Kishimoto Replies to Public Uproar, but It’s Too Late, Baby, Now It’s Too Late*

Superintendent Christina KishimotoSuperintendent Christina Kishimoto’s death-grip on school design has caused collateral damage in what once was famous as an A-rated district. Who would have thought that Gilbert Public Schools would set out to engineer race and national origin discrimination against Hispanic students on the west side of the district? She has done it before and she’s doing it again. The public sees clearly how Christina Kishimoto’s school design philosophy works: starve the targeted schools you want to reform, then claim victory when you reform that school. 

Citizens have discovered that Christina Kishimoto made a decision that was not hers to make, and now she’s trying to stuff that toothpaste back into the tube. A comment on social media explains the community’s perspective:

The program is already in place, no need to go school wide when there’s been no driving force behind magnetizing schools other than Kishimoto. The program isn’t the problem. The blatant disregard for anyone but herself is the problem. The lying is the problem. The deception is the problem.

From her defensive crouch, Christina Kishimoto tried to build support for her failing initiative. She sent a Staff Brief to all GPS employees on November 16, 2016. Click here or on the image below to open an enlarged copy of Kishimoto’s letter to employees (you may be able to click the enlarged image in the new window to enlarge it further). We’ll continue our comments below the image, giving you time to read the letter.

Click to enlarge

From Kishimoto’s letter: “First, approximately $500,000 of Site Improvement Funds were transitioned from District Office oversight, to school-based oversight. This empowered Principals to make their own decisions about the professional development offerings that they want to provide to their staff.”

The response of Westie’s birdies: “That’s a LOT of catered meals that principals now can give out!” Right on, birdies! Those principals will follow the example of their boss, the superintendent, who gives out catered meals at taxpayer expense at every opportunity. Kishimoto must have made a promise to herself to not buy a single meal when she can pay with GPS funds, not only for herself, but also for her *friends* on the governing board and in her cabinet. Sheeeeeesh.

Finally, Kishimoto’s closing statement is really out of whack: “We will be the district of first choice for parents and students and be the premier public education system of the State of Arizona!” Sure. <eye roll> Girlfriend, GPS USED TO BE the district everyone wanted their kids to enroll in AND the district everyone wanted to work in. That was before you got here. You took a district with moderately declining enrollment and made the decline an across-the-board reality in your first two years, losing thousands more students and hundreds of staff. But we’re intrigued by your hint that your aspirations are now circumscribed to the state of Arizona, not the entire nation, as in the past. Maybe that was just a slip of the tongue caused by *unexpected* election results. IOW, your candidates lost across the board and now your future isn’t quite as bright as you thought it would be.

The rest of this post wrote itself. Once again, Westie shares social media comments made by this newly engaged citizenry reacting to the dual language school design that Christina Kishimoto imposed on Gilbert Elementary School, one of the aforementioned schools with a large Hispanic enrollment. Let’s start with boundary review, a subject that has become critical because it is the basis for the lopsided student enrollment pattern that is now a crisis for GPS:

Here’s part of the reply I got from Christina Kishimoto: “We don’t have “magnet” schools in GPS, but this will be a theme-based school that will continue to serve neighborhood students and continue to allow the current practice already in place to allow any open seats to go to students beyond the neighborhood or even beyond district boundaries. Families who do not want this particular model will continue to have the option to apply for open seats in other schools. There is a current discussion in progress to think about a broader boundary to include multiple schools rather than defining a boundary around a single school. That work is in conversation at the school level and has not yet been proposed to the board.”

Parents spoke at both public forums asking for boundaries to be reviewed and changed. Were told by Charlie Santa Cruz and Lily Tram that boundaries would be done this year. Even Charlie Santa Cruz said after the vote in April, that boundaries would be done. Nope. Every report regarding MJHS/GCA says boundaries need to be addressed to protect MHS and the schools on the west side of the district. Boundaries have been on the strategic plan since 2013. This is not a new concern. The fact that GPS now claims to just now be hearing about boundaries is so frustrating!

Dr. K’s new excuse is that she wants to implement these school designs first. That will push kids who don’t want these programs into other schools. Then she wants to wait for enrollment to “stabilize” before boundaries are addressed.

The community is rightly enraged that GPS, under the *leadership* of Christina Kishimoto, is usurping the duties that Arizona law reserves to the GPS governing board. Westie snarkily warned about this back in January 2016 as Kishimoto unveiled her plan to destroy a junior high school on the western edge of the district and give the campus to Gilbert Classical Academy:

Isn’t it a good thing that GPS has spent thousands of dollars buying new software to help the superintendency decide where the new boundaries will go? Once you start changing the junior high school boundaries to give the entitled personages at Gilbert Classical Academy a new campus, who knows where it will end?

The fondest hope of a newly engaged GPS citizenry is that Christina Kishimoto claims victory and rides off into the sunset sooner rather than later.

This isn’t the first time that something has been implemented without (before) board approval. There’s a long list! Like ALP and SpEd teachers who were told that they didn’t have a job any more BEFORE the board voted on the budget that cut those programs. Like a board member telling me that Chomebooks were a “done deal” a full month before the first board vote to approve their purchase. Like School Councils being formed and members of those committees being asked to sign district-provided bylaws months before the board approved the purpose of those committees (BTW, the bylaws I signed don’t align with what the board ended up approving). Many more examples. This is just how Kishimoto works. Cram something through and ask for board approval later. She needs to be stopped. She’s destroying our schools and we’re losing students and GREAT staff because of her.

The issue here is that the administration hasn’t brought on board the parents whose children aren’t currently in the program. Gilbert El is a community school, and they deserve to have a voice. We have seen backlash kill the best laid plans in this district. I say properly market the existing program. Allow it to grow naturally. But don’t send students and staff to other schools if they are not on board for the program. This been in place for nearly 20 years. Clearly there is a following interested in it.

A person inside Gilbert Elementary School, one whose voice has been silenced by the Top Dogs of the district, sounded an alarm. What’s new is the revelation that the curriculum already has been bought. GPS now has the problem of attracting teachers for this cart-before-the-horse reform:

What is being presented now is not a true dual language program. It is a watering down of the program. Children need to learn to read in their native language. At Gilbert El, we had native Spanish speakers and native English speakers. It can only be called dual language if you have that. Otherwise, it is a Spanish immersion program.

We had some students who could not function in this program for various reasons. So we would move them out into “traditional” classrooms. It was not a program for children who have IEP’s etc. In the early 2000’s, the state of Arizona passed an anti bilingual bill which made it difficult for us to have Spanish speakers in this program.

The biggest difficulty was that once a child left the program, we couldn’t replace them in later grades because they couldn’t all of a sudden be able to learn in Spanish, leaving our 4th- 6th grades groups undersized.

I always appreciated that the District supported this program. But it is not for every child. I believe in it so much but it needs to be a choice and the District needs to support it in that way.

Curriculum has to be purchased in both languages and it is costly. And teachers are hard to find. I absolutely support this as a choice, but not as a mandate. I think it could be marketed and grown by the District, but it should never be the only option.”

Some citizens offer advice to Kishimoto and to the board:

We should be concerned because if you do the research on these “portfolio districts,” they are not overwhelmingly successful. We as a district should not be offering more of the same. We are NOT charters and we should be proud of that. GPS has been so special and so successful because we are neighborhood schools in a town founded on welcoming, safe, connected neighborhoods. We are why most families chose Gilbert. That’s what we need to capitalize on.

You want innovation? Have our graphic design students and social media expert students running our website, managing our social media. Have our kids who want a future in sustainable agriculture or animal medicine partnering with our local farmers and ranchers. Develop 7-day-a-week community school centers; research those. Build exciting programs. Don’t fix something that isn’t broken with already-failed reform strategies.

A former board member offers valuable insight to newly elected board members:

No one on this social media thread is questioning the value of the Gilbert Elementary program. In fact, since its began around 20 years ago, those of us on the GPS school board at that time welcomed it with open arms when it was established by the amazing principal Sheila Shannon Rogers as a fantastic option for kids on the Gilbert El campus and throughout the district. We all celebrated the diverse cultures and opportunities it affords students on that campus, as has every board since that time.

The issues are that the community has had little to no opportunity to give input about expanding the dual language program school wide, and the administration is trying to push it through although there is no data to support the expansion. Matter of fact, although everyone still wants to keep the optional program there, in reality the data from the numbers demonstrate that enrollment in the program has been declining.

It is to be hoped that the current governing board will slow down the process, question whether correct procedures have been followed in this process and take a good look at the facts before blindly following administration recommendations to try to rush it through before the new board is seated.

Coincidentally or not, the same Sheila Shannon Rogers mentioned above was just elected to a seat on the governing board and Lily Tram was dumped.  #SaveOurNeighborhoodSchools

*Big Fat Asterisk: It’s too late, baby, now it’s too late. All hail the fabulous Carole King!

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