GPS Good Old Boys Give Each Other LOTS of *Gifts* of Taxpayer $$$

Like bloodhounds, we’re hot on the scent of financial shenanigans in Gilbert Public Schools, which includes giving gifts of taxpayer money to individual *vendors* who have the same names as GPS administrators. We found a few more line items in unratified financial reports that appear to be gifts to and from GPS Good Old Boys that are tucked into the budget. As the Griswolds’ Cousin Eddie said, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.”

This subject is more important than ever, seeing as how Her Newness the Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has presided over the defunding the critically-acclaimed Accelerated Reader program and a host of other software programs from Renaissance Learning that were integral to GPS being an A rated district. More, much more on that subject another day. Today, we’re looking at GPS expenditures that appear questionable to reasonable people.

On the same voucher report as the 100+ gifts of $350.00 to GPS administrators, we found a sweet payment of the National Association for Elementary School Principals dues in the name of Robyn Conrad-Hansen in the amount of $225.00. Good Old Robyn also got the $350.00 gift, as shown on the same report. The question a reasonable person would ask is, “Why would GPS pay an individual’s dues to a professional association?” Teachers pay some pretty hefty dues and fees for their own professional memberships, such as the International Reading Association and other professional organizations that do good work.

Teachers don’t make nearly as much money as their Administrators do. Heck, few administrators make as much money as Robyn Conrad-Hansen makes! At present, Good Old Robyn is riding high on the SmartSchoolsPlus gravy train, double-dipping into the Arizona State Retirement System. When last we checked, Good Old Robyn Conrad-Hansen was pulling down $97,180.18 in salary; her SmartSchoolsPlus salary is $77,744.14, or $329.42 per day for 236 days, with the standard 30 days paid time off. Plus ASRS retirement pay! All that for being Principal of Playa del Rey Elementary School, with 633 students. So why is Dr. Robyn Conrad Hansen getting a gift of taxpayer funds to pay for her membership in a professional organization? Oh yeah, she’s the President-Elect of the group.

Here’s another organization that GPS pays for membership: Arizona School Administrators Association. What does this group do? As far as we can tell, they give out awards to each other and send out press releases. Truly. Expect to see Dr. Karen Coleman, principal of Boulder Creek Elementary School lauded soon … she’s the president of the elementary division of ASA this year. Maybe that’s why GPS paid $375.00 for that membership! Wonder why there’s a line item on the same budget report for $295.00 to ASA/AZ School Administrators? Was it the cost of nominating someone for one of the group’s awards? That would be a good question to answer, considering how tight the GPS budget is now. Just ask the support staff, those loyal employees who barely make a living wage, how far $375.00 goes. Or $295.00, for that matter. We also would ask why the National Association of Secondary School Principals received $85.00 from GPS, if someone would ever answer.

Other expenditures that look like *gifts* to individuals (and are not offered to all GPS employees, just a chosen few) include reimbursing favorite employees $350.00 for getting or renewing their social work licenses. We saw that payment for a multiple folks. If you’re really good, or at least well-connected, you can receive that social work license reimbursement PLUS the $350.00 gift that the other GPS administrators received. Right, Bruce Harvey? (Sorry we missed your name on the first gift list.) We also saw a $99.00 renewal for ISTE for “Jennifer.” We figured out it was for an International Society for Technology in Education membership. Is this a case of Gotta Pay to Play?

Why is it that selected employees, especially those who are being paid much more than a teacher’s salary, are given *gifts* of membership in professional organizations and are reimbursed for their professional license expenses? Teachers have to pay out of pocket to get or renew their teaching licenses. Teachers have to pay every time they get a special endorsement or become Highly Qualified, as well. One thing we found that we absolutely won’t criticize is that certain support staff are reimbursed for attaining a Commercial Drivers License at a giant cost of $35.00 each. GPS gets an attaboy award from Westie for that … but we figure it was not done willingly by the GOBs. Yeah, those same GOBs try to make people pay for bus driver training if they leave the district. It seems that other districts figured something out long ago, and they recruit graduates of GPS bus driver training with higher salaries than the GOBs are willing to pay people other than themselves.

Some employees apply for reimbursement of their travel expenses, and they do so according to district policy. We saw lots of reimbursements for minor expenses such as $26.34, $17.80 and $22.51. We’re familiar with IRS tax guidance that says you generally cannot deduct the cost of going from your home to your place of work. Imagine our surprise to see that Good Old Dr. Jim Rice, former interim superintendent, was reimbursed for mileage from his home to work in the amount of $255.30! The top dogs have some really fancy perks that just don’t seem fair or equitable in the big scheme of things, especially for a district that is nickel-and-diming parents, students, teachers and staff to death. Would it surprise you to know that we found *Sandra Udall* received that administrator gift of $350.00 on TWO different voucher reports? Nice!

[Keyboard: For you unbelievers, the voucher numbers are 4218-4226 and 4229-4232. No way a real Internal Auditor would have missed that slick maneuver!]

Hey, lookie here: board member Jill Humpherys appeared on a list for $200.00 to the AZ School Board Association, that organization that GPS formally cut ties with! Good Old Jill also received $15.00 worth of *printed materials* from AZSBA! We might be on to something here … AZSBA is a fancy-dancy sponsor of the Arizona School Administrators Association. Seeing as how AZSBA gets its money from taxpayers via the school districts’ membership payments, why are they turning around and giving another *professional association* some of that money? Surely AZSBA and those other organizations wouldn’t also turn around and give taxpayer money to lobbyists and legislators and folks like that, would they?

[Keyboard: Of course, word on the street is they used to do exactly that, but now it’s illegal. That’s probably as big a deterrent as Arizona Procurement Laws are to GOBs who determine which other GOBs get *gifts* from GPS, wouldn’t you say?]

We’ll close with the $1,209.57 that GPS paid Joe’s Real BBQ for “Luncheon food for back to school” on the 5002-5005 voucher report. Just to keep this all in perspective, GPS GOBs, who have been poor-mouthing to principals, teachers and parents about how desperately they need donations of a ream of paper from each student, spent $22,357.29 with Costco this summer for 8,400 reams of white copy paper [vouchers 4218-4226.]

There’s more, you know. Stay tuned. Chirp, chirp!

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