Who Cut AR (Accelerated Reader)?

Just before school started for the 2014-2015 school year, people learned about some strange new policies and procedures filtered down to “site level” from the Big White Temple of Doom, work home of the new Gilbert Public Schools superintendent and her highly-paid new executive level staff members and consultants. “Site level” means the campuses, the front line of education, where countless employees were working for free to get schools ready for the first day of school, as they do every year.

We’ll detail more of these strange emanations from the Temple of Doom, but today, let’s focus on “Who shot cut AR?  Accelerated Reader is a program that has been used in Gilbert Public Schools for quite some time, and it has worked well. In fact, elementary curriculum has been built around the software programs from Renaissance Learning, the parent company that distributes Accelerated Reader, STAR Reading and STAR Math, to name a few of the valuable programs. In the days just before school started, people found out that AR had been defunded in Gilbert Public Schools.

Here’s what Her Newness, the Superintendent known as Dr. Christina Kishimoto,  had to say on August 5, 2014 (man, this email is viral on the Internet!):

Board Members,

I received an important curriculum question from Julie Smith and I want to be sure that the entire board is aware of my response.  The question was whether schools were cutting funding to the Accelerated Reader program.  My response is as follows:

Accelerated Reader was a centrally funded program. It was cut from the technology budget as part of ZBB – it is a technology-based program. The district paid more than $287,000 each year for the schools to have access to the Star Early Literacy assessment, STAR Reading assessment, STAR Math assessment, Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Math, and Math Facts in a Flash (on some campuses).

Star Early Literacy assessment was kept in the technology budget since it is used district-wide as a data point used to determine which students receive reading interventions K-3.

During 2014-15, Title I funds are going to be used to purchase Star Reading and Star Math for Title I schools only since those schools use it to determine rank order for Title I services. The Arizona Dept of Education approved the use of Title I funds for this purchase. In order to keep supplanting from becoming an issue, schools may not use M&O funds to purchase Star Reading/Math.

My understanding is that the Accelerated Reader program will be purchased by most schools through the help of PTO or donations funds. This raises questions about our core function and mission, i.e. teaching and learning, and our responsibility to fund our curriculum work. I want to be sure that we are never relying on PTOs to fund our core work.  At this time, it looks like we have determined that this is not a part of an all-district curriculum, only an intervention curriculum for Title I supports.

Additionally, a school-based, technology-based curriculum purchase has an impact on centralized technology funds. For example, we need to pay a data-integration fee for schools that want to pay for their own program.

This question today only reinforces for me the need for a multi-year curriculum plan that defines our core curriculum and the projected costs over the next three years.

Please let me know if you have further questions.

It’s pretty obvious that Her Newness doesn’t know much about how AR got cut, so she threw out some educrat vocabulary to confuse the unwashed masses: supplanting! core function and mission! data-integration fee! Notice how Dr. Kishimoto side-steps naming the person responsible for making these cuts. Notice the amount that was cut: $287,000.00. That will be important in connecting the dots.

When Her Newness was asked about defunding AR at the August 12, 2014 board meeting, Jill Humpherys and Lily Tram jumped in to reiterate that the Zero Based Budget was responsible for this outcome. Have some fun watching Her Newness’s facial expressions. You can hear Jill and Lily clamor for the limelight with a claim that THEY knew they were cutting AR when they approved the Zero Based Budget. Scroll down for more about Who Cut AR? after the video.

Regarding ZBB, you can read the summary that Teddy Dumlao briefed to the superintendent and the Governing Board. First, recall that this presentation was yet another GOB specialty of information provided at the last minute, along with a demand that the board approve it NOW or else dire consequences would result. Second, recall that ZBB was enacted by remnants of the Good Old Boys, led by Kool-Aid Jack Keegan, none of whom had any interest in the resulting budget, except that it looks like they sure were having fun leaving ticking time bombs to explode long after they left.

The last content slide itemizes where ZBB cuts were made. In retrospect, we see that the last item was defunding Accelerated Reader, but using a different vocabulary: TS-Office, $2,961,876 total budget, $289,161 cut from the budget, 10% cut, item: Elementary Reading Software & Remediation Software. The overarching question: why?

Technology Services was where Renaissance (aka AR) was funded. This software was removed at level 1. However, according to the FY 15 ZBB Summary results, compiled by Teddy Dumlao and put onto the GPS website, Technology Services was funded at level 6 out of 7 levels. Confusingly, funding at Level 1 states, “Moratorium on new software and services added to technology environment.” Were programs cut or was there just a moratorium on NEW software and services? We shall see that the confusion appears to have been intentional.

As the funding levels increased, the big question has to be: “Why was Renaissance not put back in to be funded?” Here comes the big reveal: at level 6 we “Add Data/IS. Add Network tech. Add A/V Tech.” Bottom line: funding at the classroom level was cut in favor of support positions that increase administrative costs across the board in GPS.

What we see is another big fat middle finger salute from departing GOBs and their pals, something that will be felt next year when admin costs will be shown to have increased significantly. The GOBs always bragged about low administrative costs, so it looks like they took revenge in a way that makes it appear the Governing Board prioritized administration over funds to the classroom. Slick! <that’s super sarcastic, you know>

Perhaps the Interim Superintendents saw a way to help their buddy, Her Newness. Here’s what it looks like: the board raised administrative costs across the board, but Her Newness will be given that new (high) level of admin costs and she can bring them down in a hurry. Yeppers, her Chief of Staff slot was vaunted as a one-year only slot, so BOOM! she cuts more than $100,000.00 after her first year without batting an eye. Cute trick! <more sarcasm>

Connecting the dots to who was on the Technology Services ZBB committee, we can see how this worked, and motives come into focus.

Administration Reps:
• Jim Pacek
• Brian Yee
• Deb Lynch
Staff Reps:
• Diane Drazinski
• Christina Kimble
• Brenda Heyen
• Rogene Strickland

Hey, lookie here! Cutting AR was pretty easy with this committee! Jim Pacek was the Director of Tech Services who had already been given his walking papers  resigned; he went back to teaching in the cute little manner that Nicole Richardson thought she could pull off (resign and get rehired, then convince the new HR honcho that it was not customary to tell the board about the cushy new salary at which the resignee was rehired). No skin off Jim Pacek’s nose, since he’s a science teacher now. Here’s Brian Yee, convicted criminal who is principal of a junior high school. Sure, he would agree to cut AR, no skin off his nose. Deb Lynch is an almost-new principal of Canyon Rim Elementary School; no skin off her nose since her school (a Title 1 school) would be funded anyway! OMG, the first staff representative is Diane Drazinski, a high school teacher who is president of the Gilbert Education Association. We have no doubt she would “stick it to the board” with great enthusiasm. Christina Kimble is a junior high math teacher. Brenda Heyen works in Human Resources. Rogene Strickland is an admin assistant to a principal.

These are the *experts* who cut AR and added a new employee to Tech Services. Reading the ZBB notebooks is clear as mud, but here’s what they did: they cut AR in the very first go-round, and as they decided what to include in different funding levels, they NEVER reconsidered AR. Here’s a goodie that tells you how their minds worked: SchoolWires and A+ were re-funded at level 4 ($119,968 ) and SmartSchoolsPlus was restored at level 5. (Why was SmartShoolsPlus funded by Technology Services?) If you look closely at the numbers, Renaissance appears to be included in Services and Supplies at Level 7.

Notice how the spreadsheet very conveniently superimposes text to cover the Services and Supplies columns for all but Level 7. Notice how they mess around with Capital & Property, which happens to have almost the same dollar figure as AR in Dr. Kishimoto’s email: $289,161 at Level 7 vs. $287,000. Isn’t that special?

What did Dr. Kishimoto really know about defunding AR? Stay tuned, we’re not through with this!

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