Gilbert Junior High Shool Voices: “Our Children Matter, Too”

The prior Gilbert Public Schools governing board specifically excluded teachers from the transition committee that was appointed to put lipstick on this pig of a decision to close Gilbert Junior High School and give the campus to Gilbert Classical Academy. We believe that’s a big reason that the former board president was “unelected.”

The parent who sent this letter calls out the GPS administration for refusing to consider any input from teachers, psychologists or counselors who spend every school day with the very students who will be adversely affected by closing Gilbert Junior High School.

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To Dr. Allison and Governing Board –

We sincerely believe our Gilbert Junior High School (GJHS) community has not been listened to or represented. I want to voice the concerns of those people who don’t feel comfortable speaking up. Their voices deserve to be heard. Many include GPS employees across many schools and departments.

I never did hear back from you regarding the email I sent last week. From that email, however, I did hear back from two School Board members and am glad to see those individuals are taking their positions seriously and engaging the community. I am sending you this email in hopes of engaging you about our school district and the impact to our community.

If a School Board member has not taken the time to meet GJHS teachers prior to making this choice, please respond publicly stating why. I’m sure they’d like to know why you want to close their school without the respect of at least meeting with them first. I’m pretty sure they’ve earned it.

During the last School Board meeting I handed the Governing Board a list of 49 questions that were compiled from many GJHS families. My expectation was that the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendents would provide answers to ALL 49 questions to the School Board. The Superintendent has an entire Administration building full of knowledge/experience that should be able to assist in researching/answering each and every question. If a question cannot be answered by this Tuesday, then the response could/should be a date when the answer can be provided (i.e. Traffic Study costs and results, 5-year detailed cost estimate for a GCA take-over of the GJHS location, which would hopefully identify any costly needs not admitted to up front in the first year, cost to rubberize the athletic track so it qualifies for high-school activities, how many “regular” students will be lost or turned away from the District as a direct result of this school closure (with supporting documentation), what the Junior High School capacity percentage number is that triggers the District to consider needing an additional location built, whether the school district boundaries can be re-drawn prior to determining whether a junior high school be closed (and if not, then why not), what research has been done to prepare for the students who will come to our district as a result of the 600 undeveloped acres within the current Greenfield Jr. High boundary area that is zoned for residential housing, plus more questions too long for this email).

By having those answers provided from the Superintendent / Assistant Superintendents to the Board in an open forum, we the people would be able to see the open discussion/dialogue between the School District and the Governing Board. This would ensure the concerns put forth by those parents would be addressed by both the District Superintendent and the Governing Board. This would also ensure the agreed upon answers would be Governing Board reviewed and approved.

The Governing Board should not request any closures from the School Facilities Board (SFB) prior to discovery of due diligence information on whether a closure is even feasible. As soon as the existing Governing Board passes the motion on January 22nd rescinding the earlier motion closing Gilbert Junior High, this new motion also cancels the Transition Committee (and with it the committee’s recommendation). That motion (closing GJHS) and its Transition Committee are one entity (one does not exclude the other).

With the existing school capacities at top-end, closing any Junior High will bump the District Junior High capacity to 105% (from its existing 93%). Is it true (if this closing occurs and students are forced to bus to other schools) that some students could find themselves sitting on a school bus for up to an hour (or more) before they’ll be dropped off each day?

The Strategic Plan document should be considered a live document, meaning it should be used more as a guideline. As new information arises, those guidelines can/should be updated accordingly. This document includes many other things that can be considered. This includes the re-allocation of boundaries due to some Junior Highs being really high in capacity, and some much lower in capacity. This is new information never brought up for discussion before. Why is there no action to resolve that issue? The boundaries need to be correctly re-drawn to properly balance Junior High schools head-counts. We should consider every avenue of improving our District before deciding whether to close the only Title 1 school in our community.

You can imagine our community’s dismay when we found out Gilbert Classical Academy (GCA) has been invited to include answers to the 49 questions as part of their presentation to the School Board touting their accolades this coming Tuesday. The GJHS community should be allowed the same opportunity during the same meeting to present what is important to our GJHS community. Fair is fair. If we are not allowed, then GCA should not be allowed to present (at all) either.

The GJHS parents have stated all along this should never have been made into an us versus them debacle. GJHS parents asked for all affected schools to be included in these discussions. By only allowing GCA and GJHS transition committee participants, it continued as us versus them. By not including requested “highly qualified professionals” (such as Teachers, Psychologists, Counselors), this continued as us versus them. These 49 questions were between GJHS families and the Governing Board & Superintendent Dept. The GPS Administration should have been able to research/answer each and every question without feeling the need to hand it off for GCA assistance. GCA was not a part of this. The GCA principal was not a part of this. GCA should only be a viewing participant in the crowd like GJHS will be this coming Tuesday. This action continues to make it us versus them.

With the District’s choice of allowing GCA to again get involved where it should never have been included, the integrity of the District has been brought into question. As a community member I feel you should be leading this issue, not handing it off (even if only in part) to others who are wanting to grease-the-skids to close GJHS. Your “leading” should mean being front and center to the Governing Board with a Q & A session that can be viewed by the community so we know our concerns are being taken seriously from both sides. As a parent, I would like for the Superintendent to show he also represents GJHS. Dig into the issues, ask tough questions of the Assistant Superintendents. Make them substantiate their claims with factual evidence that there is no other choice to better our school district. Then, communicate that information to the community. Too much factual information is never a bad thing. Not enough factual information, on the other hand, is a very bad thing.

The possibility of closing a school is serious. This is being taken personally by the parents, students, and teachers whose lives will forever be altered by these actions. The District should have involved all schools impacted by this closing from the get-go, held community forums for a Q & A session, went away and researched the questions un-answered from that Q & A, then held another community forum for those effected. By using the information obtained from the District’s initial research, along with the information provided from the Q & A sessions from the community, the District & Governing Board could then make an informed determination if closing a school is the correct choice.

I know this is a lengthy email and I hope it’s read and interpreted as an avenue to foster community involvement and start the knowledge finding that has yet to truly start. Our School District can do a lot of things better, to become stronger, but closing a school at this time is not one of those things. Ask the Governing Board their opinions/suggestions on what else should be done to improve our District.

Governing Board – Again, I ask that you not request any closures from the School Facilities Board (SFB) prior to discovery of due diligence information on whether a closure is even feasible. There is currently zero evidence to substantiate that request.

My children matter also…

Regards,
A Parent

From Westie: This entire project reeks of ineptitude and corruption within the Gilbert Public Schools administration, in our humble opinions. Another parent puts it succinctly:

This is insane! I am so sorry I moved into this screwed up district clearly run by buffoons! My daughter is going to go to FOUR different schools in FOUR years. Regardless of your side in this issue, it shows an utter failure to plan anything past a lunch break. The people of Gilbert deserve more than this. And the school board really is wondering why charter schools are eating into their “business”??

GPS could jack up a two car parade and clearly overspend on it as well.  Idiots.


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