How GPS Scraped the Bottom of the Superintendent Candidate Barrel in 2014

It appears Christina Kishimoto, a legend in her own mind, adopted former president Richard Nixon’s mantra: “It’s not illegal if the superintendent does it.” Perhaps Kishimoto is ignorant of the fact that most Americans rejected Nixon’s claims of an imperial presidency ruled by a despot unaccountable to the law. 

Some of the apologists for Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, a group of *cool kids* that includes board president Tram, say that Kishimoto was hired because no one else would take the job. Westie calls BS on that, as well as on the GPS excuses for not complying with Open Meeting Laws and other behavior that is or should be illegal when public servants engage in it. From contemporary news articles about the 80 or more candidates for GPS superintendent in 2014:

The board heard a brief update on the search for the new superintendent. Burk said the search firm had received 80 applications and had narrowed them down to 10 potential candidates. The board will review the applications and resumes in executive session on Thursday with the search firm. Smith said she wanted to review all 80 applications.

Gilbert Public Schools’ governing board is interviewing three more semi-finalists for district superintendent in addition to the five it already has interviewed.

See how easy it was to disprove the false assertion that Kishimoto was hired because no one else wanted the job? Actually, it appears that Kishimoto was desperate to get a job, any job as a superintendent, because she had been fired in Hartford, Connecticut. But once Kishimoto was settled in Gilbert, Arizona, her old, lawless ways traveled with her. Now, Gilbert taxpayers are footing some unnecessary legal  bills because Christina Kishimoto thinks she is as *imperial* as Richard Nixon thought he was.

Christina Kishimoto’s legal problems in Gilbert, Arizona have, for the most part, occurred outside of courtrooms, but taxpayers are paying increasing amounts for “prepaid legal services” to keep the GPS board and administration out of legal trouble. At the most recent GPS board meeting, documents that were provided with agenda items showed that GPS is now paying something like $150,000 per year for those prepaid legal services, which are capped at $300,000.

When Westie started tracking GPS legal bills in the 2011-2012 school year, those prepaid legal services cost *only* about $75,000, up from about $50,000 in previous years. But who’s counting the four teachers who could be hired for that same amount of money? Or the five or more full-time support staffers who could be hired for that same amount of money? Or the many part-time bus drivers, or the cafeteria workers? Notice how that $150,000 is pretty close to the salary paid to the Top Dogs and even their Lap Dogs when bonuses and stipends are added to the pay? Sheeeeesh.

This school board has paid dearly for failing to follow Arizona Open Meeting Laws; the district had to foot the bill for the attorney who provided *monitoring* ordered by the AZ Attorney General. The governing board couldn’t keep their act clean during that monitoring period that started sometime in September 2015 or thereabouts. These new violations *excused* by the Attorney General, apparently without noticing that GPS was operating under a monitoring agreement because of their earlier scofflaw attitude, meant that GPS got away with a slap on the hands. What should enrage the public, especially taxpayers, is that this occurred after paying MORE big bucks to the attorney who persuaded the AG staff to let GPS off one more time. You can bring a horse to water…  Sheeeeesh.

See the Attorney General letter at this link, describing pretzel-like contortions by GPS to avoid yet ANOTHER substantiated Open Meeting Law violation:

(1) An executive session for “discussion or consideration of Superintendent Performance Standards.” The Attorney General reviewed the minutes from the executive session (which are so secret, they’d have to kill you if they told you what they really did in the name of conducting the business of the public). The AG decided the discussion “concerned the Superintendent’s performance as it related to the deliverables.” Sure it did. Note that the Attorney General staffer, Debra Sterling, apparently skirted the issue of whether the minutes that were reviewed were authentic: “appear to corroborate.” Yeah, that was a hot potato; touching it could cause a reasonable person to believe that GPS didn’t change behavior even after OML training and Attorney General monitoring. Knowing what we all know about GPS past practices of forging records, do you believe those GPS minutes of the challenged executive session were authentic? Especially seeing as how the board had recently approved Christina Kishimoto’s performance pay at the May 26, 2015 meeting? Yeah, someone(s) got their ethics contorted into pretzels to get out of this OML violation.

Keyboard: Notice how the governing board won’t tell the public how much money the superintendent receives as performance pay?
Westie: GPS hides how much it actually pays the Top Dogs – probably because what GPS pays is far more than what their contracts provide. What GPS public employees actually are paid has reached new levels of secrecy … starting with Christina Kishimoto herself and the amount of money she actually has been paid by Gilbert taxpayers. Her fringe benefits must be as legendary as the *largess* Sleazy Steve Smith received while he *worked* under her!

(2) Meeting minutes from the November 25, 2015 meeting not available. AZ law required those minutes to be available to the public within three days. GPS finally posted the video recording of he meeting on January 12, 2016. That was 48 days. The Attorney General let GPS off the hook again; the dodge this time: “The delay was caused by a combination of technology issues, personnel issues and the winter break.” Once again, “technology issues” could lead a reasonable citizen to conclude that Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s *alleged* inappropriate relationship with Charles Stevin Smith, the GPS Director of Technology, blinded her to technology failures that were rampant across the district. Once again, we’re struck by how *special* Sleazy Steve Smith’s talents must be, because he sure couldn’t keep the GPS trains running on time (so to speak).

Once upon a time, Dr. Charles Santa Cruz enjoyed a sterling reputation — he earned it through decades of service as a dedicated educator.  Dr. Charles Santa Cruz threw away his reputation one vote at a time, focusing on *optics* rather than doing his duty to the students of Gilbert Public Schools and the citizens that he was supposed to serve. Isn’t it a shame that Charlie is throwing away his good name and reputation as he kowtows before Christina Kishimoto, who never taught a day in her life, doesn’t have an Arizona certificate as a superintendent, and doesn’t give a flying flip  care about the damage she has inflicted on a once stellar school district.

Now Gilbert Public Schools is reaping what Christina Kishimoto’s Three Votes have sowed. Dr. Charles Santa Cruz will never regain the public trust. Or rescue his own reputation. That’s too bad, because the other two legs of Christina Kishimoto’s three legged stool never had reputations to begin with.

We’re looking at you, board president Lily Tram, Director of Finance at Arizona State University, who would never countenance in her day job the kind of lawless behavior she rewards when GPS administrators engage in it. It looks like Tram pulled off a great bait-and-switch:

[Tram is] looking forward to using her financial expertise on the board, especially as budget talks begin. Tram is a senior financial services manager for Arizona State University. She has worked at ASU since 1989 as an accountant, director of fiscal and business services, and financial accounting manager.

[Tram] also said her accounting and budgeting background and her experiences with ASU would be an asset to the Gilbert school board. Blake Sacha, one of the original four finalists, said in his 20 years in the business world, the school district’s selection process “was the least professional process” in which he had been involved.

And we’re looking at you, board clerk Jill Humpherys, who jumps to excuse Christina Kishimoto’s behavior whenever anyone offers the slightest criticism. Oh yeah, we’re also looking at Jill Humpherys’ repeated failures to do her job as clerk and review GPS expenditures. Silly Jilly doesn’t *do* the hard work like numbers, and hasn’t since she found out at college graduation that as a teacher, she would have to actually work. We know because Silly Jilly tells the public such stories with her silly giggles as punctuation. We also know that you have a hard time believing that Silly Jilly graduated from college.

The prices you pay for the company you keep! Your mothers could have warned you, Charles Santa Cruz, Lily Tram and Jill Humpherys. Actually, your mothers probably did just that and you disrespected that advice.

We’ll be looking at you, board members elected in November 2016, because that’s what Westie does.  You could have elected Westie as GPS Superintendent! <sigh>.

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