The Bullets GPS Dodged (Metaphorically Speaking)

Since we said goodbye to all those failed GPS administrators, we should keep in mind that the alertness of three board members prevented bringing new GOBs to GPS. New superintendent Christina Kishimoto wanted proven Good Old Boys from Scottsdale and Higley school districts to step into key positions in her new administration. The GPS Governing Board refused. Whew!

Kishimoto’s relationship with the Hartford board wasn’t any more promising in the beginning than her relationship with the GPS board that rejected her personnel picks. An editorial in the Hartford Courant nailed the “war between Board of Education members and Superintendent Christina Kishimoto” in 2012:

There is no question that her skill set is missing strong communication ability, however. She definitely needs work on informing the board and answering members’ questions. It isn’t a good sign that her office is referring calls from journalists to her attorney. However, in a letter e-mailed Wednesday to Mr. Poland, the superintendent pledged to take steps immediately to improve communications, including advising board members monthly of coming contracts and arranging one-on-one meetings with board members. That’s a start.

Showing that she must not have learned her lesson about communicating with the Hartford district she just left, Kishimoto nominated Dr. Jeffrey Thomas to be Chief Talent Officer and Kevin Hegarty to be Chief Financial Officer. The GPS board was not amused and rejected her proposal for both of those GOBs from outside GPS. Kishimoto must have expected a rubber stamp board. Fortunately, she encountered three board members who stood up to her bone-headed move.

Moving forward, I will work with my board to understand this vote and to ensure that the candidates that I put forward to them next are vetted using a different process,” Kishimoto said. “Ultimately, the board and I need to be comfortable with all senior level appointments.”

My board??? Adding to that telling turn of a phrase, Kishimoto admits she doesn’t understand why the board members voted the way they did. Yeppers, this new superintendent has a long way to go in improving communications. She also has a long way to go in understanding that elected officials are her boss, not the other way around. Being “comfortable” with all senior level appointments? Hey, lady, the board approves your proposals … or not.

Here’s some of the backstory about why Dr. Jeffrey Thomas would never be acceptable to this board:

Smith said she voted against hiring Thomas because he doesn’t have a degree in human resources, which she said could cause legal problems for the district. Smith said she also had “a lot of concerns” about Thomas’ former position from 1996 to 2005 working for the Arizona Education Association, a teachers union.

Sure enough, Dr. Jeffrey Thomas’ LinkedIn profile shows his almost ten year stint in “community organizing” as an employee of the Arizona Education Association. Considering that AEA leadership has been vocal and active in organizing protests and demonstrations against three members of the GPS Governing Board, that was an indescribably stupid move in terms of board-superintendent relations and communications. Gilbert Education Association organized a flash mob and other distractions from educational endeavors, and the board passed a new policy that unleashed Karma on the GEA. So Dr. Kishimoto wants a 10 year veteran of the it’s-not-a-union gang? Tone deaf or worse!

Thomas had recently pulled a sneaky public relations stunt in Scottsdale district where he was a member of the superintendency:

Several top administrative jobs are being eliminated as the Scottsdale Unified School District works toward closing a budget gap of more than $4 million. Fourteen positions will be cut to save a total of $850,000 for 2014-15. In a surprise, Jeff Thomas, the associate superintendent, told the district on April 8 that he would resign in December.

Members of the community called out Thomas’ shell game.  Read the comments at the linked article. If you’re logged in to Facebook, visit Respect Our Scottsdale Students for a perspective untainted by GOBs.

Fourteen Jobs Cut? Nonsense – this is “District Speak” at its most offensive and destructive level.

Jeff Thomas resigned? SUSD officials have no idea how they will ever get along with out him? They won’t have to worry – or try too hard. He gets rehired in today’s Board Meeting in a new job at the District. Read the Agenda for new Contracts issued to Staff. There he is – same guy – new title.

The others supposedly cut? Andi Fourlis? New Title – not gone. Six of the poor victims of the cuts? Don’t worry about them. They didn’t exist. Their positions were vacant when they were supposedly cut.

Under Jeffrey Thomas’s *leadership* in HR, the Scottsdale district had tried to get teachers to give up money that voters demanded they receive or face job losses and pay cuts. Again, the comments are quite revealing about the mentality of the Scottsdale superintendency:

After discovering that it would receive the extra Prop. 301 money, the district decided to ask teachers to vote on the give-back proposal. Jeff Thomas, associate superintendent for the district, said that approval also would have eliminated a proposed 1 percent pay cut.

Kevin Hegarty has a similar track record of GOBness in the Higley School District. Seriously, this dude brought a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Fueling Station to a tiny little school district. Because he could. In fact, they slipped this little gem into the school board consent agenda so it would be kept very, very quiet.  Showing how bone-headed this move really was, Higley doesn’t have any CNG vehicles!  Apparently Kevin Hegarty likes to exploit financial loopholes, such as the $750,000 grant for the CNG fueling station. He led Higley into a *district charter school* loophole that ended up costing Higley $730,000 in charter money.  Result: Higley district took a total budget hit of approximately $2.2 million this year. Sounds like just the kind of Chief Financial Officer for Dr. Kishimoto, right? Sheeeesh.

The GPS Governing Board dodged a bullet or two under the Kishimoto Superintendency already! New Superintendent Kishimoto was paid handsomely for whatever she did on day one of her administration. We hope she answers this question every day for the next three years: “Did I truly earn the money that taxpayers paid me today?”  Also, “Would that money have been better spent directly on student learning?”  Here’s hoping that GPS can get past the old GOB superintendency mantra: “How can we reward our pocketbooks or our buddies with all that free money that’s floating around?”


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