The story being spun is that things were going great, and for no reason three “rogue” board members decided to “force” Quinn Kellis to resign.
Here’s the other side: Superintendent Gail Pletnick announced her retirement in June 2017. At that time the governing board was Jennifer Tanner, Spencer Bailey, Jay Leonard, Traci Sawyer-Sinkbeil and Christine Pritchard.
Tanner, Leonard and Bailey are close friends with Kellis. Tanner lives two houses from Kellis and works for Bailey. Leonard’s wife also works for Bailey. They are all members of the Mormon church with Kellis being the highest-ranking member.
The executive recruiting firm, McPherson and Jacobson LLC, was hired to conduct a mock search for Pletnick’s replacement. Tanner is a consultant for that firm.
Kellis was, not surprisingly, voted in as the new superintendent in July 2018, not necessarily because he was the best choice for DUSD, but because a majority on the board were his friends and LDS subordinates.
In November 2018, Dawn Densmore replaced Bailey on the board.
With a governing board where the majority are close friends of the superintendent and rubber stamp everything he wants through, that board is made obsolete, existing only as a front. The interests of the voters and the community are not being protected. The proper term for that governance is “cronyism.”
In 2019, a year after Kellis took charge, the district plummeted from the top 40% of all Arizona districts to the bottom 40%. His contract allowed for a 20% bonus based on job performance evaluations, which he never received — even with his “rubber stamp” cronies in place.
The year 2020 was an election year. At the May 13, 2020, board meeting, Kellis brought his contract up for renewal a year early.
Tanner decided not to run for reelection. Leonard did. Based on prior evaluations, and since there was no hurry, Densmore and Pritchard prudently suggested waiting for the next evaluation only a month away.
Members of the community spoke up expressing the same reasonable consideration. Instead, Leonard, Tanner and Sinkbeil ignored prudence, ignored voters, ignored the two board members and voted the bloated contract for their friend, 3-2.
Five months later, DUSD voters reelected Pritchard with the most votes of any candidate. Chrystal Chaffin received the second-highest number of votes, and Jo Grant came in a distant third.
Voters soundly rejected incumbent Leonard.
Negotiations on Kellis’ contract began months ago after he received $0 bonus on his last evaluation. These discussions are held in executive session to protect his privacy. Arizona has laws pertaining to executive sessions and Kellis was the only person who had the authority to opt out and make the hearings public. He chose not to.
Instead, A.R.S. 38-431.03 was violated when someone leaked partial information that a resignation agreement was being discussed.
Based on that leak, the three main protagonists in that May 11 board meeting/spin-fest were former board members Leonard and Tanner, and Kathleen Honne. the woman who famously advocated for holding high school graduation hostage if voters didn’t agree to a tax increase.
All three of these inciters know A.R.S. 38-431.03.
Although the agenda was only made public 24 hours prior, the “Save Kellis” zealots showed up with “Recall & Replace” signs and media coverage.
Perhaps now the board can choose a superintendent based on qualifications rather than friendship, religious affiliation or cronyism. That would benefit the students, the families, and the entire district. Academics rather than fundraising and tax increases would be a welcomed change.