Smoke and Mirrors with a Side of Venom – GPS Override

Preface

In Dec. 2010, the USA’s student standing throughout the world looked like this, and I doubt if it has changed much:

Out of 34 countries assessed, the USA ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, 25th in math.

Results from a standardized test taken by 15-year-old students around the world reveal that students in China scored better than anyone else in the world—even after taking the test for the first time.

Those statistics should appear on banners in every Gilbert Public School classroom and bureaucrat’s office; they should be in the halls so students can see them. They should be in every room where the GPS Governing Board meets.

Those statistics should serve as a reminder to every administrator, teacher, and student that Student Academic Achievement is the #1 Priority in Gilbert Public Schools. Students won’t rate #1 in anything without great Teachers.

Every GPS administrator with the power to spend taxpayer dollars should ask this question before spending those dollars:

Will this item that I’m purchasing help GPS students achieve a world ranking of #1 in Reading, #1 in Science, and #1 in Math?

If it doesn’t, then don’t spend it.

Now, let’s talk about the 5/31/2012 “work study” session held by the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board. Let’s take a look at how those “world class” Governing Board members and Administrators conducted themselves.

Smoke and Mirrors with a Side of Venom.

The override meeting was supposed to be a work study session. There wasn’t much work, and there wasn’t much study.

Superintendent Dave Allison presented a list of 32 items that would be cut if the $17.4 million property tax override doesn’t continue. Some cuts, especially those coming from the Community Budget Committee (CBC), were within toleration. Keep in mind that this 40-member Committee, which included only 10 conservatives, was able to meet no more than 6 or so times. Imagine what they could have done with more time. Imagine what they could do if they were a permanent Ad Hoc Committee helping GPS stay focused on its #1 Priority.

And what is that priority? Help GPS students achieve a world ranking of #1 in Reading, #1 in Science, and #1 in Math.

Other cuts were hacked out of the budget with an axe by the District Budget Committee. These unconscionable cuts included firing art and music teachers (band and strings), and cancelling junior athletics.

The members of the DBC included:

Dr. Dave Allison, Superintendent
Nikki Blanchard, Associate Superintendent
Clyde Dangerfield, Assistant Superintendent
Barbara VeNard, Assistant Superintendent
Shane McCord, Assistant Superintendent
Dianne Bowers, Community Relations Director
Teddy Dumlao, Finance Director
Jeff Filloon, Human Resources Director

These folks have had many opportunities to peruse the financials and eliminate anything that doesn’t contribute to Student Academic Achievement and Teachers. They have repeatedly failed.

See below for links to the entire meeting in 3 parts. (Part 1 is the Allison Presentation. Part 2 contains citizen comments. Part 3 contains questions from Staci Burk relating to concerns about possible violation of ARS 15-511., plus questions about the 100-page financial report that won’t be seen by board members until the day they vote on the override.)

Assistant Superintendent/Attorney Clyde Dangerfield was both insulting and rude to Ms. Staci Burk, the only conservative member of the governing board who has worked consistently to gather data. She asked about a more simplified budget/financial report that would help citizens better understand the numbers. This set Clyde Dangerfield spinning. He stated that he was “offended” by these constant questions about the budget. “It’s complicated!” (Part 1: 1815).

After the Allison/Dangerfield presentation, citizens were allowed to speak no more than 1.5 minutes each. (Part 2)

Clyde Dangerfield and Board Member Lily Tram could not restrain themselves from critiquing and even belittling members of the public who stood up and spoke against the override.

Mr. Dangerfield publicly insulted a long time veteran GPS teacher, Mr. Glen Frakes, who dared to tell the board that in all his 29 years of teaching, through bonds and overrides, he never saw conditions change and never saw any visible improvements in the classroom.

He also pointed out that teachers have a different idea of where money should be spent, and where it should be cut. To illustrate where Administration spends money, he showed them a shoddy old chair that a teacher must use, and compared it to the plush chairs that administration uses, including those provided to Board members.

As Mr. Frakes walked from the podium, Clyde Dangerfield “clarified” that Mr. Frakes was a librarian for most of those years, not a classroom teacher. Mr. Frakes responded that he taught in the classroom for 20 years, and was a librarian for 9 years.

After Mr. Dangerfield threw Librarians under the bus, Ms. Tram demanded, “Is that chair property of the District? You took it?” Mr. Frakes answered that he borrowed it. “You were loaned a chair from one of our schools……Interesting.” I have heard, however, that Glen Frakes has refused to rat out the teacher who committed the unforgivable crime of loaning “District” property to Mr. Frakes.

This is the way the people who handle the purse strings at GPS treat a former GPS Teacher.

See the video following this article of Mr. Frakes’ presentation.

Please also read Mr. Frakes letter to his former students titled To My Well Loved Former Students.

I also spoke noting that, “Back in the year 2000, 57.7 cents of every dollar spent by the schools went to the classroom. The voters passed Prop 301, a tax increase “dedicated” to the classroom. Ten years later, only 56.9 cents of every dollar went into the classroom. Tax revenues went up, but money spent in the classroom went down.“

State Audit of Arizona Schools.

As I walked from the podium, Clyde Dangerfield asserted that those figures were statewide. The implication was that the same reduction didn’t apply to GPS. Board member Blake Sacha asked Mr. Dangerfield about the numbers for GPS. Mr. Dangerfield stated they were higher. Ms. Burk stated that she believed that GPS’s percent spent in the classroom declined, just as it did statewide. Mr. Dangerfield did not remember specifics, except that he said that the numbers increased after Prop 301, until the recession. (Part 2)

I’ve had a chance to research Gilbert’s numbers from the Auditor General’s website and made this discovery. “Back in the year 2000, 63.4% of dollars spent by GPS went to the classroom. The voters passed Prop 301, a tax increase “dedicated” to the classroom. Ten years later, 62% of dollars spent by GPS went into the classroom. In fact, for FY2011, it’s dropped even more. 59.9% goes to the classroom.”

Baseline: Planned Uses for Prop 301 Monies

Ten years later

Most recent

There were, in fact, only two years (FY2003 and FY2004) that the percentage of total dollars to the classroom increased. Every other year saw a decrease.

In any case, the recession should not have resulted in a decrease of percentage of total dollars going to the classroom!

Through good years and bad, while the percentage of dollars going to the classroom decreased, student support (counselors, aides, OT, and PT) increased, and at times Transportation did too, and spending on other non-classroom areas remained fairly stable.

It was only the percentage of dollars that went to our Students and Teachers that decreased.

Chandler has 1 Administrator for every 100 students. GPS has 1 Administrator for every 81 students. Why does Gilbert need so many more administrative staff?

Citizen speaker Steve Johnson asked about a budget/financial report that would be easier to understand, so the public can see how the money is spent. He indicated that he had spent 20 hours researching financials. He advised the importance of making it understandable to the public. (Part 2)

Ms. Burk got Clyde Dangerfield’s dander up again when she asked this question: “Hypothetically, if GPS held meetings of certain employees advising them that “if the override doesn’t pass, they could be layed off,” would that be a violation ARS 15-511C: "Employees of a school district may not use the authority of their positions to influence the vote or political activities of any subordinate employee.”

Clyde Dangerfield, the board’s attorney, evaded the question and, even though Ms. Burk rephrased it, he did not answer it. Rather, he suggested that she “go to the Attorney General.” (Part 3, 6:04)

Those meetings weren’t hypothetical. They actually took place during the last days of the school year.

You may think that it is only fair to notify employees of a pending lay-off. But those lay-offs aren’t in the near future, or even definite. The earliest lay off—WHICH WILL NOT OCCUR IF THE CONSERVATIVES OF GILBERT HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY ABOUT IT!–isn’t scheduled until FY2014.

As an employer in the private sector, would you gather your employees together in May 2012 to advise them they “might lose their jobs” in FY2014, but they won’t know for sure until July 2013. Unless the override passes (wink, wink, nod, nod). Of course not!

As Mr. Sacha pointed out (Part 1, 11:58), a decision regarding lay-offs wouldn’t be made until July 2013. “It’s a very speculative process.”

The last discussion item that drew concern from many people was in Part 3 (2:15) when Ms. Burk asked when the 100-page report being put together by Teddy Dumlao would be ready. This is a report which is supposedly more understandable by the lay person. It identifies expenditures by school and by department.

This might seem like a question that wouldn’t take a full 2.5 minutes to not answer, but it did. It finally ended with Mr. Dangerfield’s final comment: “Staci, you can come to the District office to review it.” (This is an appalling display of disrespect paid to an elected official by a bureaucrat.)

Keep in mind, the board members vote on the override the same day.

An astonishing post script is this: That report in draft form was provided on Friday after the 5/31/2012 meeting to a private citizen, who coincidentally is running for Board. This citizen advised on FaceBook that he was glad to go over it with other citizens over a 3-day period.

So, Board member Ms. Staci Burk can’t obtain a copy until the day she votes on the override, but a private citizen can. The improprieties are endless with this Administration. And the majority of the Board lets them get away with it.

If the override fails, funding won’t start to decrease until FY2014. Even then, it will decrease over a 3-year period, at the rate of $5.8 million per year.

A lot can happen over the next few years: Such as replacing the Gilbert Governing Board members with people who put Students and Teachers as their Number One Priority.

Sadly, the numbers can be manipulated as the Auditor General’s reports show. The real challenge is to keep digging for the story behind those numbers.
As commenter “Sam Goodman” stated at the end of the article
Gilbert Schools May End Free Kindergarten if Override Effort Fails:

“What we are seeing is the override as a proxy for a no-confidence vote in the current leadership of Gilbert Public Schools. It appears the superintendency dreads what happened in the town of Gilbert — out with the old, in with the new. Four GPS board seats are at stake. Staci Burk could become the longest serving board member and the font of institutional knowledge. Many taxpayers would love to see this result.”

Here are videos of the meeting.

Budget Override Work Study Part 1 – Gilbert Public Schools
Budget Override Work Study Part 2 – Gilbert Public Schools
Budget Override Work Study Part 3 – Gilbert Public Schools

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