Anonymous Gilbert Public Schools Teacher Warns of Further Turmoil

There’s a birdie out in GPS Land who is chirping the truth to colleagues about what will be happening in Gilbert Public Schools come January 2015. This birdie is a veteran GPS teacher whose poignant warnings point out many things Westie has been trying to bring to light.

This post originally appeared on a Facebook group page that regularly excoriates conservative Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board members, resulting in truly horrible media coverage of the school district. Guess those political neophytes didn’t realize that the bad press will not be going away any time soon. No, you can’t paper over all the accumulated bad press with glossy mailers sent out without a target audience or a compelling message. Everyone knows that word of mouth and Google reign supreme when it comes to reputation and public perception of a school district.

This anonymous teacher is warning that the old *good* board, the incoming liberal board majority and the new (as of 2014) district administration are going to be more of the same old, same old. An out-of-touch administration, layoffs and frozen pay scales for veteran teachers while new hires get paid more, ridiculous class sizes (in the real classrooms, not on the tone-deaf administrators’ pie charts) have devastated morale.

We were especially glad to see the comments on this Facebook post reflected some sobering perceptions of the real culprits. For example:  “Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it has and no one in the ivory tower really cares.” When did anyone believe the populace of the Great White Temple of Doom was out for anyone but themselves and their pocketbooks?

[Keyboard to Westie: The former board members who got themselves unelected and their various pals have been happy dancing that their bought-and-paid-for candidates won in the 2014 election. Guess they all forgot that the former *good* board set the table for the budget morass of the past two years.]

[Westie to Keyboard: This teacher sees clearly what the coming *reform* administration has in mind. We’ll share more about that in our next post.]

With no further ado, here’s the on-target post from an anonymous GPS teacher. Read and heed. 

I am a secondary school teacher who has been with GPS since the early 2000’s. With a new board taking the helm in January, allow me to point out the following:

1. Just this academic year the district, to make up for budget shortfalls, has eliminated 80 teaching positions.* No programs have been eliminated, and, to the best of my knowledge, activity fees have not significantly increased. Many of my colleagues have classroom where students are packed in like sardines. The “average” class size is a misnomer – that number includes smaller special education classes – in reality many secondary classes have 30-35 students per period.

2. Our school board hired a superintendent who was terminated from her last job at one of the highest salaries in the Valley, if not the state. Instead of an inspiring message to a demoralized staff at the beginning of the year, our new superintendent, in her inaugural address, emphasized the need for more data acquisition from the classroom. An inspiring message from an engaged leader? No.

3. We have been informed that teachers will be held accountable for student success or failure. Educational research shows that certified teachers in the classroom can correlate to improved student achievement. But to place the responsibility for student success SOLELY on the teacher? Preposterous.

4. Our salaries have been frozen since 2009. In fact, it was a “good” school board that froze salaries. (In all fairness, this was due to the Great Recession). However, the “good” board and superintendent RIF’d teachers and staff without following school board policy at the time and without consulting with the GEA. When the GEA presented the breach of protocol to the district, the response was “Oops. Sorry. We promise not to do it again.” It is easy to forget that what has happened to district employees began under what many perceive to be better times.

5. Some newly hired teachers are actually getting paid more than veteran teachers. We are told that offering higher salaries to brand new teachers is the only way to get them to come work here. While that may be true, it is demoralizing to those of us who have stayed true and loyal to GPS. Not only is this practice demoralizing and insulting, we are having a difficult time supporting our families on a shrinking income. Yes, shrinking. The increases in health insurance premiums, deductions, and mandatory state retirement contributions have surpassed our small raise this year to the extent that our take-home pay is now less than it was in 2009.

6. The electorate of the district told district employees that they do not value us nor do they believe district administration financial reports by twice failing to pass budget overrides. A member of the school board actively campaigned against the second override.**

So there it is. District employees have tolerated layoffs and frozen salaries for six years, and that our pain started with a “good” board and district administration. Just put yourselves in our place as a district employee for the past 6 years—would YOU stay? Many of my fellow teachers are brushing off their resumes and looking at other districts. A new superintendent and a “good” board come January does not mean all is well with employee morale. Morale is terrible in fact.

That we have tolerated these conditions for as long as we have is a testament to the dedication and loyalty of those who stuck with the district. I left corporate America to teach, and I love the profession and my school. Respect and equitable treatment are things we should expect as employees, not platitudes. Expect the teacher exodus to continue.

We think this anonymous teacher is right on target. We’ll share details we’ve unearthed that help to prove these points. Anonymous teacher, we would have loved to reach out to ask your permission to share your post; we’d love to give you credit, but we urge you to remain anonymous. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the retaliatory ways of the old *good* board and their BFF admins will be any different than in the past. BTW, their morale is just fine.

Big Fat Asterisks:

* Anonymous teacher, it’s worse than what you wrote.  In addition to getting rid of teaching positions that you cited, there are now 98 administrators,  an increase from 75 administrators last year, for a total increase of 23 administrators.

** Actually, a lot of people campaigned against the override, including active posters in the Facebook group where this post originated.

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