Closing Gilbert Junior High School: Amateur Hour Management

The decision to close Gilbert Junior High School was made shamefully, in the eyes of the Westie who is a career administrator.

If you tried to find a recipe for disaster, this decision would be a blue ribbon winner. We’ve had to say it all too often to the Gilbert Public Schools administration: FOLLOW THE LAW! It appears that others echo the sentiment:

Add one more statute not followed:  the district was to get prior authorization from the school facilities board but did not do so. In fact, the district didn’t contact the school facilities board until a letter from a Gilbert Jr community member sent a letter to a couple of other parents with a cc to Hayley Ringle of the Arizona Republic. We assume that Hayley Ringle notified the district as neither of the recipients did, and ironically(?) GPS notified the SFB the very next day.

We also have learned that the data GPS previously submitted to the state Schools Facility Board did not project a declining junior high school population. We won’t bother asking why the GPS administration was so bound and determined to get this done — it’s painfully obvious that Gilbert Classical Academy has the inside track for their needs. The shame of the matter is that most people in the community recognize that GCA needs a new campus. If the GPS administration had asked taxpayers for funding for GCA, and offered transparency in estimating the costs and benefits, we think citizens would have supported the proposal. Many would like to see GCA become an even bigger feather in the GPS cap. But most won’t support harming one part of the community to benefit another. It’s especially repugnant knowing that children of GPS employees have first dibs on getting into GCA, making it a  de facto private academy, so to speak.

There are a lot of people in the community who would like to be part of the solution, but it seems that the GPS administration has divided the community (in their minds at least) into supporters like Gilbert Supports Education and has branded others as “the opposition,” the “rabid fringe” and “whack-jobs.”

In the immortal words of Cool Hand Luke, “What we got here is a failure to communicate.” Surely the people pulling down six-figure salaries can do better than this!!

DOs & DON’Ts for School Closings

DO

> Involve the community in the discussion.
> Discuss the pros and cons of closing a school.
> Conduct an enrollment study of your area so you can present facts about why a school closing makes sense.
> Stay ahead of the message the public receives.
> Remember that every decision has to be about the kids.

DON’T

> Ignore the public. Listen to what people are saying, even though you may not agree.
> Make promises you can’t keep.
> Forget that there is a cost to closing a school building just as there is a cost to keeping one open.
> Allow the media to carry the message without your input.
> Forget to involve the students, faculty, and staff.

See, if you tried to find a recipe for disaster, this decision to close Gilbert Junior High School would be a blue ribbon winner by every measure. At the risk of repeating ourselves in our mantra to GPS: FOLLOW THE LAW! Just like with lying, it’s hard to remember what you said when you’re making things up as you go along.


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