Uproar, panic and exacerbation have been popular in the Gilbert Public School district in recent months as finger-pointing, overly political agendas, selfishness and a disconnect from the populace have all been accusation thrown everywhere at the leadership, and, especially, the school board.
After a high-volume, tense board meeting this week which crossed over from Tuesday night into Wednesday, a new superintendent, Christine DeJesus-Kishimoto, was narrowly, and, for some members, grudingly approved to wade through this political and financial mess and somehow come up with plans to make Gilbert schools better for the future, short and long term.
The budget override failed last November. There are numerous examples of disharmony and anger between the school and district employees, staff, parents, and board members.
Best of luck.
Interim Superintendent Jack Keegan resigned, as did three assistant superintendents, leaving essentially no one in charge for the next few months. Highland principal Domoic Salce is also leaving, and, on the athletics side, Gilbert district athletic director Mark Cisterna is leaving at the end of the school year to be the district AD in Maricopa.
Cisterna didn’t return a message seeking comment this week, but two administrators within the district both believe Cisterna — a 35-year administrator with a terrific reputation — has more incentives than simply the financial unrest Gilbert is swallowed.
Maricopa is one high school and a couple junior highs compared to six high schools and six junior high schools in Gilbert’s district. Cisterna could potentially retire if he wanted to — which his wife did recently — and he’s now a grandparent, which means a smaller district (though a growing area) could make it more amenible to spending time with family.
He’s long enjoyed taking care of athletic fields and coaches, but the job — like many — has increasingly become absorbed in other things.
Neither Gilbert district administrator knew for certain, saying Cisterna didn’t mention pay or any current job fears to them, but a lack of pay raises during the past eight years hasn’t gone unnoticed. So, too, are looming cuts after the budget override failure, and a circus of a school board.
One administrator said the district is in a state of “Helter Skelter,” with its employees worried about their own jobs and financial future.
Whether Cisterna (and those on the educational/academic side) simply wanted less stress in a more growing part of the Valley is absolutely plausible.
It’s just hard to shake the feeling this departure, and others sure to happen among teachers, staff and administration, aren’t in-part because peace of mind trumps fear; a bird in hand being better than who-knows-if-any in the bush.
“Gilbert schools is losing really good people,” one administrator said. “You hope they replace those people with really good people.”
That’s about where optimism fades.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune assistant managing editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.