How’s the New Superintendent Doing? Not Very Well.

New GPS Superintendent Christina Kishimoto wrote to board members on May 27, 2014, highlighting key reasons for past failures of overrides for Gilbert Public Schools. We’ll take a look at her list and see what Dr. K has done about the deficiencies she described before taking the helm of GPS.

1. A general perception by some community members that our school finance approach does not prioritize classroom needs;

2. The lack of quality information from the district about what constitutes appropriate centralized services that are in support of schools, i.e. administration, transportation, special education and so forth;

3. The lack of quality reporting by the district around the unmet infrastructure needs of the school system and the long-term impact these will have if these needs are not addressed;

4. The absence of a strong marketing and communications approach by the district where we control our message;

5. The lack of community understanding of the impact of frozen, uncompetitive teacher salaries on our overall district capacity and classroom instruction capacity to meet student needs; and

6. The coordination of a well-organized opposition approach.

As we all know, Christina’s powers of persuasion were ineffectual in trying to convince a board that’s tuned into public discourse that GSP *needs* more money. Christina and her two training wheels  Interim Superintendent Jim Rice and Financial Consultant Jeff Gadd failed to convince the Governing Board that it was the right time to send a third override request to cranky voters who don’t trust the  GPS superintendency to be faithful stewards of the public purse. It looks like GPS leadership is stuck on tricycles for the foreseeable future.

We asked for public records related to a 90-day entry plan that Dr. K referenced in a different document. GPS responded (original in red): “The District has made numerous searches and no documents were located, therefore, the District is not in possession of any document that is responsive to this request.”

Nevertheless, when we arrived at the Great White Temple of Doom to review public records, Dr. K’s 90 day plan was there! Go ahead, see if you can translate all the edu-speak. Our first impression wasn’t very good. Although the document claims to have been submitted to the governing board *by* Christina herself, the text is written in third-person, indicating someone else wrote it.

[Our guess is the highly paid public relations consultant. We’ll share the invoices and checks paid to this consultant/contractor in a future post.]

The author of the document, who apparently didn’t get the memo that it was supposed to be ghost-written, flunked apostrophes. See paragraph 5d on page 6.  The writer apparently doesn’t know her asterisk from a hole in the ground: the asterisk at the end of the document appeared out of nowhere, but we’ll save you the search for meaning. The asterisk refers to text on page 4, paragraphs 5 and 6.  Dr. K doesn’t want  any *unstructured* dialogue with anyone below the level of principal! Exception: Dr. K will “meet with the Teacher Association president” without structure. We’re guessing everyone will wear closed-toe shoes for these meetings. But we digress.

Let’s look at each area of Gilbert Public Schools that Dr. K highlighted as deficient in the letter referenced above:

“General perception that our school finance approach does not prioritize classroom needs.” We’ll grade that as FAIL. Christina’s coronation showed us exactly where her priorities are, and they’re not in the classroom.

“Lack of quality information from the district about what constitutes appropriate centralized services.” We’ll grade that as FAIL, too. Accelerated Reader, one of the favorite educational programs used in elementary classrooms, was cut on her watch.  Dr. K expects PTAs to step up and fund AR if they want it in their schools. There are more administrators making more money while classrooms lack paper and other essential supplies, like soap for restrooms.

“Lack of quality reporting by the district around the unmet infrastructure needs of the school system.” As far as we can see, there is no reporting of much of anything by the district. The *consultants* who updated the website at great expense didn’t understand what was needed, did they? FAIL.

“Absence of a strong marketing and communications approach by the district where we control our message.” Leaving the Community Relations department flailing for so long certainly merits a big fat FAIL. A highly paid and mostly invisible *consultant* counted her money all the way to the bank. “Control of the GPS message” was abdicated long ago. FAIL.

We did notice that someone finally managed to change the Wikipedia article about GPS. It took a long time, didn’t it? Wiki gods don’t like aggressive editing.

“Lack of community understanding of the impact of frozen, uncompetitive teacher salaries.” This is flat-out wrong. Most of the community understands very well that GPS teachers are underpaid. GPS hasn’t been able to convince the community that hiring more, more and more highly paid administrators will set the GPS ship right. The environment in which new hires are paid more than loyal employees is a long-standing embarrassment. Allowing this situation to fester merits one more big fat FAIL. BTW, frozen salaries were a superintendent initiative more than five years ago. The community didn’t have a voice in that. FAIL.

“Coordination of a well-organized opposition.” You betcha! The opposition organized over a period of time in which tone-deaf, bone-headed decisions emanated from rubber-stamp boards and incompetent administrators. Then there was the overall stench of corruption at the top. Add the impression that Good Old Boys were rewarding each other and their pals with public dollars while they partied on the public dime. We’ll grade this SATISFACTORY … because Dr. K’s leadership thus far keeps the opposition organized. It’s not that she is doing a good job at something over which she has no control. Obviously, if Dr. K was doing what needs to be done, the opposition would be fading away and withering on the vine with their services no longer needed.

What in the world was Dr. K doing during the time when she went “on vacation” in Hartford in March 2014 and when she took over GPS at a salary of almost $1,000.00 per day? She dawdled about recruiting  top lieutenants, leaving key positions long unfilled. After her first choice was rejected, Dr. K filled the CFO position with the dude who taught Arizona Good Old Boys how to play GOB financial games with public money, rewarding his superintendents along the way.  Dr. K sure seems to think everything in GPS is hers: her board, her leadership team, her plans that she hasn’t shared with the public.

We don’t see a lot of success from Her Newness. That’s part of a pattern she has practiced to perfection. First Hartford, where the news was negative about her interpersonal relations and communication skills. She got handed her walking papers on a 7-0 vote against renewing her contract.

Kishimoto had not been a K-12 teacher, principal or superintendent. She had little administrative background and had no feel for the politics of the job. What seemed to frustrate board members was what they viewed as a missing sense of urgency on Ms. Kishimoto’s part. Board members said they pushed Ms. Kishimoto for credible plans to improve all schools, to no avail. A section of a ceiling collapsed in a classroom, sending a student and a teaching intern to the hospital with minor injuries. This could have been a lot more serious, and board members feel Ms. Kishimoto has not been as attentive to the condition of the buildings as they’d like.

Her boss was blunt about her performance that led to the 7-0 vote to send Christina packing:

Superintendent Kishimoto is dedicated to educational reform on behalf of Hartford students; however, achievement levels remain unsatisfactory despite the significant amount of resources invested. In response, the Superintendent has stated that improvements in academic achievement will take 20 years. That is unacceptable. Hartford students deserve a leader who strengthens and accelerates the quality of their education at a faster pace.

We shall bestow a new name on Her Newness: 7-0 Kishimoto. From the video below: “Respect is a two-way street.” Remember, you could have had Westie for superintendent.

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