Gilbert Public Schools: A Comprehensively Mismanaged School District

A new word was added to the dictionary, and it describes Gilbert Public Schools perfectly. Omnishambles, n. (informal): a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.  Let’s follow some of those “blunders and miscalculations,” noting that those words are relatively nice ways of describing what goes on in GPS.

We posted about a new job in the Purchasing Department that appeared to be created for one person, and one person only. Well, Barbie got her new job. At first, GPS listed the new position on the HR jobs board for only two days. Someone with sharp eyes got the position posted in a more conventional manner, but that didn’t stop the Good Old Boys from going through with their plan. The collateral damage was to the innocent people who applied for the job, some of whom may have even participated in sham “Gut Check” interviews. Sorry, guys.

It looks like the GOBs decided to eliminate the internal auditor position (too scary, might turn up some buried bodies, we guess) and make a gift of taxpayer money to the person for whom the new Lead Buyer position was created. It’s remarkably similar to the way that Good Old Clyde Dangerfield and Good Old Jeff Filloon arranged a promotion for sweet little Crystal without telling the Governing Board back in January 2013. The newly elevated position was delayed for six or seven months, but the GOBs got it through. Yeah, there’s a chance that sweet little Crystal knows where some bodies are buried … and more.

It’s also remarkable that the pay for the Internal Auditor position that was eliminated is just about the same as the “gift” pay awarded to Crystal and Barbie in their new positions. Not very subtle, guys.  Note to “Mr. Jeff Filloon:” sheeesh, your signature element on emails is “Mr. Jeff Filloon”? That’s just weird, buddy.

Let’s pivot to Facebook messages, like this one sent to Assistant Superintendent Shane McCord on July 20, 2013:

 Hi Shane,
As an officially retired educator I put in an app for substitute teaching. I didn’t fill much of it out figuring you would be all the reference I would need.

Business as usual in GPS. Seven days after that message appeared on Shane McCord’s FB page, it was answered by the person who calls for Gilbert Classical Academy substitute teachers. Those GOBs are a tight-knit group! In GPS, it’s who you know, not what you know … wait, what you know might be important if it’s sufficiently dirty, like buried bodies. Or GOB loose zippers. We hear the Cayman Islands are really nice.

The substitute teacher who received such wonderful gifts in terms of her salary, her bonus, performance pay, and other gifts not given to other substitute teachers also appears to have been improperly enriched from the public purseThose bonuses, benefits and extra pay were gifts to RK from GPS superintendents and administrators, and they appear to violate the Arizona Constitution, Article IX, §7, which prohibits the gift or loan of public monies to any individual or corporation. By the way, all you teachers who are stuck on the salary grid where you were five years ago, RK waltzed in at MA/12, Step 10 for pay purposes. Was that another gift that’s not available to the loyal teachers who stayed with GPS during the lean years and are frozen on the grid where they were 5 years ago?

All you teachers who applied to serve on the District Oversight Committee, that came about due to unusual publicity. The solicitation email for those seats at the table usually go to district pets, along with the associated stipends. This time, the solicitation email went out to everyone, we heard. The usual method of soliciting members from among a select few “pets” allows the superintendency to pick and choose which employees are awarded the stipends that go with serving on committees such as the DOC. We’ve been asked several times why the GEA president serves on so many district committees — why do you think?

When we first started this blog, a birdie asked us to look into how some employees were able to pad their paychecks by as much as $10,000 per year. This birdie heard that employees at GPS HQ were given “teacher” positions, which restricted real teachers from having contact with the board members and administrators who sit on committees. Of course, the people who work at GPS HQ are paid more than classroom teachers. Given what we learned about “Gut Check” promotions, the guys who move on up probably have a chance to negotiate their new pay raise; gals probably have been told where they fall on the grid. Recently, birdies have been chirping that former Associate Superintendent Nikki Blanchard was well known for giving her staff bonuses. We call this kind of management “Line of Sight” management. Usually, in that situation, those employees who are associated with the people who have power to hand out gifts receive gifts that are not available to the rest of the district employees. And you thought nepotism was GPS’s most intractable problem! No, no, no!

Reading some of the audit reports of school districts in Arizona, we’re struck by how people ultimately were held accountable (indicted) for wrongdoing. Some of the things we found sound a lot like what has been going on in Gilbert Public Schools. Some are similar to things we reported as whistleblowers; others are similar to things still going on in GPS at the district level and on campuses.

In Red Mesa School District, the top two in the superintendency enriched themselves from public funds (six figure enrichment for each) and then the board joined in to obstruct the investigation! The report is titled, “Theft of Public Monies and Malfeasance by District Officials.”

… from April 2005 to July 2006, almost $360,000 in public monies was embezzled, and an additional $520,000 in other public monies was misused.

… the District’s Governing Board has a fiduciary duty to protect the District and to make decisions that are in the District’s best interest. Instead of upholding that fiduciary duty, the Board’s President and another board member failed to act when they knew of the Superintendent’s and Business Manager’s improper conduct in July 2006 and attempted to conceal all evidence of these administrators’ wrongdoing. A system of internal controls will not succeed when those in a position to oversee those operations are in fact perpetrating unlawful behavior and colluding with one another to conceal their misconduct.

[Keyboard to Westie: That governing board put the douche in fiduciary.]

In Kyrene School District, a principal enriched herself at TWO different schools from the money that was floating around the office. You know, money collected for all kinds things that didn’t materialize.

… from July 2004 through March 2009, Janet Thor violated state laws related to misuse of public monies, theft, and fraudulent schemes and artifices while misusing at least $54,791 of public monies and embezzling at least $33,940. Ms. Thor perpetrated her scheme by diverting gifts, donations, and other payments from local businesses, parent support organizations, and community members into unauthorized bank accounts. Then, Ms. Thor wrote checks payable to herself, withdrew cash, and wrote checks for her personal expenses from the accounts. Additionally, Ms. Thor supplied fraudulent documentation to the District during its investigation. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has taken criminal action against Ms. Thor, resulting in her indictment on felony charges.

According to Arizona Revised Statutes §35-301, “Duties and liabilities of custodian of public monies,” it is a felony to appropriate public monies for personal use or for use by others, or, without legal authority, to deposit public monies in a bank. On two separate occasions, district officials failed to prevent further misuse of district monies. In particular, officials did not adequately follow up when they were notified of an unidentified checking account with a balance of about $1,200. When an investigation was later initiated into another unauthorized bank account, officials did not restrict Ms. Thor’s access to that account once the investigation was begun. Officials failed to conduct any inquiries or otherwise investigate the account, and failed to recognize the risk that Ms. Thor may have used this account fraudulently.

We teach our children that one who has done wrong has a moral duty to own up to such wrong. One of our great national myths is that of George Washington and the cherry tree. Look at these school districts and see how people trusted with not only the public purse, but the very future of our children, failed miserably. For years. No wonder the GOBs are a tight-knit group.

Giving credit where credit is due, GPS might be starting to clean up some of their old messes. Good going on making DL a principal! That was long overdue. You’ve got a few more wrongs to right, GPS. Then MAYBE there won’t be so many distractions from the district’s real job. You know, educating kids. The kids whose educations have been short-changed by all the shenanigans of the GOBs won’t get those years of their lives back, and they’ll be forever harmed because those shenanigans overtook the mission. Shameful.

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