GPS Closing a School: Bass Ackwards Planning, but Let’s Vote!

Gilbert Public Schools is having a work study session for the Governing Board where one of the topics will be a new demographic study — so the board can make a decision on April 26, 2016 about which school to close so that Gilbert Classical Academy can have a new campus. The problem for the board is that the new demographic study says what the other (April 2015) demographic study said: the number of junior high school students in GPS will grow in the next few years. So, OF COURSE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto wants the board to close a junior high school. What could go wrong?

In typical GPS fashion, the new demographic study literally covers up the growth and new construction in the area where one of the junior high schools will close. Yeppers, they stuck a chart over that part of the GPS map so they wouldn’t have to talk about new construction on the west side of the district. Seriously, they did that! The public should not be told that there is new construction at McQueen and Warner, a gated community that’s part of the Islands, directly across McQueen from the new Charter school. There’s another neighborhood by the new fire station on Warner between Cooper and McQueen (southside). The third is a new neighborhood at McQueen and Elliot. There is a 105 unit condo complex going up this year at Baseline and 24 St/Burk just north of Gilbert Junior High School; the location is in Mesa, but within the GPS boundaries. There may be more… but GPS covered up the map because the truth doesn’t support the decision Christina Kishimoto has already made. See slide #12 of the new demographic study.

Here’s the crux of the problem:
The GPS Governing Board is approaching this whole situation with a “Ready – Fire – Aim” methodology. 

The misfires: “continue to seek community input.” What happened is that GPS Top Dog administrators and two board members (not a quorum, see?) met with GCA *stakeholders* to identify all of GCA’s wants, needs and desires for their new campus. As you can imagine, the list of requirements grew exponentially after those secretive meetings; the rest of the GPS community, and the people who pay the taxes that support GPS were not invited. No sirrreeee.

Another misfire: “Governing Board reviews additional information.” Apparently, this was the information gathered from GCA *stakeholders* and any research GPS administrators did. They all strove mightily to keep that information away from the public, and Christina Kishimoto is continuing to limit what information GPS gives out in response to official requests for public records: “No, you can’t see an actual traffic report. We’ll tell the board about traffic problems AFTER they tell us which school to close.”

The message to the public from a PUBLIC SCHOOL district: the people who are desperate to save their neighborhood schools can just suck it. GPS won’t answer questions; they say, “Make a request.” If someone makes a public records request, GPS delays as long as they think they can get away with, or GPS produces information other than what was requested. It’s like musical chairs, except the stakes are very high for citizens trying to preserve their neighborhood schools against Christina Kishimoto’s *reform* agenda.

The GPS Governing Board was supposed to “approve one specific option” at the January 26, 2016 board meeting. Except, Christina Kishimoto didn’t follow Arizona law or even GPS policies, so she asked the board to suspend the GPS regulation and make the decision anyway. Jill Humpherys was all for that: “I’m ready to make a decision,” she proclaimed. Fortunately,  Good Old Charlie Santa Cruz decided not to play the illegal game. Thank you, Charlie! As a result, Christina Kishimoto was forced to follow Arizona law, district policy and district regulations, and boy is she p*ssed!

Notice the very last step: “Governing Board develops policy for facility development and educational specifications for construction.” So no one knows what is required to give GCA a new campus, but the GPS Governing Board will figure all that out AFTER they decide what they’re going to do … which is the vote at the board meeting on April 26, 2016. Before they  make their final decision, Christina Kishimoto is giving them some new information that wasn’t available to the public at the time of the *official* public hearing in March and the *unofficial* public hearing in February. Some board members are just so sick and tired of all these people who are trying to make sense of this situation, they just want to get on with the vote.

Funny thing, the same work study session has a presentation and discussion among board members about the upcoming budget, and there is not a single word or number in there about GCA’s new campus. Nope, the board has no idea what it will cost, other than a couple of round numbers Christina Kishimoto pulled out of her nether regions, so they’re not going to actually PLAN for expenses or budget for them. The attitude seems to be, “We’ll give the GCA snowflakes anything they want. They’re worth it. They told us so.”

Watch and listen to GCA principal Dan Hood tell the GPS Governing Board why GCA simply must have its own campus rather than share, which is the school within a school concept that’s on the list of possibilities. He won’t come out and say that GCA kids should not come into contact with the unwashed hordes of lesser students; no, he says *uniforms* and something about how the GCA snowflakes might be tempted to want something in their lives other than homework:

Notice the setting: this is a work study session. The public can watch, but the public cannot say a word. The public cannot ask questions. This is what will happen again at the April 12, 2016 work study session. Then the GPS Governing Board will vote on April 26, 2016. In other words, “Suck it, public! Just pay your taxes so we can spend more, more and more of your money!”

As for GCA, their principal said they would rather stay put than have to share a campus. Even though the GCA population will be barely 50% of campus capacity. That’s right in line with the GCA graduation rate: somewhere around 50%. Snowflakes. Here’s some of the commentary that Christina Kishimoto doesn’t want the board to hear:

Our kids don’t have homework and don’t have a push to achieve their academic goals? “There’s a peer pressure to achieve… being on another campus where there are other alternatives is kind of a drawback.” Does Mr. Hood truly not see how demeaning he is towards other students and faculty in the district?

The best way to support families and communities is to make sure that the schools that are in the neighborhoods stay open. The numbers do NOT support closing a junior high! The demographic study the board commissioned says that Gilbert and Mesquite Jr Highs will GROW over the next 5 years by 41%. If a school is closed, it is overcrowded immediately. The growth will cause further problems and overcrowding. Please listen to the community. NO SCHOOL SHOULD CLOSE.

And it should be remembered for the future: If this board had let everyone know that GCA was the top priority with this override, I sure as hell wouldn’t have been campaigning and advocating for it. I thought that money would benefit ALL the students and ALL the staff.  Don’t get me wrong, we desperately needed the funding, but the goals weren’t exactly honest, were they?

This year should have been about giving staff raises and keeping teachers working at Gilbert schools and keeping students at Gilbert schools and attracting more students and teachers to our schools instead we could lose more teachers and students because of the 1% want a new campus.

This should have been the year for a morale boost and not two junior highs’ staff members wondering if they will have jobs. They are already cutting special ed positions. I am so disappointed in this school board. I hope they decide to not do anything and start over and do it right.

There should not even be a vote. The “goals” of this board are so backwards they make your head spin! 36,000 students, over 2000 have left in the last two years, boundaries so out of whack no one knows what’s where, board members and administrators too afraid (or pompous) to make real decisions with real research, but this is one of the top goals? Seriously?! A school of 500 kids across 6 grades where less than 50% finish what they started! Good work GPS. Creating excellence. <snark>

You could have had Westie for Superintendent… BTW, GPS Top Dogs: we noticed you have a presentation about the most recent GPS audit, and we are well aware that you’re hiding the actual audit report. We can guess why.

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