There was a letter in a Valley publication recently in which a reader expressed her thoughts and characterized my behavior. It was quite off the mark, but I would like to publicly make a couple points about one of her statements that she almost got right.
She said I was a “spoiled toddler who acted as if I had lost my sucker.” I am spoiled, as well as my two children who have also graduated from Gilbert Public Schools. We three were the recipients of a top notch education, from staff and educators who inspired excellence and demanded our very best. We also had the benefit of a Governing Board who worked alongside administration to ensure that our courses were rigorous, extensive and relevant. Gilbert has been the premier provider of public education long before I served on the Board, and has enjoyed that reputation for decades. Gilbert has always been a place where families choose to live, and teachers and administrators wanted to work. We also enjoyed the respect of neighboring districts and those across the state; they looked to Gilbert as the premier provider of educational services.
My second point, I have lost something far more substantial than a sucker. I am not alone. We have lost opportunities and people. Again, my other four children who are in the middle of their educational years are right by my side. They have lost opportunities. How will my children get the same education as their siblings? Quite simply, they can’t and they won’t. You can’t get the same services for less money — a principle that I learned under the deft instruction of Mr. Lilliard, my economics teacher. Perhaps our most devastating loss is that we have lost people. At my daughter’s elementary school, we lost our principal and 11 employees. This figure does not include those who have chosen to retire. At our junior high, our principal was in danger of not having his contract renewed, not based on job performance. This is a man with proven leadership as demonstrated by his school just being recognized as an A+ school. We have lost the principal at my daughter’s high school; each of these schools has additional employees who have left the district. This influx of change trickles down and affects the entire community.
I submit that those who have also been vocal during these trying times, share the same message because it bears repeating until we shift the focus back to the matter at hand — providing an environment in which our students can learn and our teachers can do what they do best: teach. My plea is to the citizenry of Gilbert Public Schools: become informed on the issues; look for those candidates that demonstrate the qualities of true leadership. Elect those with a proven record of being an advocate for public education. Now more than ever you have the right to be selective. It will prove very costly if you aren’t. Please help Gilbert restore its focus; to be a place where they recognize that student success is a partnership with the many dedicated and talented staff and families devoted to that end.