Keeping a Spotlight on Good Old Dave’s Last Month at GPS

computingDon’t be fooled by the latest spell of peace and quiet in the realm of Gilbert Public Schools. Superintendent Dave Allison’s last 30 days carry the potential for more devastation and sordid revelations about key players in the district.

Those would relate to things that GPS has strived to keep in the dark for the past couple of years. GPS was tending a mushroom farm, or so they thought. Here’s what a former board member had to say about those mushrooms:

School board members do have a tough time.  While I’m VERY critical of the various philosophies of certain board members, I did have one thing in common with fellow board members who all suffered as I did… I now call it “The Mushroom Effect.” It goes like this… speaking of how district administration handles school board members…  “They are ‘kept in the dark and fed a bunch of crap.’”  And so it is!

Is it malicious intent on the part of the district?  No, perhaps not all the time.  But I can tell you with undeniable certainty that at certain times, top district officials “circle the wagons to get their story straight” and deliberately seek to mislead board members either by leaving out important facts, or burying them in mountains of info on other matters.

Don’t you just love what sunshine does to bring wrongdoing into the open for all to see? Here’s something we’ve learned: although mushrooms prefer wet, shady environments, much like humans, mushrooms generate vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. So perhaps “mushroom farm” isn’t the best term for describing the GPS environment….it’s really more like in the tropics, where every time you turn on a light, cockroaches scurry for cover. But we digress.

Speaking of sunlight, at the moment, we’re working hard, and we’re grateful for the thousands of documents GPS started releasing in some of the lawsuits that are ongoing against the district. We’ll share when we get the information organized. Little tidbits to tantalize our birdies: yes, we have the super-secret investigation report that the Good Old Boys Club tried to conceal from the board about Brian Yee’s sexcapades.  We also have the anonymous letters that led to the Brian Yee investigation — well, we haven’t counted them all yet, but we will! Would you believe that GPS administrators actually forge documents? We’ll share them. Can you believe, in this day and age, that GPS administrators direct employees to delete emails – apparently believing they’ll disappear forever? Crowd sourcing is a wonderful analysis tool!

Now, on to recent events and reporting about what’s happening in Gilbert Public Schools. At the East Valley Tribune, there was a discussion about another override: Gilbert school board again votes against discussion of budget override vote:

Voters in Gilbert turned down a request to renew a maintenance and operations budget override in November 2012 that gave the district an additional 10 percent in funding, or about $18 million a year. With that vote, the district will have to cut about $6 million from its budget each of the next three school years unless the matter goes before voters again and is passed. There have been several discussions by the Gilbert board over the past few months about the district’s budget and whether or not an override is necessary or could even be approved.

“I do not believe we should place a 10 percent override on the ballot,” Burk said before the vote. “If we were to have a discussion, I think we should have a discussion on a different amount.”

We posted Westie’s opinion and gave some free advice:

Folks who were outvoted on the 2012 tax override are still really, really miffed. Some of the people who suddenly found themselves deemed “minority” are loudly making their views heard at Gilbert Public Schools governing board meetings. Their idea of political theater, though, is strictly amateur in the large scheme of things … as measured by their non-success in such things as elections. A new way of communicating will be necessary for a successful override vote – perhaps by publicizing specific ideas on how those funds would be used. Amorphous sound bites didn’t close the deal in 2012 and won’t close a new deal with the public, and certainly not with taxpayers. This new minority could try to make common cause within the community and mend fences to improve their success rate.

It’s amazing how the folks who are pounding the drum for an override again just don’t understand that while they’re financially secure, many Gilbert citizens are not. Folks, take a look at the Gilbert tax delinquency rate that rose from 3% to 10% in one year – that’s an important indicator of distress in this community. Here’s another reminder for the override crowd: citizens who don’t own property can vote. So if someone has lost their house in the Great Recession, or is just getting started in life and isn’t ready for home ownership, they still can vote against raising taxes, perhaps even taxes that they themselves don’t pay. What a concept!

It’s not just tax overrides in the news, some reports show what other school districts in this big valley are doing to close their budget gaps. The AZ Republic likes what the Scottsdale district did to balance their budget:

In trying to close a $9 million budget gap, Superintendent Peterson  and fellow district administrators had collaborated with the community to brainstorm cost-cutting ideas that prioritized students’ education and teachers’ welfare…An employee had offered to reduce his wage by 50 cents per hour if it would help the district close the gap. Superintendent Peterson was surprised, impressed and ultimately inspired by the gesture. Shortly afterward, he and four other district administrators agreed to reduce their own salaries by 7.5 percent — hardly a token gesture.  That the district was able to close the gap by the end of this school year is remarkable, and indicative of sound and selfless leadership. But as the public meetings went along, SUSD board President Pam Kirby told us, it was heartening to watch the community coalesce around a common cause. “There was a shift from concern” among those attending, she said, “to where they were asking us to help them understand the issues.”

What impressed Westie is that administrators in the Scottsdale school district ponied up 7.5% of their salaries to help close their budget gap. It’s a shame that so many employees, including teachers, lost their jobs in Scottsdale, though. Cave Creek district workers to get raises next school year starting at the bottom of the pay scale:

The classified staff, which includes teachers’ aides, administrative assistants, bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers, will get a 4 percent increase in base pay and one additional paid day off.

While GPS superintendent  Dave Allison collects a large bonus every few months, Mesa superintendent Michael Cowan again declines pay raise to help balance the budget:

For the second year in a row, Mesa Public School’s Superintendent Michael Cowan has declined a pay-raise as well as bonus-pay that would have been based on his achievement of goals set last year by the district-governing board. Cowan said that although the district is not in as difficult a financial position as it has been for the past several years, “things are still tight.”

In addition, Cowan said he has a philosophical reason for not accepting $10,807 in additional performance-based pay that he is eligible for: “I totally support working toward meaningful goals. But to me these things should just be part of what I do.”

There’s an article in the dead-tree edition of the Sunday, June 9, 2013 edition of the Arizona Republic, Valley & State section: “Bias Claims leveled vs. Ariz. school board group” by new reporter Karen Schmidt. (What happened to Luci Scott?) The bias claim comes from Julie Smith, who tells what went on when she attended ASBA training back in December. If we recall correctly, board president Staci Burk also attended the December 2012 ASBA training. We also know that Staci Burk vehemently opposed the ASBA’s effort to get the legislature to pass a new law allowing school boards to censure a member on a majority vote. We blogged about that issue as it occurred.

In closing, we’ll talk about the petition that’s out there to recall GPS board president Staci Burk, and plans to do the same to board members Julie Smith and Daryl Colvin. Isn’t it funny that the folks the recallers deem “the minority” are not setting up a recall of two board members they might not agree with? We hear that the recallers, many of whom appear to be GPS employees and/or GEA members, have figured out that if they succeed in getting sufficient genuine signatures on their petitions, it will cost the district a lot of money — six figures, for sure. Their newest bright idea? “Since we want you three to be recalled, you should just resign and save the cash-strapped district the money it would cost to recall you.” Yeah, right. They haven’t yet reconciled how ridiculous they look, trying to put an override on the same ballot where they’re trying to recall a majority of board members they don’t like. Brilliant!

Okay, off to do some more data-mining, Westie style! Chirp, chirp!

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