Can’t Afford to Pay for a Meal Fit for a Queen? Get one Free at a School Board Meeting!

Guest Post by Julie Smith

On January 30, I attended the East Valley School Boards Consortium Meeting. These meetings take place once a quarter with each school board rotating the hosting duties. Tonight’s meeting was hosted by the Gilbert Unified School District. I noticed that the door to enter the building was wide open, inviting the honored guests in to the meeting.

This is a striking contrast to the twice-monthly Gilbert governing board meetings, also held here. All of the doors are locked for those meetings, except one, and it is closed. Gilbert residents have come to the meetings, tried a few locked doors, and then turned around and left, thinking they must be at the wrong place or it’s the wrong night.

As I walked through the door, I was greeted by beautiful music. It was magical. I looked up to the ceiling thinking that the music was coming through the speakers. I made my way down the hall and discovered the source: the Mesquite High School Strolling Strings were performing wearing very classy formal clothing.

The lights were dimmed. I scanned the room, thinking I was in the dining room of the finest hotel. Greeting me was a luscious, red watermelon centerpiece sculpture with ‘Welcome to GPS’ carved into it, along with carved roses. It was in crystal bowl, nestled in a bed of red flowers created from radishes, and decorated with baby’s breath and delicate fernlike fresh greens. It must have taken hours to create! The tables were set with white linen table cloths and napkins, and the finest silverware and china. Small feminine floral arrangements graced every table.

A fully catered meal awaited the guests. Another beautiful flower centerpiece welcomed the guests as they chose their food. On the menu was a green salad, vegetable Normandy, whipped potatoes, chicken piccata, roast pork loin, and dessert. There were three beverages to choose from; water, iced tea, and a pink punch. The wait staff helped serve the food and picked up finished dishes from the tables. Then they whisked about the room with pitchers of beverages for anyone who wanted a refill.

It was so elegant and swanky, I thought I must be in the wrong place.

But I wasn’t. I recognized the GPS Superintendent Dave Allison, and board members Helen Hollands, Staci Burk, and Lily Tram, and board president EJ Anderson. Later, Arizona Representative Rich Crandall, the guest speaker, showed up.

My heart sank. There must have been 50 people there. Who paid for this extravagance? How much did it cost?

The wait staff included 5 or so GPS food service employees, plus the Food Service Department head. All the dinner items were brought over in boxes by the food service workers in two vehicles; one would assume that the dishes and linens used will be cleaned using GPS facilities and utilities; the Mesquite students were bused over in a GPS bus.

How can GPS leaders put on a lavish affair like this, yet bemoan budget problems in educating our K-12 students?

Superintendent Allison said that everything “was donated.” I learned later that, when individuals or companies make an unspecified donation to Gilbert Public Schools, the funds are deposited in a general donations account.
So, rather than purchase supplies for the classroom, GPS prefers to use the “general donations account” to put on lavish dinner affairs for board members and employees of various school districts.

Do those who donate know that this is how their charitable donations are being spent? Are they expecting something in return for their donation?

This should be a wake-up call to the tax paying public! Demand a detailed budget from your school district. Clearly we do NOT need to extend Prop. 100, if there is money to throw around for dinners like this and who knows what else.

The next consortium meeting will be on April 29th hosted by the Higley School District. I hope to see you there!