Gilbert Public Schools board approves policy changes on meetings

Representatives from accreditation group Cognia, Gilbert High School and the Gilbert Public Schools administration and governing board
Representatives from accreditation group Cognia, Gilbert High School, and the Gilbert Public Schools administration and governing board pose as Gilbert High is recognized for 100 years of accreditation. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

Representatives from accreditation group Cognia, Gilbert High School, and the Gilbert Public Schools administration and governing board pose as Gilbert High is recognized for 100 years of accreditation. (Tom Blodgett/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Gilbert Public Schools governing board approved Oct. 26 two district policy revisions recommended by the Arizona School Boards Association that had come under public scrutiny.

The first allows the board president to recess a meeting without board approval to maintain meeting decorum and the rules of order. The board passed the policy 3-1 with board member Lori Wood dissenting and Sheila Uggetti absent.

The second revision was to policy on public comment to disallow commercial sales pitches during public comment. However, some people expressed concern about existing measures in the policy that could limit comment. The revision passed unanimously.

Board member Jill Humpherys said she appreciated public concern as legitimate, but on the point of the board president’s ability to recess a meeting, she noted recent meetings in Scottsdale and Vail where police recommended the board move to immediate recess to maintain order.

Wood said those concerns also are legitimate but felt the board could handle it with an ordinary motion to adjourn. She said she believed it was improper to put so much power into a board president’s hands.

Bond, override presentation

GPS officials also presented before the governing board how the district has used its maintenance and operations override funds and its capital bond money from 2015 and 2019 elections.

The override, which allows the district to levy a secondary property tax to boost the district’s maintenance and operations budget by 15% over its state limit, passed with 55% of the vote in 2019. Its $100 million bond request passed with 62% of the vote. The district also spent the last of its 2015 bond, worth $98 million.

Between the two bond authorities, the district spent $25.33 million in fiscal year 2020-21, including:

  • $6.92 million on technology and security;

  • $1.89 million on transportation;

  • $16.34 million on facilities renewal; and

  • $180,000 on the cost of issuance.

The district received $32.3 million in maintenance and operations revenue, which was spent on the district’s ballot commitments for the money:

  • $21.8 million on offering competitive wages;

  • $6.3 million on maintaining or reducing class sizes;

  • $1.8 million on increasing social-emotional supports;

  • $100,000 on academic programming;

  • $800,000 on affordable student access to arts, athletics and co-curricular programs; and

  • $1.5 million on post-secondary advisement.

Instructional time model revision

The district is revising its previously approved instructional time model to address its remote special education preschool through Settler’s Point Elementary School.

The board held the first of two public hearings to make the revision as outlined in a new state law passed in the spring.

The district previously approved using as learning options for its elementary school students in-person instruction on elementary campuses and synchronous online instruction through Gilbert Global Academy.

Secondary students have the options of in-person on campus, synchronous learning while enrolled at one of the secondary schools or asynchronous instruction while enrolled at Global Academy.

As presented by Teaching and Learning Assistant Superintendent Barbara Newman, the remote special education preschool students are instructed using a video conferencing format from Webex with a certified teacher and paraprofessional present.

Sessions include whole group, small-group and individualized instruction weekly. Students needing related services receive therapies according to the Individualized Educational Plan.

Targeted individual and small-group sessions are scheduled throughout the week to address specific IEP goals and skill deficits/enrichment. The programming is designed with attention to individual IEP goals, Arizona Early Learning Standards and developmental domains, Newman said.

The curriculum is the same as what is utilized in brick-and-mortar preschool programs with materials provided for at-home learning, Newman said.

Students in the special education remote preschool program are enrolled at Settler’s Point and reported to the Arizona Deparment of Education as part of the school. The class includes students qualifying for special education and tuition students.

Nine students are enrolled in the class, Newman said.

Preschool students attend periods remotely while teachers lead the instruction. A classroom teacher will take attendance as though the students were in person. Students must be logged in and engaged to be counted as present.

The board will have a second public hearing Nov. 9 before considering approval at that meeting.

Other business

  • In the monthly financial report, Business Services Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Betz said due to student counts for this school year, the district expects budget capacity to increase about $5.1 million.

  • Also in the report, Betz said the district’s grant approval for the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds has not yet been approved.

  • The district has eight students who are National Merit semifinalists, Superintendent Shane McCord said. Five were honored at the meeting.

  • Gilbert High School was recognized for 100 years of accreditation by Cognia, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that accredits primary and secondary schools throughout the United States and internationally.

By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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