Gilbert Public Schools Must Fix Salary Inequality First!

As Gilbert Public Schools considers a budget for the 2015-2016 school year, we’re seeing more of the same old stuff: Superintendent Christina Kishimoto recommends an across-the-board salary increase for all employees. Problem is, the amount will be miniscule for most of the support staff while the top dogs grab the lion’s share of the salary *bucket* for themselves.

The Good Old Boys couldn’t have done it any better. Oh wait … that’s exactly what the GOBs did in the past. Reward themselves first. Make excuses. Rinse and repeat.

It looks like GPS employees are in for a classic misdirection deception with a bucket of public funds known as “inflation funds” in the GPS budget matrix. This money is coming from settling a lawsuit. All public school districts knew it was in the pipeline when they first developed budget recommendations. The big question was how much taxpayer money would be in the bucket. As the State of Arizona budget was pushed through the legislature, school districts were complaining mightily that they needed more, more and more money.

GPS Superintendent Christina Kishimoto joined other superintendents across the state in lobbing hand grenades as part of a funding attack against the legislature. Great way to win friends and influence very important people, Kishi. [Her tone deafness is amazing!]

Kishimoto notes that the district is already facing an $8 million budget deficit, and that the school board is working on ways to insulate classrooms from the cuts. She doesn’t tell parents that the district is facing that deficit because voters refused to approve a budget override. Lawmakers had little to do with that. Furthermore, if the district can handle $8 million in cuts without teacher layoffs and closed schools, how does an extra $2 million force such nuclear options? She doesn’t explain.

With that grenade launched, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto targeted the GPS Governing Board. During a monthly work-study session [she swears it’s not a *real* board meeting] Kishimoto told board members what they were going to vote on at the next *official* meeting on March 31, 2015. Things did not go exactly the way Superintendent wanted them to go. It seems that Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has already decided what GPS will do in regard to employee salaries and contracts, and she expected board members to fall in line immediately, no questions asked.

Fortunately for students, parents and GPS employees, two board members questioned the Supreme Leader Superintendent’s recommendations, and did so in nice ways. Personally, Westie believes the time is long past for being nice about basic salary inequities in Gilbert Public Schools and superintendents slapping the faces of loyal employees every year during the budget process.

Board Member Daryl Colvin (summary): “Correct the pay inequity we all know about between our new hires and our loyal employees who have been with us for years. Do that first before we do any across-the-board salary changes.”

Then comes the weaseling and misdirection. CFO Jeff Gadd wrings his hands about the puny 1.6% number. Not that he tells anyone what the *bucket* is that contains 1.6% for GPS. No siree, he wants you to just wring your hands, too.

CFO Jeff Gadd: “The inflation factor at 1.6% gives us relatively small amount of money to work with and if we were to give employees just a minimal raise without that consideration it will take all the 1.6. If we were to do some consideration of what you talked about, I suspicion (sic) we would have almost no salary increase money left for any other employees.”

Now that the CFO has teed up the ball, the big misdirection can begin with Superintendent Kishimoto’s edu-jargon making the false choice case that would result in no raises at all for the loyal support staff employees. Never mind that no one has been talking about the fact that 1.6% of $9.00 per hour is something like fifteen cents an hour. Whoop de doo!

On the other hand, 1.6% of Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s $200,000 salary* is a pretty big chunk of change. Her newly hired top dogs that work in the Great White Temple of Doom are enjoying salaries at the six-figure level as well. An across-the-board salary increase is really nice for those at the top, but it sucks for those who are trying to put food on the table for their families on budgets below poverty level. Cue the crocodile tears and misdirection.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto: “I’d like to just reemphasize that my recommendation still stands at doing an across-the-board increase because we are limited in the dollars that we have to allocate and we have a number of staff members, particularly our non-certified staff, who have had no increase in several years and so we do want to correct some of our inequities as you phrased it, the work with the stepless salary schedule is looking at how do we do that over the course of the next two years or more years because I don’t think we can do that correction immediately in terms of salaries.

Perhaps Superintendent Christina Kishimoto just misunderstood what these two board members want in the next budget. Board member Julie Smith seemed to accept that possibility, however remote, and try again to make the case that the board should remedy salary inequities first. Here’s Julie Smith making a strong case for fixing salary inequities as the top priority for the GPS budget for 2015-2016. As she explains how the inequities came into existence, Julie Smith asserts, “Loyal employees who have been through thick and thin” with the district deserve better than the salary inequity that now exists. She urges board members to address those inequities before “rewarding those at the top,” none of whom have been with GPS for very long.

Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto will have none of that *equity* talk on her watch! No siree, in response she instead makes fallacious arguments about the funds deficit that GPS is facing, asserting that salaries cannot be remedied by cutting administrative costs. Kishimoto also attempts to drive a wedge between employee groups, saying that support staff hasn’t had raises, either.

Kishimoto refuses to address current salary inequities, saying to do so would “differentiate” among employees. That’s exactly what board members Daryl Colvin and Julie Smith have proposed: bring loyal employees’ salaries up to the level of new hires BEFORE giving across-the-board raises that perpetuate existing inequities.

Sheeesh, things are worse than ever in Gilbert Public Schools! Superintendent Kishimoto and her top dogs don’t seem to understand that as the largest employer in the Town of Gilbert, what GPS does in treating employees badly has a HUGE detrimental effect on public perception and the reputation of the district. It’s almost as if the Town of Gilbert is a company town in all the worst ways that old concept worked.

Contrast Kishimoto’s intransigence and her inability to comprehend board members’ concerns for salary equity for loyal employees with Mesa’s Superintendent, whose actions and words speak volumes to his employees: 

On the surface, it’s hard to find a more respected leader in Arizona public education than Mesa Public Schools Superintendent Michael Cowan. During a time of complaints that administrations are overpaid, overstaffed and overrated, Cowan seems to buck the assumptions.  In the past three years, while other administrators were eligible for annual salary raises between 1 and 3 percent, Cowan declined the boosts in pay for himself.

As the leader of the state’s largest district of 64,000 students, Cowan’s $180,000 base annual salary is less than superintendents of some smaller districts [that would be GPS, you know]. “How can I take a raise when our teachers have been through so much?” Cowan told the Arizona Republic last summer, adding that he is committed to the Mesa community where he was hired as a teacher and grew up professionally.”

Here’s what GPS stakeholders had to say about Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and her top dogs during that news cycle:

We have a superintendent who is a politician-turned-educator. Just read her strategic plan. She has brought her Hartford CT plan to GPS and is implementing it whether it’s what we need/want or not. She has no idea what made GPS great in the past, nor does she seem to care. Her focus is clearly not on retaining our great staff members. Time to put pressure on our GPS board to run the show, instead of letting this superintendent continue to run off our great people.


Seems ironic that we hired a new, expensive superintendent (“expert”) who is not an educator and was never a teacher to come in and run off our great teachers by showing them such disrespect … then have her tell us that her strategic plan values our staff. NEWS FLASH … what parents value the most is our teachers and staff!!!! We want admin to give them reasons to stay! Or at least act like they care. GPS families are loyal to GPS because of our great staff!! It’s insane to chase away our experienced people (by changing the promises you made to them when you hired them!) then turn around and tell us your “great” ideas for improving our district. Fed up with this new admin already. Hope our GPS board realizes that THEY are in charge and stop this insanity! (I’d like to think future override funds or inflation $ would go to our staff, but don’t trust this admin. They’d probably buy more Chromebooks instead.)


I do NOT trust this administration or her cabinet. They do NOT have the district’s best interests in mind – or they would have better communication with parents and staff. They take any feedback and use it to ‘troubleshoot’ any arguments, NOT to actually listen to the input and make adjustments.


Coming next: more edu-jargon explaining why Superintendent Christina Kishimoto wants across-the-board pay increases of 1.6% for all GPS employees. Right from the horse’s … mouth.

Big Fat Asterisk: $200,000 is just Christina Kishimoto’s base salary. She really is paid far more than that. KishimotoContract.

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