Gilbert Public Schools Refuses to Comply with Open Meeting Laws

Christina KishimotoSince the new Gilbert Public Schools governing board was seated in January 2017, there’s been a lot of activity wherein superintendent Christina Kishimoto finds herself being questioned. She does not like being questioned. She likes it best when people, including the GPS governing board, do what she tells them to do. Christina Kishimoto has not been questioned about her activities for the past two years, so how dare anyone change the status quo? 

Having the governing board question things, like the issues being brought to them for a decision, is a good thing. It would have been so much better if the public were able to see and hear the superintendent’s answers to those questions. A lot of the frenetic activity that has taken place in GPS over the past five to six weeks has taken place out of the public eye, though. Excuses proliferate, but it comes down to the fact that Christina Kishimoto’s contempt for the public is at the root of GPS administrative intransigence when it comes to transparency: you’ll get whatever information the superintendent decides to give you, and you’ll like it, by golly!

At the January 2017 board meeting, board members expressed concerns about making decisions when they didn’t have the information they thought they would need to make a carefully considered decision about the mission of the district: educating students. Sheila Rogers, the newly elected board president gave Christina Kishimoto some new marching orders about having a board retreat to discuss specific matters.

It’s obvious that Christina Kishimoto did not like being told what to do, so she set up a *Board Retreat* to brainwash the three new board members about her reformy ideas. This 2017 meeting featured the same guy who taught the same stuff to the board in 2015 for a total cost of about $18,000.00. Don’t worry, taxpayers, apparently the guy charged only $6,000.00 this year to spend a couple of hours going over reformy stuff; we figure his travel costs will be extra and will appear on the vouchers much later. That way, fewer people will connect the dots, you know.

Board President Sheila Rogers apparently won one point: the board retreat was held at Campo Verde High School instead of a hotel. That saved about $2,000 according to the 2015 expenses, but Christina Kishimoto took her revenge by not setting up a Livestream archive of the event that featured not just a quorum, but the entire governing board. Even though the public was not prohibited from attending, the short notice and inconvenient time slot eliminated much potential public oversight of what the board and the superintendent discussed.

Christina Kishimoto did not intend to publish minutes of that meeting, either. The Westies helpfully appeared at the GPS reception desk four days after the board retreat to review the minutes that were required by law to be available three days after the meeting. You know what happened: no minutes. Heh. Slimebucket Suzanne Zenter first said there were no minutes, then she left us standing there (tap, tap, tap the foot) and then she said the minutes would be posted online by close of business that very same day. That was too little, too late.

You would think GPS had learned something about Arizona’s Open Meeting Law after the Attorney General imposed six months of monitoring just last year, but you would be wrong. The entire GPS administration resists complying with the most simple elements of OML, but that’s *business as usual* in GPS. It’s not going to stop until the governing board forces compliance. Looking at how much meeting time the new board has spent in smoke-filled rooms in ways that evade public scrutiny, it’s more of the same.

Go ahead and read the minutes of the February 6, 2017 board retreat; do you think the governing board got their money’s worth ($6,000.00++) of training from this dude Julian Trevino? You can bet they all heartily chowed down on the catered dinner that was served during the board retreat (at taxpayer expense).

We’re stunned, though, that the last item on the agenda wasn’t discussed at all. It would seem to be the most important discussion of the board retreat.  BTW, it looks like someone doesn’t know what “time lapse” means:

Constituent Services and Proactive Community Engagement: How do we serve constituent concerns/issues/problems efficiently and effectively? Due to time lapse item was not discussed

In more of the *you can’t make this stuff up* management practices that the GPS administration seems to have perfected, the governing board had Open Meeting Law training two days later. That was one day before the minutes of the previous board retreat were required by law to be available to the public. Glory be, the governing board had a video camera to record the OML training on February 8, 2017! They actually discussed the board’s responsibilities to comply with OML!

The video does not show the entire meeting … it looks like the camera dude just up and quit recording at exactly 5:00 PM. Never mind that the meeting continued. Even if there were only ten more minutes in the training, cutting off the video is the kind of thing Christina Kishimoto’s staff does to show those governing board members that they can’t be bossed around. Yes, things are that juvenile in the White Castle, the GPS district offices. You can lead a horse to water …

The governing board then held a second board retreat on  February 13, 2017. There’s nothing on the web page for governing board retreats about this meeting. There is an agenda on the BoardDocs page where regular board meeting agendas and minutes are posted. Obviously, Christina Kishimoto and her staff are playing “hide and seek” with the public again. Although there is an agenda in not-the-usual-place, and although there are two agenda items shown, all the public knows (if they found this agenda) is that the board was going to discuss the GPS strategic plan and school design process review. That’s all anyone can know, unless you were checking the GPS daily to see what was added; these folks are very surreptitious. If you happened to look in the usual wrong place, well, too bad, you missed the meeting. It was not archived on video. We haven’t a clue what the GPS Strategic Plan is … the only thing we found online was the old 2014-2017 plan that shows how clueless Kishimoto is when it comes to actually managing this district.

But by golly, now there’s going to be a community forum to discuss the GPS Strategic Plan! Christina Kishimoto’s staff sent out flyers [click the link to see it]. More *you can’t make this up* mismanagement: the date shown on the flyer was “Tuesday, February 22, 2017” with an image of a February calendar with Wednesday, February 22, 2017 prominently circled. More sloppy staff work, the kind that has become the hallmark of GPS administrators. Sheeeeesh.

One final example of Christina Kishimoto’s in-your-face relationship with the governing board: the school design process that was discussed at the board retreat [click the link to see the diagram]. Notice that the governing board isn’t told much of anything about the various school designs that are being devised, again behind closed doors and evading public scrutiny, until Year Two. Otherwise, a school design goes to the board for approval only when it’s going to cost a lot of money. As if there is a school design that IS NOT going to cost a lot of money, sheeeeesh. She’s just gonna ram another atrocity down the governing board’s throat.

Christina Kishimoto’s biggest rant about parents who live in neighborhoods where schools are being *designed* in ways that destroy the neighborhood school is this: “They aren’t part of the school community.” This was her response to parents who bought houses in the boundaries of Gilbert Elementary School, some of whom are not thrilled with the dual-language academy that Kishimoto and her acolytes are trying to ram through for board approval. They don’t want their children to be bused to a far-away school. Those children are now toddlers, but they will be in school in the next few years. Kishimoto thinks their voices don’t matter. Only her voice matters.

GPS was required to make available to the public minutes of the February 13, 2017 board retreat no later than Friday morning, February 17, 2017. Take a wild guess as to whether or not that happened. By the way, the notice on the governing board calendar mentions only the strategic plan. Citizens who checked the calendar would not have known that the board would discuss the school design process.

The entire GPS governing board will meet tomorrow, February 21, 2017, as a *committee of the whole* to review GPS policies; that’s another meeting that’s held in the secrecy of a smoke-filled room, so to speak. Attendees will eat another meal at taxpayer expense, but there will be no video archive and no minutes, if it’s more *business as usual.* What’s alarming is that Christina Kishimoto recently told the board that *their* lawyer said they could approve the first read of policies and changes in those committee meetings. Sure, no business is conducted there … which is the excuse Kishimoto has given for refusing to post minutes or video archives.

See how creative Christina Kishmoto and her minions can be when they set out to defeat the public’s right to know what the school district is doing with all that taxpayer money? Kishimoto and the Evaders would be a good name for a rock band… we’ll tell Dave Barry.

Keyboard: See you on Tuesday, February 22, 2017!
Westie: Unless it’s really Wednesday, February 22, 2017.
Keyboard: It could be Wednesday, March 22, 2017…

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