“I couldn’t give them the help they need.”
Those were the words of the latest Gilbert Public Schools administrator to leave, interim superintendent Dr. Jack Keegan.
“Them,” of course, is the dysfunctional school board, dominated by reactionaries claiming to be conservatives.
In a year, let’s see what the majority of the board — Staci Burk, Daryl Colvin, and Julie Smith — has accomplished:
•Ran off the last superintendent, Dave Allison.
•Secured the resignations of three assistant superintendents.
•Created an atmosphere that led to a high school principal resigning.
•Ran riotous board meetings lasting for hours that featured personal attacks on each other and the audience, often debating minor issues ad nauseam.
•Once forbid public input in a school board meeting.
•Almost nixed the multibillion-dollar deal with an Apple subsidiary to open a plant in the East Valley.
•Opposed Common Core in a formal letter to the state, even though they were told the district’s teachers would still have to abide by those standards.
•Called the district’s students “defective widgets,” in the memorable phrase used by Colvin.
•Supported a voucher plan that could potentially bankrupt the district through a scheme hatched by Burk and enthusiastically supported by Colvin.
•Garnered the kind of horrendous publicity for Gilbert that led to two Town Council members attending a board meeting, imploring the board to play nice because the town’s reputation was suffering.
•Exhibited behavior such that the interim superintendent Keegan — only in office for less than a year — couldn’t take it anymore and will leave on March 7.
Yes, the reactionary majority has done quite a bit in a year.
Smith, the third member of the board majority, has recently distanced herself on occasion from Burk and Colvin. Good move. In fact, of the three, Smith has actually helped the district in this respect: she’s led the district to a much more transparent way to show the public how it spends their money.
But Burk and Colvin?
Colvin, in particular, seems most adept at placing his foot squarely in his mouth, whether calling the students “widgets,” or characterizing the incoming superintendent, Christina DeJesus-Kishimoto, as a “leftist educrat,” or insulting the audience at school board meetings, or threatening to call the police and clear the board room because the audience was applauding. Often he seems unable to grasp what the board is dealing with, most hilariously at a special meeting he called himself, to “correct” a “mistaken” vote he took. At the meeting, Colvin appeared confused with what he wanted, which took the board almost two hours to decipher and then vote, a vote that didn’t change anything except to “correct” his “mistake.”
Burk, the ringleader of the reactionaries, seems intent on privatizing Gilbert Public Schools, aggressively arguing for a plan she formed and a bill she helped write that is sitting right now in the House Education Committee. Based on the current Empowerment Scholarship Account plan that allows some kids in special circumstances to use state money for private schools, Burk’s cockamamie scheme would allow any Gilbert Public School student to access $5,000 of the district’s money each year to either attend private school or if they chose, to save the money for future university costs.
Who would fund that? Gilbert Public Schools. So while the kids continued to attend a Gilbert school, the district would be on the hook for the costs to educate those kids and fund the private accounts for them. So each of those kids would now cost the district not the $8,000 the state provides but $13,000. And where would the district get that extra $5,000? Who knows? Burk hasn’t said.
Yes, Keegan is right. He can’t give the board the help they need. Maybe a psychotherapist should be on call.
• Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.