Gut Check Management – How GPS Became What It Is Today

People ask, why is Gilbert Public Schools enmeshed in so many lawsuits? Simple: GPS has been an organization managed for the benefit of a group of Good Old Boys and their selected progeny. Sometimes, that happens to violate various federal and state laws.

If you had any thought that GPS was managed according to best practices in education, we’ll show you that’s not been true for years. We’ll start with how GPS selects principals. That’s a very coveted promotion, especially when salaries are frozen for years on end. Not so long ago, you had to have many years of experience before being promoted to principal. That’s no longer true in GPS. If you’re a Good Old Boy or their posse, you can become a principal with as little as two years of teaching experience!

It’s important to remember that not all GPS principals are part of the cabal. To the very effective, accomplished and sincere principals that we know in Gilbert Public Schools, we understand your humiliation at being associated with this hiring process and style of management.  “World class,” indeed.

We examined some selection data that GPS provided about how principals were chosen from 1999 to 2013. GPS did not provide data for interviews during the 2006/2007 and 2007/2008 school years. (We’re sure Jason Martin is breathing a sigh of relief.)  The data we reviewed cut off before the end of the 2012-2013 school year, and we know new principals were appointed after the cut off date. So keep that in mind if you’re tempted to question our conclusions.

GPS has made “gut check” an official part of the scoring process for interview teams.  It’s right there on the scoring matrix, “GC.”  After candidates are rated based on points scored, they are rated again based on gut. It is unknown how much GPS’s qualitative “gut check” affects the outcome of the interview process, but we’d say it’s by a lot.  After all, only 30% of successful applicants were the highest scorer in their interview rounds.  So the decisions weren’t made on quantitative data, that’s for sure.

Even stranger, 40% of the successful candidates came from the bottom half of their interview round.  These candidates must have struck the gut’s fancy, because they sure weren’t impressing the analytical brain of the interview team.

An overview of successful applicants for GPS principal positions, 2008/09 through 2012/13, shows most of the successful candidates were male—90% were male and 10% were female. Notably, ONLY ONE of the female candidates from  2008/09-2012/13 was chosen as principal (this held true until just before the end of the school year, as Superintendent Dave Allison had one foot out the door). The lucky person was M.T. The Highland Junior High School interview round was the ONLY one in which the female candidates were not, on average, older than the males.  This is also the ONLY team to choose a female candidate, the 40-year-old M.T.

If you remember, the Highland Junior High School principal position came open in an unusual way. Former Superintendent Dave Allison transferred his pal Brian Yee to Greenfield Junior High School following the scandals about Brian Yee’s sexcapades and the devastating investigation reports that Matthew W. Wright wrote   pulling punches for his pal Dave.   It’s pretty easy to guess that a woman candidate would have been preferred as GPS tried to sweep the whole mess under a carpet. Hey, M.T. — you might want to find out if your pay check is the same as the guys who became principals. Our gut tells us you’re not feeling as much love as the guys, who apparently were allowed to negotiate their salaries at the time of their promotion. Bet the powers that be told you where you fell on “the grid” and that was that. Are we right?

Fact: Interview teams were biased against females, candidates over 40, and especially female candidates over 40.  This is evidenced in many statistics, particularly in the scoring of candidates, but the best evidence comes from the demographics of successful applicants, who were overwhelmingly male and young. That’s just in the way they rate candidates on their interview scoring sheets.  The “gut check” adds a new level of bias based on gastroenterological whimsy.

On average, interviewers scored men scored 11% higher than women.  The Gilbert Elementary interview team was most biased, with men scoring an average of 39% higher than women.  The Towne Meadows/Harris/Islands team was the least biased against women in the scoring process, but they hired no female candidates.  They took the scenic route, but they got to the same place.

The data shows a clear bias for younger principals. This is most clearly shown by the fact that 70% of successful applicants were under 40. It is interesting that, when ALL the data is compared, candidates under 40 enjoy a 3% edge in interview scores, but when it came to actually being hired, the edge was much more significant: 70% of successful candidates were under 40. For all but two years since 2000/2001, the average age of female candidates has been over 40.  The average age of male candidates hovered around 40.  (In the 2003/2004 school year, it was 46.5, and the next school year it was 31.4.  There was a swift “correction” to return to the pattern of interviewing young male candidates.)

Double Whammy: Gender/Age Bias. Among candidates over 40, who are clearly not the favored bunch, there is still an edge given to men.  On average, they scored 10% higher than female candidates over 40.

Gut Check Losers: Women. Women couldn’t get any traction between the years of 2008/09 and 2012/13.  Only one woman was chosen as principal. Women made up 50% of the Top 20 best scoring candidates for that period.  None of the women in that group were selected as principal.  High scoring candidates lost out, overall, to gut check winners. One woman, S.K., is a big gut check loser because she scored better than every single successful candidate, yet she wasn’t chosen. The next highest scoring woman, L.M., scored better than 80% of the successful candidates. As a GPS teacher now, she is presumably making less money than those 8 successful candidates whose scores she beat. L.M. was 55 when she interviewed for the 2012/13 school year.  S.K.is 54.  We think gender/age contributed to their non-selection big time.  After all, the only woman chosen was 40.  S.K. and L.M. are about 35% older than M.T.  They are 42% older than the average age of successful candidates, 37.8.

Assistant Superintendent Jeff Filloon and Assistant Superintendent Shane McCord both served on all or most of the interview teams (Filloon on 5 of 6, McCord on all.)  Both men were principals when they were under 40: at time of interview, Shane McCord was 30 and Jeff Filloon was 37.  The teams they served on filled 8 positions.  Of those, half went to male candidates under 40.

In our next gut check post, we’ll show how these Assistant Superintendents gamed the system to select Mini-Me principals for Gilbert Public Schools. For those of you who asked why Gilbert Public Schools is enmeshed in so many lawsuits, we’ll peel back the layers of the onion. You might be witnessing the birth of class action lawsuits for illegal age and sex discrimination in hiring.


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