Tuesday, June 28, 2016

UPDATED! Fox C-6 Pay Scales and Raises Explained by Fox CFO

ARTICLE UPDATED at 6:00PM with information provided by Fox CFO John Brazeal

This evening, I received an email from Fox CFO John Brazeal informing me that my original article was inaccurate. Mr. Brazeal provided the following explanation so I could correct my inaccuracies informing me that I had been fooled by vocabulary word choices.

Thank you to Mr. Brazeal for providing the following detailed explanation as to how our district's pay scales work and what is currently being done to align our district's pay scale as our school district moves forward.

"There are 2 types of pay increases: (1) step increases, meaning moving up one step on the pay scale, and (2) cost-of-living increases, meaning adjusting all the wage or salary amounts on the pay scale.
The complaint of the person that sent you the email is not that she didn’t receive a step increase in pay rate, but rather that a cost-of-living adjustment was not applied to the pay schedule so that classified employees would receive both a step increase along with a cost-of-living increase. And yes, I did state that cost-of-living adjustment to the pay schedules are unlikely as long as there is no growth in district revenue. It was stated that eligible employees would continue to receive step increases. 
You should know that all employee groups are treated in similar fashion. For 2016-2017, none of the pay plans or pay schedules for any employee groups received a cost-of-living adjustment. In other words, the same pay schedules for 2015-2016 were renewed for 2016-2017 with the exception of a few changes, such as a decrease in the range for certain administrative positions and an increase in the pay range for school nurses. With the same pay plans in place, the following procedures applied to step increase movements for 2016-2017: 
Teachers that are not at top-of-scale on the teacher pay schedule will receive a step increase in pay in a range between 2.4% and 2.5% for 2016-2017. Teachers at the top-of-scale or above the top-of-scale on the teacher pay schedule will not have an increase in pay. 
Classified staff that are not at top-of-scale on the classified pay schedule will receive a step increase in pay. The classified staff within the first 15 steps of the schedule will receive an increase in pay ranging between 2.2% and 3.2%. Classified staff within the last 10 steps of the schedule will receive pay increases in the range of 0.5%. Classified staff at the top-of-scale or above the top-of-scale on the classified pay schedule will not have an increase in pay. 
Administrators that are within the first half of the pay range for their position received a 2.0% increase in pay. Administrators that are within the second half of the pay range for their position received a 1.0% increase in pay. Administrators that are at the top-of-scale or above the top-of-scale of the pay range for their position will not receive an increase in pay."



[Original Article Below Posted]
Concerns were brought to the attention of the school board, local news stations, the Leader, myself and JeffCo Penknife over the weekend via email regarding pay freezes for classified staff at Fox C-6.

Classified employees were told that they would not see a cost of living raise until the district gains back its integrity with the community at which that time the district would ask for tax money from the taxpayers to then be able to reward classified employees with a cost of living raise.

Facing a pay freeze and and increasing health insurance costs has been a concern for our district's classified employees (bus drivers, food service, maintenance workers, aides, etc.).

The concern from the employee / taxpayer to the Fox C-6 Board of Education was the fact that the Fox C-6 Board of Education voted to approve raises for administrators at the February 16, 2016 school board meeting for the 2016-2017 school year while classified employees (who make the lowest wages) in the district are on a pay freeze.

The board meeting agenda item 7.1 Administrator Contracts from the February 16, 2016 school board meeting has the 2016-2017 Administrator Salaries listed in the Administrator Modifications PDF document for the school board to approve.

From a transparency standpoint, the Administrator Modifications report that was provided to the school board and the public did not include the 2015-2016 administrator salaries. The Administrator Modifications report only listed the new salaries that become effective on July 1, 2016.

In the past, I recall seeing salary modifications reports provided to the school board that listed current salary and the new salary. It certainly makes it much easier to compare the amount of raises being given.

You can view the BoardDocs Agenda Item 7. 1 for Administrator Contracts from the February 16, 2016 BOE meeting and the Administrator Salary Modifications report using the links below.




Thursday, June 23, 2016

Arnold-Imperial Leader Article titled "Bad bonds" about Fox's Bond Issue Fiasco!

An article in this week's Arnold-Imperial Leader covers the $18.5 million dollar bond issue that was approved by voters in August 2012 and documented as a serious problem in the May 2016 State Auditor's report.

The state auditor's report claims that Fox C-6 will spend an additional $5.6 million dollars in interest because of how the bonds were sold.

The article references former Fox C-6 Superintendent Dianne Critchlow's letter that explained how "all the stars aligned for the school district" when the district "earned" an extra $4.2 million dollars on our bond sale.

Voters approved an $18.5 million dollar bond issue in 2012, not a $22.7 million dollar bond issue.


On January 13, 2013, I wrote an article about a letter from former Fox C-6 Superintendent Dianne Critchlow that contained some of the phrases that were referenced in today's Arnold-Imperial Leader article about the 2012 Bond Issue.

Critchlow wrote in her letter that,
"the district earned almost 2.5 million dollars more than anticipated. This was fantastic news for our district. So much so, that we asked the building principals to put together additional lists of wants and needs for their respective schools due to the extra funding."

She went on to explain how it occurred. She wrote that,
"As much as we would like to predict the market, we can't. However, all the stars aligned (and the market) for the school district."

The letter was referenced in an alert that was posted on the district website letting the community know that plans to move the administration office have ceased.

You can read Critchlow's entire letter to the community using the link below:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Breaking News! Fox C-6 State Audit to be Reviewed at June 14, 2016 School Board Meeting

Breaking News!

Tuesday June 14, 2016 Fox C-6 School Board Meeting will include a Review of the
May 2016 State Audit Report

The Fox C-6 School Board Meeting agenda for Tuesday June 14, 2016 was updated today to include a review of the May 2016 State Audit Report. The links below go to the Fox C-6 School District BoardDocs pages for the agenda items.

Fox C-6 received a rating of "POOR" on the May 2016 State Audit Report which is the lowest rating given by the state auditor's office.


A draft budget for the 2016-2017 school year is also included on the agenda.

Public Comments
Anyone wishing to make a Public Comment at the June 14, 2016 meeting must submit an outline of your remarks on the Public Comments Information form by 6:45PM.

A link to the policy for making Public Comments can be found on the Patrons Comments Agenda Item below or download the Public Comments Information form directly using the second link:

Friday, June 10, 2016

Former Superintendent Critchlow Asked Her Cabinet To Post Positive Comments About the District on TOPIX

Recently, I posted the handwritten notes former Fox C-6 assistant superintendents Tim Crutchley and Todd Scott wrote after their conversation with former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Critchlow in which she told them that her husband Jamie Critchlow had been posting comments on the TOPIX.COM website. As I mentioned in that post, getting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth from some of Fox's former school district administrators had been a huge problem for years.

According to Tim Crutchley's deposition, former superintendent Dianne Critchlow had been concerned with comments that were being posted on TOPIX.COM for quite some time. Mr. Crutchley stated that comments on TOPIX were discussed quite often in their "cabinet" (assistant superintendent) meetings. In fact, she asked her "cabinet" (the assistant superintendents) to post positive comments on TOPIX about the school district in response to the comments that were critical of the district.

Former superintendent Dianne Critchlow's directive lead to some administrators posting comments on TOPIX.COM during the school day as well as at home. Not all of the comments posted were positive as you can see by reading the ones listed in the exhibits in the lawsuit that was filed with Jefferson County courts in November 2014.

Comments Posted On TOPIX from Fox's IP Address Date Back to 2010
Some of the earliest posts made on TOPIX that came from the school district's IP address date back to October 2010. They were made by a user named "Bullwinkle" who responded to a post that I had made on Topix regarding my concerns about the school district's open District Wide Compliance Review.

Former superintendent Dianne Brown was not happy that we had filed an OCR complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights in August 2008. And then in March 2010, Washington D.C. Office of Civil Rights informed superintendent Brown that her school district would be undergoing a District Wide Compliance Review adding insult to injury.

Making the public aware of the District Wide Compliance Review was something that former superintendent Dianne Brown didn't want. When I would ask the school board about it during public comments, Dianne would respond saying that it couldn't be discussed due to litigation. But, there was no litigation related to the Compliance Review. Stating that there was ongoing litigation was a simple way to make everyone believe that it couldn't be discussed. It was simply another tactic used to keep people from questioning things in the district. The District Wide Compliance Review was an investigation of the school district's Section 504 practices.

So, when a comment was posted on TOPIX by Bullwinkle referencing the recent Due Process decision for the OCR complaint, it was very obvious to me as to who would have posted that online comment. I just couldn't prove at the time that the comment came from a school district computer.

Dianne Brown and former assistant superintendent and Section 504 Coordinator, Dan Baker, had both been involved with the OCR complaint and Due Process Hearing as well as the District Wide Compliance Review in 2010 and were aware of the recent ruling.

So, when it was confirmed that Bullwinkle's comment that was posted on TOPIX.COM on November 16, 2010 came from a the school district's IP address, it helped validate my suspicions.

Below is part of Bullwinkle's comment that was posted on TOPIX. The comment seems to have a bit of an attitude resonating from it: 
"Channel person. You must be the disgruntled parents over the OCR case. get over it! you lost."
The Due Process Hearing ruling had made by an attorney who was hired by the school district and who just happened to be a former law associate in two different law firms of the attorney who represented the school district during the Due Process Hearing. The attorney hired by the district to hear the Due Process Hearing was supposed to be "Fair and Impartial" but that was not the case. That's just how the game has been played in our state for a very long time.

Bullwinkle also responded to another comment in which I had talked about speaking to Fox's school board president in 2008 about speaking to the school board and superintendent Brown blocked the school board from speaking to me. When superintendent Brown arrived at the meeting, she told me that the school board had already decided not to speak with me.

However, the board president at the time wasn't aware of this decision as we were already speaking about getting on next months agenda since he had forgotten to put me on the agenda for that evening. Apparently, superintendent Brown forgot to tell him that "he" had already decided not to speak with me. Superintendent Brown seemed to be the only person who knew that the school board had decided not to speak with me.

Bullwinkle didn't catch that my comment was about speaking with the board president in the fall of 2008. I guess being angered by information being posted in a public forum that had been kept quiet for so long was causing unrest in the upper ranks. My comment related to this incident caused Bullwinkle to post the following comment on TOPIX.COM:

11/16/2010 - 08:10AM
"The school board president is a female and has been president since early last spring you dip stick. 
Mr Critchlow, I will call you and we can start our own campaign against these crazy parents.. LOL Perhaps we can find them something to do at your school... hahahaaa"
Bullwinkle posted 5 comments on TOPIX.COM during October and November 2010. Several of Bullwinkle's online posts made "positive" comments about superintendent Brown and the school district. Bullwinkle certainly wanted to make sure that the community was aware of the great job that superintendent Brown was doing for our school district.

What helped confirm my suspicions that Bullwinkle was most likely superintendent Brown, was that the language and writing style used by Bullwinkle was strikingly similar to that found in the Superintendent Messages written by Superintendent Dianne Brown that she posted on the district website and also published in The Rock newspaper.

There was no doubt in my mind as to who Bullwinkle was who was posting on TOPIX defending superintendent Brown and responding to criticisms that were made on the Fox High School Superintendent thread.

Even though Bullwinkle didn't post that many messages, the phrases and keywords used by Bullwinkle gave you the impression that you were reading comments written by superintendent Dianne Brown herself.

Here are some of the phrases and keywords that stood out in Bullwinkle's comments. Compare the phrases to those used by former superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow in her Superintendent Messages from 2010 to 2013:
  • Kudos to you
  • second to none
  • I applaud
  • I'm proud of
  • positive attitude
Below are the comments posted on TOPIX by Bullwinkle back in 2010 that originated from the school district's IP address with the dates and local time that they were posted online.

it may have just been a coincidence, but when the following message was posted in 2010, two of superintendent Brown's kids had already graduated from the district.

10/19/2010 - 9:51AM
This is obsurd. Those of you who are relishing in these rumors are worse than the rumors theirselves. Complete rubbish. I have two kids that graduated from the district. Couldnt be more impressed with their experience and education. I applaud the superintendent and all her efforts. Her personal life is exactly what it is. Hers...not yours! Get a life people!


The last paragraph in the following comment sounds very much like one of superintendent Brown's Superintendent Messages:

11/05/2010 - 11:19AM
Who here has been divorced or has had a close friend or relative get divorced? Because your not a public figure does that give all of us the right to judge you/her? Nope dont think so. One thing thats a common factor here is about the kids. Do you think your children would be proud of you guys posting negative remarks about their teachers and administration? Think about that... 
I love humans nowadays. Collectively forming a cyber‐subpar lynch mob with nothing to do other than try to tear people down. 
As you judge others always keep in mind you too will be judged when your time comes. 
Im proud of the school district. Its teachers, faculty, administration and staff are second to none. Kudos to you guys!!! I know your doing everything you can to help our children succeed.
The next comment posted by Bullwinkle was intent on defending superintendent Brown who had been getting criticized online about her close relationship with Jamie Critchlow. The last paragraph of the comment reminded everyone how much the school board held superintendent Brown "in high regard and have nothing but the utmost respect for her." Bullwinkle also reminded parents to have a "positive attitude".

11/08/2010 - 10:33AM
"Dear unknowing fellow constituents,...

I am amazed that any of you morality, podium pounding blabber‐mouths feel you have any right to judge. Do you know the superintendant or any of the people being accused on here? What are your facts? I'm sure you caught wind of a rumor and you took it to the highest level without knowing a damn bit of whats going on. Have you lived in her house? Have you been in her former marriage? Have you had her confide in you why she got a divorce? NO... you have not and don't kid yourself if you think you have a clue. This is where the term "hypocrite" applies. 
I know the parents and board hold her in high regard and have nothing but the utmost respect for her. And my opinion still remains the same. Get a life and find a positive place in your head to venture to. The world is crappy enough without this rubbish and your nonsense. Be a parent with a positive attitude...not a bad one."
Below is the comment posted by Bullwinkle in response to my comment about being blocked from speaking with our school board by superintendent Brown at the September 2008 school board meeting. In September 2008, Mr. Wes Griffith was the school board president:

11/16/2010 - 8:10AM
The school board president is a female and has been president since early last spring you dip stick. Again...more lies to harm others. 
Mr Critchlow, I will call you and we can start our own campaign against these crazy parents..LOL Perhaps we can find them something to do at your school...hahahaaa
Below is the complete comment that was posted by Bullwinkle in response to my comment on TOPIX about the District Wide Compliance Review being conducted by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). In the same post, Bullwinkle responded to another person, not me, who used the screen name "Please". "Please" had been making comments about relationships in the work place:

11/16/2010 - 10:03AM
Channel person. You must be the disgruntled parents over the OCR case. get over it! you lost. 
"Please" You are correct in that affairs in the work place are frowned upon and Im sure Paul would agree with you. However, making accusations without proof is slander and you, my friend, are crossing the line repetitely. You lose. get over it! 
Put your name out there like Mr Critchlow did. Hes being ripped on here too and I applaud him for his righteousness.
The person posting as Bullwinkle from the school district's IP address was certainly impressed by superintendent Brown and thought that the school board held "her in high regard". It was certainly entertaining to see the similarities to Bullwinkle's comments and superintendent Brown's Superintendent Message.

I wrote an article about this back in July 2014 titled:

What Got Our Educators Riled Enough To Write Defamatory Comments?



Comments Posted From District and Home Computers and Cell Phones
If you read through the exhibits in the publicly available lawsuit, you will see date / time stamps and an IP address recorded for each post. The school districts IP address was documented by MOREnet. Other IP addresses that were traced back to individual homes and cell phones were verified by the respective Internet Service Providers.

You'll probably notice that not all of the posts made on TOPIX that were traced back to the school district or to the homes or phones of school district administrators were "positive" posts.

The dates and times in the exhibits from TOPIX.COM are in Pacific Standard Time. So, you must to add 2 hours to the times that are documented in military time in the exhibits. The text of the lawsuit didn't properly document the times when they were converted from the exhibits into the lawsuit text.

Did Jamie Critchlow Use a Personal Computer?
In Tim Crutchley's notes of his conversation with Jamie Critchlow, Mr. Crutchley documented that Mr. Critchlow didn't use any district computers when he posted comments on TOPIX.COM, "We asked if he used personal or district computers and he said he used personal computer."

Did Mr. Critchlow tell the truth when he told Mr. Crutchley that he didn't use a district computer?

On November 16, 2010 at 7:49AM, there was a comment posted on TOPIX by someone using the screen name, "Jamie Matthew Critchlow". The online post was removed from TOPIX long ago but was provided by TOPIX when subpoenaed since it originated from the school district's IP address.

The original comment posted by the screen name, Jamie Matthew Critchlow was as follows with the exception that I redacted part of the phone number that was made in the original online post and in the lawsuit exhibits:
Public...let me introduce myself. I am Jamie Critchlow. Principal of the Bridges program at Fox C‐6. I have been made aware of this website and rumors as of late. I am on here to speak to you as a concerned parent. I am truly apathetic for anyone who finds comfort in these negative words. Dr Brown and I are great friends who have found solitude in each others friendship through difficult times. The light in which both she and i have been shed on this website is at best ridiculous. If you have any questions you would like to ask please call my personal cell at 314‐775‐XXXX.
Read through the TOPIX.COM posts that are documented in the lawsuit that was filed electronically in the Jefferson County courts in November 2014. You can see just how many comments were made on TOPIX from the school district's IP address. The district said they were unable to trace which specific computers the posts came from when asked to do so. However, there's definite pattern in choice of screen names and content in many of the online comments.

Hopefully reading through the online comments will give everyone a little more perspective as to why I've put so much time and effort into documenting what was going on in our school district. It's important to get the facts and the truth to the public so this type of behavior never happens again in our school district.

Fox's former superintendent, Dianne Brown/Critchlow invested a lot of time and effort into hiding information from the public for years. That allowed her to get away with a lot of things that never should have happened. It's very well documented in emails to board members and administrators as well as audio recordings of school board meetings and more as to what was going on.

It's extremely hard for anyone to even imagine that this sort of harassment could or would occur especially since it was being done by some of the top administrators in our school district.

It's even harder to imagine that our Fox C-6 school board members did nothing to stop what was happening in our school district as I repeatedly spoke to them and emailed them about this harassment for years.

In 2014 after obtaining IP addresses, we provided the lawsuit information to the Office of Civil Rights since this sort of behavior would surely be considered retaliation under Section 504 Law. However, the Office for Civil Rights told us they couldn't do anything until there was a court ruling. We also spoke to the Department of Justice as well.

It's a pretty poor system when things like this cannot be stopped. Perhaps this will be a lesson that everyone will learn from.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

May 27, 2014 - Critchlow Tells Crutchley and Scott That Her Husband Was Posting on TOPIX.COM

I'm glad to see that the Fox C-6 community is finally questioning all of those denials of wrong doing over the years by former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow.

Telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth was a huge problem for some of Fox's school district during the Dianne Brown / Dianne Critchlow Era of our school district.

Seeing some of the comments posted by parents, taxpayers and students on some of the news sites and Facebook helps validate years of work spent chasing down and documenting the corruption going on in our district as school board members turned a blind eye.

Below is a link to a few pages of notes written by former assistant superintendent Tim Crutchley and former assistant superintendent Todd Scott on May 25, 2014 soon after Dianne Critchlow informed them that she knew that her husband Jamie Critchlow had been making posts on TOPIX.COM. Dianne met with Tim Crutchley and Todd Scott shortly after the Post Dispatch newspaper published a story about the internet scandal lawsuit.

Their notes aren't very detailed. But, I thought it would be helpful for the community to get a glimpse at some of the things that were going on behind the scenes two years ago.

It's hard to believe that it's already been two years since the internet scandal broke things loose for the school district. It wasn't long after the internet scandal, that the credit card spending scandal hit the news. What a crazy time it was!

While Dianne Brown-Critchlow was touting Fox as being a National District of Character, she was busy padding her pockets and using district credit cards to pay for red light tickets and meals as well as purchase logging tongs, cameras and softball equipment on Amazon.com.

As documented in Tim Crutchley's hand written notes, Dianne Critchlow asked Tim Crutchley and Todd Scott to tell the board  "about her wanting to to retire right away and that she has gotten bad health news and was going on FMLA right away. She also wanted us to get board to move Jamie's retirement up right away because of her health concerns."

I'm betting that Dianne Critchlow didn't feel too well after being contacted by her Internet Service Provider and being told that their IP information was being requested for a lawsuit.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trust Me... I'm A School Administrator!

I recently received an email from the Trial Tips Newsletter titled, "Trust Me... I'm a Lawyer!" The title of the article piqued my interest after dealing with school district attorneys and administrators who didn't always tell the truth over the years regarding Section 504 issues and other issues at Fox C-6.

I started writing this blog to document the lies and deception employed by lawyers, administrators and staff that were used to get around federal law for years as well as giving the public the impression that everything was being done above board. Now that the state audit report has been released, the Fox C-6 community finally gets a more factual picture of what can happen when board members fail to respond to citizen's concerns. 

When it takes the U.S. Department of Educations's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) who is in charge of enforcing Civil Rights law, including Section 504, doesn't actually enforce the law but turns a blind eye, it's very easy for the public to get the impression or illusion that school districts are properly following the law.
 
The question is, Why did the ED OCR Office in Kansas City turn a blind eye for years rather than enforce the law?

The current OCR Enforcement Director recently told me there were "scores of reasons" as to why Fox's District Wide Compliance Review hadn't been completed for more than 6+ years. She told me that she wasn't able to discuss personnel issues with me. I voiced my concern with the fact that the Director of the Kansas City ED OCR Office and former Chief Attorney was legal counsel for the Kansas City School District prior to working for ED OCR. The Chief Attorney is responsible for signing off on Non-compliant findings.

The Kansas City Office for Civil Rights has allowed a Resolution Agreement between Fox C-6 and the Office for Civil Rights to remain open for more than 7 years. The Resolution Agreement spelled out what the district was to do in order to meet federal law. Fox's former law firm argued with ED OCR over some of the items that the district originally agreed to do which was negotiated by Fox's former law firm in the first place.

And, the Kansas City Office for Civil Rights has not completed the District Wide Compliance Review which was initiated in March 2010 which was investigating the practices of the Fox School District as to whether it was writing Individualized Health Plans for students instead of Section 504 Plans where students were qualified for Section 504. For those reasons, it's very easy to get the impression that school districts have been following federal law for years when in fact they have not.

A good example is when your school district is required to reinstate a Section 504 Plan that had been taken away 6 years earlier by the district's former assistant superintendent and Section 504 Coordinator. Fox's former Section 504 Coordinator was demoted after derogatory comments were traced to his home and the home of Fox's former superintendent who "retired" and who's husband was fired in 2014.
 
Advocating for what is right can be a very tedious and time consuming effort.

Educating parents, school board members and educators along the way will hopefully make it easier for anyone who has to navigate the 504 or IEP process or is put into the same situation. I quickly discovered that some lawyers will improperly train or mislead educators and school board members in order to support their agenda. 

You can certainly learn a lot about how to keep a watchful eye on your school district, MO DESE and the Office for Civil Rights when it takes years to get things corrected. Hopefully you won't have to.

Moving Forward with New Administration
Fox has many new administrators since the "retirement" of Fox's former superintendent in 2014 and the retirement incentive program ended in 2015. I think the district is headed in the right direction but it's going to take some time to rebuild that trust with the community. Only time will tell and having more watchful and aware citizens should help keep the district moving in a positive direction.

The Trial Tips Newsletter is a free weekly e-zine for trial lawyers published by Elliott Wilcox. I stumbled upon the Trial Tips Newsletter while preparing for a Due Process Hearing related to Section 504 issues with the Fox C-6 School District back in 2010 since we couldn't afford to pay $35,000 to $70,000 to hire a lawyer to represent us during a Due Process Hearing.

After reading the recent Trial Tips article, "Trust Me... I'm a Lawyer!", the first thing that popped into my head was a comment made by a Fox C-6 administrator at the start of our Early Complaint Resolution (ECR) meeting with attorneys from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) and a few Fox C-6 administrators and an attorney from the district's new law firm in August 2014.

ED OCR came to Fox to mediate the reinstatement of the Section 504 Plan that had been removed by Dan Baker, Fox's former Section 504 Coordinator, in September 2008. Yes, it really took 6 years to reinstate a Section 504 plan. It was helped by the fact that Fox had hired a new law firm and our former superintendent had "retired" and the fact that Fox's former Section 504 Coordinator had been demoted to a principal position in the district.

You may want to read the newsletter article prior to reading the next paragraph using the link below:


The comment made by the administrator in 2014 was, "And you all know, if anything, I'm honest to a fault." right before explaining why a document sent to us was different than the original document that was sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office for Civil Rights (USDA OCR) in 2013. The document sent to USDA OCR was used to close a complaint with USDA OCR that had been open since 2009. The comment made by the administrator above was what was explained in the article, "Trust Me... I'm A Lawyer!".

That comment really stood out as the administrator continued to explain how there were multiple drafts of the same document and that the wrong one had been sent, etc., etc. We had seen plenty of "mistakes" over the years of final copies of documents not matching the draft copies or not accurately reflecting what occurred during meetings. It was the same old stuff just a different day. It doesn't take too many of those occurrences for you to not believe what you are told by school district attorneys, administrators and even people in the Kansas City ED OCR office. KC ED OCR was always responding with nonsense as to why this or that was never done or how they were still working on things, etc., etc..

That little mistake in sending the wrong document to the USDA OCR was well noted by the National Director of USDA OCR. Just a couple of months after USDA OCR closed the complaint in 2013 based upon the letter that Dan Baker sent acknowledging a disability, Dan Baker convened a 504 Team meeting under ED OCR rules and denied 504 eligibility again. We called and spoke with the Director of the USDA OCR in Washington, D.C about what was done. He told me that, "they lied to my face" when they sent out the letter that closed the complaint. He explained how he had phone calls with Dan Baker and Ernie Trakas regarding their acknowledgement. The Director of USDA OCR informed the district in a letter that by acknowledging a disability to one federal agency meant that person would be eligible under a different agency such as ED OCR since it was the same law.
Trust
is a fragile thing.
Easy to break, Easy to lose
and one of the hardest things
to ever get back.

The newsletter article reminded me of another statement made by the same administrator who said, "And you all know, if anything, I'm honest to a fault.". During a 504 meeting in 2008 when the district was working to remove the Section 504 plan, that same administrator said, "Those were just my notes. Those weren't actionable items." when referencing "the plan" that was emailed to us documenting what the district planned to do earlier in the year.

We had taken "the plan" that was emailed to us to be actionable items since many of the things on "the plan" had been implemented as listed. However, some items on the list weren't implemented. Being told that the items on "the plan" were "just my notes" and "weren't actionable items" causes you distrust what you are told. It also makes you question other things you are being told by district officials.

The original "plan" that was emailed to us was not designated as a Section 504 Plan. That was sort of the crux of the matter since the list of accommodations looked like and smelled like a 504 plan.

It certainly seemed reasonable to think that the items on "the plan" were actionable items. But, when I asked during that 504 meeting in 2008 why some of the things listed on "the plan" weren't followed, the district attorney attending the meeting at the time, asked Dan Baker, if that was the "bulleted list" that I was referring to. It was easy to see that the attorney was already aware of that "bulleted list" aka "the plan".

Due Process Hearings are supposed to be "Fair and Impartial"
I had never been through a Due Process Hearing before so I started reading articles and books on the subject since we couldn't afford to spend $35,000 to $70,000 to hire a lawyer to represent us in a Due Process Hearing. That was the amounts quoted to us by several lawyers. So, it was a matter of getting up to speed quickly on Due Process Hearings and when I found several articles on the Trial Tips Newsletter that were very helpful.

Another reason for not hiring a lawyer and deciding to represent ourselves was the fact that the lawyers that we spoke with told us that the decision had already been made and that hiring them would be a waste of money. Well, that was after we told them who was representing the district and the name of the attorney who was chosen by the district as the Due Process Hearing Officer. A Google search quickly revealed that the Due Process Hearing Officer chosen by the district just happened to be a former law associate of the attorney representing the district. What are the chances of that ever happening?

People are very quick at pointing out that it didn't seem like we would be getting a "Fair and Impartial" Due Process Hearing after finding out that the district had chosen a former law associate of the attorney representing the district. That's why we decided to drop the Due Process Hearing. We knew there was no chance of winning. But, that's when Mr. Dan Baker stepped in and thought it would be good to go ahead and file a Due Process Hearing against us so the district could get some closure on the issue.

Why Fox Initiated Due Process Against Us
Below is a portion of the transcript of testimony given under oath by Dan Baker during our Due Process Hearing in May-June 2010.

Mr. Baker was questioned by the district's attorney as to why the school district decided to initiate Due Process against us.
Question (attorney): Now, recently did the district initiate its own due process against the Simpsons in relationship to the same issue that we're here for? 
Answer (Dan Baker): Yes, we did. 
Question (attorney): And can you explain to me why the district decided to initiate due process. 
Answer (Dan Baker): Yes. My thought was that there might be a chance that the parents, in my words, back out of the hearing that we're having now; and I just felt that getting some sort of resolution to this, some sort of legal vacuum to this other than going through the Office for Civil Rights, was definitely needed in this case. 
Question (attorney): And on what basis did you believe that the Simpsons might be canceling the hearing that was scheduled for this week? 
Answer (Dan Baker): Through correspondence that I had seen through the Office of Civil Rights asking about availability of dates.
You may be wondering why the district would want to spend tax payer dollars on legal fees to initiate Due Process against us since we were dropping our Due Process Hearing. We were too. But, after seeing our Due Process Hearing decision touted around the state by the former law firm as another case they had one in some of their seminars we knew why. 

Testifying in Jefferson City for SB 365
In May 2015, I was invited to testify in Jefferson City in front of the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee on a senate bill SB 365 sponsored by Missouri State Senator Eric Schmitt. The senate bill was proposed because lawmakers in our state were very aware of the amount of tax dollars being spent on legal fees to deny or remove IEP's and/or Section 504 plans from students in our state. I shared some of our story with the Senate Education Committee.

The Missouri School Boards Association and the School Administrators Coalition testified against SB 365.

It's well known that some attorneys are denying or removing IEP's or Section 504 plans from students on the front end and then litigating the matter on the back end when parents work to restore what was taken away. You only have the choice of filing for Due Process or filing a lawsuit in Civil Court after a Section 504 Plan has been removed and you disagree with the District's decision. It's a win-win for attorneys.

The District had no reason to initiate Due Process against us. However, it worked out well for the attorneys in legal fees. It should be noted that the same law firm initiated Due Process against a family in the Wentzville School District a few years ago even after the family had pulled their child from the school district and no longer attended school in the district. Wentzville wanted to get "closure" on the matter just like Fox wanted to in our case. That law firm no longer represents Fox C-6 or Wentzville.

Hopefully School Board Members Will Question More as Well
It's important to understand some of the tactics used by some administrators and attorneys representing school districts in our state so you know what you may be up against.

I spoke with several school board members over the years on the subject of honesty and integrity. One former school board member who was on the school board prior to 2008, told me that we would never get a Section 504 Plan after the school removed it. Another former board member told me that if the board didn't think they should have to do something (provide a Section 504 Plan), they were going to fight it. I guess that's why it was OK to keep approving all of those legal fees over the years.

Whose to blame? Attorneys from Fox's former law firm had been telling educators not to give students 504 Plans for food allergies even if they were eligible for one since at least 2005. That's when a video presentation was posted on a law firm's website stating that position. The video had been recorded at the 2005 Annual School Law Seminar. But, there were also many students in our district who had been denied Section 504 Accommodation Plans for other medical disabilities as well. That's why the District has been undergoing a District Wide Compliance Review since March 2010.

Great Book to Read
In 2010 while preparing for our Due Process Hearing, I also read a book that I found extremely helpful. It was titled, "Disability Deception: Lies Disability Educators Tell And How Parents Can Beat Them At Their Own Game".

The title of the book turned out to be very true after dealing with some of our district's administrators and attorneys representing the district back then. I spoke with the author for quite some time and shared some of our experiences with her. We also talked about the lack of enforcement by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR). She was very aware of that problem as well.

The book Disability Deception is intended for parents and advocates who have students who need or require an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). But, much of that information can be applied to dealing with educators/administrators related to Section 504 law.

If you have a child with special needs or a child who has an IEP and you are having troubles dealing with your school district, I highly recommend reading the book which was published back in 2007. I have loaned out my paperback copy to several parents over the past several years. You can find the Kindle edition of "Disability Deception" on Amazon using the link below:


JoAnn Collins published another book in 2014 which I have not read, titled: "Slaying Special Education Dragons".

Hopefully a few people will find this article educational about some of the tactics used to get around federal laws like Section 504. It's simply amazing the amount of time and money that was spent trying to get around the law over the years.

Reports to the President and Secretary of Education
ED OCR has a new policy in that they post Resolution Agreements and District Wide Compliance Reviews on their website now so the public and other school districts can learn from their findings. Hopefully, Fox's District Wide Compliance Review that has been open for the past 6+ years will be available on their website in the next several months.

You can read about the new policy at ED OCR in the recently released report by the Office for Civil Rights to the President and Secretary of Education using the link below:


Thursday, May 19, 2016

While You're Waiting for Fox's State Audit To Be Released!

While you're waiting for the Missouri State Auditor's office to release the results of the Fox C-6 audit, you may wish to read the state auditor's report of the Lee's Summit School District which was released in February 2014. The Lee's Summit state audit will give you an idea of what an audit report looks like. The last state audit of Fox C-6 was completed in 2002. I wrote about that audit back in 2013. The link to that audit on the Missouri State Auditor's website has been moved and is no longer valid.

Why check out the Lee's Summit school district audit?
Well, the Lee's Summit superintendent and school board president and several board members are currently under fire by the citizens of Lee's Summit. Citizens are upset after it was brought to their attention that the superintendent was dating one of the attorneys for the school district and the superintendent was given a new 3 year $400,000 a year contract.

Citizens Voice Their Concerns During Public Comments
The April 2016 Lee's Summit school board meeting was refreshing to watch as the community rallied and citizens came to the board meeting to voice their concerns. However, many of them were shutdown by a district attorney asked to attend the meeting by the school board president. You'll want to read about the attorney hired by the district in the online opinion article posted by a Lee's Summit school board member on the Lee's Summit Tribune website which I have linked to further down in this article about keeping the public informed.

The April 2016 Lee's Summit school board meeting was video recorded by a parent in the district and at least 3 news stations. The video recording of the board meeting is definitely worth watching. Members of the community were there to voice their concerns about what they believed to be a "conflict of interest" with the law firm since the principal attorney of the law firm and the superintendent were dating. The attorney had helped negotiate his contract for the 2015-2016 school year in which he received a significant salary increase.

Watch the community's reaction as a different Lee's Summit's attorney stopped the citizens from voicing their concerns about their superintendent's new 3 year $400,000 a year contract because, it wasn't on the agenda using the links below. The first video link was recorded by a Lee's Summit resident. The second video link was a news story posted by Kansas City KSHB 41 Action News.

One of the interesting things about Dr. McGehee's salary was that he was receiving deferred payments which weren't openly reported in his salary disclosure to the community. He was being paid much more than the community thought he was being paid. Once the community found out about this and the relationship of the superintendent and the school district's attorney, they were very willing to voice their concerns to the Lee's Summit school board.

Read more about Dr. McGehee's contracts and deferred payments on the Lee's Summit Tribune website here:


Luckily, for the citizens of Lee's Summit, there has been a school board member who has been willing to stand up for the citizens who elected him rather than sit back and remaining silent. He was responsible for informing the citizens about concerns he had with what was going on in the Lee's Summit school district.

Lee's Summit Superintendent Placed on Paid Administrative Leave
According to an article in today's Kansas City Star newspaper, Dr. David McGehee has been place on "paid" administrative leave and Lee's Summit board president Terry Harmon has stepped down as the board president. Below are links to an article in the Kansas City Star and news reports from KHSB 41 Action News:




Remaining silent and allowing Fox's former superintendent to run the district is what led to the loss of respect of Fox's school board and administration under former superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow's reign. Concern after concern was brought to the attention Fox C-6 board members for years and nothing was done about them. Eventually, the community recognized that there was a problem and board members were voted out of office.

It appears that the same thing has been occurring in the Lee's Summit School District for some time, just like what had happened at Fox C-6. The school board was being told about all of the awards and accolades that the district was receiving and the board kept increasing Dr. McGehee's salary without looking at the numbers. Lee's Summit citizens who have pointed out MAP and ACT score results which don't appear to rank the district where their superintendent deserves to be the highest paid superintendent in the state of Missouri.

Former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow continuously tossed out similar statements about awards and accolades which weren't necessarily academically related. Fox's ACT scores and the number of students taking the ACT had Fox ranked in the bottom half of the state. Voicing my concerns in this area were always met with snide remarks from our former superintendent. When the facts aren't as impressive as they want the public to believe, some superintendents will deflect the criticism and make it appear as if those voicing the concern aren't properly informed. Anyone, including our former school board members could have verified the data themselves on Missouri DESE's website.

Keeping the Public Informed
The Lee's Summit Tribune has an open online Opinion/Letter to the Editor section on their website. This is where Lee's Summit school board member Bill Baird has been able to expose some of the issues occurring in their district to the public. I commend the Lee's Summit Tribune for allowing citizens in their community to voice their concerns in an open and professional and manner in as many words as are needed. That is something that is severely lacking in our community.


It's good for the public to hear about some of the things that go on behind the scenes in school districts in our state. There are some very close relationships between some school superintendents and some of the attorneys representing school districts in our state. It reminded me of the documentation written up by former assistant superintendents Tim Crutchley and Todd Scott regarding their meetings with former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Brown-Critchlow and her husband Jamie Critchlow on May 27, 2014. Dianne Critchlow had called a meeting with Mr. Crutchley and Mr. Scott after an article was published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on May 23, 2014. Their notes documented that Dianne Critchlow knew that her husband Jamie Critchlow was posting on Topix but that she didn't say exactly what he was posting.

I found it interesting that Mr. Crutchley also documented that Dianne Critchlow contacted Tom Mickes of Fox's former law firm, Mickes Goldman O'Toole shortly after informing Mr. Crutchley and Mr. Scott about her husband's postings on Topix. A portion of Mr. Crutchley's documentation was redacted where he mentioned her phone call with attorney Tom Mickes.

While searching for the date that Fox's CFO John Brazeal requested an audit of the district, I came across the following article on The Missouri Volunteer Movement website. This article referenced several of my articles on this blog.


In August 2013, I had voiced my concern about the lack of details in our school board meeting packets and the payments to credit cards without providing any credit card statements. In that article I linked to the 2002 state audit of the Fox C-6 School District conducted by State Auditor Claire McCaskill. Below is a link to the August 2013 article where I had been voicing my concerns about the board packets and getting access to them. It had taken nearly 3 years of making requests to get the board meeting packets posted onto Fox's website.


It was February 20, 2014, when I wrote an article titled, "Why Does Fox C-6 Have a School Board?" in which I wrote, "Perhaps the community needs to request a state audit of the school district."

I'm glad that Mr. Brazeal requested an audit of the district. However, when audits take nearly 2 years to complete, memories begin to fade and people lose faith in the system. It's similar to waiting for nearly 7 years for the district to update and adopt a new set of school board policies and regulations. It was May 2009, when the district agreed in a Resolution Agreement with the U.S Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to update their school board Policies and Regulations to comply with federal law. There were several years spent rewriting the old policies which was never completed before having to switch over to the Missouri School Board Association's set of Policies and Regulations. This was done after the district fired the Mickes Goldman O'Toole law firm which was responsible for drafting and updating our school district's previous Policies and Regulations. 

School district administrators and school board members should be accountable for their actions. School board policies and regulations document their responsibilities and ethical standards they are expected to uphold. Any perception of impropriety or conflict of interest should be avoided.

Continue to check the Missouri State Auditor's website for the status of the audit using the link below:


You can review the 2002 Missouri State Auditor's report of the Fox C-6 School District using the link below. The link has changed since posted a I link to the report in 2013:


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Board Meeting Recap Highlights District Health Services Presentation

Recap of the March 15, 2016 Fox C-6 School Board Meeting Highlights District Health Services Presentation

Last month the district posted a recap of the March 15, 2016 school board meeting on the district website.

The Board Meeting Recap included a presentation given by the Director of Nursing covering the District's Health Services. The recap stated that the District Health Services Presentation, "highlighted a focus on the application and consistency processes in the Child Find / 504." However, the words "Child Find" were never mentioned during the presentation.

Child Find requires all school districts to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities, regardless of the severity of the disability from birth through age 21.

You can read more about Child Find and what schools are mandated to do under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on the Wrightslaw website using the following link:


You can learn more about Section 504 law on the Wrightslaw website using the following link:


It's important to note that school districts receive federal funding for IDEA but do not receive any funding for complying with Section 504 law. Therefore, there is no incentive to comply with Section 504 law other than the "threat" of having their federal funds withheld when they don't comply.

Many attorneys that represent school districts know quite well that school districts will never have their federal funding withheld or revoked for not complying with Section 504 law. Therefore some attorneys resort to unethical tactics and will make false or misleading statements about the law during 504 Team meetings in order to help school districts get around the law when parents are knowledgeable about Section 504 law. Many parents don't know the law so it's very easy for school districts to deny 504 eligibility without having to bring in their attorneys.

Fox's former law firm was very willing to provide Individualized Health Plans for students with disabilities. However, many who were qualified for Section 504 Plans were denied for years. As a former attorney for Fox C-6 explained during a September 2008 504 meeting, the difference between a Section 504 Plan and an Individualized Health Plan (IHP) is that a student doesn't get the legal protections with an Individualized Health Plan that they do with a Section 504 Plan.

The reason that I'm pointing this out is because Fox is still under an ongoing District Wide Compliance Review investigation by the United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) for their Section 504 practices and whether or not they were providing Individualized Health Care Plans to students instead of Section 504 Plans for students who were qualified for Section 504. And, since it has taken ED OCR more than 6 years to complete their Compliance Review, it's easy to believe that Fox had been doing things properly for years.

After years of phone calls and emails asking what the status was of the District Wide Compliance Review, the Kansas City ED OCR Office has finally written up and forwarded a draft copy of the Compliance Review to the "acting" Enforcement Director over the Kansas City ED OCR Office. Debbie Osgood who was the Enforcement Director that responded to my requests last fall that I wrote about, left ED OCR in February 2016 according to the current "acting" Enforcement Director.

Since the Washington D.C. ED OCR Office initiated the District Wide Compliance Review in March 2010, there have been three Enforcement Directors over the Kansas City ED OCR Office.

After nearly a decade of egregious lack of enforcement of the law, it appears that the current Enforcement Director has recognized that there has been a major problem with the Kansas City ED OCR Office and is actively working on correcting the problem. It's difficult to imagine the number of students that have graduated from school while waiting for the Kansas City Office for Civil Rights to do their job.

It's been well known for years that there are major issues with the Kansas City ED OCR Office. Complaints, Investigations and Resolution Agreements have sat in the Kansas City ED OCR Office unfinished or un-monitored for years. It's been a free pass for school districts to skirt the law for years with little or no consequences.

Hopefully, the facts as to why the Kansas City ED OCR Office doesn't enforce the law like other regional ED OCR Offices will be made public in the near future. It's hard to fathom the amount of taxpayer dollars that have been spent on legal fees over the past decade as school district attorneys have been allowed to drag things out for years as the Kansas City ED OCR Office looked the other way. Emails accidentally sent out by attorneys in the Kansas City ED OCR Office document how the former Chief Attorney (now Director of the Kansas City ED OCR Office) didn't want us to know their office prioritizes it's case handling.

ED OCR's District Wide Compliance Review investigation of the Fox C-6 School District was opened in March 2010. It's difficult to believe that any investigation taking more than a year or two would be acceptable to any Director of Enforcement overseeing a regional office. So, it's quite obvious that the Enforcement Directors over the Kansas City ED OCR Office for the last decade haven't done their job as well.

Fox's District Wide Compliance Review has been open for more than 6 years. In fact, the Kansas City ED OCR Office has only completed 7 out of 17 Compliance Reviews assigned to their office over the past decade. Obviously there is a major problem in the Kansas City ED OCR Office.

Fox's District Health Services Presentation
Back to the District Health Services presentation, I thought it was great that Fox's new Director of Nursing highlighted a focus on the application and consistency in the Child Find and Section 504 processes for the school board. I don't believe that many school board members or the general public are very well educated on Child Find and Section 504 Law and what those obligations are for a school district.

A few years ago, I was asked by a Fox C-6 board member why a student would need a 504 Plan. He wanted to know why a student would need a 504 plan since you could always sue the school district if they did something wrong or didn't do what they were supposed to do. I told him that the student should have a 504 plan if they were qualified for one because it's the law.

The problem with suing a school district is that the district has the ability to spend tens of thousands in legal fees if not hundreds of thousands in legal fees using taxpayer money to defend itself. It's much easier and less expensive for parents to request a 504 Plan for their student rather than having to sue the school district after they didn't do what they said they were going to do.

Since the district now audio records school board meetings, I was able to download the audio file for the March 15, 2016 school board meeting and listen to the presentation given by the Director of Nursing. She also had a slideshow presentation which you can find on BoardDocs along with 2014-2015 nursing services data. The slideshow has a photo of school nurses but I don't believe it's a recent photo.

Below is a link to the March 15, 2016 School Board Meeting Recap on the district website and below that is the text posted about the District Health Services Presentation in the board meeting recap.

District Health Services Presentation
Mrs. Kim Schumacher, RN, presented information to the Board and public on the state of District Health Services. The presentation discussed current health service processes that support the learning environment to foster achievement, embrace optimum health for staff and students, and optimize best support processes and practices. The report highlighted a focus on the application and consistency processes in the Child Find / 504. The presentation included future goals such as developing deeper understanding and utilization of updated policies in the health care applications that support optimum health in the academic environment and promoting awareness to current health trends and issues that keep students and staff informed about the highest level of health.
Fox's recap webpage above contains a link to the board meeting audio files where you can download and listen to the school board meetings that are now audio recorded each month. You can listen to the Director of Nursing's presentation by clicking on the link below which links to the audio file posted on the district's Google Drive. The file is in (ma4) format and is only 24MB in size. Her presentation begins at (11min 24sec).



When I listened to the audio presentation above, I noticed that the Director of Nursing never mentioned the words "Child Find". So, there really wasn't much of a highlight or much education for the school board members about the district's obligations for Child Find. She did mention "504" in her presentation in the following sentence:
"We've made progress with our 504 developments and processes with a lot of work."
Having gone through "the process" which started 8 years ago and continued for more than 6 years, I certainly hope that the district's processes have improved. In 2008 and 2009, the former Director of Nursing explained how her extensive training basically trumped our 22+ year board certified doctor's knowledge when denying 504 eligibility.

Dan Baker, who was the 504 Coordinator for the district back then removed a Section 504 designation in September 2008 and subsequently denied eligibility several times over the next 6 years before being reinstated after Dan Baker was demoted and the former law firm fired.

Dan Baker was present during our May 2009 eligibility meeting when the school district's attorney informed us about the district's right to perform an independent evaluation. The district attorney informed us that we didn't have to have an independent evaluation if we didn't want the district to perform one.

The attorney gave us an example as to why we might not want to allow the District to perform an independent evaluation. His example at the May 2009 meeting stuck with me for years. I'm sure his example would stick with most parents. He gave us an example as to what the district's doctor may want to do as part of their independent evaluation. He wanted to let us know that if we didn't want something like that done, that we could always revoke our consent. However, if we revoked our consent, we basically waived our rights to obtaining a 504 plan.

Here is what the school district's attorney had to say from my audio recording of that 504 meeting:
"If the doctor decides they want to hang your daughter upside down by her ankles for 3 weeks, then you can always revoke your consent. But, if you don't consent, the process stops here and now."
I asked Dan Baker during our Due Process Hearing which occurred in 2010 whether or not he thought the district attorney was trying to intimidate us into not doing the independent evaluation. Dan Baker testified under oath with the following answer from the transcript of the Due Process Hearing:
"I remember something along those lines. I don’t know if it was word for word as to what you said, but I remember something along those lines. But I also remember the context that was used and he did mean what those words were as far as tying in the – I think the thing that he was trying to get across was that at any time he wanted to do a test, whether it be a skin prick test or whatever that you didn’t want her to participate in, that you could obviously withdraw and not allow us to do that. By no means, no, did he mean to use that as intimidation. I'm speaking for him And I can tell you that I was in that meeting, and he did not mean those words to come across as intimidating by any means."
I can certainly tell you that my opinion of the attorney's comment above is much different than that of Dan Baker's. It made me wonder if it was regular practice district doctors to hang children upside down by their ankles for 3 weeks in order to do independent evaluations since the district attorney had mentioned it during our meeting. Perhaps they don't, but I certainly hope that Fox's Child Find and 504 process have improved since then. I also hope that our school board members and parents become much more educated on Section 504 law and Child Find.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Who's Watching Over the Office for Civil Rights?

I've learned a lot over the past 7+ years dealing with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office for Civil Rights (USDA OCR).

One thing I discovered was the fact that there is a pattern of practice of complaints remaining open for years in the Kansas City ED OCR Regional Office from across the multi-state region. I have had many parents and advocates contact me over the years about complaints they've filed with ED OCR that have remained open for years.

It's even more troubling to know that ED OCR allows school districts like Fox C-6 to spend nearly 7 years trying to meet the terms of the Resolution Agreement that the district signed in May 2009 to become compliant with federal law.

How do students expect to be protected when there's no enforcement of the law or enforcement of Resolution Agreements?

From a FOIA request, I recently learned that the Kansas City ED OCR office has only completed 7 out of 17 school district wide compliance review investigations that have been assigned to them over the past 10 years.

I voiced my concerns to the Washington D.C. ED OCR office back in 2010 when I found out that the Kansas City ED OCR office was going to be conducting the district wide compliance review of Fox C-6 instead of the Washington D.C. office. My concerns have definitely been validated over the years.

Completing only 7 out of 17 compliance reviews over the past decade is a very disturbing statistic and one that should raise the eyebrows of the public as well as our U.S. Senators and Congressman. Taxpayers are paying a lot of people six figure salaries for what would be considered a failing grade if scoring their work like a test, 7 out of 17 is 41%. That's an F in anybody's grade book!

What are the directors and enforcement directors who oversee the Kansas City ED OCR office doing?

It doesn't seem as if they are ensuring that investigations are getting done in a timely manner.

The information regarding the 7 out of 17 compliance reviews was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in Washington D.C..

Kansas City Open Compliance Review Investigations
There is one open compliance review that was opened in 2007 investigating the Wichita Unified School District #259 in Kansas.

There are two open compliance reviews that were opened in 2009; one investigating the Bayless School District in Missouri and the other investigating the Jenks Public School District in Oklahoma.

There are two open compliance reviews that were opened in 2010; one investigating the Fox C-6 School District in Arnold, MO and the other investigating the Rapid City Area School District #51-4 in South Dakota.

It's difficult to even imagine that the Kansas City ED OCR office has only been able to complete 7 out of 17 compliance reviews assigned to them over the past decade. Why can't they complete these investigations?

It should have been very easy for the Kansas City ED OCR office to determine that Fox C-6 was non-compliant with federal law when the district wide compliance review was initiated in March 2010. The district had already agreed to sign a Resolution Agreement in May 2009 which stipulated what the district was required to do in order to become compliant with federal law.

In August 2004, after the district switched law firms and the district switched Section 504 Coordinators, several students that had been previously denied Section 504 Plans for years in the district were finally appropriately provided with Section 504 Plans.

There are people working in the Kansas City ED OCR office that know why compliance reviews and other complaints aren't getting completed. They should use the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 to speak out about what's been going on in the Kansas City ED OCR Office. They owe it to the students who have been denied proper protection under the law for years. It's truly sad and disgraceful to think of the pain that that the KC ED OCR office has caused for families covered by their regional office over the years.

As it stands now, it’s very easy to see how school districts have been able to get around federal law for years. There's no accountability of the school districts nor ED OCR itself.

It's time for attorneys and staff in the Kansas City ED OCR Office to stand up and report what's been going on for years in that office that's been allowing compliance reviews to remain open for years and complaints to remain in limbo for years.

KC ED OCR staff and attorneys probably have the same fear of reprisal in their office just like it was for teachers and administrators in our school district. Everyone was too afraid to speak up about what was going on in our school district.

I wrote to the former director of enforcement for the Office for Civil Rights over the Kansas City office back in September 2015. His name is Randolph Wills. Mr. Wills did not respond to my first email inquiry regarding Fox's open district wide compliance review that's been open for nearly 6 years. After 10 days of not receiving a response from Mr. Wills, I emailed him again. He finally responded to my second email. He informed me that he was no longer the Enforcement Director over the Kansas City ED OCR office. He informed me that Debbie Osgood was the current director of enforcement over the KC Office and that he had forwarded my email to Debbie Osgood.

Debbie Osgood responded with the following email on October 1, 2015:

Mr. Simpson: 
I am pleased to respond to your email, which Randolph Wills forwarded to me as the Enforcement Director for OCR’s Kansas City enforcement office. Your email outlines your concerns regarding the Fox C-6 compliance review being investigated by OCR Kansas City. I share your concern about the time that the Fox C-6 School District compliance review has been open. The resolution of this outstanding review (as well as others) is a priority for OCR. Although I cannot give you a specific date by which the review will be completed, I want to reassure you that the Kansas City office is devoting substantial resources and attention to the resolution of this review and other pending reviews. 
You also asked about a Fox C-6 complaint being monitored. My understanding is that a number of the items in that agreement have been completed and Kansas City staff have worked with the district to resolve the remaining items. 
Debbie Osgood
OCR Enforcement Director

Ms. Osgood copied Bill Dittmeier, the current Director of the Kansas City Office for Civil Rights in her response to me. I laughed when I read Debbie Osgood’s response. Many others laughed as well when I told them what the response was from ED OCR.

How would anyone believe Ms. Osgood’s statement that “the Kansas City office is devoting substantial resources and attention to the resolution of this review and other pending reviews” when the Kansas City office has only completed 7 out of 17 compliance reviews assigned to them over the past decade?

Three weeks ago I wrote back to Debbie Osgood, Bill Dittmeier and Randolph Wills asking why the Kansas City ED OCR office has only been able to complete 7 out of 17 district wide compliance reviews in the past 10 years. None of them responded to my email. Although I did receive Read Receipts from all three of them.

On Monday of this week, I sent my question about the Kansas City ED OCR office to Sandra Battle. Sandra Battle is is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement at ED OCR in Washington D.C. I copied Debbie Osgood, Bill Dittmeier and Randolph Wills when I emailed Ms. Battle as well as the Department of Justice. No one has responded yet to my concerns regarding this issue.

Perhaps no one wants to be held accountable.

It certainly seems that the patterns of practice in the Kansas City ED OCR office would be a concern for anyone dealing with this OCR Office. As an added tidbit of information, it took nearly 60 days for ED OCR to send a response to my FOIA request. It would appear that ED OCR is not as familiar with federal law regarding FOIA request response requirements like the USDA Office for Civil Rights is. Federal law dictates that all FOIA requests must be responded to within 20 days.

A recent USDA Office for Civil Rights FOIA response letter referenced the law in their response (5 U.S.C. § 552).

You can read about FOIA law requirements in the article below located on the U.S. Department of Justice's website:


I find it truly amazing that the Enforcement Directors for the Office for Civil Rights don’t seem to do what their job titles state that they do

You would think that the Enforcement Directors at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights would be holding people accountable and making sure that the regional offices that they oversee are doing their job.

Perhaps it’s time that our U.S. Senators and Congressman take an in depth look into what’s going on in the Kansas City ED OCR office.

ED OCR’s Enforcement Directors don’t seem to want to answer questions as to why these compliance reviews have been open for so many years. Perhaps the Enforcement Directors will be willing to answer these questions for Congress. I have offered to testify in congressional hearings about our dealings with ED OCR. It's about time that someone starts looking into what's going on in the Kansas City ED OCR office since taxpayers are paying a lot of six figure salaries for such abysmal completion results.

You may wish to contact the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights as well to see if you can get any answers. Perhaps there are some investigative reporters that may be interested in following up on this story as well. It certainly seems to be a huge expenditure of money for very little results.

Here is the contact page: