive Environment students?

What are your plans for students with Autism, Emotional Disorders, or Bi-Polar disorders that don’t go along with the changes you want to force on them. Are you going to quit on them also?

This community loves this school. The Gilbert Junior High School community head-count is identified to hold steady for the next 10 years. Gilbert Junior High School has a notable history of passing successful and happy students on to the high school level. This type of environment cannot just be boxed up and moved to a different location. It doesn’t work that way. It’s developed over time. That’s what makes a success story just that.

So, here’s my suggestion. Here’s how we resolve this, to everybody’s satisfaction. The School Board starts a two-pronged project:

1st part – Initiate a bond-measure be added to the next election specifically written to address the needs of Gilbert Classical Academy. This will provide GCA what they need, in a facility designed to meet their requirements, and a location they would be proud of.

2nd part – Start a community out-reach campaign to educate/inform the Gilbert community on why this is important to them. If they understand how this benefits them, and the School District, then they will support this measure.

In closing.. The school board needs to fix this. That’s why you were elected.

– Rescind the current motion due to “not following state law”.

– Re-do the district-wide boundaries in accordance with the strategic plan.

 -Promote the bond-measure for GCA expansion.

If you did your job correctly, then this Transition Committee would never have been needed in the first place. Thank You.

From Westie: Thank you, Mickey Andrie.

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