The New GPS Board Should Call for a Do-Over of Kishimoto’s Contract Renewal

As 2016 winds down, and the current president of the Gilbert Public Schools governing board prepares to decamp after her bid for reelection was decisively defeated by voters, GPS Top Dogs have descended to new depths of depravity. The *Superintendent Evaluation Instrument and Performance Pay Measures and Weights* were approved at the November 22, 2016 board meeting, but the public is not allowed to see this document. Secrecy and the rush to get this done before the new board is seated combined to raise distrust and rancor to new heights, especially considering that Christina Kishimoto’s contract had been suspiciously renewed just months before.

Anything having to do with Christina Kishimoto’s on-the-job performance now is locked away, out of public view. The rubber stamp GPS governing board doesn’t want you to know how much their rogue superintendent collects in annual performance pay, let alone allow the public to glimpse how they decide to give all that money to her. Never mind that there’s a really big chunk of taxpayer money tied to the superintendent’s annual evaluation. The sum is most likely five figures, but taxpayers who provide those funds are kept in the dark. If you have a question, like, “Is this five-figure bonus ON TOP OF Christina Kishimoto’s outrageous annual salary and benefits package?” the answer is, “You can’t handle the truth.” Or something like that.

The new board that will be seated in January 2017 could decide that since there is a GPS policy and exhibit that covers the superintendent’s evaluation in great detail, the top-secret *executive content* evaluation instrument should be declassified for public perusal … because the exhibit to the GPS policy is a public document. That would make a lot of sense, because *executive content* is NOT a category of public records that is protected from disclosure by Arizona public records laws. GPS has cited *executive content* in refusing to provide public records to the public, but it wasn’t lawful then and it isn’t lawful now.

New board members: Heads up, you’re going to have a lot of questions to answer about public records that GPS has been withholding to keep some Top Dog *dastardly deeds* and factual misstatements under wraps. You, too, will be considered intellectually incapable of handling the truth.

GPS Policy CBI allows a lot of secrecy in evaluating the superintendent. It’s really unfair that members of the public have demanded complete personnel files of many GPS employees, including their evaluations, and the district produced them all as public records. The superintendent is treated differently. Her evaluations are secret … probably because her poor evaluations led to being fired from her last job. That Hartford board was full of meanies! Maybe Christina Kishimoto will start crying … again … if she thinks new GPS board members are being big ole meanies when they perform their duties of oversight. Heaven knows, Christina Kishimoto’s rubber stamp board members contorted themselves into pretzels to avoid seeing what was right in front of them, ethically speaking.

Westie to GPS Top Dogs: We dare you to claim that GPS has not provided those personnel files and evaluations as public records to various requestors on numerous occasions. Bring it!

Westie to New GPS Board Members: Of course we’ll share the public records that prove this claim!

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has unclean hands in this travesty … she was not only fully complicit in the back-room maneuvering, she used her power as the top administrative officer in the school district to enrich herself. Self-dealing is forbidden for persons who control public funds. Christina Kishimoto’s role in extending her contract can be explained by hubris:

Hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance. Hubris is often associated with a lack of humility. Sometimes a person’s hubris is also associated with a lack of knowledge.The accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or punishment will follow, similar to the occasional pairing of hubris and nemesis in Greek mythology.
… in his two-volume biography of Adolf Hitler, historian Ian Kershaw uses both ‘hubris’ and ‘nemesis’ as titles. The first volume, Hubris, describes Hitler’s early life and rise to political power.

When have we seen hubris and this exact GPS power play in the past? Just like what happened in June 2016, former GPS superintendent Dave Allison had his contract renewed in a similar smoke-filled-back-room, take-it-or-leave-it demand on October 26, 2010, just before the election in November 2010 that put Staci Burk and Shane Stapley on the GPS Governing Board. It’s no accident that GPS Policy CBI was last revised on November 23, 2010, after Burk and Stapley were elected, but before they took their seats on the board. It’s also worth telling the GPS scalawags that Dave Allison was denied his performance bonus just three days before the board accepted his resignation. Here’s a key fact: student achievement did not factor into the superintendent’s bonus back then. What do you bet that a big factor in all the secrecy about Christina Kishimoto’s standards of evaluation is that she is not held accountable for student achievement? Just pay her and be done with it, right?

That sleazy 2010 contract renewal maneuver for Dave Allison was widely condemned by the public, and most likely influenced the 2010 election. Tram and her 2016 political stunt were equally reviled by taxpayers; it’s apparent that consequences have begun and can be expected to multiply and metastasize. We all know that the contract extension period was incredibly painful for Dave Allison, because his abuses of his public office were disclosed to the public. It was not pretty. From the Arizona Republic:

The Gilbert Public Schools governing board on Thursday unanimously accepted Superintendent Dave Allison’s decision to retire June 30 after a tenure that was rocky at times, marred by criticism of some parents and community activists who claimed poor management and lack of financial transparency.

Contemporaneous commentary from Westie:

Contrary to the wishes of many ill-wishers in the district, the board once again acted correctly, in this case following district policy by reviewing the status of Superintendent Allison’s employment before January 31, 2013:  “The current board met Tuesday night [January 29th] in a 90-minute executive session to discuss Allison’s contract. District policy dictated that they needed to decide whether to renew his contract by the end of January. Tuesday night they postponed the vote until Thursday night [January 31st].”

Let’s look at GPS Policy CBI, which was lauded in 2013 and was intrinsically intertwined with hiring Christina Kishimoto in March 2014: On or before the end of January, the board shall offer a contract for the next school year to the superintendent if the administrative contract is in its last year, unless the board gives notice to the superintendent of the board’s intention not to offer a new administrative contract.

GPS Policy CBI is very helpfully accompanied by an exhibit, CBI-E, which consists of … wait for it … the superintendent’s evaluation form! The title of the evaluation form that is presently online, CBI-E 2015, is unequivocal evidence that Christina Kishimoto and her Rubber Stamp Board must have reviewed this policy within her first year of employment. But there’s more!

In the metadata of the document, the date last modified is June 18, 2016 at 16:12:06 GMT… just before the June 28, 2016 GPS board meeting where Christina Kishimoto’s new three year contract was prematurely approved. We all know that GPS often *disappears* evidence that might get Top Dogs into trouble, so we very helpfully saved an image of the online exhibit with its metadata.

If there is a written evaluation for the superintendent, it is a public record, just like it is for other GPS employees. What do you want to bet that the Rubber Stamp Board NEVER put it in writing to preclude public scrutiny?

What we have right now in GPS is a lame-duck governing board that made critical decisions for those board members who will work with this rogue superintendent for the next three years. What if those decisions were not made lawfully?

The fact that Kishimoto and Tram colluded to renew the superintendent’s contract outside of the explicit provisions of GPS policy gives the new board more than enough reason to call for a do-over. They can do this within the time limit contained within the policy: on or before the end of January. To do that, the new board will have to be proactive about electing a new board president, setting the date of a public meeting and executive session and holding said meeting on or before the end of January. There’s no time to waste.

New board members, you have evidence at your fingertips that the board did not have independent legal advice before voting to give Christina Kishimoto a new contract. The board did not have their own lawyer … actually, the board had no input into the contract itself, because Christina Kishimoto negotiated with herself and told the board to sign what she had come up with! Self-dealing with public money is a subject we’ll be visiting many times in 2017. Pinky promise.

Kishimoto told the board on Monday that she wanted this contract approved on Tuesday night. Christina Kishimoto dictated the terms. Julie Smith tried to table the agenda item so the board could discuss certain terms of the dictated contract, but alas, that failed on a typical 3-2 vote.

Here’s the crux of the collusion between Kishimoto and Tram: the premature three year employment contract guarantees that Christina Kishimoto will be able to cash in on her GPS employment with big bucks from ASRS: “Members can retire with a lifetime benefit as early as age 50 once they have acquired 5 years of service credits.” Note that this illegitimate employment contract puts Christina Kishimoto at exactly the right spot to cash in. This big fat slurpy kiss from outgoing GPS board president Lily Tram will cushion Christina Kishimoto’s retirement for the rest of her life. Without that contract, Christina Kishimoto might have been required to actually do her job to acceptable standards.

It’s really inconvenient for the lame-duck GPS governing board that a board member enshrined this travesty in the public record, documenting that the lawyer that Kishimoto provided to *answer legal questions* was there to tell the board that the contract was a legal contract. The lame-duck board, with Christina Kishimoto’s three rubber stamp votes, was not allowed to discuss the terms of the contract the superintendent and the lawyer put in front of them. They were not allowed to even consider negotiating or even discussing the provisions of the employment contract.

Fortunately, there is a video archive of this entire board meeting, which Westie helpfully archived on a non-GPS server, just in case the Top Dogs once again destroy a video because it proves what actually happened. Watch Julie Smith explain how the board was treated during the executive session before the vote to renew Christina Kishimoto’s contract and the usual 3-2 vote that followed.

Here’s hoping that the newly elected board that will be seated in January 2017 will be more than just a rubber stamp for superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s ridiculous and irresponsible management of a once-stellar, A-rated public school district. New board members will have an opportunity to respond to the community … who threw Lily Tram off the GPS governing board for stunts such as this.


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