Gilbert School Board: Thanks for Standing up for Transparency and Accountability

Gilbert resident Susan Hicks has been attending Gilbert School Board meetings for years.  After attending the May 13 meeting, she sent the following letter to the School Board and the Superintendent, Dr. Rice.  Gilbert Watch is publishing the letter, edited slightly, with permission from Ms. Hicks. 

Dear School Board Members and Dr. Rice,

I am writing to congratulate board member Mrs. Julie Smith on her review and study of the Zero based budgeting process, and the accountable "numbers" in the various categories of spending, or lack thereof. I was impressed with her expressing a need for more visual accountability in all categories of spending to see where the dollars are going and how much.  

This is necessary, in order that the superintendency and board members be excellent stewards of the educational dollars they are given. If you don’t know "for what" and "how much" is being spent, there is no way to calculate waste and abuse. We have seen enough of that in the Gilbert Public School system. When the "spenders" are not spending their own money, they tend to not care about the "how much" or "for what."

Accountability, transparency, fiduciary responsibility, and, far too often, integrity get lost in the process.

In contrast, board member Mrs. Humpherys appears to believe that the oversight should be entirely and solely left in the hands of the Superintendent. I disagree!

It begins with the Superintendent, but it does not stop there. A board member is elected to be the steward and fiduciary of every aspect of our school system.  Board members answer to those who elected them.  They are the "watchdogs" for our students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers and ensure that the Superintendent is doing the job he/she was hired to do.

To believe that the sole purpose of a school board member is to travel from school to school and participate in the "happy times" at the various schools is to lose sight of an important responsibility.

What is troubling is that, during these public meetings, board members Mrs. Humpherys and Ms. Tram continue to take jabs at board members who embrace their responsibility with an admirable due diligence.

Ms. Tram felt it important to point out that some of Mrs. Smith’s questions had been answered at a previous meeting.  However, that discussion was never documented.  Documentation is necessary and should be protected for years to come.  It is important to have a meeting of the minds on paper. We, as a community, don’t want just talk at board meetings, we want action that is documented and protected.

For the first time in many years, Gilbert Public Schools has a board majority who take their job seriously. I hope this standard of excellence is maintained by future boards.  Sadly, our culture is embracing lower standards, or should I say no standards, of integrity and accountability. We should never let this happen in Gilbert again.

I agree with the speaker, Lynn Marble, who expressed concerns about teacher pay compared to administrative pay. Have the district administrators abandoned the teachers while appearing to have taken care of their own pay scale over the last few years?   Our teachers deserve "front line pay" as they are on the front lines working daily with all types of children with varied personalities, capabilities, and some with disabilities. Has lack of administrative accountability and abuse prevented our teachers from the pay they deserve?

It is the job of board members to make sure this never happens! Visiting our schools and talking about a "happy place" doesn’t steer the ship. Board members have to do the time consuming, tedious job of vetting administrative decisions and actions for the sake of excellence in education.  Teachers should be rewarded with fair compensation for their, sometimes, thankless job.