School Board Giving Gilbert Jr. High to Gilbert Classical Academy, a Lesson from George Orwell’s “Animal farm”

by Glen Frakes, former Gilbert history teacher (retired 2009)

The Gilbert administration’s motto, including 4 out of 5 of our incumbent board members, seems to be, "all students are equal, but some students are more equal than others."

Gilbert Jr. High School Will be Closed

On Oct.2, 2012, a crowd of 300 parents, teachers, and students gathered at Mesquite High School to attend a special school board meeting. Typically, at most meetings, the board members and administrators outnumber the citizens who attend. This was different! The crowd was there to express their 1st amendment rights regarding an unexpectedly announced decision by the administration.

After 32 years of service, Gilbert Jr. High (GJHS) was being closed and their campus turned over to the district’s prestigious Gilbert Classical Academy (GCA).  All 647 kids from GJHS would be "dispersed" to several other schools in the area. All 395 students of the "Academy" accompanied by their teachers and all their learning materials would then move in, en mass, because they "need room to expand."

Gilbert Jr. High has good kids and good teachers that just happen to be situated in a neighborhood with fewer 7th and 8th graders then were there a few years ago. I taught there myself for seven years before moving on with the 9th graders to Gilbert High School. All the students and faculty are proud of Gilbert Jr. High. They deserve to be!  It’s a fine school.

Gilbert Classical Academy Provides Acclaim and Fame for the District and Governing Board

The Gilbert Classical Academy (GCA) is also a fine school, with good teachers and good students. A magnet school for grades 9 thru 12, it was created 6 years ago by GPS administrators to compete with charter schools that were drawing increasing numbers of students away from Gilbert Schools. These charter schools offer higher academic standards for parents who believe that their children are not being challenged, academically or intellectually, in Gilbert schools.

Students who attend the "Academy" must be highly motivated toward academic success. They must dedicate themselves to long hours of study and be able to handle the most difficult assignments given them by their instructors. The strong support of their parents is also an important requirement for admission.

Students who wish to enroll in the "Academy" have their names placed on a list, since space at their present campus is limited. When the GCA was opened, enrollment was about 100 students, and there was room for all. Now there are 395 students. Enrollment at the "Academy" is voluntary, not assigned according to boundary lines like the rest of our schools. GCA, however, has been successful academically, far beyond expectations. They have attracted "national recognition" and acclaim for their school, and for the GPS administration and school board. If they can find a place to expand, so grows the fame of the "Academy" and the renown of the district, with its "far sighted and visionary administrators and school board who created this wonderful opportunity."

Get the picture so far?

Transitions Team to Provide Consoling Words to GJHS Students

Now the Gilbert school board and administration have decided to remove all the kids and teachers from Gilbert Jr. High and scatter them over other schools in the district because of declining enrollment numbers. They then intend to bring in a smaller number of students from the "Academy" to take over the campus. This is based on the administrators’ projections that the Gilbert Classical Academy will grow by about 130 new students. Even then, the number of students will be about 125 less than the students there now. But can they know how long it will be before the numbers justify situating the "Academy" on a campus that can accommodate 1200 students? Will they make way for them by booting out another student population, giving them 6 days’ notice?

More to the question, what are the students at Gilbert Jr. High thinking? Wouldn’t they wonder why a smaller group of students is being given their school? Are they wondering, "Is it because they’re smarter than us?", "Do they think we are lazy students?", or "Are we somehow just not as good as they are?"

If you were a kid at Gilbert Jr. High, wouldn’t you have thought about the same way when you were that age?

To "reassure" the kids at Gilbert Jr. High that they are "just as good as the kids at the Academy," the administrators have put together a "Transitions Team." This compassionate Team will offer consoling words to the students and praise them with affirmations in order to "rebuild their self-esteem."

If the administrators’ "Transitions Team" were honest this is what they would tell those 647 GJHS kids:

"Of course you’re just as good as the kids from the Academy, but the Academy has built such a wonderful reputation for academic excellence and achievement, and they’re gaining national recognition for our school district, board members, and for our Town of Gilbert. Aren’t you proud of them? Don’t you want to help them make Gilbert proud? You don’t want to stand in their way, now do you. Of course not. We knew you’d understand."

"You’ll Get Over it" States GCA Parents and GCA Teacher to GJHS Students and Families

At the school board meeting many parents, teachers, and students spoke about how proud they were of each of their schools. A couple of GCA parents and one teacher from GCA callously proclaimed, "Kids are resilient. They’ll adjust. They’re flexible. They’ll get over it."

Which kids were they talking about? Certainly not their kids from the "Academy." Those kids will move with all their teachers and classmates to a much bigger school with even more room to excel. They’ll continue to win more honors for themselves, more laurels for their school, and more great publicity for the administration and the school board.

No, it’s the Gilbert Jr. High kids who will have be resilient and do the adjusting. The students from the "Academy" will have everything they need.