A Brave Teacher Writes to the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board

The following letter was written by a very brave person who is a teacher at Gilbert Junior High School as well as a parent of a GJHS student. The teacher’s bravery is especially notable because Gilbert Public Schools has gained notoriety for retaliating against employees who speak to the Governing Board. Gilbert Public Schools also has gained notoriety for retaliating against employees who oppose the dictates of the superintendency or their administrators.

UPDATED WITH RESPONSES FROM BOARD MEMBERS AT BOTTOM OF POST.

We’re telling you right now, Superintendent Dave Allison and subordinates, that we as a community are watching you all, and we will be adamant in our opposition if you take any adverse employment action, or if you harass or retaliate against this teacher and parent. The eyes of every Gilbert Junior High School Tiger are on you.

*************

Dear Board Members,

… I have hesitated to write before now, mostly because it has seemed in the better interest of my job to keep my thoughts to myself. The impending board meeting this Tuesday is weighing heavily on my mind. The new board members are truly getting a trial by fire, so to speak, and I do not envy your position.

I’ve been a teacher for 18 years now, with 14 of them being spent here in Gilbert. I have always been proud of our district, and I still am in many ways. But I have to confess that my trust in this district has been torn to pieces with the events of the last few months. I have been shocked by the horrible way in which the closing of my school has been handled. Naturally, I have a lot at stake as a teacher in a school that may close. But, I also happen to be a parent of a 7th grade student at GJHS and I worry for his future as well. It is a frightening thing to not be able to comfort my son or give him answers when he asks where he will be next year.

My greatest frustration and concern lies in the speed with which Dr. Allison and the board have moved forward with the closing of a school. The Strategic Plan was adopted over the summer, after much time and expense. It is a five-year plan, which should allow a lot of time for careful consideration of all the goals it sets forth. Most of the plan makes sense to me, especially where the district boundaries are concerned. However, I cannot understand why closing any school would be something the district would even write as part of a plan. Closing a school, uprooting children, and admitting defeat should have been the absolute last option considered. That being said, I think it is worth pointing out that the “Strategic Focus 3.D: Repurposing schools to maximize district resources” is mentioned AFTER “Strategic Focus 3.C: Realignment of school boundaries to maximize district resources.” Why, then, is the district wanting to close a school BEFORE the boundaries have been realigned? Why has Dr. Allison pursued this action with such single-minded focus? Why is a school already even close to being shut down only a few months into the Strategic Plan? In my opinion, you have five years to meet your goals. That gives five years to look at other options, such as another vote for funding to build a new school for GCA or realigning the boundaries, or ANY other options that may come to light. Five years is a lot of time. The economy is already changing, other things could present themselves. Why not wait until every last option has been exhausted, and close the school in the 5th year if it is still necessary? Take the time to meet with contractors and other professionals to gather proper data, do a traffic study, explore your choices, and give the parents the simple courtesy of having the district Administration answer their questions and concerns. The Plan also does not specifically state that a junior high must be closed; only evaluated for the possibility. If enough facts were gathered and options were explored, you would surely find yourself able to rationally present the closing of a school without causing community outrage and upheaval.

Unfortunately, Dr. Allison and the former board have proceeded with all due haste to get Gilbert Junior High closed. They have rushed through this process with no regard for the hundreds of lives that are being affected. Even more alarming, they have done so without the benefit of price estimates, statistics, or other data to support the decision. The numbers that have been sparsely provided have been given by Gilbert Classical Academy (with no sources given), which lends one to doubt the accuracy or legitimacy of their data. All of this is much like a surgeon deciding to operate without the benefit of tests or x-rays, and performing the surgery while blindfolded. 

I would ask that the Board take more time to consider its options. Tuesday night, I ask you to vote to rescind the original motion and hold off on asking the School Facilities Board for permission. You have time– years, even. There is no rush. There is no logical need to continue with this mad rush to close Gilbert Junior High. Gilbert Classical has functioned in their current facility for several years, with great success. Surely, they can persevere for another couple of years. GCA may not be delighted with a delay, but surely they are as resilient as they expect our children to be.

Best Regards,
A Parent and Teacher

Of course, there remains a question about whether or not the Governng Board received this missive. We know that Superintendent Dave Allison has intercepted such communications in the past. We also know that the GPS email system is set up so that every email to a board member is copied to Superintendnet Allison, Assistant Superintendent Clyde Dangerfield and the Board’s executive assistant. At present, there is no way to email or write to a board member privately. This is another situation that needs to change.

RESPONSES!  Board members Julie Smith and Daryl Colvin respond below; a telephone call has been arranged with Staci Burk:

Thank you for your e-mail. I enjoy hearing from teachers and encourage you to continue to contact me in the future with any comments. Teacher input is very important in my role.

As a new board member, the last few weeks have been rather intense. Please be assured that I will continue to give thoughtful consideration to all the data when moving forward on my decision about GJHS/GCA.

 Sincerely,
Julie Smith

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Given the past history of teacher retaliation and abuse, I admire your courage in stepping out there to give us feedback that is both helpful and necessary. As you allude to….. being a brand new Board member, having to tackle an issue of this magnitude, AND having to try to rely on information put out by an administration who is very difficult to trust is about as challenging as anything you can imagine. Much of the difficulty comes from the district Admin’s ham-handed handling of the issue which has shredded an already low level of public confidence. To move slowly, thoughtfully, with thorough, competent, and trustworthy research is the only way to get this right.

Warmest regards and thank you again for your selfless courage. I pledge to do my best to protect you and other teachers like you.

Daryl Colvin


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