Charlie Santa Cruz, Double-Dipper Candidate for Gilbert School Board

J. Charles Santa Cruz has been collecting money from Gilbert Public Schools for a long, long time. Now that he has retired a couple of times, he’s rolling in dough, much of it contributed by taxpayers, most of whom don’t earn nearly as much as Charlie collects in retirement. Charlie is campaigning on returning to the old ways in GPS … the good old days when the Good Old Boys controlled the public purse.

Charlie is one of those Good Old Boys who ran GPS for so long. He retired from GPS for a second time in 2012, following five years of double-dipping into the ASRS pension system:

Santa Cruz first retired six years ago when he started working for Smart Schools Plus, a phased retirement plan, and contracted to continue working in the district. He was then hired on this past year through a regular contract, he said.

When Charlie Santa Cruz started working in Gilbert, there were only about 10,000 people in the town, which now records about 220,000 residents. That’s right, Charlie Santa Cruz came to GPS 31 years ago when the district had five schools. Charlie was an assistant principal at Gilbert High, then principal of Gilbert Junior High for 10 years. He returned to Gilbert High as principal in 1992. Charlie gained national attention for GPS in 2011 when he banned GHS cheerleaders from wearing pink tee shirts in a fund-raising effort:

Gilbert breast-cancer T-shirt dispute splits community. The cheerleaders were told this month by Principal J. Charles Santa Cruz that the “Feel for lumps – save your bumps” slogan on the back of the shirts was inappropriate. The 56 freshmen, junior-varsity and varsity cheerleaders had planned to wear the shirts during home football games in October while collecting money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. About a dozen varsity cheerleaders who are selling the $15 shirts through the saveyourbumps@yahoo.com e-mail have already received orders for 584 shirts. They’ve collected more than $5,600 for breast-cancer research.

Charlie’s political action committee wrote a letter to the editor decrying the decision to not ask the community for an override in 2014 … for a third time in three years. They’re really hoping their scenario of doom and gloom comes true, so Charlie can ride in on his white horse and SAVE Gilbert Public Schools from the community that won’t trust administrators with any additional tax dollars. In spite of GPS being rated and A district, in spite of the fact that the budget has been balanced on the backs of teachers and support staff while administrators (like Charlie) laughed all the way to the bank, these folks want to control the board and the district again:

We will not be able to provide our students with the world class education they deserve. We will not attract, recruit, or retain the best educators and support staff in the business.

These folks supporting Charlie also believe “Mr. Gadd, a consultant, presented the governing board with a viable option to our financial difficulties.” Our loyal viewers know that Jeff Gadd’s track record in school finance is not good at all, click here and here. Good Old Boys from all across the Valley stick together, it seems. Charlie really, really wants to bring back the good old days when the Good Old Boys were in control. But we digress.

Let’s look at how Charlie has lived his life as a paragon of virtue and at the same time, profited mightily from the former generosity of taxpaying public. We’ve posted many times about how GPS GOBs double-dip, which is really, really bad for everyone in the district (but the double-dippers). The SmartSchoolsPlus gravy train uses district resources to solicit employees to become “contractors” in their same job by signing on with a favorite vendor, who becomes a middleman in a scheme designed to line some pockets as it bilks public coffers. Good Old Clyde Dangerfield once defended GPS employees’ “right” to double dip.

Why is this bad for the district? Smart Schools Plus destroys opportunities for advancement for younger workers. You know, the younger workers who are generally at a lower level on the pay scale (blowing up the “saving money” claim). It puts taxpayer money directly into the pockets of “former educators.” It stagnates employment opportunities within a community. It creates dissention between those who are milking the system and those who are paying for it. It sheds an unflattering light on the top level administrators who are personally profiting at the same time they are claiming that schools are underfunded. What it mostly does is perpetuate the Good Old Boys club.

Back in 2010, the Arizona Republic did a major expose of pension costs in the state. Here’s what the report said about double-dipping educators:

Retired teachers are returning to classrooms across Maricopa County, some making $100,000 a year by collecting a pension and a paycheck at the same time, while retired administrators are doing the same thing and making more than $200,000. Welcome to what is commonly known as double-dipping, education style. There are more than 900 educators benefiting from the practice, and by law they stop contributing to the retirement-system trust the minute they retire. By law, their employer also stops contributions to the trust on their behalf.

As they continue to work, they are preventing new employees from getting those jobs – employees who, along with their employer, would be contributing to the pension system. That means the burden of keeping the pension system financially healthy is shifted to other teachers and ASRS members, such as local and state government workers, whose contributions to their pension trust continue to go up.

You know it’s bad when the President of the Arizona Education Association condemns this practice:

Andrew Morrill, president of the 31,000-member Arizona Education Association, agrees. “We can’t afford to do this,” Morrill said. “You are putting greater pressure on the retirement system, and it will drive up contributions.”

Before the howls start about how double-dipping saves money for GPS, look at what else Andrew Morrill had to say:

While school districts and the contractors say the districts are saving money because retired teachers are returning for reduced pay, Morrill said it would be less costly to hire a first-year teacher with benefits. And, Morrill said, that first-year teacher would be contributing to the retirement system.

Bottom line: The Arizona Republic found that double-dipping by more than 900 educators in Maricopa County is costing ASRS at least $8.6 million in lost contributions this year (2010).

To bring this subject full-circle, we show below what GPS recently paid to SmartSchoolsPlus and for whom those payments were made. We deduce that these are monthly payments to *the vendor* for these employees, based on the annual contracts we’ve seen for some of the administrators named below. Apparently, this money then gets passed along to the *contract employee.* In addition, SmartSchoolsPlus is paid a set fee of about $5,000.00 annually for each person riding the gravy train.

The GPS policy about “phased retirement” was changed in 2013. See Policy GPR. This will gradually limit SmartSchoolsPlus gravy train riders to one year only in 2017. What could possibly go wrong? When retirees come off SmartSchoolsPlus, they’ll just reapply for the same old jobs … just like Good Old Charlie did.  There’s always a pot of gold awaiting for GOBs in GPS.

Vouchers 4218-4226   SMARTSCHOOLSPLUS INC $53,958.05
DENNIS BUSHONG*1681.77EA $1,681.77
STEVE ERWIN*1681.77EA $1,681.77
BARBARA HARRIS*1681.77EA $1,681.77
DONNA LEMORROCCO*2002.28EA $2,002.28
PAMELA MACK*1702.91EA $1,702.91
KIM STOWERS*1681.77EA $1,681.77
MARK CISTERNA*7989.69EA $7,989.69
REYES GONZALES*2345.81EA $2,345.81
JUDITH KUHLMAN*1681.77EA $1,681.77
LANA MOORE*6934.73EA $6,934.73
LAURA MILLER*2302.33EA $2,302.33
MARCEDES SCHULER*1681.77EA $1,681.77
LAURA SOPELAND*1681.77EA $1,681.77
ROBYN CONRAD*7799.41EA $7,799.41
DEBBIE SINGLETON*6317.22EA $6,317.22
DALE CONWAY*5680.04EA $5,680.04
CHERLY COX*-888.76EA ($888.76)
Vouchers 4229-4232   SMARTSCHOOLSPLUS INC $3,049.81
DENNIS BUSHONG*2706.24EA $2,706.24
PAMELA MACK*343.57EA $343.57

So now you know plenty about Charlie Santa Cruz, candidate for Gilbert School Board. His plans for THIS retirement included,“continue working as an adjunct professor teaching educational leadership with Northern Arizona University. He said he also would be available for educational consulting.”

Wait til we show you what GPS pays their consultants. Coming soon! 


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