Gilbert Public Schools Don’t Get No Respect

Rodney Dangerfield is the comedian whose phrase “I don’t get no respect” seems to embody the public relations and media outreach of Gilbert Public Schools. Filling the vacuum of genuine communications, others are perceived as speaking for GPS. The results are comedic gold.

For example, take the GPS online physical education classes, PLEASE.

State Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, introduced a bill this session that he said would have addressed various school districts’ concerns about the quality of online classes. There are so many online providers that there isn’t uniformity, he said. He withdrew his bill, saying he needed to study the issue more and meet with interested parties, but he plans to reintroduce a bill next session. Also skeptical of online phys-ed classes is Cheryl Richardson, senior program director for the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. She said she understands the need for online education, but that in phys-ed, children need to be active.

“Don’t get no respect” gets priceless comedic value when GPS defends its online physical education classes:

…Gilbert prides itself on giving students options and that online is one more way of accomplishing that goal. The online phys-ed classes require students to read about, for example, cardiovascular issues, nutrition and weight training.

[Wait for it…] “without online, a lot of kids might be dropping out of school if they didn’t have this opportunity.”

Westie just had to comment at azcentral.com when we saw that zinger.

GPS slid into surrealism with the comment, “without online, a lot of kids might be dropping out of school if they didn’t have this opportunity.” Regarding PHYSICAL EDUCATION! We just have to wonder who thought this up. Then comes the dollar signs, which you always have to consider when dealing with GPS curriculum folks: Who is GPS paying for this online physical education course content and how much? Based on past experience, it’s smart to ask another question: Which employees are trying to burnish their resumes with the taxpayers’ dime THIS time?

Really, though, today’s subject is the dearth of coordinated public relations communications from Gilbert Public Schools. Various citizens have been stepping in to fill the void, including yours truly, Westie Connect. Comments for the budget cuts and 3% teacher raise article that we blogged about earlier included these gems complaining about a viewer’s calculations that GPS has 56% staff to 44% teachers:

Daniele Quinteros: I guess in order to understand your calculations, I would want to see what titles fall under “staff” and how many people have those titles as well as what their responsibilities are in order to understand if the district is really “overstaffed”. [sic] Percentages can be thrown out there without a true audit of what they represent. I think it would be great if the board presented this to the public with a breakdown of exactly what jobs in the district are just too expensive to hold on to and how doing away with those jobs would impact the district financially as well as if there are any negatives in getting rid of those positions. Being financially responsible as a district means giving logic [sic] and valid reasons for cuts. Keep the emotion out of it and present facts and data to the public, or else it will look like a personal head-hunt. [Note to DQ: We know you meant “witch hunt.”]

Westie Connect @ Daniele Quinteros: What a great idea! The devil is in the details, of course, but perhaps with your connections to important people, you can get facts and numbers liberated for public review. It might not be easy. First, the people who have the data you propose auditing are in the administration, not on the board. Second, we hear that some of that same information has been the subject of unsuccessful public records requests. In the past, such data has been withheld as “just too complicated” for people not dwelling within the superintendency to understand. Good luck! On the other hand, what we saw at the board meeting was a big change: FIVE options for the next budget, presented factually and without drama. That’s progress we all can appreciate.

One of the commenters stated, “The district/taxpayers are paying for association/union dues? Why?” The entity known as “Liz Campbell” went over the cliff about that one!

Liz Campbell: Union dues?? UNION DUES?? Not true. I won’t accuse you of lying but please do some homework before you throw something in hopes it will stick. Next you’ll be telling us Dave Allison has five secretaries, drives a school car and principal’s [sic] spend 80% of their time off their campuses. Puh-leeeez, your crazy is showing. [Note: “Liz” was comically misrepresenting one of our posts about GPS principals. Fun!]

Westie Connect @ Liz: Dave Allison’s vehicle sports a district logo, and he receives a monthly allowance for driving his own car. What do you think best describes Allison’s car? With all due respect, the bottom line includes that the district should manage perceptions better.

Liz Campbell: Westie: I see Allisons [sic] truck every time I pass the district office and….nope. no logo on Allison’s vehicle. Allowance? Oh, you must mean mileage. Big difference in both perception and your intention.

One thing about the huge responsibility of operating websites and blogs, it leads us to try very hard to get each and every statement correct. So in the interests of comity we will say that we often have seen a vehicle that sports a district logo parked in what we understand is the superintendent’s parking spot. Also, we understand that the superintendent receives a regular monthly allowance for driving his own car and does not receive mileage reimbursement for his actual travels. Really, it’s so minor it’s not worth a fight. So we segued into the real issue that “Liz” was trying to sideline:

Westie Connect @ “Liz” – What we have here is a dearth of official communications that we both have stepped in to fill. You can’t authoritatively answer on behalf of GPS which of the two “perceptions” is correct and neither can we. Effective organizations consider “rumor control” an essential management function in regard to both internal and external information. It is a fatal flaw that the GPS administration has abdicated that function. Wouldn’t it be much better if the district admins were proactive and actually managed public relations instead of allowing comments in a newspaper or social media to disseminate information? If we have cited an erroneous fact, we would be happy to correct it with authentic information.

You’ll be happy to know this isn’t the end of the story. No, sirreee.  The GPS online physical education classes were picked up as the subject of a valley-favorite radio show, News Talk 550 KFYI, “The Most Trusted News in Phoenix.” Enjoy the show embedded below!

Memo for the new GPS superintendent: Hands-on management of GPS public communications might be a good top-priority initiative immediately upon ascending to the superintendency.  You’d get a lot of bang for that buck!


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