Dubious Awards for Errant Superintendents

It’s almost December, time for the Arizona educator associations to honor their own members with fancy-sounding awards. The selection process for these honors raises eyebrows when school district public relations staffers try to spin these fancy-sounding awards as being based on merit.

Update: We have a winner for the first of these awards! Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Clyde Dangerfield, Esq.  He got TWO Certificates of Achievement for financial reporting at the December 4, 2012 board meeting.

Last year, Denise Birdwell, superintendent of Higley Unified School District, was named the Arizona School Administrators’ All Arizona Superintendent Award winner for large districts.   ASA Executive Director Deb Duvall said Birdwell has put together a “visionary” leadership team, is an “astute” researcher and a “strong” community advocate.

Oh, boy. Here’s the back story about why the association may hae felt the need to come to the aid of a member: Superintendent Denise Birdwell was caught red-handed by an ASU professor for having plagiarized a message to inspire and congratulate Higley School District teachers on National Teachers Day. First, Dr. Denise Birdwell blamed her secretary, then she came up with this lame attempt at an excuse:

“I feel like this is being blown out of proportion,” said Birdwell, adding she is recovering from surgery and was distracted because she had been busy pulling together quotes for a Tuesday night district teacher-awards presentation… “Certainly our intent was to thank our teachers,” Birdwell said. “Mistakes happen.”   David Schildkret, an ASU choral music professor, called Birdwell’s first letter “unethical” and “dishonest.”

It gets better, for those of us who oppose people (like superintendents) who abuse their power over employees:

“So does this mean if a student turns in a paper and is caught plagiarizing, then all the student has to do is say, ‘I’m sorry. I turned in the wrong draft’?” said Schildkret, who has been teaching for more than 30 years.   Schildkret said he was forwarded the letter from a Higley teacher and friend who raised concerns about plagiarism. He said the friend did not want to be named because the person fears retaliation. “My concern is that the behavior is not consistent with a person in her position who ought to be modeling good practices for students and staff,” said Schildkret.

Really makes for confidence in Birdwell’s executive abilities, doesn’t it? How about this tidbit of information from the same article:

Birdwell was nominated by the school board, her cabinet members, including Assistant Principal Steve Nance, and a couple principals, including Debbie Ybarra, principal of Centennial Elementary School.

We’ve heard plenty about Debbie Ybarra, former GPS principal of Ashland Ranch Elementary School:

In March 2004, Ybarra and the Gilbert district were sued by a teacher, Rina Rosado,who claimed Ybarra maliciously sought to wrongfully fire her in spring 2003. The district and Rosado settled through mediation a year later, records at Maricopa County Superior Court show. Ybarra also has been named in a series of complaints voiced to administrators and formally filed by Gilbert parents in the past two years – some which also were filed with the Arizona Department of Education.

She most recently came under scrutiny for prompting an Ashland Ranch Elementary classroom aide to resign in September. Administrators said they have investigated but cannot take action. Allison has told The Gilbert Republic the district can do little about the aide’s complaint that she was forced to leave Ashland Ranch “because she resigned.” “When you resign, you kind of give up your rights as an employee,” he said.

It just makes sense that Debbie Ybarra was immediately hired by the Higley School District and then she nominated the Higley Superintendent for an award, doesn’t it?

We hope the Governing Board alerts on Allison’s stated rationale (above) about employees who resign giving up their rights, and

  1.  How he tried to intimidate Sarah into resigning before she was fired. Sarah maintains she did nothing wrong and that she was the victim of administration retaliation for reporting student bullying, questioning why it was never addressed and opposing racial discrimination against another teacher who resigned.
  2. How he tried to intimidate Glenna before she went to the Office for Civil Rights to protect her students.
  3. How he tried to stop Liz from telling the board about the retaliation and harassment she experienced.

Don’t miss Hayley Ringle’s article discussing lawsuits, notices of claims and a federal complaint made against Gilbert Public Schools alleging retaliation by administrators against other district employees. Superintendent Dave Allison made it necessary for the GPS Governing Board to need a special presentation about retaliation against employees.

We can’t wait to see what award Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Dave Allison gets. Since it’s December, and Allison has already been denied his performance pay by the governing board, failed a referendum on his leadership abilities when the 2012 tax override was voted down by Gilbert taxpayers, Dr. Allison must be about ready to get some really big, fancy-worded award from his peers for being downright awesome.


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