06/19/2012 GPS Governing Board Meeting: Yes to Higher Taxes, No to Prayer

Here are the highlights of the June 19, 2012 Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board Meeting:

First the good news:

Ms. Staci Burk requested an item for future consideration to change the way the Board approves “Items for Future Consideration.” It passed 3-2. (Helen Hollands and Lily Tram voted against it.) You may recall that Ms. Tram fiddled with the procedure some time ago and contorted and confused it so badly that the board members appeared

witless whenever they were required to formally “vote” on something they knew nothing about.

That’s the good news. Now for the rest of the meeting:

Ms. Burk suggested an item for future consideration to discuss adding a neutral Invocation at the beginning of the Governing Board meetings. Currently, there is a 7-second “moment of silence” that immediately precedes the Pledge of Allegiance. Ms. Burk stated that the Mesa School District board meetings open with an Invocation. Unfortunately, no other Board member wished to support Ms. Burk’s request.

As an aside, an Invocation is always given at the Gilbert Town Council meetings. Here is the statement that appears on the agenda:

The invocation may be offered by a person of any religion, faith, belief, or non-belief, as well as Council members. A list of volunteers is maintained by the Town Clerk, and interested persons should contact the Clerk for further information.

Stipend Increase for all Employees

Superintendent Dave Allison advised that all GPS employees would receive a 2% salary “stipend” increase

for 2012-2013. He cited both Mesa and Higley as districts that received at least 2% raises. However, he stated that the increase would be taken away from everyone in years 2013-2014 if the override doesn’t pass at the November ballot. So Dave Allison made it crystal clear: If you want to keep your raises, then you better do everything you can to influence your friends to vote YES to the override in the November 6 Election.

Tell me, do you think GPS just violated Arizona Revised Statute 55-511? Use of school districtor charter school resources or employees to influence elections; prohibition; civil penalty; definition.

If not violating, then he’s sure pushing the envelope.

Raising Taxes.

The GPS Governing Board voted 4-1 to increase both your Primary and Secondary property tax rate by 30%. Once again the School District must shore up its finances even as your home values have declined. According to Assistant Superintendent Clyde Dangerfield, some people can’t afford to pay their property taxes, since delinquencies have gone up from 3% in 2010 to over 10% in 2011.

So, if 10% of the property owners can’t pay their taxes at the current rate, how many more won’t be able to pay them when the 30% rate hike hits them? Mr. Dangerfield added that the District will eventually recoup the delinquent taxes, when the homes sell. Ms. Burk voted against this saying, “It is not acceptable to shift the tax burden to a community that is already struggling with delinquencies.”

Prop 301.

Mr. Dangerfield advised that Prop 301 monies have increased, so GPS will be able to put 61% of its budget toward the classroom this year, and 62% next year. The extra classroom spending doesn’t have anything to do with extra

effort on the District’s part to channel more money there, or streamline so more dollars go to the classroom. It’s strictly the result of the Legislature awarding more Prop 301 monies to Gilbert.

The Strategic Plan.

This plan was begun in January 2011 with a $100k consultant and a committee. The consultant’s contract was not renewed, and the committee continued working together beginning in January 2012, to formulate the plan presented to the Board. Jason Brney and Barbara Dwyer presented it.

The Strategic Plan was approved 4-1 following a lengthy presentation identifying 9 KRA’s (Key Results Areas).

KRA 1: Student Performance

KRA 2: World-class Curriculum

KRA 3: GPS Faculty Selection, Retention, and Professional Development

KRA 4: GPS Leadership

KRA 5: Community Stakeholders

KRA 6: State Education Budget and Policy

KRA 7: Shifting Demographics

KRA 8: Competition

KRA 9: Alternative Revenue Sources

Ms. Burk voted against it for a couple of reasons. One section was worded this way: “Opportunities for renewable sources of income. Explore and evaluate potential revenue sources to maximize return on existing assets, i.e., Food Services catering, facility rentals, Community Education.” It was “Food Services catering” that bothered her.

"The District should not compete with small businesses; that’s not the role of government. Jason Barney stated that it isn’t his intention to compete with private business. However, Ms. Burk’s concern is well founded.

The District spent $250,000 on “non-food Food Service” items last year. GPS is currently providing

catering services for various events, including the East Valley School Boards Consortium meeting last January.

Julie Smith attended it and wrote about it for Gilbert Watch.

Can’t Afford to Pay for a Meal fit for a Queen? Get One Free at a School Board Meeting! It’s only a small step to outright competing with private, taxpaying caterers in the marketplace, as Mesa Public Schools is doing. MPS’ Catering Unit Turns Heads. Superstition Springs Lexus doesn’t seem to mind. I guess it depends on whose ox is getting gored.

Next thing you know, Mesa Public Schools will be opening Mesa Schools Lexus and selling high end vehicles tax free.

Are they taking their eyes off their primary purpose: to provide a top quality education to their students? Will GPS be following their bad example?

Ms. Burk was also concerned that she had been handed the final version of the Strategic Plan minutes before the meeting started, not giving her time to read it, and she was expected to vote on it.

Other board members and staff stated, “It’s the same plan that we all received months ago.” Really? No revisions during the last several months? Just rubber stamp? Ms. Burk voted No.

Mr. Glen Frakes spoke out as a citizen stating that at the 6/5/2012 Board meeting there were 3 teachers who spoke against the SpringBoard curriculum. He stated that these teachers each prefaced their comments saying, “I’m taking a risk to make these statements.” Mr. Frakes stated that it’s very unusual for teachers to come before the Board, and for good reason. They are usually warned by their peers to keep their mouths shut, fearful of retaliation.