Holding Gilbert Public Schools Admins Accountable

We’re having some fun with our 15 minutes of fame being featured on a national education blog that gets serious attention through their intensive research and analysis. Click for the article, Arizona couple hold their local school district and its administrators accountable through a popular website.  Don’t miss it!

The Education Action Group Foundation features some big names in education topics today. One of their ways of obtaining information about school districts is making public records requests for the entity’s checkbook. How smart is that??? We’ll give it a try soon. EAG’s philosophy includes:

Put the needs of students first. What do students need in order to be successful? A quality teacher in every classroom. Up-to-date teaching methods and supplies. “Quality-blind” layoff rules are an insult to effective teachers.

Put the needs of adults second. During contract time, the fight is invariably about pay, benefits and retirement, not “what policies need to change in order to increase student achievement.

What’s not to like? That’s exactly what Gilbert Public Schools needs to remember how to do!  The administration is still playing hide the ball from the board and from the public about all kinds of important decisions that are made each year. Even Good Old Dave told us how he signs stuff he has no clue about, but he trusted his staff to handle things.  For example, it soon will be contract time again, and as far as we know, the same people will be filling the same jobs at the same rate of pay as last year.

There are a few changes: Good Old Barb VeNard up and quit. Since she was on SmartSchoolsPlus in past years, she’s allowed to quit with 30 days notice. Which she did. It looks like Barb is using her 30 days paid time off as a SmartSchoolsPlus “contractor” to fill her notice requirement. So she’s gone in the middle of the school year. Yeah, that’s a feature of the SmartSchoolsPlus gravy train. Good Old Clyde won’t be around after the end of the school year, and that’s something that could yield big dividends for the district, depending on who replaces Clyde. We have one word of warning for anyone expecting anything different if the Good Old Boys shuffle around to fill vacancies: Jeff Filloon. Okay, you caught us, two words. The point is that Jeff studied at the knee of the former Associate Superintendent for Human Resources, Nikki Blanchard, and his tenure has been a clone of hers. [No, Keyboard, studying at someone’s knee is not prurient, it’s just an old saying. No need to call for brain bleach.]

Back to the subject of SmartSchoolsPlus. Birdies have been chirping that we should make it VERY clear that this gravy train is for admins and their acolytes on the support staff, like Mark Cisterna, athletic director, and his administrative assistant and … wait for it … bus drivers!  Clyde’s admin assistant rode the gravy train for a while, as did a bookstore manager and a media specialist, to name just a few. Teachers were kicked off several years ago in a really horrific way. As far as we know, teachers aren’t on this gravy train now. If we’re mistaken, birdies, please let us know.

We’ve been getting calls from folks who want to apply for jobs when Westie is Superintendent! Keep those cards, letters and emails coming. Westie will be scrupulously fair about filling GPS positions.  One thought is to have all admins reapply for their jobs, and accept applications from any and all newcomers. We’ll get the best people, for sure.

We’ll start with Human Resources, where there are now three people in six-figure jobs (or pretty close to it). Just for grins, we looked up the average salaries of HR Directors in Arizona. Lookie here! The folks in GPS are paid WAY MORE than industry average! We’ll need to look at the minimum qualifications and job descriptions for positions in GPS. Why someone who has been a principal is necessary for three slots in Human Resources is a real mystery. Why Information Technology needs a teacher instead of a techie is a bigger mystery. Why a purchasing person is getting paid what could be used for TWO teachers is nuts … unless, well, this is GPS, so it must have to do with whose body was observed with    is buried where.

Contrast that HR situation with highly paid folks doing heaven-knows-what with what teachers are paid:

Arizona teacher salaries vs. total education expenditures
Total Expenditures: $6,908,928,832
Teacher Expenditures: $2,737,536,360
Percent Spent on Teachers: 39 %

Administrators often have less experience and less education than teachers have. It’s time to adjust not only the way GPS pays admins and teachers, but also reset the way GPS regards teachers: teachers are the true professionals who are on the front line of education every day. Admins lose touch quickly, if they ever really had any in-depth classroom experience. Many don’t, and we’re hearing that parents as well as teachers are fed up with that. As well they should be! We need to clean house of those admins who disparage National Board Certification or claim ignorance of how important that is. The very best teachers know exactly what they have done to achieve certification, whether or not they get external approbation from rubes in administration.

There’s no reason GPS can’t attract some great top-level people to run this district, those who don’t have ties to the Good Old Boys who have sullied the GPS reputation.   The Town of Gilbert had a similar situation a few years ago.  Gilbert did a public review, getting some expert help. If the Town of Gilbert can give it a shot, so can GPS. We’re not insisting on perfection. Here’s an example of how the Town of Gilbert advertised for a Public Works Director.

There’s a lot of work to be done to make things right for the kids in our care.  Let’s work together, with Westie as Superintendent!

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UPDATE: Here’s new information about the Town of Gilbert and employee compensation:

Gilbert’s human-resources director now makes about $142,000, for example, which is nearly $45,000 more than she made in June 2012, according to town data. Salaried Gilbert employees who make at least $100,000 a year climbed from about two dozen in 2012 to more than 40 in 2013, data show. That includes three new director-level positions created in a reorganization — Gilbert’s chief digital officer, budget head and intergovernmental lobbyist were promoted to posts that pay about $46,000 more than before.

Administrators, mostly DIRECTORS got the biggest pieces of the pie.


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