GPS and the SmartSchoolsPlus Gravy Train

“Get on board!” GPS is inviting selected employees to ride the SmartSchoolsPlus gravy train! They’re using district resources to solicit employees to become “contractors” in their same job by signing on with a favorite vendor, who becomes a middleman in a scheme designed to line some pockets as it bilks public coffers.  As promised, we’ll reveal details about Good Old Boys who heard the siren call and signed on, just keep reading.

Let’s review why this scam set up is bad: First, it bilks the public. Your tax dollars continue to pay people who should have retired and opened up some senior GPS positions in a way that retains lower-paid employees who want to move up in their careers. In other words, GPS pays more for these doddering seniors than GPS would have to pay an employee with less seniority. Yeah, they say it saves money, but that claim doesn’t hold up if you look at real numbers versus what GPS wants you to see (and now that you’ve seen it, just move on, they say). GPS had a long run of creating high level positions and staffing them with GOBS, acolytes and sycophants, but now they’re getting some scrutiny of their top-heavy GOB network. Another tangled web!

Second, this cozy arrangement bilks the Arizona State Retirement System. The “contractors” and their boss, SmartSchoolsPlus, don’t pay into the retirement system. The “contractors” are collecting their pensions at the same time they are paid by SmartSchoolsPlus. GPS doesn’t make any contributions to ASRS for the “contractors,” either. So ASRS loses out, but hey, by the time the pension fund runs dry, the GOBs will have moved on permanently, so let’s let them have their fun while they still can <sarcasm, eye rolls and other signs of disgust>.

Third, this  favorite vendor operates out of a post office box address, uses GPS resources to identify and solicit senior employees who might want to play in their sandbox, and gets a cool $5,000.00 for each “contractor” that stays in the GPS job.  We call that transferring funds from the public till to a private account with little or no benefit to the taxpayer. Hey, that’s pretty much the definition of a grifter! A wise man once said, “You can’t cheat an honest person,” which seems to apply to this GPS shenanigan.

Hey Jeff Filloon: Dude, here we are wondering if you’re getting kickbacks commissions in this SmartSchoolsPlus scam arrangement, and you’ve been all lathered up with your buddy, baby principal Chris Stroud, trying to legislate “ethics” for board members through a new district policy. Have you guys been up to Colorado to partake of newly legal substances? Your decision-making and priorities are seriously incomprehensible, guys. Here, have some munchies.

We have more reasons this is a bad practice, but we know you want to learn details of who is involved and what their take is.  Westie loves to share! In case you missed the back story about SmartSchoolsPlus, here it is. BTW, to get a ticket for the gravy train, you have to be “nominated” or “recommended” — so who do you think gets the golden ticket and who gets told, “Sorry, we’re all full, but we appreciate your service. Thanks for retiring!” Sure the whole scam arrangement is above-board and fair <intense sarcasm>.

Mark Cisterna, who isn’t an assistant superintendent, is riding high on the gravy train with SmartSchoolsPlus. His annual salary was $104,233.00; his SmartSchoolsPlus salary is $83,386.41, or $337.60 per day for 247 days, plus 30 days combined vacation and sick leave.

Robyn Conrad, Principal of Playa del Rey Elementary School, with 633 students, is riding high, too. Robyn’s annual salary was $97,180.18; her SmartSchoolsPlus salary is $77,744.14, or $329.42 per day for 236 days, with the standard 30 days paid time off. Robyn’s got some really sweet deals. First, her school is much smaller than other elementary schools, PLUS she’s a rock star! Yeah, baby, Good Old Robyn is on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). She serves as director and representative for principals in Zone IX, which covers Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Hawaii, Guam, and Samoa.

We can’t help but wonder when Robyn has time for all those travels, except, of course, this is GPS and Robyn barely has a full-time job compared to other elementary school principals, but what the hey, she’s worth it, we’re sure! She got herself one honey of an award to prove it: Dr. Robyn Conrad was the National Distinguished Principal of Arizona for 2010. “The NDP program promotes educational excellence for pre-K-8 schooling and calls attention to the importance of the school principal.” We guess somebody has to call attention to the importance of the principal so we’ll all know how important those folks are, lest we forget in the midst of all the accountability we’re nailing on the teachers these days.  Don’t forget that Good Old Robyn was a big player in devising the “automated” evaluation system GPS is now using to evaluate teachers, along with Good Old Andrew. (“Oh, Ms. Teacher, it’s such a shame you’re 0.023 points from being rated as highly as you used to be, but you know how the evaluation system is now more rigorous…”)

The other principals riding the SmartSchoolsPlus gravy train are Debbie Singleton and Lana Moore. Now, all you dedicated teachers and support staff who have had their pay frozen for the past five years, we know you’re too generous and empathetic to begrudge these GOBs their big pay days while you rub your nickels together to keep food on the table for your family and then you still have to buy things for your job that GPS won’t pay for.  It’s a miracle GPS hasn’t made bus drivers buy their own gas!

All you folks who are serving in the trenches, biding your time until you can move up the GPS food chain into the jobs those SmartSchoolsPlus “contractors” won’t relinquish, we feel your pain. Fortunately, other school districts in the area pay more, and so far, they don’t seem to be as corrupt as our homies. That’s probably because we haven’t put a spotlight on districts like Mesa and Higley, but there’s a chance in the future! In the meantime, as the economy improves, maybe you’ll decide you can’t indulge yourselves in such frivolities as the warm glow of helping a kid learn to read, or having a teenager confide that you inspired them to higher achievement … you know, the intangibles that keep loyal employees’ noses to the grindstone while GPS GOBs destroy what used to be a stellar school district. BTW, “world class” is now a “word for the dumpster.”  The GPS mission and vision statements need revision in this new day and age, don’t you think? Whatever…

At the risk of repeating ourselves (we’re going to do it anyway): If this system isn’t illegal, it ought to be. (Hey there, County Attorney Bill Montgomery; greetings, Attorney General Tom Horne; hi, Auditor General Debra Davenport!)  This whole deal stinks, and it’s one of the reasons voters won’t trust GPS with more tax money.  But you GOBs, yeah, you got yours. Tell us again, “It’s all for the kids.”


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