Connections, connections, powerful connections: Will they be enough to pass the Gilbert Public Schools budget override?

What do McCarthy Construction, Chasse Building Team and Core Construction have in common? They are all construction contractors for Gilbert Public Schools. Core Construction is the primary financial contributor for the Gilbert Education Foundation (an organization GPS superintendent Dave Allison, GPS board member Helen Hollands are active board members and assistant superintendent Clyde Dangerfield is the statuatory agent).

What does the Coalition for Educational Excellence have in common with these construction companies? They are significant financial supporters of the coalition.

What does Paul Ulan have in common with Coalition for Educational Excellence? He is a campaign consultant for political action committees that help pass bonds and overrides for school districts. These PACs receive a majority of their funding from the Coalition for Educational Excellence.

What does Gilbert Public Schools have in common with Paul Ulan? Gilbert Public Schools recently contracted with Paul Ulan for more than $21,000 to consult with district leaders regarding the upcoming November 2012 override approved last week by the governing board to be placed on the ballot.

In Paradise Valley, the Coalition for Educational Excellence donated $75,000 to the Paradise Valley Yes for PV PAC to pass their override. In an Arizona Republic article written November 4, 2011 by Eugene Scott, “The coalition is out there supporting the bond and override elections across the state. They’re actively selecting and supporting districts,” [Paul] Ulan said. “They were a coalition that was involved in a number of elections in the 2010 cycle. They are not new to the arena.” Furthermore, “Yes for PV Students solicited the coalition’s support, and the coalition contacted the committee asking how it could help get the override and bond passed, Ulan said.”
Interesting, we are curious to know if Paul Ulan, facilitated a connection.

According to the article, Mr. Ulan said “There is no conflict of interest in Yes for PV Students receiving money from a group supported by businesses that could potentially benefit from the passing of the ballot measures. The committee is not the district. That way, there is a buffer between the district” and the construction companies, he said. Read more:

The Arizona Republic reporter was awaiting records from a public records request for information from the Paradise Valley School District, to determine if these construction companies were in fact vendors of the PV district at the time of his article.

When it comes to Gilbert Public Schools, we know that Core Construction, Chasse Building Team, Caliente and McCarthy are vendors with longstanding relationships with the district. Core Construction is the largest donor to the Gilbert Education Foundation and the construction company awarded contracts totaling over 100 million dollars by Gilbert Public Schools to build Campo Verde and renovate two junior high schools in 2007-2008.

What do the years 2007-2008 have in common with overrides? November 2007 was the last year a budget limit increase, also known as override, was passed by Gilbert voters to give approximately 17.8M per year to GPS and is set to expire in 2013.

It is interesting that Core Construction received a contract from GPS for 100 Milion dollars worth of construction services, near the time frame that the last override was passed by 52% of the voters in Gilbert. The remaining companies mentioned were involved in bidding and/or completion of projects as well for the past several years.

Examples of contracts from 2011 completed by Core Construction, include the controversial traffic light at Highland High School and traffic pattern renovations at Gilbert High School. Core Construction also was awarded the contract for the sewage lift station at Highland Junior High School.

Shane Stapley, a board member that recently resigned, asked questions about these controversial construction projects, was met with resistance and subsequently moved out of the district. Susan Keuter attended the board meeting and asked for the resignation of Mr. Stapley.

What does Susan Keuter have in common with the above connections? Ms. Keuter spoke to the board as a parent urging the board to approve the traffic light construction [completed by Core Construction] , and recently formed a political action committee, Gilbert Supports Education, to push the override.

What does Gilbert Supports Education have in common with Paul Ulan? What do you think?

What does GPS assistant superintendent of business services, Clyde Dangerfield have in common with construction companies? He is president of the Arizona Risk Retention Trust/School Construction Insurance Project an organization that Gilbert Public Schools pays approximately 1.5 million dollars annually for contract insurance and consulting services. The SCIP offers school districts free construction consultation services.




2 comments to Connections, connections, powerful connections: Will they be enough to pass the Gilbert Public Schools budget override?

  • Shane_Stapley

    In case there's confusion, I did not move out of the district because of resistance from the district. I moved for entirely different reasons having spent a great deal of effort to remain in the district.

    HOWEVER!!! The points made in this article are very illustrative of the kind of shenanigans and "double dealing" that takes place not just in school districts, but in several other levels of government. Gilber is no stranger to "double dealing" contracts that have a significant stench when the covers are pulled back. Does anyone still remember the Zinke land deal with the Town of Gilbert?

    On it's face, the fact that:

    1. There's no requirement for a sealed bid to an RFP, but that a committee makes a decision… wow!!

    2. That these same committee members that make these decisions are also members of the Gilbert Education Foundation…

    3. That time after time the cyclic nature of contract awards, override initiatives, and "charitable contributions" all seem to involve the same "inner circle" of influential decision makers.

    4. Not only is there no oversight by the school board, but rather, certain members such as Helen Hollands actually participates. But why not, after all, she's the Marketing Director for Mesa Public Schools. Making budgetary and policy decisions for GPS, a competitive district, is no more a violation of ethics than participating in a circular "kick back" engagement buffered by the Gilbert Education Foundation.

    In order to bring honor back, several things should happen:

    1. Clyde Dangerfield should be allowed to limit his involvement and resign from several positions that he currently holds. It's unconscionable that he can properly represent GPS as legal council and "CFO", while also represent the Gilbert Education Foundation as statutory agent, AND maintain his position as Chairman of the Board of "The Trust". Resignation from 2 of the three would be a good start.

    2. The GPS Governing Board should establish an "arm's length" distance from the GEF. There is really no reason why any board member or high ranking district employee needs to sit on the committee for the GEF. Other organizations continue to do much good for GPS without such involvement. Several private organizations contribute hundreds to thousands to GPS.

    3. Helen Hollands has been an ethics violation from the moment she accepted a position with Mesa Public Schools. The law apparently is a little short-sighted requiring a board member to resign when moving out of the school district, but not when hired by a competitor. However, this problem will soon be remedied (not soon enough) in January as a result of the November elections.

    4. EJ Anderson and Lily Tram need to be encouraged to persue other interests. I'm thankful for the efforts and willingness they have both given. Volunteering for this position is not to be taken lightly and neither EJ nor Lily have served lightly. It's simply a question of philosophy.

    For the candidate(s) to be voted in to serve the remainder of my term as well as the other 3 4yr-term positions I simply hope the people choose a candidate that is more interested in fulfilling the fiduciary responsibility to challenge and question bureaucratic recommendations. Too many decisions are made without sufficient data, so often the "other side of the story" is missing. But then… asking questions would extend school board meetings… and we can't have that.

    Looking back, it's interesting to see how the game is played… GPS has an opportunity to change for the better this election cycle…

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