Gilbert Public Schools – Manufacturing Bad National Press?

The national media coverage GPS is getting is a disgrace. There are some indications, though, that it’s not accidental or coincidental.

Back story: A parent called a local television station last week to complain about a worksheet sent home for her fourth grade daughter.  The week before, a parent had called a local television station to complain about bullying. Not long ago, GPS made the news when Spectrum Elementary School “misplaced” a five year old boy.

One thing has been consistent: when bad news gets out, GPS clams up. The national coverage this week and reported GPS responses to the media, though, generate more questions than they answer.

A school representative informed TheBlaze over the phone that the assignment was not part of the school curriculum, which the board approves, but was part of an online curriculum that the teacher had used in the past with “great success.” The teacher had utilized all the board-approved materials to teach inferences and, as she is allowed to do, sought additional outside material.

“She downloaded a worksheet, but unfortunately she read the first two scenarios but did not read the last two,” the Playa Del Rey Elementary School representative told us. The assignment has since been removed from the website, she said, but declined to provide the name of the site. “This is not condoned in any way,” she concluded, noting that the school has repeatedly apologized.  “We’d like to be done with it and move on.”

If you’re curious, here’s the worksheet itself and the text of the offending question:

Ruby sat on the bed she shared with her husband holding a hairclip. There was something mysterious and powerful about the cheaply manufactured neon clip that she was fondling in her newly suspicious palms. She didn’t recognize the hairclip. It was too big to be their daughter’s, and Ruby was sure that it wasn’t hers. She hadn’t had friends over in weeks but here was this hairclip, little and green with a few long black hair strands caught in it. Ruby ran her fingers through her own blonde hair. She had just been vacuuming when she noticed this small, bright green object under the bed. Now their life would never be the same. She would wait here until Mike returned home. [From Westie: How do palms become newly suspicious?]

When the inappropriate worksheet controversy erupted, our first concern was for the teacher in this situation. We are acutely aware of How Administrators Manipulate Complaints Against Employees in Gilbert Public Schools. It seems that when there’s smoke billowing with bad news about GPS, there’s usually a fire associated with retaliation against an employee. So, our first thought was that this teacher was set up by the parent who complained.

Then we remembered how some teachers told the board last year that they just don’t have time to create teaching materials for their classrooms; one teacher explicitly demanded ready-to-use classroom materials as she endorsed the SpringBoard curriculum for junior high and high school English classes. In general, conservative parents despise the SpringBoard curriculum and teachers view it as too scripted and artificial. There were some very long-winded discussions about the superintendent’s recommendation that the board adopt the SpringBoard curriculum for GPS that night. The vote was 3-2; EJ Anderson and Staci Burk voted against it. Blake Sacha made a statement about “trusting the experts” as he explained his vote in favor. That vote may have rallied citizens against electing Blake Sacha to a permanent seat on the board (he had been appointed to fill an unexpired term).

Come to think of it, that was the same meeting in which teachers also told board members about retaliation teachers routinely experience. The dog-and-pony show at the board meeting that night was much like the dog-and-pony show a couple of months earlier. The subject then was the New Certified Teacher Evaluation System, in which Playa del Rey principal Dr. Robyn Conrad had been a major player. Remembering how events unfolded at board meetings last year, Westie began to wonder if the manipulation was NOT about the parent complaint about the teacher. Westie also began to wonder if was just a coincidence that the situation occurred at Dr. Robyn Conrad’s elementary school. Then Westie had a blinding flash of the obvious (BFO in Air Force lingo).

“Curriculum” seems to have become a watchword for a segment of the population that’s unhappy with the results of the November 2012 election. We know that opponents of the new board members who self-identify as “conservative” have been speculating about curriculum, as in Mike McClellan’s taunt: “Let’s just see what happens when the new school board majority tries to change things like curriculum.  And be assured, they will.” Westie isn’t sure what the detractors will make that curriculum battle to be about, but it’s looking more and more like they’re determined to get this fight out into the open.

What if this manufactured controversy was directed at the new members of the GPS Governing Board? Perhaps the proponents of Gilbert Education Foundation, Gilbert Education Association, Gilbert Supports Education, Gilbert Still Supports Education, and their ilk just got tired of waiting and decided to provoke a fight they’re itching to have with the conservative members of the governing board.

Perhaps this controversy and bad press over an inappropriate worksheet was intended as an opening salvo against the board in a battle over curriculum. That makes sense, given that senior GPS employees have loudly and publicly mocked conservative board members, who they see as architects of the defeat of the budget override in the November 2012 election. Senior GPS employees were major contributors to the groups that saw their causes and candidates defeated in that election. After the election, people in district leadership positions did nothing to stop public defamation of a teacher and newly elected board members during a board meeting. Senior GPS employees have been posting on the Internet disparaging comments about the failure of the budget override and election of conservative board members, along with gleeful predicitons of doom and gloom for the district. GPS surrogates and sycophants count down the days until they can “right” what they perceive as wrong by un-electing the current president of the governing board.

The SpringBoard curriculum controversy is still alive and well this year in Gilbert Public Schools.

When the [SpringBoard] curriculum was adopted by the school board with a 3-2 vote, it caused a controversy among some parents and teachers, who said the work isn’t challenging enough, doesn’t require enough classic-novel reading and contains propaganda and some material not appropriate at the students’ age level. Some also questioned why GPS teachers weren’t given the chance to write a new curriculum. [Emphasis added.]

Perhaps this worksheet controversy is simply guerilla warfare to inflame public opinion against the board, akin to the sinking of the battleship Maine.*  If this sounds like maybe there’s more to the story … come back later. Westie has some pretty good ideas of how the dots connect.

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* Big Fat Asterisk: One of the Westies was a history major as an undergraduate, so this analogy became irresistable after The Truth In Gilbert taunted Westie about yellow journalism. The Spanish American War was not set off by the 1898 sinking of the Maine in the Havana harbor, but public opinion inflamed by the yellow press of the day led to a diplomatic impasse with Spain, and ultimately to the Spanish American War.

BTW: The Truth In Gilbert Part Two now is available for your perusal on WesternConnections.com.


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