More about Jeff Gadd’s History of Failure in Arizona School Districts

Our previous post introduced the new GPS Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Gadd. We ended with his history of failure with the Dysart School District bond issue, which spectacularly crashed and burned. We promised more, and here it is. 

Jeff Gadd had an ugly track record before he was at Dysart: he was assistant superintendent for business services in Isaac School District in 2011, a job in which he gained national attention for bone-headedness.  The Isaac district planned to shutter schools and lay off employees because of money problems. Jeff Gadd rose to the fiscal challenges, it seems, but in a way that should cause GPS parents to cringe in fear for the future and their children.

Jeff Gadd worked to allow Superintendent Carlos Bejarano to retire June 30 and return to his same job – with the same compensation and perks – the next day. The retirement agreement came at a time when the district planned to close Lela Alston Elementary and Carl T. Smith Middle schools, eliminate roughly 75 positions including 20 teachers, and ask remaining employees to take unpaid furlough days because of declining enrollment and less state aid when the new school year started on July 1. Bejarano did not take a reduction in pay; in fact, the district covered health-insurance costs for him and his dependents.

It appears that Jeff Gadd was the proud papa of a double-dip sweet deal for the superintendent:

The district also paid nearly $6,700 to Educational Services Inc., a third-party contractor for whom Bejarano technically would work. Working for a third-party contractor allowed Bejarano to stay on the job yet remain in compliance with a state law requiring ASRS members to wait a year after retiring before returning to work to collect full benefits. “Obviously, his salary and number of years of experience is exceedingly high, so he will have a nice retirement,” Gadd said. “The numbers get fairly large, but superintendents across the state have done this. They all wind up in this ballpark.”

Told you it was a bone-headed, tone-deaf move. This stupidity was akin to SmartSchoolsPlus-style joyriding on the gravy train … on steroids. Jeff Gadd’s tone-deaf public comments were what garnered national attention, including from The New York Times:

“It’s faux retirement,” said Byron Schlomach, an expert on pensions at the Goldwater Institute, a conservative-leaning public policy group, who is critical of the practice. “There have always been people who have come out of retirement to help out, but it’s much more systemic now. People are figuring out, ‘Hey, there’s a way to take advantage of the system.’”  That he will receive the same salary and benefits of about $150,000 a year, along with a pension of about $100,000, has angered many local residents because Mr. Bejarano’s own financial restructuring comes as the struggling school district he oversees is planning to lay off staff members and close two schools.

The district’s financial state is particularly dire now. The school closings are part of an austerity budget plan the district is proposing to prepare for an expected slash in education money from the state. Aggravating the problem is declining enrollment caused by families moving out of Phoenix because of the economic crisis as well as the state’s aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration. The idea that the superintendent will be earning significantly more than before just as employees are being furloughed and laid off and students are reshuffled to more distant schools has infuriated some in the community.

Recall that Jeff Gadd was next seen in Dysart School District, where he failed spectacularly with his mission of winning public confidence and a bond issue.

2014budgetgraphJeff Gadd is just what Gilbert Public Schools needs as the public face of finances at this time. <gag> Jeff Gadd is already talking about a bond issue and tax increases after the election in November 2014. Surely you have noticed that Christina Kishimoto pals around with candidate for school board Jill Humpherys, whose constant lament is that there won’t be an override for GPS on the ballot.  Dr. K’s signal is loud and clear: she needs Jill Humpherys to carry through with her plans for GPS (not that Dr. K has told anyone what those plans are, other than sweeping generalities, but we digress). Here’s the tell: Jill Humpherys and Dr. Kishimoto don’t want you to notice the fact that there’s more money for 2014-2015 than there was last year. Look to the right and you’ll see the number $313,967,843.

There’s more … of course. Christina Kishimoto made all kinds of promises in the meeting on August 26, 2014 that Good Old Jeff Gadd was just a temporary hire and he will step aside when she finds a permanent CFO. Of course, we all want to know why Dr. K hasn’t found her CFO soul mate yet, seeing as how she has known the position would be vacated since the day she was hired. Good Old Clyde Dangerfield announced his retirement a full year in advance, so there was no surprise about this position needing to be filled. It’s a bit strange that Dr. K suddenly abandoned the *consultancy* framework for Jeff Gadd’s employment. Even stranger that there seem to be a bunch of *conditions* associated with his contract (see the video excerpt below).

One would assume that filling the top financial slot in a school district that is in dire financial straits would have been a pressing concern. Alas, it seems that Dr. K had much more pressing concerns, such as her coronation   convocation and all the expenses associated with that extravaganza. We’ll keep trying to figure out the whole event cost, but it’s not easy. For all the touting of “transparency” in financial areas, it’s like pulling teeth to get actual numbers that you can trust.

We have the feeling there’s a lot more to the events of the first two months of Christina Kishimoto’s reign over Gilbert Public Schools than what meets the eye. Keep on chirping, birdies!


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