GPS Doesn’t Want You to Know Where the Money Went

We wonder why Gilbert Public Schools protects the Loose Zipper Brigade with such intensity. As Karma would have it, some important information fell into our laps during one of our recent visits to GPS to review public records.

The Loose Zipper Brigade presides over an enormous amount of money that comes from Title I and Title II grants. We found the 2011 report for those funds, which were supposed to be used for “improving teacher quality.” When you see how GPS actually spent this money, you’ll be aghast at the incredible expenditures for conferences, travel, hotels and rental cars at exotic locations … for administrator training rather than for the classroom or for teacher improvement, as the purposes of the grants would suggest.

Way back when, former Superintendent Dave Allison told the world that administrative stipends for professional development were being suspended for 2011. It was a tough budget-cutting decision, but Good Old Dave took one for the team and cut administrative stipends, along with other so-called budget cuts that affected paychecks and classrooms for the rank-and-file but not the administrators. [Keyboard, get out of the way of the dripping sarcasm in that sentence!] It looks like the truth was, this did not affect the professional development for administrators in any way, because those monies were taken from grant funding. From what we see, administrative professional development actually increased in 2011.

Gilbert Public Schools spent $348,554 (not including car rental costs) to send approximately 60 administrators to professional development conferences in 2011. That’s  approximately $5,809 per administrator for professional development spending in 2011, just out of Title I and II grant money alone.  To deflect attention, Good Old Dave (GOD?) told the board, GPS employees and the tax-paying public that he had suspended administrators’ annual stipend  in the amount of $800. Is it any wonder that people don’t trust the Good Old Boys and their profligate ways? (Rhetorical question. Don’t answer.)

Let that sink in: GPS paid $5,809 per administrator for “professional development.” These expenditures occurred because the Terrible Trio of E.J. Anderson, Helen Hollands and Lily Tram never turned down a request for ANYTHING for the GPS administrators they so worshipped. [That’s hyperbole, in case you wondered.] These extravagant and covert expenditures were opposed by Staci Burk and Shane Stapley back in 2011. Just think, all that money could have been spent on students. Or teachers. Or classrooms. Or … many things other than farcical “administrator professional development” paid by funds earmarked for “Improving Teacher Quality.”

Smoke and mirrors: By cutting the funding from the administrative stipend, it appeared on paper that GPS was keeping the administrative costs low. In reality, those activities were simply funded out of a different pot of money. This was a *clever* way of reducing the administrative costs that are shown on the Auditor General’s formula and annual reports. However, it actually diverted money from the classroom. It also enriched the select few GPS employees who partied on the public dime in the guise of *conferencing* in places like San Francisco and San Diego, to name a few locales.

With no further ado, let’s look at the numbers. You can read the actual report here

2011 Title II Improving Teacher Quality

Support Services – direct support to students – GPS budgeted $274,809.75 and spent $195,553  for salaries and $54,395.20 employee benefits for those salaries:

* Math coach for K-12 teachers
* Technology Integration Coach for 7-12 teachers
* Extra duty salary paid to “instructional experts within the district” for staff development
* Substitute teachers for K-12 teachers attending professional development
* Extra duty paid to teachers in June 2011 for Write from the Future, Kindergarten Common Core training and Jr. High Springboard training

Purchased Professional Services  $252,757.77  The numbers below add up to much more than that total, but oh well…

* $14,001.06 Training fees for Title I Summer School staff
* $61,516.94  Conference registrations and fees for professional development activities
* $272,000 Conference registration ($142,000) and outside trainer ($130,000) fees related to professional development such as Thinking Maps; Rigor Relevance and Relationships; Safe and Civil Schools; and $28,000 for a license for My Learning Plan.
* $75,000 Professional Learning Communities training
* $18,500 Common Core Planning training

Purchased Property Services: $500.25 Car Rental Wilson Training

Other Purchased Services

* $217,000 – Travel. lodging and per diem costs related to professional development activities for 100 teachers to attend 30 trainings. That’s $2,170 per teacher. Administrators must live a bit larger than teachers, even when they attend conferences, as shown by the fact that each administrator cost GPS $5,809  for 2011 professional development training. Just one more way to disrespect teachers, GPS?

Supplies

* $22,000 for supplies, incentive materials, training materials and professional books for the district professional library
* $11,250 for Write from the Future workbooks for teachers (75@$150)

Here’s where we get to the nitty-gritty that GPS doesn’t want the public to know.

Purchased Professional Services. Here’s the kicker: GPS budgeted $28,782.59, but spent $186,911 for conferences and training FOR ADMINISTRATORS. Looking at how this comes under the umbrella of “professional development,” it’s no wonder Andrew Szczepaniak toots his horn so much! He must be the dude who doles out the moolah  professional development travel benefits to his friends.

* $65,128 for administrator professional development (Title I grant)
* $121,782.59 for administrator professional development (Title II grant)
* $4,940 for Title I Consortium administrative fees (looks like this is pocket change for the dudes running a consortium)
* $24,094 for registration and conference fees for administrators to attend trainings
* $16,094 for registration and conference fees for administrators to attend trainings
* $66,689.96 for registration and conference fees for administrators to attend conferences and trainings
* $45,092.63 PLC training for principals and Title I coordinator
* $10,000 Training for district assessment team
* $25,000 PLC training for administration training in PLCs

Additional costs for ADMINISTRATORS to attend the trainings and conferences listed above: GPS budgeted $30,500 but spent $161,643.

* $403.97 more car rentals
* $37,427.19  travels costs related to principals and program coordinators attending conferences
* $52,402  administrators’ travel, lodging and per diem costs
* $5,659.25 additional travel, lodging and per diem costs in San Francisco

Now we know why GPS principals needed The BreakThrough CoachBS management system (which often meant their secretaries ended up actually running the schools). It was because some of those high-paid GPS administrators were too busy attending conferences with each other to actually do some hands-on management of their schools! If you’re at a school where you actually see your principal regularly, maybe that principal is not in the Loose Zipper Brigade.

Connect the dots: Now we know why Meridian principal Vicki Hester did not meet with parents for several weeks in February-March 2011. Good Old Vicki Hester was so busy attending conferences in far-flung locations, she couldn’t possibly have met with parents of a bully on her home turf! That’s just ancillary damage from the way Gilbert Public Schools spent your tax dollars and calls it “education.” (One of these days, we’ll get around to totaling GPS expenditures on administrators for smart phones and their accompanying monthly data plans, iPads, laptop computers  and other technology toys that are just too darned expensive for GPS classrooms … right?)

Showing that Gilbert Public Schools had plenty of alternatives to “business as usual” in managing those millions of dollars of tax money they receive every year, here’s the report filed by Mesa Public Schools for the same period. Mesa is a bigger district with many more Title I and Title II responsibilities and resources. We’re struck by the fact that Mesa appeared to bring trainers to Mesa much more often than Mesa sent administrators on pleasure jaunts. In our book, it makes a whole lot of sense to bring trainers to the district, especially when such huge amounts of taxpayer money are spent on travel, lodging, per diem and rental cars by GPS administrators. Mesa’s financial management appears to put the majority of their grant money directly in the classroom through reading coaches, teacher stipends and localized training. What a concept!

There’s a silver lining in this thunder cloud of additional evidence of how the GPS Loose Zipper Brigade partied on the taxpayer’s dime. New board members held feet to the fire to put more money into the classroom for the benefit of students. That’s exactly what happened in 2012 (report is here) and 2013 (report is here).

We all have Staci Burk and Shane Stapley to thank for ending this self-serving abuse of tax money. Thank you for forcing change! There’s so much more to do to put things right for Gilbert Public Schools. We would like to see a little appreciation from members of the GPS administration and less public bashing of Governing Board members by GPS employees. Like that’s going to happen. </end snarky sarcasm> Dr. Jack Keegan will need to realign his halo if he can’t get the GOBs under control.


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