Gilbert school board names new superintendent; privatization rumors dispelled

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

GILBERT, Ariz. -- Turmoil within Gilbert's education system continues as rumors circulate that its public schools are being privatized or turned into charter programs, enraging parents and teachers.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Jack Keegan sent a letter home to parents Thursday, attempting to allay concerns about the future of the school system.

“The school board has never talked about turning the district schools into charter schools since I have been here,” Keegan said in the letter, adding that he will send out a subsequent letter reminding staff to maintain "their professional responsibility."

Keegan, who has served as interim superintendent for nine months, is stepping down from the position in March. He refused to answer 3TV's questions about why he is resigning before the end of the school year.

Keegan’s resignation put pressure on Gilbert Public Schools' governing board to select a replacement as soon as possible.

The deeply divided board held its most recent meeting Tuesday.

The meeting extended into the wee hours of Wednesday morning as board members faced sharp criticism from the public and struggled to come to terms in their search for the next superintendent.

“Why are you here?” parent Tammy Zolner asked the school board. “Because if it's not to ensure exemplary education that inspires excellence and success within every learner within Gilbert Public Schools, I ask that you be the next ones to tender your resignations."

Zolner's comments were followed by a thunderous applause from an at times cantankerous crowd.

Citizens expressed concerns that the board members are putting politics and personal problems ahead of students’ development.

The board eventually decided on a new superintendent, selecting Dr. Christina DeJesus-Kishimoto for the job. She has been serving as superintendent of Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut.

She has accepted the offer, contingent upon contract negotiations.

She will start the job in July, leaving the Gilbert school district without a superintendent for four months.

Keegan said he has offered to serve as an adviser during the transition at no cost to the district.

The district also has to find a replacement for the principal of Highland High School, who resigned abruptly, a board member confirmed Thursday.

The board member did not know the reason for the principal’s June departure.