Monday, August 19, 2019

Understanding 504 Plans

If you're a parent and your child was medically flagged by your school or school district as someone who possibly needs a Section 504 plan, I highly recommend that you learn about Section 504 before you attend your first 504 meeting. It's important to know what a Section 504 plan is and why it's better than an asthma action plan, allergy action plan, diabetes action plan or an Individualized Health Plan (IHP).

School districts are much more willing to write an Individualized Health Plan (IHP), asthma action plan, allergy action plan or diabetes action plan for your child or student instead of a Section 504 plan. That's because an asthma action plan, allergy action plan or an IHP is not a legally binding agreement with the district whereas a 504 plan is.

You will most likely run into problems when items aren't followed on an IHP, asthma action plan or food allergy action plan. You may end up being told like we were, that the items on "the plan" we were given by the principal were just her notes. She said that they were things that were discussed at the meeting but weren't necessarily actionable items. This was after the fact when things weren't followed that were on the plan that we were given.

That "plan" was provided to us before we knew anything about Section 504 prior to the start of the 2007-2008 school year. Nothing was mentioned about Section 504 in 2007. At the beginning of the 2018-2019, Fox was required to send out notices to everyone in the district informing them of their obligation to Section 504 and child find. The district was required to do so because of the March 2018 Resolution Agreement they signed with OCR. So, everyone in the district should now be aware of Section 504.

Below is an online post from 2005 that's still relevant today. We found the post online after things weren't being followed on the plan that we were given that was not a 504 plan.


There is a lot of good information about Section 504 on Understood.org. I posted a link to an article below that will help you better understand Section 504 and how it may be able to help your child/student in their learning environment.

The article on Understood.org is geared towards helping students with ADHD or dyslexia. Section 504 also applies to students with asthma, diabetes, food allergies, seizure disorders and other health impairments. Those specific items were mentioned in the District's March 2018 Resolution Agreement with ED OCR.

I have been following Fox's ongoing efforts to comply with Section 504 and Title II since 2008 when ED OCR got involved. Their efforts to comply are still a work in progress.

Know Before You Go
It's very important that you are knowledgeable about Section 504 before you attend your first 504 team meeting. Typically, school district attorneys don't attend 504 team meetings. But 12 years ago, a simple health plan was written up prior to the start of school at Lone Dell Elementary. There wasn't any referral for a Section 504 evaluation. The plan was referred to as a Health Plan. As mentioned above, school district's are obligated to perform child find and refer students for a Section 504 evaluation if needed.

Knowing the law may help you call out a district attorney like I did when he made false statements about Section 504 in order to sway the 504 team's decision about whether or not our child qualified for Section 504. This was after the district removed a Section 504 plan in September 2008 arguing that it was not needed since there weren't any reactions at school during a 30 day observation period. The proof that the 504 plan should not have been removed, is the fact that it was restored in August 2014 with the help of ED OCR.

In May 2009, after the district signed a Resolution Agreement to hold another 504 eligibility meeting, I called out the district attorney during that 504 meeting when he stated that "episodic and in remission only applies to people with cancer". I said that wasn't true and that he needed to read the law. His response to me was that we weren't there to discuss the law. He said we were there to decide whether or not the student qualified for Section 504. A decision wasn't made at the meeting anyway because Dan Baker wanted to get an independent evaluation which schools are allowed to do. It's a very good tactic for dragging out the process which is why Fox was required to make a change to their 504 Manual from the March 2018 Resolution Agreement.

Educators can't make good informed decisions when they're being misinformed. Those types of tactics certainly make you question the integrity of the individuals involved in the process and leaves you with very little respect for the people or the process.


The link below provides a list of differences between Individualized Education Programs and Section 504 plans. The link is from Understood.org:

The Difference Between IEPs and 504 Plans

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Fox C-6's March 2018 Resolution Agreement and District Wide Compliance Review Letter

The other day I commented on Facebook about the ED OCR Resolution Agreement that Dr. Wipke signed in March 2018. The Resolution Agreement was signed to close the March 2010 District Wide Compliance Review. Mr. Brazeal responded to my comment with the following:
“Yes, it is true that Dr. Wipke, Superintendent, signed a Resolution Agreement as presented by OCR in March 2018. This is standard procedure in closing out a review. However, contrary to what you allege, there were no "findings" showing any violations of federal law. Hence, it is no surprise the news media didn't publish this non-story. Thus, it is not responsible to write "just think how many kids were denied 504 plans" when OCR has made no such finding, despite years of examination.”
This kind of comment from school officials is expected. Fox has been sweeping this problem under the rug for nearly a decade.

On Facebook, I responded to Mr. Brazeal's comment above and documented some of the many things that didn’t make it into the March 2018 District Wide Compliance Review letter or the March 2018 Resolution Agreement.

The only reason that a district is asked to sign a Resolution Agreement is because OCR found compliance issues while conducting an investigation.

This wasn't the first time Fox signed a Resolution Agreement with OCR. The district signed one on May 1, 2009 related to the same issues based on a complaint filed in August 2008. The May 2009 Resolution Agreement was "monitored" by ED OCR from May 2009 until August 2014. In August 2014, ED OCR visited Fox to do an Early Complaint Resolution and subsequently reinstated a Section 504 plan that had been removed in September 2008.

18 Actions Items for Fox for No "Findings"
It's important to understand that OCR allows school districts to resolve compliance reviews or complaints prior to the conclusion of an OCR investigation. By doing so, ED OCR does not issue any "findings" as Mr Brazeal pointed out in his response. Saying there were no "findings" is very misleading. It gives the appearance that there was nothing found by OCR during their investigation.

However, Fox's 15 page Resolution Agreement clearly documents 18 action items that the district has agreed to do in order to fulfill the terms of the Resolution Agreement and become compliant with Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Several of the action items in the March 2018 Resolution Agreement were similar to those in the May 2009 Resolution Agreement.

Below is a paragraph from the March 2018 Resolution Agreement stating that OCR will not close the monitoring of the Agreement until OCR determines that Fox has fulfilled the terms of the agreement. Therefore, Fox is currently non-compliant.
"The District understands that OCR will not close the monitoring of this Agreement until OCR determines that the District has fulfilled the terms of this Agreement and is in compliance with: the regulation implementing Section 504 at 34 C.F.R. §§ 104.3(j), and 104.35 through 104.37; and the regulation implementing Title II at 28 C.F.R. §§ 35.104 and 35.130, which were at issue in this case."
Just because a school district agrees to do things in a Resolution Agreement is no guarantee that the district will actually fulfill the terms of the agreement. Fox demonstrated that by their actions from the May 2009 Resolution Agreement.

In March 2018, Fox voluntarily agreed to resolve the Compliance Review prior to the conclusion of OCR’s investigation. It will be interesting to see how many years it takes before Fox fulfills the terms of the March 2018 Resolution Agreement.

Resolution Agreement Not Provided to School Board
Dr. Wipke did not provide a copy of the Resolution Agreement in BoardDocs for Fox's school board members to review. When I asked why not, I was informed that it was an "administrative action". Since the OCR Resolution Agreement deals with complying with federal law, our school board members should have been provided a copy of the Agreement and the Compliance Review letter as well. Having it in BoardDocs would have also made the documents available to the local community.

Resolution Agreement On ED.GOV
Even though Fox's Resolution Agreement and Compliance Review letter wasn't made available to Fox's school board members or the community, it is available to the general public on ED OCR's website. I have provided links to the documents below:



One of the actions items Fox was required to do was to send out notices to parents and legal guardians of each District Student:

“By September 17, 2018, the District will send a notice to the parent(s)/legal guardian(s) of each District student through the U.S. Postal Service (U.S. mail), or by email, explaining the District’s obligation to conduct a Section 504 evaluation of any student who, because of disability, needs or is believed to need special education or related services to send out notices to everyone in the district.”
Fox completed the above action item in September 2018.



The OCR"s District Wide Compliance Review specifically investigated the following as stated on the first page of the Compliance Review Letter:
"This compliance review assessed whether the District discriminates on the basis of disability against students with food allergies and other health impairments such as diabetes. Specifically, the review addressed whether the District provides individualized health plans to students with food allergies and other health impairments that do not comply with the requirements of Section 504 and Title II, thereby denying those students opportunities to participate in and benefit from the District’s programs and activities that are equal to the opportunities afforded to students without disabilities."
Since it was well documented that ED OCR knew that we were provided an Individualized Health Plan (IHP) instead of a Section 504 plan, it was easy to see why OCR opened a District Wide Compliance Review investigating the practice of providing IHP's instead of Section 504 plans. This pattern of practice had been happening around the country for years as I found in other Resolution Agreements and pointed out in previous articles. The Memphis City School district was caught doing the same thing and signed a Resolution Agreement with OCR in 2012.


8 Years To Conduct A Compliance Review
The "years of examination" that it took to complete Fox's District Wide Compliance Review is quite a story in itself. Parents and advocates who have filed complaints with the Kansas City ED OCR office have experienced and followed their lack of enforcement for more than a decade.

It took OCR nearly 4 more years after the online defamatory comments scandal became public for OCR to complete their investigation and get the district to sign a Resolution Agreement. During that time, I continually checked in with OCR asking the KC Director and the Regional Enforcement Director when they planned to complete their investigation.

OCR's 8 year investigation don't seem to follow OCR’s mission statement from their website:

The mission of the Office for Civil Rights is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.”

You can't ensure equal access to education when it takes 8 years to investigate problems in a school district.

Students Denied 504 Plans
In my Facebook response to Mr. Brazeal, I also noted the fact that there were students who were denied Section 504 plans in the district between 2008 and 2014. Ours was one of them. My remarks about denying 504 plans are true. We don't know how many students were denied 504's because most parents don't know about Section 504. Plus parents aren't willing to battle their school district because they can't afford attorneys and because they fear retaliation from the district.

Several parents of students in our district contacted me over the years telling me that their children had been denied Section 504 plans by the district. Some of those students were eventually provided a 504 plan in 2014. That happened after the district changed law firms as well as ousted former superintendent Dianne Critchlow, fired her husband Jamie Critchlow and demoted Dan Baker, Fox's Section 504 Coordinator at the time. The Critchlow's departure and Dan Baker's demotion was related to online defamatory posts that were traced to their homes and directed at me and a couple of others in the district.

Items Not Documented By ED OCR
ED OCR was made aware of some of the students who were denied Section 504 plans but did not document that fact in the District Wide Compliance Review letter or Resolution Agreement.

OCR also didn't document the monitoring letters that they sent the district between 2009 and 2013. Those monitoring letters did not reflect well on the district as they noted the numerous times that the district failed to meet the terms of the May 2009 Resolution Agreement. OCR also failed to document any of the online postings that were traced to the homes of district administrators.

Retaliation by a school district is prohibited by Section 504 law. This is documented on the last page of Fox's District Wide Compliance Review letter:


"Recipients of federal funds are prohibited from intimidating, threatening, coercing, or discriminating against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by federal civil rights law. Complaints alleging such retaliation may be filed with OCR. Under the Freedom of Information Act, it may be necessary to release this document and related correspondence and records upon request. In the event that OCR receives such a request, it will seek to protect, to the extent provided by law, personally identifiable information that could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy if released."
OCR was made aware of the online postings that were being posted on TOPIX for years. OCR was provided copies of the postings that were traced to the homes of our former superintendent and former Section 504 coordinator in 2014. OCR was also provided the comments that were posted online after the "press release" in the Post Dispatch article from August 2010 after the district "won" its Due Process Hearing.

No Monitoring Letters for Two Years During ED OCR's "monitoring" of the May 2009 Resolution Agreement, there was more than a two year lapse in their "monitoring" of the district. ED OCR didn't issue any monitoring letters to the district between December 2009 and March 2012. We asked ED OCR numerous times during that two year gap as to when they planned to send new monitoring letters to the district. We also asked as to how many years it would take before they actually enforce the agreement rather than changing the deadlines of the agreement when Fox failed to meet the deadlines that they agreed to.

Ongoing Efforts To Comply with Section 504 and Title II One very notable point in the March 2018 Resolution agreement is this statement on the first page of the Resolution Agreement:
"As part of its ongoing efforts to comply with Section 504 and Title II, the District agrees to review and, as needed, amend its Section 504 Manual and Section 504 process to ensure that the Manual and process conform with the requirements set out in the Section 504 and Title II regulations, and are consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008."
The statement, "As part of its ongoing efforts to comply with Section 504 and Title II" is a very important statement. It's been more than 10 years since Fox signed the May 2009 Resolution Agreement in which Fox agreed to update its Section 504 Manual and 504 process. However, Fox never fulfilled that part of the agreement. As part of the March 2018 Resolution Agreement, Fox is still working on updating its Section 504 Manual and Section 504 process. How can that be when ED OCR states that they do "vigorous enforcement of civil rights"? Obviously there's a systemic problem at ED OCR regarding enforcement of agreements.


Another item to point out from the March 16, 2018 District Wide Compliance Review letter is the following statement:

“Since the time OCR opened this compliance review in 2010, the District has worked to improve its process for identifying and evaluating students who may be eligible for Section 504 services and protections.”


That statement from the 2018 District Wide Compliance Review letter does not accurately reflect the responses from the district. The statement ignores the fact that the district’s legal counsel refused to update school documents and policies for nearly 4 years as documented by ED OCR in their monitoring letters sent to the district between 2009 and 2013. An article I wrote in July 2013, documents those letters as well as the letters sent to ED OCR from the district’s legal counsel informing ED OCR why they refused to make changes to district policies and documentation that they originally agreed to update.


Press Release In Legal Bills
According to the legal bills from Fox's former law firm (Mickes, Goldman, O'Toole) that I obtained via a Sunshine Request from the district, I discover that the district’s former law firm billed time to review my July 2013 article. The legal bills also documented the many times that Fox's legal counsel helped the district over the years respond to my Public Comments, emails and Sunshine Requests. The legal bills covered May 2010 through June 2014. Legals bills weren't provided for any of the time dating back to 2008 when the attorneys first got involved. My interest in getting copies of legal bills was to determine how many tens of thousands of dollars or more were spent in fighting a Section 504 plan for a student in the district.

The "press release" as noted in the legal bills was for charges in helping to get a story into the Post Dispatch.

The news article ("press release") appeared in the Post Dispatch in August 2010. Comments posted to the online article contained many bullying and threatening comments directed at our family for pursuing a Section 504 plan. The online comments from the Post Dispatch article were forward to both ED OCR and USDA OCR due to the retaliatory nature of those comments. Comments in the Post Dispatch back then were made anonymously and couldn't be traced. However, some of those who commented were identifiable by their remarks.

Fox's former law firm (Mickes Goldman O'Toole) used the media in many of their school district cases to bully parents. I followed several of their cases across the state over the years and searched for articles related to those cases. Similar comments were posted on those articles as well that were directed at families who pursued Section 504 plans for their children.

If it hadn’t been for my constant follow up with ED OCR over the years checking on the progress of the May 2009 Resolution Agreement and the May 2010 District Wide Compliance Review, the District Wide Compliance Review probably would have never been completed or closed by ED OCR.

Law Firm Video Told Educators Not To Provide 504 Plans
It also helped that I found a video on the Doster Mickes law firm's website in August 2008 of an attorney giving a presentation at the 2005 Missouri School Law Seminar. The attorney told educators in our state that they should not provide students with food allergies a Section 504 plan even though they may qualify for one.

I knew the family who the attorney was referring to in her presentation. I knew the family because an advocate who had helped us, had also helped them. Their child’s 504 plan was taken away as well during a Due Process Hearing in front of the school board. I contacted the family about the video I had found and they confirmed that the attorney in the video was referring to their case. The family was very upset to learn that their case was being touted by the law firm.

Video Leads to Statewide Training By USDA OCR
In September 2008, I forwarded a link to the video from the 2005 Missouri School Law Seminar that I had found to both ED OCR and USDA OCR because I knew it wasn't right for attorneys to tell school districts to say deny a Section 504 plan if a student was qualified for one.

Providing that video to the USDA OCR office led to statewide training by USDA OCR for all Food Nutrition Directors in the state of Missouri. Fox didn't attend the statewide training.
My July 2013 article documented the fact that I spoke at the June 2013 Fox C-6 school board meeting during Public Comments and asked the school board about the March 2010 District Wide Compliance Review and the May 2009 Resolution Agreement.

My Public Comments at the June 2013 school board meeting were documented in the board meeting minutes as, “discussed Board policies and regulations”. School board meeting minutes weren't well documented for a reason and that's why I had been asking for years for Fox's board meetings to be audio and/or video recorded. Not recording school board meetings allowed administration to keep the public in the dark regarding any concerns in the district because, concerns were poorly documented or not documented at all.



My response to Mr. Brazeal also pointed out the numerous times I had contacted ED OCR for 9 years asking them when they planned to complete the March 2010 District Wide Compliance Review or enforce the May 2009 Resolution Agreement. I was informed repeatedly by ED OCR that they were working on it and that they hoped to get it completed soon or in the next several months.


So, the real “story” is, why did it take ED OCR nearly a decade to enforce the May 2009 Resolution Agreement that the district didn’t fulfill?
Monitoring Letters Sent to Fox
Fox agreed to update board policies and 504 manuals, etc. in 2009. That didn’t happen. The District was sent numerous monitoring letters documenting that fact. So, now in March 2018 the District signed a new Resolution Agreement which closed the District Wide Compliance Review before it was completed and gave the district another window of several years to complete and fulfill that agreement while being “monitored” by ED OCR.

The end of the March 8, 2018 Resolution Agreement contains the following 3 paragraphs that outlines that OCR will be monitoring the agreement and that OCR may initiate administrative enforcement or judicial proceedings to enforce the specific terms of the agreement. However, similar language was also included in the May 2009 Resolution Agreement as well but ED OCR never initiated enforcement or judicial proceedings after years of not meeting the terms of the agreement.


"The District understands that OCR will not close the monitoring of this Agreement until OCR determines that the District has fulfilled the terms of this Agreement and is in compliance with: the regulation implementing Section 504 at 34 C.F.R. §§ 104.3(j), and 104.35 through 104.37; and the regulation implementing Title II at 28 C.F.R. §§ 35.104 and 35.130, which were at issue in this case.


The District understands that by signing this Agreement, it agrees to provide data and other information in a timely manner in accordance with the reporting requirements of this Agreement and that all actions taken to comply with the requirements of the Agreement are subject to OCR’s review and approval. Further, the District understands that during the monitoring of this Agreement, if necessary, OCR may visit the District, interview staff and students, and request such additional reports or data as are necessary for OCR to determine whether the District has fulfilled the terms of this Agreement and is in compliance with: the regulation implementing Section 504 at 34 C.F.R. §§ 104.3(j), 104.35 through 104.37; and the regulation implementing Title II at 28 C.F.R. §§ 35.104 and 35.130, which were at issue in this case.

The District understands and acknowledges that OCR may initiate administrative enforcement or judicial proceedings, including to enforce the specific terms and obligations of this Agreement. Before initiating administrative enforcement (34 C.F.R. §§ 100.9, 100.10) or judicial proceedings, including to enforce this Agreement, OCR shall give the District written notice of the alleged breach and sixty (60) calendar days to cure the alleged breach."


The March 16, 2018 District Wide Compliance Review Letter to Fox C-6 is an 11 page letter which details some of the things discovered during their interviews with the district during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years.



The March 16, 2018 District Wide Compliance Review Letter contains the following paragraph:


"Recipients of federal funds are prohibited from intimidating, threatening, coercing, or discriminating against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by federal civil rights law. Complaints alleging such retaliation may be filed with OCR. Under the Freedom of Information Act, it may be necessary to release this document and related correspondence and records upon request. In the event that OCR receives such a request, it will seek to protect, to the extent provided by law, personally identifiable information that could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy if released."


Retaliation Violates Section 504
I have pointed the fact that retaliation or bullying is a violation of Section 504 law in numerous articles and to our school board over the years. This is why it was such an important fact when it was discovered that online defamatory posts directed at me were traced to the homes of our former superintendent, former assistant superintendent (who was demoted to elementary principal) and the home of a former assistant principal.

What's interesting as well is the fact that an incorrect assumption and the forwarding of false information to Fox's former superintendent, Dianne Critchlow by the Lone Dell Elementary principal is what led to the really nasty defamatory online posts that were traced to Fox's former superintendent's home. It wasn't until the principal at Lone Dell apologized to one of the other plaintiffs in our lawsuit for passing on the incorrect information that I was able to confirm who had forwarded the false information to Critchlow. The Lone Dell principal and the teacher who assumed incorrectly that I was involved in the posting of signs in the District were both directly involved in the 504 issues as well.

We filed retaliation complaints with ED OCR, and provided them with copies of the posts and lawsuit. However, nothing became of those retaliation complaints. It makes you wonder what OCR considers retaliation after reading the numerous comments that were posted online and forwarded to ED OCR and USDA OCR.


ED OCR's Lack of Enforcement
The lack of enforcement by ED OCR is a story in itself. I’ve heard the same story from parents around the country who have experienced the same thing in their school districts. When it takes nearly a decade for ED OCR to do “vigorous enforcement” of the law, you quickly learn that ED OCR must be using a different definition of the word “vigorous” than everyone else.


Plus, the fact that ED OCR did not include in their March 16, 2018 District Wide Compliance Review letter any references to the denials of Section 504 plans or when Section 504 plans were taken away from students between August 2008 and June 2014 even though ED OCR was aware of those facts from district documentation and Due Process Hearings. I asked the current Director of the Kansas City ED OCR office why nothing was noted in the District Wide Compliance Review letter from the 2008 to 2014 school years. I didn't get a response to that question.

USDA OCR Non-Compliance Findings

I also noted in my response to Mr. Brazeal that USDA OCR had issued findings that found Fox and Missouri DESE non-compliant with Section 504. That non-compliance letter was issued in August 2011. This was noted in my July 2013 article along with a reference to a copy of the non-compliance letter. I also wrote an article in March 2013 regarding the USDA Non-Compliance Findings.



Perhaps items weren’t documented in the March 16, 2018 District Wide Compliance Review letter for the 2008 through June 2014 time frame because things changed in the district in June 2014. That’s when the district switched law firms, our superintendent was ousted and the district switched Section 504 Coordinators.


Following the ouster of the district’s law firm, in August 2014, ED OCR came and did an Early Complaint Resolution which resulted in the reinstatement of a Section 504 plan that had been removed in September 2008. It took nearly 6 years to reinstate a 504 plan that had been removed. That’s the reason why I have been documenting this process and the numerous things that occurred in our district during that time.

The 504 issues going on in our district is what led to my uncovering of other issues involving our former superintendent. People I’ve told about this over the years find it hard to believe all of the things that went on in our district related to this issue. That’s why I have tried to be very thorough in my documenting of it. It's easy to see why Fox wants to sweep all of this under the rug and keep it hidden from the public.


My July 2013 article, documented how slow ED OCR was at following up and enforcing the May 2009 Resolution Agreement signed by Dan Baker, Fox’s former Section 504 Coordinator. (Current Fox C-6 school board member Vicki Hanson was the Section 504 Coordinator prior to Dan Baker taking over the job when she retired in 2008.)


Another article I wrote in June 2013 pointed out some information sent to me by a parent in the Lee’s Summit School District who had read some of my articles. One thing I did not note in the article back then was the fact that the Lee’s Summit Superintendent was one of the highest paid superintendents in the state and the fact that Fox’s former superintendent Dianne Critchlow was the 4th highest paid superintendent in the state at the time. Critchlow eventually became the 2nd highest paid superintendent in the state when she “retired” in 2014 with a salary of $267,468. The Lee’s Summit superintendent was ousted in May 2016 and was the highest paid superintendent in the state with a compensation package worth $397,000.


Below is a link to the June 2013 which pointed out some of my concerns as to why it was taking the Kansas City ED OCR so long to perform their “vigorous enforcement” of Section 504 law.



Saturday, July 15, 2017

Was Misinformation Intended to Fool the Community? Absolutely!

I never knew that speaking at the December 14, 2010 Fox C-6 school board meeting would lead to a complete turnover of Central Office administrators just a few years later. The article below was published in the Arnold-Imperial Leader the week after I spoke at the school board meeting.

Former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Brown (Critchlow), former assistant superintendent Todd Scott (now Seckman High School principal) and former Director of the Bridges program, Jamie Critchlow were interviewed for the article. The article covered the hiring of Jamie Critchlow as the new head football coach for Seckman High School. It also mentioned the hiring of Jamie Critchlow as a Behavior Intervention Support Team (BIST) Teacher in August 2009 and his subsequent promotion a few months later in November 2009 to the Director of the at-risk Bridges program.

The promotion from BIST teacher to Director increased Jamie Critchlow’s salary from $45,870 (per May 2009 board meeting packet Certified hires list) to $98,005 (as reported in the article). That salary increase was given without having a certificate in Administration. That’s why I went and spoke to the Fox C-6 school board.

The article stated that Jamie Critchlow could have been making $2,000 more than the $98,005 salary that he was earning as the At-Risk Director of the Bridges program because Fox C-6 administrators had given back their raises for the 2010-2011 school year.

According to the article, Todd Scott said that, “Critchlow’s salary is the same this year as last.” and that, “Critchlow’s salary is the same amount the previous at-risk director, Kolin Peterson, earned.”

I’m not quite sure how Jamie Critchlow’s salary of $98,005, “is the same amount the previous at-risk director, Kolin Peterson, earned”. After reviewing the following data from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), it appears that Mr. Critchlow’s salary was more than 2.5 times higher than the previous at-risk director’s salary.

Jamie Critchlow began working for the district in the 2009-2010 school year. Below are the salary amounts as reported to Missouri DESE by Fox for Mr. Critchlow:
2010 -   $98,589
2011 - $101,884
2012 - $107,813
2013 - $116,103
2014 - $124,079

Kolin Peterson began working for the district in the 2006-2007 school year. Below are the salary amounts as reported to Missouri DESE for Mr. Peterson:
2007 - $32,096
2008 - $36,567
2009 - $37,744
2010 - $38,552
2011 - $39,323

Dianne Brown (Critchlow) mentioned the district’s "stringent hiring practices" in the article.

In 2012, the district's "stringent hiring practices" made headlines while Dianne (Brown) Critchlow was still superintendent. That’s when Fox hired Kelly Nash as the district’s Nutrition Director even though she didn’t have a college degree or certification for the job. Kelly Nash is the daughter-in-law of former Fox C-6 school board president, Linda Nash. In January 2015, Kelly Nash’s employment was terminated by the district and she walked away with a $20,000 settlement.

Assistant superintendent Todd Scott talked about the credentials in the article that I had asked about at the December 14, 2010 board meeting. He said, "the district checks with DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) when hiring a certified employee, such as a teacher or administrator, to make sure the person has the proper credentials."

Missouri DESE requires the completion of a master's degree or higher in educational administration in order to obtain an Initial Administrator Certificate. Mr. Critchlow had a master's degree in Art which does not meet DESE's requirements for obtaining an Initial Administrator Certificate.

If the district had checked Mr. Critchlow's credentials with Missouri DESE like I had done back then, they would have known that Mr. Critchlow did not have a Principal/Administrator certificate when he was promoted to an "administrator" position in November 2009. Mr. Critchlow didn’t earn a Principal/Administrator certificate until May 27, 2014 but was paid a principal's salary for nearly 5 years without having the credentials required to justify the salary.

Mr. Critchlow was fired less than a month after obtaining his Principal/Administrator certificate.

In 2009, Fox’s school board policy “0340 - Code of Ethics” contained the following statement, “Employ only such qualified employees as are properly recommended by the Superintendent of schools.” That’s an important statement. Former superintendent Dianne Brown (Critchlow) was responsible for properly recommending only those employees who are qualified for the job.

It wasn’t until the release of the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor’s report that the public learned that Mr. Critchlow’s promotion was not approved by the school board. I recently obtained copies of the Contract Modifications requests that were presented to the Fox C-6 school board for the 2009-2010 school year by Dianne Brown (Critchlow) for approval. Mr. Critchlow’s name didn’t appear on any of those requests. His name only appeared on the May 2009 list of Certified Hires from the 2008-2009 school board meeting packets.

Dianne Critchlow improperly promoted and compensated her husband (before they were married) to a position/salary schedule that he was not qualified or certified for.

The difference between a teacher’s salary with a master’s degree and what Mr. Critchlow earned while working for the district was more than $300,000 and should be repaid to the district.


Jag Coach had DWI in Texas (PDF)
December 23, 2010


Saturday, July 8, 2017

June 1, 2017 - Arnold-Imperial Leader Column - Mum Should Not Be the Word for Elected Officials

Below is a post I made on the Fox C-6 Watchdogs Facebook page on June 7, 2017.


June 7, 2017 - Fox C-6 Watchdogs Facebook Post
The past 9 years have been like putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle while having to find all of the pieces on an Ultra-Marathon length Orienteering Course.

At the same time, it required writing a research paper to document all of the findings in order to come up with solutions for getting around the problems or obstacles that were tossed out along the way. Mind mapping tools are very helpful when assembling and tracking all of the pieces of the puzzle.

The end goal to all of the documenting is to ensure that the school district recovers the funds for our students and our community that were misused or improperly compensated as documented in the 2016 State Auditor's report.

Lack of Transparency During Critchlow's Tenure
Probably the biggest problem to overcome over the past 8 years was trying to get access to information that should have been available to the public all along, like the board packets. Having information like the board packets which included bill payments would have allowed the community to be more involved with school district decisions and more knowledgeable as to how their taxpayer dollars were being spent.

The June 1, 2017 Arnold-Imperial Leader's Editor Opinions page had an article about some of the issues that some of our local school boards have faced in recent times. It was a very good article and hit the nail on the head as to what happens when school boards are "mum" on issues or don't communicate very well with the community. It's too bad this article wasn't written about 7 or 8 years ago.

One of the puzzle pieces that I was reminded of while reading the Arnold-Imperial Leader Opinions article can be found in former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Critchlow's 2014 Settlement and Release Agreement that I obtained via a July 31, 2014 Sunshine Request.


There's a good chance that the community may find a lot more pieces to the puzzle if someone in the community was able to get a copy of the 3,800+ page investigation report from the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney's office.

Since the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney's office wants to charge more than $200 for a copy of the report, there's a good chance that it contains a few more pieces to the puzzle.

Below is a link to Peggy Bess's June 1, 2017 Arnold-Imperial Leader column titled, "Mum should not be the word for elected officials":

Have you asked Fox C-6's Board of Educations what their plans are to recover Public Funds?

I've been a bit behind on posting some of the items that I've posted on the Fox C-6 Watchdogs Facebook page.

On June 5, 2017, I wrote the following post on Facebook for the community. I wrote it because it had been more than a year since the Missouri State Auditor publicly released their audit findings of the Fox C-6 School District. And after a year, there still hasn't been any further recovery of public fund.

On June 2, 2016, the LEADER's Patrick Martin presented some really good questions after the release of the 2016 Missouri Auditor's report in his Editor's Opinion article below: The title of his article was "Latest Taxpayer Horror Movie Unfolds within Fox Audit".




Below is what I originally posted on Facebook on June 5, 2017 along with a few additional details I've added regarding Dianne Critchlow's July 2014 Settlement and Release Agreement.

From Fox C-6 Watchdogs Facebook Post - June 5, 2017:

Has anyone else asked our school board or superintendent what the district plans to do about recovering the funds that were identified in the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor's report?

Last week I met with Dr. Wipke and Fox's school board president to discuss what the district planned to do about recovering the taxpayer dollars that were identified in the 2016 State Auditor's report.

If you think pursuing recovery of funds is important to our students and our taxpayers, I highly recommend contacting our school board members.

Currently, it doesn't appear that the district believes it can recover the funds for a variety of reasons.

Some of those reasons are:
  • There was never an admission of wrongdoing.
  • It doesn't appear that there was criminal intent to misuse taxpayer funds.
  • No criminal charges were filed by the prosecuting attorneys.
  • Since no criminal charges were filed, it makes it difficult to claim a "criminal loss" with the school district's insurance company.
  • The district could spend more money in legal fees than they recover.
  • Everything was approved by the board or signed off by the board president.
  • People's memories of what occurred may have faded.
  • Bringing up the past brings negative energy to the district.

You can find a lot of cases across the country where school districts recovered funds for their students and taxpayers after scathing audits. Typically school districts filed civil suits to recover the funds. In other cases, the school district's Errors and Omissions Insurance covered the loss and the insurance company then pursued the funds from the individuals that misused them.

Reading through years of articles, it's easy to see that a few people in the district didn't want the public to know what was going on.

As far as school board approval goes, at the June 25, 2013 school board meeting, the district submitted their request to the board to approve credit card usage according to school board policies. The district touted to the board that they now had "tighter controls" over their credit card usage.

So, who's to blame for the individuals like Dianne Critchlow for not following school board policies?

Was it the school board's fault that Critchlow did not follow school district policy when she used her school district credit card to purchase personal items and meals?

Critchlow had a very good reason as to why she didn't want me to get copies of the school district credit card statements in February 2014. You can also figure out why the district didn't provide me copies of the credit card statements for nearly 6 months after my original request.



I was also wondering if former superintendent Dianne Critchlow's 2014 Settlement and Release Agreement has been keeping the district from pursuing misused funds. I was provided the separation agreements from a Sunshine Request made in July 2014 and posted it on August 5, 2014. There were two very notable items in the separation agreement.

The first notable item that was written into the separation agreement was the fact that the district allowed Critchlow to file a claim using the school district's insurance policy that was paid for with public funds for "defense and indemnification”. This would most likely pay for any legal fees as well. It appears in paragraph 3(e) of her Settlement and Release Agreement as follows:

“Critchlow does not waive and hereby expressly reserves her rights and abilities, if any, to file a claim for defense and indemnification under any policy of insurance that may apply in any case, including but not limited to any policy of insurance purchased or retained by the District.”
Perhaps this part of the Settlement and Release Agreement is why the district hasn't filed a claim with the district's insurance carrier.

There’s also another sentence in her Settlement and Release Agreement that states that she cannot file a lawsuit against the district:

“Critchlow understands that the provisions of this Paragraph and Paragraph 3 mean that she cannot file a lawsuit against the District.”

You can read about Dianne Critchlow's July 2014 Release and Separation Agreement and read a copy of the agreement as well as view some of the district's Credit Card Statements I finally received in 2014 in the following article I wrote on August 5, 2014:



A year ago on June 2, 2016, the LEADER's Patrick Martin presented some really good questions after the release of the 2016 Missouri Auditor's report in his Editor's Opinion article below: The title of his article was "Latest Taxpayer Horror Movie Unfolds within Fox Audit".


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Fox C-6 Auditee's Response Highlights from the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor's Report

It's been nearly a year since the scathing results of the Fox C-6 School District audit by Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway were released to the public.

So far, no criminal charges have been filed and it appears that no taxpayer dollars have been recovered since the audit was released on May 25, 2016.

The Fox C-6 School District website has a webpage dedicated to the 2016 Missouri State Audit. It contains a link to the 2016 Missouri State Audit and a short timeline of what's happened since a state audit was requested in August 2014.

The webpage includes a link to a letter from Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Forrest Wegge to the school board on June 2, 2016 informing the school board that he requested a "complete criminal investigation into the various allegations contained within said audit".

The webpage also includes a link to Forrest Wegge's July 14, 2016 press release stating that he was referring the investigation to the United States Attorney's Office for further investigation.

You can view the district's State Audit webpage here:
https://www.fox.k12.mo.us/about_us/state_audit


Auditee Responses
The State Audit Report includes Auditee's Responses from the Fox C-6 Board of Education and District Administration in response to the State Auditor's Recommendations.

Below are only a few highlights from the District's Auditee's Responses as found in the 2016 State Auditor's report:


"The Fox C-6 Board of Education and District Administration agree with this recommendation. Implementation of new procedures to accurately determine the rate of compensation for the Superintendent and properly adopt a Superintendent contract were in place by December 2014. These new procedures comply with the recommendation. 
The audit findings are critical of the $260,598 salary paid to Dianne Critchlow and other administrators during 2013-2014, including that Critchlow's salary was substantial when compared to Superintendents of other districts and was not properly documented. By comparison, the 2015-2016 salary for Dr. Jim Wipke of $175,000 is competitive for a district the size and complexity of Fox C-6 Schools and is properly documented.
The District believes that most of the irregularities regarding former Superintendent Dianne Critchlow's contracts identified by the audit findings resulted primarily from acts of Dianne Critchlow and acts or omissions of persons holding the post of Chief Financial Officer, namely James Berblinger, or his successor Mark McCutchen. Fox C-6 Board of Education expects staff to properly implement all Board decisions. The Board of Education disapproves both the acts or omissions that (1) increased Critchlow's compensation without Board action and (2) compensated Dianne Critchlow greater than provided within her approved contracts Critchlow, Berblinger and McCutchen are no longer employed by Fox C-6 Schools.
The Board of Education intends to consider the following actions:
(1) seek recovery of the unauthorized compensation paid to Dianne Critchlow, (2) notify the Public School Retirement System (PSRS) about the unauthorized compensation to determine whether correction or forfeiture of pension benefits being paid to Dianne Critchlow is warranted, and (3) submit the record of unauthorized compensation to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to determine whether prosecution is warranted. 
The District is committed to maintaining full compliance with the recommendation."

...

"As teaching jobs continue to be scarce, and as Fox C-6 budgets continue to be strained, the school board has an even greater responsibility to make sure the most highly qualified people land the few jobs available. School board members and the Superintendent doing the hiring have a fiduciary responsibility to the community to hire the best talent for the money. Under these circumstances, it is completely justified for the District to maintain its new hiring practices and strong anti-nepotism policy, which exceeds the provisions of the Missouri Constitution.
The audit criticizes the District for failing to follow proper protocols in the hiring process and in sections 1.3 and 1.4 focuses on unauthorized and unwarranted job promotions by the former superintendent, Dianne Critchlow, of her husband Jamie Critchlow. These job promotions and rates of compensation were without Board approval according to the audit. The reported findings indicate $88,751 in excess compensation paid to Jamie Critchlow. After fringe costs are added, the cost to the District rises to approximately $102,900.
The Board of Education disapproves of both (1) Dianne Critchlow's apparent disregard of Board procedures and authority; and (2) enrichment of Dianne Critchlow's husband with District financial resources. Jamie Critchlow and Dianne Critchlow are no longer employed by Fox C-6 Schools.
The Board of Education intends to consider the following actions:
(1) seek recovery of the unauthorized compensation paid to Jamie Critchlow, (2) notify the PSRS about the unauthorized compensation to determine whether correction of pension benefits relating to Jamie Critchlow is warranted, and (3) submit the record of unauthorized compensation to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to determine whether prosecution is warranted."
...

"The audit criticizes the District for failing to follow proper procedures and focuses on unwarranted job promotions for Mark McCutchen, Jamie Critchlow, and others. These job promotions were not approved by the Board and were often accompanied by unauthorized increased rates of compensation. The reported findings indicate $49,162 in excess compensation paid to Mark McCutchen. After fringe costs are added, the cost to the District rises to approximately $57,000. The Board of Education disapproves of: (1) Dianne Critchlow's apparent disregard for Board authority and (2) acts that compensated Mark McCutchen greater than provided within his contracts. Critchlow and McCutchen are no longer employed by Fox C-6 Schools.

The Board of Education intends to consider the following actions:(1) seek recovery of the unauthorized compensation paid to Mark McCutchen, (2) notify the PSRS about the unauthorized compensation to determine whether correction or forfeiture of pension benefits relating to Mark McCutchen is warranted, and (3) submit the record of unauthorized compensation to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to determine whether prosecution is warranted.

Subject to the clarifications presented, the District is committed to full compliance with the recommendation."
...

"The audit findings indicate charges made to credit cards held by former Superintendent Dianne Critchlow and her administrative assistant appear to be questionable or improper use of District financial. The Board of Education disapproves of these questionable and improper purchases totaling $96,743 as a misuse of taxpayer funds. This constitutes a violation of the public trust. The District has previously demanded repayment from Dianne Critchlow for many questionable and improper credit card charge that constitute personal purposes, excessive expenditures, gifts of public property, and payments in violation of Missouri laws relating to conflicts of interest. Dianne Critchlow has failed to respond to District demands for repayment.

The Board of Education intends to consider the following actions:(1) seek recovery of the unauthorized improper and/or questionable charges made to credit cards assigned to Dianne Critchlow and her administrative assistant, (2) submit the record of improper and/or questionable credit card charges to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to determine whether prosecution is warranted, and (3) in the event of a prosecution, notify the Public School Retirement System (PSRS), and/or the Public Educational Employees Retirement System (PEERS) about the potential need for correction or forfeiture of pension benefits."

...

"Dianne Critchlow and Jamie Critchlow appeared to have used taxpayer money for purposes that did not benefit the school district; made expenditures that were not properly documented, or constituted excessive expenditures, or gifts of public property; or in violation of Missouri laws relating to conflicts of interest. The Board of Education disapproves of any and all misuse of taxpayer funds.

The District is committed to full compliance with the recommendation."