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."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What Was In The Jefferson County Sheriff's Report Related to the Fox C-6 Audit?

Is anyone interested in reading the report prepared by Jefferson County Sheriff's Office related to the findings of the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor's report?

Obtaining a copy of that report has proven to be a bit of a challenge.

I thought the community might find it interesting as to what it takes to obtain copies of public records such as the Jefferson County Sheriff's Report. My initial requests were made at the end of January, 2017 with exchanges going through mid February, 2017.

Probably the most interesting thing you may discover in reading this article, is the fact that Jefferson County informed me that they no longer have a copy of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office report. The reactions I receive when I tell people about the county's response regarding my Sunshine Law requests is priceless.

I made a Sunshine Law request to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office asking for a copy of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office report as well as a copy of the FBI report. My Sunshine Law requests to both the Jefferson County and St. Charles County offices asked that the fees be waived for the reports per Missouri Sunshine Law, since these reports were of public interest.

Since the reports generated during the investigation of the 2016 Missouri State Auditor's findings were created with taxpayer dollars, you may find it interesting that my request to waive fees for the reports were denied. Charging to obtain copies of reports is a very simple way to keep the public from obtaining the information.

Wanting to charge me for the reports reminds me of the time when Fox C-6 asked me to pay $170 for copies of the credit card statements that should have been included in the school board meeting packets each month.

I also wonder why the local news media hasn't filed any Sunshine Law requests for these reports since the reports may help the community understand why no charges were filed after the release of the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor's report.

JEFFERSON COUNTY FIRST RESPONSE
From my initial Sunshine Law request I received the following response:

"I have received your Sunshine Law request in email format from our Prosecuting Attorney, Forrest Wegge.

Please consider this electronic e-mail our initial 3-day response as required under law to your Sunshine Law request dated February 6, 2017.

It is my understanding that the file your are requesting information from is not currently in the possession of Mr. Wegge, or his office here in Hillsboro, Missouri.

As you are probably aware, a special prosecutor was appointed to this case. I believe this case file is still in that individual's possession.

After I have made contact with the special prosecutor, I will further advise you regarding the anticipated time it will take to complete production as well as the costs or other issues prior to proceeding any further as you requested.

Jefferson County will not waive fees/costs in answering this request. Please be advised that there may be Federal Law protections that prohibit Jefferson County from disclosing any requested "FBI" reports.

I expect to have further response to you within the next 7 to 10 days."


JEFFERSON COUNTY SECOND RESPONSE
After making a Sunshine Law request to the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney's Office I received the following response from a Jefferson County counselor:

"It has come to my attention, from speaking with an assistant county counselor of St. Charles County, that you have made a similar Sunshine Law request with the Prosecutor's Office of St. Charles County, Missouri.

I have been informed that they have provided you documents and responses to your requests for files that may be protected or be work product. 

I have reached out to the Jefferson County Prosecutor's Office and have been informed that it does not have any of the requested documentation that your are requesting in your Sunshine Law request - the entire file is in the possession of the St. Charles Prosecutor's Office. 

Therefore, Jefferson County does not have any documents to provide you pursuant to your Sunshine Law Request."

ST. CHARLES COUNTY RESPONSE
I also submitted a Sunshine Request to the St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney's Office. The Public Information Officer from the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney's Office sent me the following response:

"Please be advised that the Federal Bureau of Investigation report, and pages from that report which are contained in the Jefferson County Sheriff’s report, are exempt from disclosure by Section 610.021(14), RSMo (Supp. 2014) (exempting “records which are protected from disclosure by law”), in conjunction with the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. Section 552(b)(7)(C). Furthermore, your request for disclosure of records which are the property of the Federal Bureau of Investigation must be directed to the United States Department of Justice pursuant to 28 C.F.R. Part 16, Subpart B, Sections 16.21, et seq.
  
Additionally, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s report contains social security numbers which are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Section 610.035, RSMo (2000). The social security numbers will therefore have to be redacted from the report. We estimate the staff time to redact social security numbers at 2 hours at $38.04 per hour.
  
We also estimate that the non-exempt documents will total approximately 3,850 pages, which can be provided at $0.10 per page plus staff time of 4 hours at $38.04 per hour, for a total of $537.16.

We presume, however, that like your previous request, you desire electronic copies of these documents. We can provide the non-exempt documents on CD-DVD at a cost of $10.00 for the medium as well as estimated staff time of 4 hours to transfer the documents to the medium at a cost of $38.04 per hour for a total of $162.16. 

We require payment of estimated costs prior to commencement of document copying. Please specify whether you desire paper copies at an estimated cost of $613.24 or electronic copies and the appropriate medium at an estimated cost of $238.24, and remit the corresponding amount to this Office. If actual costs exceed the estimate we shall invoice you for the difference. Conversely if actual costs are below the estimate we shall refund the difference."

Charging for reports that the public might be interested in reviewing is certainly a good way to keep those reports out of the public's view. It's similar to what I ran up against in February 2014 when I requested copies of the credit card statements from Fox C-6.

Below are links to a couple of articles I wrote in August 2014. The first article documented what Fox's school district policy was at the time when former superintendent Dianne Critchlow and others were using school district credit cards to make purchases.

The second article documented why it took so long to obtain the school district credit card statements to review after I had asked the Fox C-6 School Board if they had been receiving and reviewing the credit card statements in their board packets each month.


Below is the school district policy that was in place when former superintendent Critchlow and others were using school district credit cards as documented in the article above.
Policy 3125 – Credit Cards (05/97) 
School district credit cards will only be issued to employees upon the approval of the Board of Education. Use of the credit card will be limited to the purchase of instructional materials, items related to the improvement of instruction or materials related to capital improvements or supplies.

The next article documents the amount of push back I received in my efforts to obtain copies of the school district credit card statements after asking our school board members at the February 2014 school board meeting if they had been reviewing the credit card statements:


The documentation above leads to the next link which was a letter to the Fox C-6 community from the school district dated May 25, 2016. It was provided to the community after the release of the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor's report which gave the district a rating of "POOR".

The following statement really stands out in the letter to the community:

"The District, and its current administration, wish to see full restitution for any resources that were misused under previous policies and regulations." 

It's been nearly a year since the district issued the statement above and it doesn't appear that there has been much, if any effort, into seeking "full restitution for any resources that were misused under previous policies and regulations".


In April, prior to the elections I emailed the Fox C-6 school board members asking them what their plans were in recovering taxpayer monies that were documented in the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor's report as being misused or improperly obtained. I didn't receive any written responses from the board in response to my questions.

The community is going to have to make a concerted effort to voice your concerns and frustration to the Fox C-6 school board in order to recover the taxpayer dollars that were referenced in the 2016 Missouri State Auditor's report.

Last month the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Arnold-Imperial Leader published articles about the recent release of a Follow Up report from Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway. Both articles referenced many of the items documented in the original State Auditor's report.

The articles have everyone in the community and outside the community talking again ad asking why there weren't any charges filed in this case.

Asking why no charges were filed in this case is certainly a valid question and one that taxpayers should be allowed to ask without fear of retribution or fear of being sued by our former superintendent. A Google search will provide you with many articles documenting how other school districts across the country recovered taxpayer dollars when faced with similar circumstances.





Monday, January 2, 2017

Welcoming In 2017 By Looking Back In Time

2017 has arrived and Fox C-6 students don't have to go to school today like they did in 2012 when New Year's Day fell on a Sunday and students had to go to school on the Monday following New Year's Day. In fact, this year students don't have to go back to school until Thursday January 5, 2017.

So, it's a nice start to the new year having an extra day to spend time with the family. It would have been even nicer if it hadn't already been raining at 6AM while getting ready to go for a run. So, in the meantime I thought a quick post was in order to welcome the new year and reflect back on some of the changes that have occurred in the district since 2005 when Dianne Brown began her tenure as superintendent of the Fox C-6 School District.

One of the first things that came to mind was the opening paragraph from the Charles Dickens' novel, A Tale of Two Cities. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, ..." I'm sure you can find a few things that may relate to the phrase above and the past decade of our school system.

I've spent a lot of time over the past 6+ years writing about some of the problems and issues that have plagued our school district for a number of years hoping to bring about change within the district by waking up the community as to what was going on. The community certainly wasn't alerted to any problems by what was documented in school board meeting minutes as to what I was questioning the board about at school board meetings during Public Comments. School board meeting minutes would document my comments as, "Concerns within the district".

Thankfully, things have greatly improved for the students and families in our school district since former superintendent Dianne Brown Critchlow "retired" on October 31, 2014. However, everyone will always remember the fact that Dianne Critchlow received a $130,299 payout for leaving the district. Luckily, her husband was fired and didn't receive a payout as well.

At the time of Critchlow's retirement, her base salary for the 2014-2016 school year was $267,468 as reported by the Post Dispatch in June 2014. In just a short time, Critchlow had risen to one of the top salaries in the state of Missouri for school superintendents thanks to the overly generous group of former Fox C-6 School District board members. They thought she was doing a great job and they rewarded her well. Critchlow's "retirement" salary was a far cry from where she started when she was hired as superintendent to succeed Jim Chellew when he retired after the 2004-2005 school year.

Critchlow was having one of those "best of times" situations in terms of salary when she retired.

The community, on the other hand, was having one of those "worst of times". The community wasn't happy about the amount of salary that the board had approved over the years. And, it was one of the most embarrassing moments for our community in the history of the district after the internet scandal became public in May 2014.

The salary and the internet scandal along with the hiring of a former board member's daughter as director of food service were some of the things that led to the "worst of times" for the many former board members who had been on the school board since Dianne Brown (prior to becoming Critchlow) had been promoted to the position of superintendent in July 2005.

It took several years for the community to wake up and vote out those board members who seemed to believe that they worked for the superintendent rather than the other way around. Critchlow's "retirement" and the removal of the long standing board members was one of the best things for our students, staff and the community.

It just took a long time for the community to realize that they weren't getting their money's worth. Dianne Brown / Critchlow did an exceptional job of hiding information from the public and was very good at making generalized statements at board meetings and to the press that gave the appearance that the district was doing great.

Improvements in Transparency
During Dianne Critchlow's reign as superintendent, getting access to school board meeting minutes, board packets and bill payments was a painful task. On top of that, the district billed me to obtain copies of those documents which should have been made available to the public on the district website like they are now. However, by keeping them off the website, the public was easily kept in the dark. Today, the district uses BoardDocs which makes school board meeting documentation and board member votes easily accessible and available prior to board meetings.

So, in that regard, transparency has greatly improved since the Critchlow era and the community now has a much better ability to monitor what's going on in the district and hopefully keep things from getting as bad as they did during Critchlow's heavy handed rule of the district.

Still Seeking Accountability
One of the major wishes for the community this year is to see former superintendent Dianne Brown Critchlow be held accountable for her actions during her tenure as superintendent. Taxpayers want more than just having Critchlow repay the taxpayer dollars that she used improperly or paid out improperly to her and her husband as documented in the May 2016 State Auditor's report. Taxpayers want to see justice served and not just a slap on the wrist like they've seen thus far.

It's very easy for anyone to find the numerous articles documenting the many wrongdoings of former superintendent Dianne Critchlow and her husband using Google. Hopefully the St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney will review the many articles and documents when reviewing Critchlow's case. Not providing credit card statements to the school board to review in their board packets or refusing to provide them to the public certainly raised "red flags".

The internet scandal is what really helped open everyone's eyes as to what had been going on in our school district for quite some time. Traffic to all of the problems I had been documenting for years on my blog all of a sudden shot up dramatically when it was linked to by the Post Dispatch. It was difficult for most people to believe that this was the way that some administrators in our school district had been handling things. But, our district is not alone in this sort of behavior. I have been contacted by others over the years who have had similar issues of being bullied by their districts as well after reading my articles. Bullying is just one way of keeping things status quo and from being held accountable.

Looking Back in Time
For the new year, I thought you might find it interesting to look back in time at the Fox C-6 School District by reading the article referenced at the end of this post. In a February 2014, I documented how to use the Internet's Wayback Machine to look at snapshots of websites over the years.

It's quite interesting to look back in time to see how Fox's website has changed over time. The Wayback Machine allows you to look back at snapshots of the Fox C-6 website dating as far back as 1999. Fox's website has radically improved since Dianne Critchlow "retired" and the district hired a communications coordinator.

2004 - Brown Hired as New Fox Super
One of the most interesting things to note from my February 2014 article was a reference to an Arnold-Imperial Leader article written by Kim Robertson on November 24, 2004 that was published on the district's website back then. The article was titled, "Brown hired as new Fox super". The article talked about assistant superintendent Dianne Brown being hired to be the district's next superintendent after Jim Chellew retires on July 1, 2005.

The 2004 article mentioned that Dianne Brown will be paid at least $135,217 for the 2005-2006 school year. That's a long way from the $267,468 base salary that Dianne Critchlow was being paid when she retired in October 2014.

Below is a link to the article I wrote in February 2014:


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Fox C-6 Community Survey Results Presented at December Board Meeting

The results of the recent 2016 Community Survey were presented to the school board at the December 20, 2016 Fox C-6 School Board meeting by Patron Insight who conducted the survey.

The December 20, 2016 school board meeting audio is available on the district website allowing you to listen to the presentation. I listened to the audio presentation to hear the results presented below. Patron Insight told the school board that they would provide the district with a PDF copy of the results to be posted on the district website for the community the day after the board meeting.

The audio of the December 20, 2016 Fox C-6 school board can be found using the link below which can be found on the school district website. The presentation of the survey information begins around 5 minutes into the audio:


At the bottom of this post is a link to the contract from Patron Insight who conducted the 2016 Fox C-6 Community Survey. The cost of the survey was $16,900. The contract was awarded at the October 18, 2016 Fox C-6 school board meeting.

The 2016 Community Survey questions were made available to the public on the district website starting December 2, 2016 and was closed sometime before December 15, 2016. Dr. Wipke sent out an email to parents in the school district about the online survey on December 2.

The Community Survey results presented to the school board at the meeting only included the results from the 400 phone interviews that were conducted by Patron Insight.

Only 281 surveys were completed using the online community survey. Patron Insight is still processing the 281 responses that were completed using the online survey and will include those results in their final report to the school board.

It took nearly 2000 phone calls in order to complete the 400 phone surveys. The phone interviews were only conducted in entirety of taxpaying head of house held individuals living within the district.

Below are some areas of interest pointed our during the presentation from the survey results:

Number One Area The Districts Needs To Improve Upon
Management of tax dollars was the number one area that citizens taking the survey felt that the district needed to improve upon.

Patron Insight stated that management of tax dollars is one of the top answers in just about every school district surveyed.

82% of those surveyed believed that the district was headed in the right direction.

Where Do People Get Their Information About the District?(Ranked in order)
1 - Friends and Neighbors - 81%
2 - Leader newspaper - 78%
3 - Teachers - 52%
4 - Administration - (% not mentioned)
5 - Board - (% not mentioned)
6 - District's website - 41%
7 - Principals - (% not mentioned)
8 - School websites - (% not mentioned)
9 - Media and local radio stations - (% not mentioned)


Of those surveyed:
142 - Current student families
108 - Past student families
150 - Never student families


Potential Tax Increase Related Questions
There were three questions on the survey that were related to a "what if" potential tax increase to get a idea as to how much of a tax increase the community would favor related to rebuilding or expansion projects for school buildings, upgrading of the security systems, funding of additional teachers, support staff members, social workers through the district and College and Career Specialists at each high school as well as insuring that the salaries for teachers and other staff members were competitive with neighboring school districts and help with recruiting and retention.

One of the ideas presented in the rebuilding projects outlined is to completely replace with new schools - Antonia Elementary and Seckman Elementary. The survey question stated that both of these schools have significant issues due to the age of the buildings and both are dealing with overcrowding. Antonia Elementary would be rebuilt on the same campus as Antonia Middle School, while Seckman Elementary would be rebuilt on the same campus where the current school is today.

Another proposed project is to tear down and then rebuild the classroom wings at Fox High School, to make the classrooms more effective for today's educational needs.

Another proposed project is to add classrooms at Ridgewood Middle School and Antonia Middle School, to address the growing student population at both of these schools.

In the tax increase related questions, three different potential tax increases were presented as "what if" questions on the community survey. They were posed as potential tax increase amounts per year based upon the "fair market value" of a $150,000 home. The amount of tax dollar increase would affect what could be achieved out of the items proposed.

Of the 3 potential tax increase related questions:
  • 51% would be in favor of a $313 per year tax increase
  • 52% would be in favor of a $228 per year tax increase 
  • 56% would be in favor of a $142 per year tax increase


Potential Tax Increase Questions as presented on the survey:

21. What if, at some point in the future, the district proposed a ballot issue would allow the district to complete most, if not all, of the projects we have just been discussing, and it resulted in a tax increase of about $313 per year, or about $26 a month, for the owner of a $150,000 home in the school district. If an election on such a ballot issue were held today, would you…

- Strongly favor
- Favor
- Oppose
- Strongly oppose
- Don't know

22. What if, instead, the ballot issue allowed the district to complete many, but not all, of the projects we have just been discussing, and it resulted in a tax increase of $228 per year, or about $19 per month, for the owner of a $150,000 home in the school district. If an election on such a ballot issue were held today, would you…

- Strongly favor
- Favor
- Oppose
- Strongly oppose
- Don't know

23. What if, instead, that ballot issue allowed the district to complete some, but not many of the projects we have just been discussing, and it resulted in a tax increase of $142 per year, or about $12 per month, for the owner of a $150,000 home in the school district. If an election on such a ballot issue were held today, would you…

- Strongly favor
- Favor
- Oppose
- Strongly oppose
- Don't know


Survey Takeaways
One of the comments that I have heard more than once about the survey, is that the community is not going to approve any tax increases until our former superintendent is held accountable for her actions.

The audit results documented that taxpayer dollars were used by our former superintendent to purchase personal items as well as on overpay her husband for a position that he was not qualified for.

It's been nearly two and a half years since a state audit was requested of the Fox C-6 School District. The results of the audit weren't made public until May 2016 and patrons and taxpayers are still waiting for accountability for what was uncovered in the audit.

Rebuilding the trust of the community is important to passing a tax increase. Not holding public officials accountable for their actions does not go very far in rebuilding the trust of the community.

Does that mean that future tax increases for our school district rely upon the decisions of prosecuting attorneys?

Below is a link to the contract from Patron Insight that the district approved and awarded at the October 18, 2016 school board meeting:

Friday, November 4, 2016

ACT Scores Drop Below National Average for Fox C-6 and Missouri for 2016

In July, ACT.org posted the analysis reports and scores for each of the individual states on their website for the graduating class of 2016. On August 24, 2016, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) posted the following News Release regarding the results of the first ACT test that was administered to all 2016 graduates during their 11th grade year as part of the Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP 5).

August 24, 2016 Missouri DESE News Release
https://dese.mo.gov/communications/news-releases/results-first-census-administration-act®-released-missouri-students

It wasn't until just a few weeks ago, that Missouri DESE made the scores available to the public for each of the school districts on the DESE website.

2016 Graduates Required to Take ACT as Juniors
Because all graduating seniors for 2016 were required to take the ACT exam, the number of students in school districts across the state increased which led to a drop in the Average Composite ACT Score for the state as well as a drop in the ACT Composite Score in many school districts as well.

Missouri's ACT Composite Score as well as Fox's ACT Composite Score dropped below the national average in 2016. The main reason that Fox's ACT scores dropped significantly is the fact that Fox previously had only as high as 62% of the students taking the ACT compared to other school districts such as Rockwood and Parkway where all students had been taking the ACT for a few years.

On the positive side, it should be noted that several Fox C-6 schools were recently recognized for their MAP scores.


2016 Average Composite ACT Score Results
National ACT Composite Score dropped from 21.0 for 2015 to 20.8 for 2016.

Missouri's ACT Composite Score dropped from 21.7 for 2015 to 20.2 for 2016.

Fox's ACT Composite Score dropped from 22.6 for 2015 to 20.5 for 2016.

This was the first reporting year in which the ACT results in Missouri could be compared statewide in a more apples to apples comparison since all 2016 graduates had been required to take the ACT during their junior year under the Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP 5) as part of the College and Career readiness program.

Below is a link to Missouri DESE's information page regarding the statewide ACT assessment and administration of the ACT test to all 11th grade students. Testing dates and FAQ's can be found on the DESE website using the link below:
https://dese.mo.gov/college-career-readiness/assessment/act

On the Missouri DESE website, you can generate reports comparing school district data such as the ACT Composite Scores for selected school districts such as the one below that I generated and exported to a PDF document. The report compares school district data dating back to 2007 for the districts listed at the end of this article:


Missouri DESE College and Career Readiness Data
School district data for College and Career readiness can be downloaded from the MO DESE website using the link below:
https://mcds.dese.mo.gov/quickfacts/Pages/Career-Education.aspx

Missouri DESE also breaks down ACT composite scores by school building where you can find a comparison between Fox and Seckman High Schools. A little bit of rivalry between the high schools might be helpful in improving ACT test scores.

For a guided inquiry lookup to school district data from MO DESE, use the following link:
https://mcds.dese.mo.gov/quickfacts/SitePages/DistrictInfo.aspx


ACT.org Data
You can view ACT.org's Condition of College and Career Readiness reports on their website using the link below:
https://www.act.org/content/act/en/research/condition-of-college-and-career-readiness-2016.html

Missouri's 2016 College and Career Readiness Report from ACT.org:
https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/P_26_269999_S_S_N00_ACT-GCPR_Missouri.pdf

In 2013, I wrote about my concerns about the number of Fox students that were taking the ACT test compared to other school districts in the state. Back then, former superintendent Dianne Brown Critchlow was always touting Fox's ACT scores while neglecting to provide the percentage of students taking the ACT that she was comparing to Fox. You can read my article from 2013 using the link below:


Preparing for the 2017 ACT Test
This year's 11th graders still have time to prepare for the April 19, 2017 ACT test next spring when all 11th graders in Missouri are required to take the ACT as part of Missouri's MSIP 5 testing.

There are websites where students can practice sample questions and get immediate feedback on their answers for free such as CrackACT.com. Students can also download sample tests from ACT.org as well as CrackACT.com. Fox C-6 now offers an ACT preparation class as part of their course offerings. There are also inexpensive websites such as eKnowledge.com where you can register for a year's worth of ACT practice and training material for around $14.99 per year. It's very beneficial for students to take practice tests and study their English and math skills ahead of taking the ACT test.

There is also still time to register for and take the ACT test on December 10, 2016 as a practice as well.

Please visit Fox's College and Career Readiness page on the Fox C-6 School District website for more information:



October 2016 Fox Focus Newsletter
Last month, Fox C-6 mailed out a Fox Focus News and Information newsletter to the community highlighting some of the recent happenings in the school district. Many things have changed for the better over the past couple of years in the school district since the debacle of deception, finances and bullying that was going on in the district. Parent and community involvement is very important towards moving the district and the culture in a positive direction.

The October 2016 Fox C-6 Focus Newsletter, published the 2015 ACT scores for Fox C-6 along with the percentage of Free and Reduced Lunch Population compared to a few other districts in the area. The number of students receiving Free and Reduced Lunch is usually noted because there have been studies showing how test scores are affected for students who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program.


Below is a comparison of Fox's 2016 ACT Composite Scores to many of the local school districts in the state from data obtained from Missouri DESE's website which was referenced above. The data is sorted by the ACT Composite Score and number of graduates (descending).


2016 ACT Results for Missouri School Districts

District Name
Percent of Graduates TestedNumber of  Graduates for 2016Rank in State out of 437ACT Composite Score
CLAYTON98.65222126.5
LADUE94.30316225.7
ROCKWOOD
95.691808324.0
WEBSTER GROVES
96.39305423.9
PARKWAY
93.831296523.9
KIRKWOOD
95.75447623.4
BRENTWOOD98.4665723.3
LINDBERGH94.204831022.6
VALLEY PARK98.46651422.2
FRANCIS HOWELL92.8313801522.1
LEE'S SUMMIT95.5913291822.0
FT. ZUMWALT93.3614303321.5
WENTZVILLE92.589714921.1
MEHLVILLE95.278245820.9
PATTONVILLE87.413976420.8
FESTUS96.071787220.6
FOX C-693.458707920.5
ST. CHARLES95.623658020.5
AFFTON90.861868120.5
JEFFERSON COUNTY R793.94669520.3
MISSOURI (statewide)91.7068,446n/a20.2
CRYSTAL CITY95.354312519.9
WINDSOR C-190.7223715619.7
DUNKLIN R-V92.598116419.6
NORTHWEST R-I93.2946216919.6
HILLSBORO R-III93.2826818319.5
DESOTO89.9520921319.3
GRANDVIEW R-II93.597840516.7


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: