After attending several Payson School Board meetings, I decided to speak out. Something that a Payson Board member stated about the Gilbert School District got my blood up. See below for my public comment. It’s interesting to note that, at a subsequent meeting, the board voted to crack down on public comments, enforcing a 3-minute time limit and limiting public comments altogether. In the past, the board had accepted and answered informal questions from the audience, including those from the editor of the Payson Round-Up, a big supporter of the upcoming property tax override. However, the board does not want long meetings, especially when they are caused by probing questions from members of the public. The meeting where I spoke included several questions from Darlene Younker, candidate for Payson School Board, who had dutifully completed Public Comment forms. Unlike other candidates for school board, she has been a familiar face at the meetings. She has also attended several school events, including a Budget Workshop presented by PUSD Budget Manager Ms. Kathie Manning.
UPDATE: Recently, Gilbert, Arizona was named the 20th best place to live in the USA. Click HERE to read the article. The study reviewed 550 U.S. cities with populations over 65,000, comparing them in seven major categories: crime, economy, education (emphasis is mine), housing, environment, leisure, and infrastructure.
Public Comment by Anita Christy
At the July 21 board meeting, Board president Barbara Underwood made the statement that she had seen the “devastation to schools in communities where override votes have failed.”
I sent an email to Ms. Underwood and all board members asking: "Which schools? What was the nature of this devastation"?
Ms. Underwood very kindly called me to discuss this issue, and she cited some school boards that had indeed made the unfortunate decision to cut programs.
Another board member responded to my email this way, and I quote: “Go to google and put in Failed Overrides, Gilbert and Scottsdale along with several others will come up. It resulted in large class sizes, dropped programs, nothing positive. If you look at Gilbert it was a total disaster. A once model school district is now in ruins.”
It’s true that some school boards will make cuts to what should be their Top priority: The Classroom, but Gilbert School Board is NOT one of them.
I publish a blog called Gilbert Watch, and I have been reporting on the Gilbert School District for a few years.
The bottom line is that the defeat of overrides in Gilbert has resulted in a Conservative majority board that has fought very hard for their Top Priorities: Teachers, Programs, and Students.
Gilbert voters defeated a property tax override in Nov. 2012; they defeated a second override in Nov. 2013. In 2014, the board voted 3-2 to not spend taxpayer dollars to send a 3rd override to the ballot.
So, what has happened in Gilbert over the past 3 years? In spite of 3 override failures:
In 2011, the Gilbert School District had a B-rating, per the Arizona Auditor General. In 2012 it achieved an A; in 2013 it achieved an even stronger A rating.
In FY2011, Gilbert put 59.9% of its dollars into the classroom. By FY2013, Gilbert put even more toward the classroom; 60.7%. In contrast, PUSD put 53.5% of its dollars into the classroom. A whopping 46.7% goes toward nonclassroom spending.
Gilbert has not laid off a single teacher due to the failure of an override;
They implemented a true teacher pay for performance program.
The Gilbert Board discontinued the use of a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the teachers union and transferred all the most critical language over into policy for the benefit of all teachers.
They reduced class sizes in grades K-3.
They transitioned from one of the lowest in parent satisfaction with the Special Education Program to one of the highest. They are now recognized as No. 1 in the state in academic progress in this area.
Gilbert started a self-contained gifted program.
They implemented Continuous improvement in transparency of finances, reflecting more information every quarter in an easy to understand way. The transparency of finances is now to the point that every penny spent is on the website in Excel format.
Gilbert began live streaming its meetings over the internet, and are working to have them broadcast live on cable. I believe some of the students assisted in this process.
They implemented a PE credit waiver for the marching band.
They reversed the recommendation by previous Superintendent Dave Allison and board to close Gilbert Junior High School. GJHS remains open.
Gilbert changed a policy that allowed staff to accept gifts and meals up to $50 from vendors (even during the bid process), to no gifts or gratuities from vendors.
They implemented an ongoing community budget committee for input and priority setting with the zero based process.
They withdrew membership with ASBA (Arizona School Boards Association). This organization had funneled over $1 million into Prop 204, a permanent sales tax increase.
They established a surplus space committee to ensure maximum use of space and efficiency.
Gilbert board members voted 3-2 to refuse to sign the Common Core declaration.
They reinstated the policy of the board setting the agenda for board meetings. For almost fifteen years the Superintendent set the agenda. The elected board members are responsible to the voters for district policy and now that control is properly returned to the board.
Gilbert brought back opening board meetings with an Invocation after previous boards had refused for 14 years.