Feb. 15--A few months of searching to find a permanent leader for the district concluded on Feb. 11 with the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board's vote to hire a new superintendent, although the decision came amid controversy over the process.
The person selected by the board to become the district's next superintendent is Christina Kishimoto, who accepted the board's offer on Feb. 12. According to a statement released by the district, Kishimoto currently serves as the superintendent for Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut, and she will take over the Gilbert position effective July 1.
Kishimoto's hiring completes a process that began when former superintendent Dave Allison retired from the district in July 2013. The district then hired Jack Keegan to serve in the role on an interim basis.
"I had to go with my conscience, and I'm looking forward to the next chapter in this district, and I think it will be a good chapter," said board member Julie Smith at the Feb. 11 meeting.
Controversy over the process
Smith's explanation of her vote for Kishimoto, who was one of two finalists along with Phillip Hickman, came as a response to the controversy surrounding the decision that came in a tight 3-2 decision. Board president Staci Burk and clerk Daryl Colvin voted against the hiring, and neither board member said they were interested in hiring Hickman either; instead the two wanted to hire one of the other candidates the board interviewed -- attorney Dwayne Farnsworth.
His inclusion as one of the candidates -- the board began with 16 presented by search firm Ray & Associates before interviewing eight semifinalists -- created uproar among community members who attended the Tuesday meeting. The complaints lodged against Farnsworth stemmed from his lack of educational background and a Facebook post in which Colvin described Farnsworth as a friend.
Speaker Angie Draper stated during the Feb. 11 meeting that Farnsworth, the cousin of state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, was unqualified to serve as the district's superintendent, and chastised Colvin for focusing on the candidates' political leanings.
"I'm just absolutely disgusted; I think you guys have just gotten so far off track," she said. "I'm not pleased with any of the candidates. But Farnsworth? I will be at every meeting if I see his name on that ballot, and you will (recuse) yourself from that, because you have no business voting on a personal friend."
"Are you the kinds of people we turn our children over to who exhibit this kind of behavior?" Colvin said in response.
as a candidate
When called two days after the meeting, Farnsworth said he has some experience in education, including occasions in which he served as a substitute teacher in Spanish classes and as a college adjunct. But his main contention was that an absence of traditional education experience provides him a different perspective that could benefit the district.
"This is a CEO position; it doesn't require a teacher or a technician," he said.
He also referenced Liam Neeson's character in the movie "Taken," saying he had a set of skills that could translate to the education field.
Farnsworth also initially said Colvin was a loose acquaintance of his, as the two had worked together at community events and had bumped into each other from time to time.
"I would consider Daryl Colvin a friend, but he's not a long-lost friend," he said, adding that his wife knew Colvin better and campaigned on Colvin's behalf when he ran for Town Council.
He did, however, have a familiarity with three of the other board members prior to the vote. Farnsworth said he had spoken with Burk on a couple of occasions prior to the superintendent process -- she echoed his sentiments on their relationship -- but knew board member Jill Humpherys through her husband and church, and he said his wife carpools with Smith to take their kids to school on weekdays.