Superintendent Christina Kishimoto Gets Schooled on GPS Policy

The Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board will be meeting tonight, February 23, 2016. The agenda is controversial. Needlessly so. Members of the board and the administration have been flooded with correspondence from parents, students, citizens, dogs and cats.

One letter gave the history of the policy that Superintendent Christina Kishimoto is asking the board to suspend. This is the policy that tells GPS administrators the process that they will use (not “should use,” because it’s an order, not a suggestion) to notify parents of students and residents of the households affected by boundary changes. Boundary changes are an integral element of the statutory process for closing a junior high school and giving the campus to Gilbert Classical Academy. Would it surprise you to learn that GPS admins haven’t been able to figure out how to do these things? We thought not.

The letter is clear and the facts are compelling. The writer’s voice is calm and authoritative. Superintendent Christina Kishimoto should view this as a role model for her own communications with the community.

Dear Governing Board Members,

I am writing to express my concerns about an item on tomorrow night’s agenda. Tomorrow night you will be asked to vote on agenda item 7.04 – suspension of policy JC-R. I am sure Dr. Kishimoto will give you a list of reasons why you should vote to suspend this policy. I would like to give you a list of reason why each and every one of you should vote no.

Revisions to policy JC-R were last approved on March 5, 2013. The reason why the policy was revised was because of the debacle GPS created the last time they tried to close Gilbert Junior High in 2012. There was a lot of debate as to who should be notified of a school closure and when, as I am sure each of you remember. The resulting fracas created a public relations nightmare from which GPS has yet to recover. It was a wise move by the governing board at the time to look at the policy and clearly state the considerations, conditions and guidelines to be used when changing attendance areas. It was also prudent for the district to spell out exactly how notification was to occur and the timeline that was to be followed. Unlike many other votes during that time period, the vote was unanimous. You voted for that policy change, Ms. Tram, Ms. Smith, Ms. Humpherys and Mr. Colvin. [Note: Santa Cruz was not a board member at the time.]

Your policy, the one three of you thought was good enough to vote for back in 2013, states:

Parents of students and residents of the households affected by attendance boundary changes will be notified a minimum of ten (10) days prior to the public meeting. Notice will be given by:

* Written notification addressed to all residents located in the attendance area(s) subject to change.
* Written notification to the parents of affected students.
* Posting of notice on the District website.

Here we are again, just a few years removed from the 2012 Gilbert Junior High closing debacle and the district administration hasn’t learned a thing. Despite shoring up the policy in 2013, despite the superintendent quoting the policy in the January 26, 2016 after the vote to close either GJHS or MJHS and the district still did not provide proper and timely notification to all people your own policy states must be notified. Might I remind you that the Superintendent is supposed to answer to you. Whether willingly or inadvertently, whether her intentions were honest or deceptive, she did not do her job. And now, she is trying to deflect all responsibility on to YOU and ask YOU to suspend the policy that she was not willing to follow.

Now, Dr. Kishimoto might claim that she is just trying to save the district money and that the notification requirements are just too expensive. I have seen correspondence where she claims that “Policy JC-R sets internal procedures that are not financially viable” and “the cost of written notice or paper notice will run us hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Will written notification cost money? It certainly will. Will it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars? No. But, even if it did, your own policy states that you must do it. You cannot just opt out of your own policy because you do not like how much it will cost. The school closure discussion has been going on (at least in public) for a good nine months now. Someone should have read that policy and factored into the discussion about costs the amount GPS would have to pay for notification.

GJHS is quite literally in my back yard. I no longer have children attending GPS, but I will be affected by the closure. I believe closing a general enrollment junior high school in my neighborhood will certainly affect my home’s value and its marketability. The deciding factor for my family when choosing our home was its proximity to the neighborhood schools. Closing GJHS and repurposing it for GCA will affect my safety and the safety of my neighbors. These neighborhood streets were not designed for all of the traffic that will come GCA. It will affect my community, one you promise in Policy JC-R to honor, by closing down a vital piece of this neighborhood and scattering its students to other schools far from their homes. I am affected. I should have been notified. And I wasn’t. Shame on anyone of you that would vote to suspend your policy that was put in place to protect the taxpayers, voters, and community members you are supposed to serve.

We have seen that Superintendent Christina Kishimoto is finally getting around to responding to emails she has received about this new GPS debacle. It’s simply a canned response, of course. But it wasn’t timely.

Good Afternoon
Thank you for your email. The Governing Board is engaged in the difficult decision of determining a permanent location for Gilbert Classical Academy (GCA), while also looking at related impacts to Mesquite Junior High School and Gilbert Junior High School.

Your thoughts and input are important to us. Your comments will be shared with the Governing Board and district leadership.

Thank you
Dr. Christina M. Kishimoto

Westie is running a contest for who waited the longest for a response from the GPS Superintendent. So far, the winner waited 17 days for a response. Someone who received a same day response claims that the GPS Superintendent likes him/her better, but that’s a school yard taunt for another day.  #SAVEGJHS   For your viewing pleasure:

 


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