Christina Kishimoto

The Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board voted to hire Christina Kishimoto to serve as the district's next superintendent. [Courtesy Hartford Public Schools]

Courtesy Hartford Public Schools

Incoming Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto officially signed a contract that will pay her at least $200,000 per year on the same night the district’s governing board hired its second interim superintendent since July.

Kishimoto, who serves in the same role for the Hartford Public Schools district in Connecticut, officially agreed to the terms of the contract and signed it along with the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board members during the board’s March 4 meeting.

“I look forward to working hand-in-hand with you; I look forward to working hand-in-hand with the board,” she told the audience.

According to the three-year contract, Kishimoto received has a base salary of $200,000 per year and a 2 percent pay increase each fiscal year, along with a $5,000 expense allowance and the opportunity to receive performance pay up to $10,000 or 5 percent of her base salary. The contract commences on July 1 of this year and concludes after the 2016-17 school year.

The contract signing came just less than a month after the board voted to hire her to serve as permanent superintendent in a 3-2 vote — board president Staci Burk and board clerk Daryl Colvin voted against her hiring — and came as part of a contentious search process.

The final decision came during a raucous meeting on Feb. 11, as several audience members took umbrage with the board’s overall performance and the search process. The main point of contention was the inclusion of attorney Dwayne Farnsworth as one of the final 16 candidates, as speakers spoke out against Farnsworth for his lack of educational background and a Facebook post in which Colvin called Farnsworth a friend. Farnsworth, who is the cousin of state legislator Eddie Farnsworth, said he did consider Colvin a friend, but “not a long-lost friend.”

Kishimoto replaces Dave Allison, who served in the role for five and a half years before retiring from the position in July 2013. The board initially hired Jack Keegan to serve as the bridge between permanent superintendents, but he tendered his resignation effective March 7.

Replacing Keegan is Jim Rice, hired by the board during Tuesday’s meeting to cover the four-month span until Kishimoto's start date. Rice’s background includes a tenure as the program administrator for the Rodel Charitable Foundation in Scottsdale and as superintendent of the Alhambra Elementary School District, and Burk said he was a candidate for the interim superintendent position held by Keegan.

Board member Jill Humpherys called Rice a “person of great strength and integrity” prior to the vote, but lamented the necessity of the second interim hiring.

“I just think it’s unfortunate we need to make another choice,” she said.

She also took time to praise Keegan for his work in the district despite the short tenure, emphasizing his willingness to discuss the district’s finances at several meetings and for doing his best to connect the community and the governing board. She said the changes that have occurred since Allison left the district in July have put it and the board in a “difficult situation.”

“I think it’s sad that that community and that board remain divided,” she said. “That’s hurting our children.”

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