Hundreds pack Gilbert school board meeting to voice concerns

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

GILBERT, Ariz. -- Parents in the Gilbert Public School District are wondering if turmoil at the top of the district is having an impact on their kids' education.

One by one, parents, community members, staff, even a student within Gilbert Public Schools District voiced their concerns to the School Board during a standing-room-only meeting Tuesday night.

“Those of us with children in this district are worried,” said one mom during a public comment session which stretched over an hour.

“I’m glad I only have one year left,” a high school student told the Board.

“I am concerned about future legacy,” said another during the meeting.

They all say they're worried about the future of the kids' education, and about the district. The reason for the concern is what some are calling a mass exodus from the district.

It's estimated that more than 90 certified workers have turned in their resignations since the beginning of the year. Those leaving include teachers, reading specialists, principals and administrators. Gilbert Public Schools couldn’t confirm the exact number of resignations.

3TV spoke to the district's interim schools chief earlier in the day Tuesday. "We can rest assured education is carrying on in a very positive way in Gilbert public schools," Interim Superintendent Jim Rice told 3TV prior to the meeting.

Gilbert Public Schools still has an “A” rating, according to the Department of Education.

However, some families aren’t so sure. Chris Hill, a father of three, moved to Gilbert specifically for the school district. However, with the all the recent turmoil, he’s since put his children in private school.

“As a parent I think we have a finite amount of time to impact our children’s education, and you quickly lose that when things fall apart,” said Hill.

Hill and other parents blame a divided School Board for recent resignations.

“I think they feel a total lack of support,” said Hill. “They don’t feel it from the Board, and like anyone else, they’ll vote with their feet. They’ll go elsewhere, as will parents with their children.”

Gilbert Public Schools will receive its new Superintendent, Dr. Christina Kishimoto, in the coming weeks.

In a letter to the District issued on Monday, she wrote that a key and immediate focus will be “continue to attract and retain high quality staff and leaders to join its family of talented educators.”